Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Paul Picks Top Flix


Herewith, my favorite movies of 2007. House rules. There must be at least one comedy, one musical, and one mindless action picture...but nothing with the word “Matrix” in the title. Also, there must be at least one Tommy Lee Jones movie, because he is more interesting in repose than most actors jumping off rooftops.

My Baker’s Dozen Faves:

1. Waitress – A must for every woman who yearns to bake “I Hate My Husband Pie.” The sentimental pick after the tragic murder of writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly. A sweet laffer with heart. Speaking of which...

2. A Mighty Heart – The realistic, gritty, heartbreaking Daniel Pearl story. Prediction: Angelina Jolie gets Oscar nom.

3. The Lives of Others – East German snooping. A suspenser devastating in the details.

4. Ratatouille – A sly, witty tooner set in a restaurant. If “Waitress” doesn’t make you hungry, this one will.
5. Michael Clayton – I’m a sucker for dirty lawyer movies. This one’s more solid than spectacular, but as Renee said with a sigh when George Clooney came on the screen: “Now, there’s a movie star.”

6. Sicko – Those darn medical insurers. Michael Moore at his best. This one’s tarnished a bit by the not entirely accurate representations of health care in Cuba.

7. The Bourne Ultimatum – The new template for hyper-paced actioners. Sets record for two-second shots. (Honestly, count them). Great for the attention impaired.

8. Away From Her – Jule Christie, still radiant at 66, humanizes Alzheimers in sweet sudser.

9 & 10. TIE: Sweeney Todd & Hairspray – The former tuner is filled with blood, the latter with nostalgia. Loved them both, especially Tim Burton's version of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney," which drained all the corn syrup from the musical theater. How about these lyrics from the number, "No Place Like London"?

"There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it's filled with people who are filled with shit!
And the vermin of the world inhabit it!"

"My Fair Lady,"
it ain't. Jeez, even the poster is dark.

11. The Lookout – Finally, a heist movie where we don't root for the criminals. Superior script by veteran scribe and rookie director Scott Frank. Jeff Daniels, the Jack Lemmon of his generation, will get Oscar nom for supporting role.

12. In the Valley of Elah – A whodunit and more. The aftermath of Iraq on our soldiers’ psyches. My Tommy Lee Jones pick, topping the over-hyped “No Country for Old Men.”

13. 3:10 to Yuma – From the Elmore Leonard novel, this re-make is the best horse opera since “Unforgiven,” even if the ending is hard to buy. Russell Crowe is the smart killer with a hidden humanity. Christian Bale proves the real meaning of courage. Bale has quietly become one of our best actors. If you never saw his debut in Steven Spielberg’s under-appreciated “Empire of the Sun,” rent it now.


1. The Savages - Octogenarian writes on bathroom wall with his feces. Now, that’s entertainment!

2. Lars and the Real Girl - Lonely fellow buys a make-believe girlfriend from Real Doll. (No, it’s not about Jim Born’s years at Florida State).

3. No Country for Old Men - I know I’m in the minority here, but some plot devices that worked in the book looked like...well, plot devices on the screen.

4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - It paralyzed me.

5. There Will Be Blood - Yeah, I got all the metaphorical stuff about avarice and predatory capitalism, and the American Way. And, yeah, I know Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant, even if he borrowed the voice of John Huston’s Noah Cross from “Chinatown.” But I hated the obtrusive (yet highly praised) score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, which telegraphed every punch. I found the film ponderous and pretentious...and way too long at two hours, thirty-eight minutes, which is nearly one hour longer than either “Casablanca” or “The Maltese Falcon.”


Steep, the extreme skiing docu. Seems like the mountain equivalent of “Riding Giants,” the breathtaking surfing documentary of a few years ago. Check out the spectacular "Steep" trailer.


The cliche scene of the year. Along with her doofus boyfriend, the smart, unmarried pregnant woman goes all mushy when she sees the beating heart of her baby-to-be on the sonogram. Look for the scene in both “Juno” and “Knocked Up,” which are otherwise smart and sassy.


Describe it, as Salon.com does, as a “Romanian abortion thriller." Talking about “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.” Trailer here. “C’mon honey. Pack up the kids. Let’s go see that Romanian abortion thriller at the multiplex.”

What about you? What's your favorite movie of 2007? (Jim Born's pick is "Florida State Football Highlights," although that's more of a short than a feature.) Any movies you hated?

(Click envelope below to send to a fellow cineophile.



  1. Happy New Year, Paulie!!!

    I haven't seen all of the movies you've listed but I loved Ratatouille. I've seen nothing in the extreme HYPE about Sweeney Todd that makes me want to see it. And I totally agree with you about "There will be Blood." Well said. Angelina Jolie got a SAG award nod for A Mighty Heart as did Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose, which was wonderful.

