Thursday, January 3, 2008

10 Up

I work at the Chelsea Movie Theater in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and generally we hold, when making our lists of the Top 10 films of the year, that the movie year is from one Oscars telecast to the next, not Jan-Dec. We don't have A.O. Scott's luxury of living in New York and being paid to see all the movies that come out months before the Oscars telecast in Manhattan - we have to wait for the movies if we get them at all. Thus, I can't do a top 10 list, because Atonement, The Savages, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, There Will be Blood, and pretty much an entire second half of a top ten list haven't showed up here. But, in honor of the new year, and a new blog, I will post here a list of the 10 entities I see as having had the best and worst year, so far. Let's start with 10 up.

1.Josh Brolin. If you'd asked me who Josh Brolin was a year ago, I would have said "who?" You could have even told me he was in Mimic, which I saw, and I would have had no idea who he was. But, in 2007, he made up part of a stellar cast of In the Valley of Elah, scared the hell out of me as a Zombie doctor in Grindhouse, anchored the sublime No Country for Old Men between sociopath Javier Bardem and world-weary Tommy Lee Jones, and stole every goddamn scene he was in in American Gangster. I think I can safely say he had the best year of anyone.
2.Seth Rogen. So far, my favorite movie of the year has been Judd Apatow's testosterone-fueled maternity epic Knocked Up, and that movie rested on the shoulders of Rogen, everyone's favorite lovable slacker. Throw in the fact that he co-wrote another Apatow hit, Superbad, and contributed to that film's brilliant cast, and you've got a year that only a Brolin could top.
3.Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee Jones sure is a tracker/hunter/sheriff, isn't he? Do yourself a favor and see No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah for two absolutely beautiful portraits of a lawman trying to solve a crime that threatens to rend his sanity in two. Then do yourself another favor and see the same thing happen in his excellent directorial debut from last year, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Then watch The Fugitive just to see stuff blow-up. Finally, rent 2003's The Hunted and tell me why I thought it was good when no one else did. Also, more stuff blows up, at least at the beginning
4.Tony Gilroy. In terms of good movies, actually good movies, not just campfests or Sean Connery romps, I think the Bourne series now beats the Bond series 3-1 (Casino Royale*). Gilroy, who you might not have heard of, wrote all three of the Bourne movies, and each was better than the last, culminating in this year's amazing Bourne Ultimatum. But Gilroy also wrote and made his directorial debut with Michael Clayton, which was even better than any of the Bourne movies and made legal thrillers thrilling again. Take that, John Grisham.
5.Judd Apatow. Judd would probably have been number two, behind only the mustachioed Brolin, but Walk Hard bombed. I'm sure the hundreds of millions of dollars he made this year with Superbad and Knocked Up will console him for this fall from grace on my first annual 10 Up feature.
6.Russell Crowe. God I love Russell Crowe. And this year he accomplished the impossible: prior to out-acting the excellent Denzel Washington in American Gangster, his flashy outlaw in 3:10 to Yuma showed up Christian Bale, the man Werner Herzog proclaimed the best actor of his generation. If you're better than Christian Bale at anything, you had a good year. Also, I'd like to see them have a push-up contest (shirtless, of course).
7.Christian Bale. God I love Christian Bale.
8.Werner Herzog. I know Herzog hasn't been gone, but it's felt like he has - I like documentaries very much, but I miss his fiction features. We got the first one in years in Rescue Dawn, which showcased Steve Zahn, the lush environment of Thailand (standing in for Vietnam), Christian Bale's astonishing ability to lose weight, Christian Bale's slack jaw, and Christian Bale. Awesome.
9.The Princess Bride. Hollywood fairy tales have gone the Shrek route since, well, Shrek, and it was good to see Disney revive the tongue-in-cheek but considerably lighter touch of Princess Bride in Enchanted. Even more Princess Bride-ish is Stardust, the likewise excellent and likewise lightly condescending but ultimately satisfying take on fairy tales.
10.Wes Anderson. The Life Aquatic was good but disappointing, and Darjeeling Limited proved that, while we don't know what the future holds, ol' Wes has still got it, whatever it is. Plus, as every critic and "blogger" never ceases to point out, without Wes, you wouldn't have seen Juno, Rocket Science, Margot at the Wedding, or any other movie about charming and quirky hipsters who try to make their lives work while battling quirkily crippling social disorders and having cool music play in the background. And I like those movies.

*What, you want to argue Goldfinger? Dr. No? Thunderball? Go back and watch them first - I love them, but they're not good. That's why I love them.

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