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Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

Best of 2007

Critic: Laura Leon

1. No Country for Old Men

This intense thriller from the Coen Brothers is, without question, their best, most fully realized work to date. And that’s saying something.

2. Ratatouille

Brad Bird’s contribution to our chef-obsessed culture is a vital, visually stunning paean to the healing power of art. Did I mention that it’s also very funny?

3. Juno

Pregnant teen, baby-hungry couple, bemused friends and relations. Not at all like anything you’ve seen before.

4. 3:10 to Yuma

Gripping, suspenseful remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford-Van Heflin western has farmer Christian Bale transporting outlaw Russell Crowe to the eponymous train. Great action. Even better character development.

5. Michael Clayton

Equal parts complex, sobering thriller and mature character study of a middle-age man coming to terms with his own ordinariness.

6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Veteran director Sidney Lumet delivers a masterpiece about the disintegration of family, the eroding effect of greed, and loss.

7. The Lives of Others

OK, so it actually came out in 2006, and it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but Capital Region audiences didn’t get to see this grim, yet ultimately uplifting gem until January. Here it is almost a year later, and it still haunts me.

8. In the Garden of Elah

Outstanding and devastating look at the effects of war on those who serve, as witnessed by a grieving mother, a struggling-for-respect detective and a father hell-bent on unearthing the truth.

9. Enchanted

Amy Adams deserves some sort of award for her utterly bewitching turn as an animated fairy-tale maiden transported to modern day Manhattan. A frothy delight.

10. Knocked Up

This story of a one-night stand turned permanent domesticity works a lot better on film than on paper. At once raunchy and sweet, this is that rare comedy that revels as much in its characters’ vulnerabilities and tenderness as it does their social faux pas.

 

Worst of 2007

1. The Heartbreak Kid

The Farrelly brothers turn Elaine May’s poignant, bittersweet story into a crass, disgusting orgy of bad taste.

2. Evening

Susan Minot’s best-selling book is turned into a turgid, mostly unwatchable sudser. Not even the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep can salvage this one.

3. Lions for Lambs

Robert Redford’s pedantic lesson in civics preaches to the choir.

4. The Brave One

Rape victim Jodie Foster turns vigilante, but filmmakers try to make it seem socially acceptable.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Is it me, or did this finale totally suck? Despite a few great action scenes, this installment was curiously bereft of the kind of fulfillment one normally expects after having been led this far into the story. And what a waste of Keith Richards!

Best of 2007

Critic: Shawn Stone

1. Zodiac

David Fincher’s stunning drama of obsession in which the eponymous serial killer is less important than his pursuers. Fincher helped cement the popularity of the serial-killer genre in Se7en; as Manohla Dargis pointed out, with Zodiac, he finishes it off. Great performances by Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr.

2. Killer of Sheep

Finally in release 30 years after it was made, Charles Burnett’s haunting, heartbreaking slice-of-life drama is a time capsule from a hardscrabble 1970s Los Angeles—but remains timeless.

3. No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers’ best film since Fargo shocked everyone because the Coens were simply being their best, lean-and-mean selves.

4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

A sensational musical drama. There’s humanity in Stephen Sondheim’s music, but Tim Burton’s virtuoso filmmaking is utterly without empathy or pity. A winning combination.

5. Away From Her

Sarah Polley’s deft Alzheimer’s drama zeroes in on the mysteries and cruelties of love, enhanced by the presence of the ever- luminous Julie Christie.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum

A pure adrenaline rush anchored by Matt Damon’s return as the murderous, if repentent, ex-spy. Budding action directors will rip off the Waterloo Station sequence for years to come.

7. Once

Exhilarating musical about making music (and falling in love, which is sort of the same thing), featuring real musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Watch a seminal American myth torn to shreds in this slow-building drama with Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell. And best of all, it has a genuinely stark, 19th-century tone.

9. Michael Clayton

The year’s best ensemble cast, led by George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson, in a taut thriller that balances moral outrage with cinematic style.

10. I’m Not There

Five actors playing five Dylans couldn’t scratch the surface of the genius (and all-around assholery) of the Bobster, but Todd Haynes’ film was a hugely entertaining try.

 

Worst of 2007

1. Juno

Fun performances can’t offset Juno’s drearily smug hipster whimsy.

2. The Nanny Diaries

A case study in how not to adapt a novel for the screen. Judging from the imitative result, micromanaging mogul Harvey Weinstein must have tormented the filmmakers with constant screams of “Make it more like The Devil Wears Prada!”

3. In the Shadow of the Moon

Awe-inspiring moon footage and poignant astronaut interviews are wasted in this poorly made NASA commercial.

4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Great beginning. Great ending. (Great wigs.) Dreadful middle.

5. Knocked Up

Either you can get past the fact that the smart, beautiful career gal would never fuck the lumpy, immature slob—as critic John Powers wryly observed, “No matter how much she has to drink”—or you can’t. I can’t.


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