    The SAG noms for "Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Motion Picture" are 3:10 to Yuma, American, Gangster, Hairspray, Into the Wild, and No Country for Old Men.

  2. I adored Sweeney Todd - if you don't like rivers and buckets and fountains of blood, it's not for you. I don't think, though, that I've ever seen a more beautifully filmed movie. And the cast was spectacular - I'm a bit surprised that they didn't get a SAG nomination.

    I also loved Waitress, especially that it didn't have a formulaic ending.

    My other favorite was Live Free or Die Hard. I thought Bruce Willis did a fabuous job. He just makes me laugh.

    Happy January 1st ;-)

  3. I rarely get to the movies, but we do rent them. Loved SICKO, but thought THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM was a been-there done-that and perhaps the saga should be over now. Loved RATATOUILLE and ENCHANTED and even ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS and the much maligned EVAN ALMIGHTY made me laugh (I have a 10 year old daughter, can you tell?).

  4. Great list, Paul. I'm married to a real movie buff, so we are always watching one movie or another (and sometimes I have to ask if we can watch a movie without subtitles, please ...). In any case, my vote for most disappointing movie was Atonement - like the book, it was half the production it could have been and annoyed the heck out of me. And as for that famed Dunkirk scene - about as far from the reality of the disaster as it could be. Indulgent deceptive stuff, and reminded me that Ian McEwan got away with the kind of plotting that a mystery writer would be toasted for - but then he is Ian McEwan. Nah, didn't do it for me. But thank heavens for Ratatouille, Michael Clayton, Waitress, The Bourne Ultimatum, La Vie En Rose ... still haven't seen the In The Valley of Elah - and I'm a big Tommy Lee Jones fan. Away From Her was as elegant a bit of film-making as you'll find, and is on my list ... and I adored The Golden Compass and Stardust ... Sicko is on my "best of" list too.

    And what are your movie-going predictions for '08, Paul?

  5. Jacqueline,
    Not up to speed on 2008 movies, yet.

    But here's something of interest to all of us. On April 4, PBS will broadcast its special on "The American Novel." http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/

  6. Impressive, Paul.
    I didn't see anything that knocked me out.

    I have a hard time with crime stories mainly because most a cliches od super smart crooks and over worked cops.

    I was disappointed alittle in I Am Legend.

    And I kept my pledge yesterday.

    Happy New Year.


  7. Did anybody see Gone Baby Gone? Amy Ryan got a SAG nomination for best actor in a supporting role.

  8. I'm a little floored that I've only seen ONE of the movies you list here--that would be The Bourne Ultimatum, which I loved. The majority of those are on my netflix queu, so I'll get tot hem.

    I missed Ratatouille, but my wife took the kids while I was out of town. They all vastly prefer The Incredibles.

    I don't know if these movies came out this year or not, but the ones that we rented that I liked the best were:

    Blood Diamond

    The Shooter


    Particularly Blood Diamond. That was quite a powerful surprise.

  9. Agree with you about those sonogram moments - but Allison Janney made up for it in Juno by completely taking apart that sonogram technician.

  10. We watched Waitress last night and while there was much to like, there were also some awful Southern accents and over-the-top dialogue. I liked it, but not as much as my wife and daughter liked it.

    Live Free and Die Hard, now there was a great movie.

    I will see Sweeney Todd in the next few days. It's the only musical I can sit through.

    Disappointments? I've forgotten those.

  11. Agree with Mark about "Blood Diamond," which was a late 2006 release that earned a grown-up Leo DiCaprio an Oscar nom.

    Thought "Breach" was solid. Waiting also to see "The Shooter," when Netflix delivers.

  12. "Ratatouille" gets my vote. Any movie that is a paeon to what is grand in life (a rat as the champion of haute cuisine and high standards!) instead of wallowing what is crass is Oscar-worthy in my book.

    Happy new year, nekkids.

  13. Thank you, Jacqueline, for your comment on Atonement, especially the book. Until now, I felt like I Am Legend, The Sequel, wandering in a barren landscape where only I was deaf to the celestial music escaping from its pages. In short, I found his style cold and distancing. The film didn't set me on fire, either. I could appreciate many of its technical achievements,and there we set pieces I admired, but not top ten material for me.

    At the top of my list is There Will be Blood (sorry, Paul) with Daniel Day Lewis coming in as best actor. I loved Once and Sweeney Todd. Favorite animated is Ratatouille. Rarely see action films, although I liked the first two Bournes a lot. Not so the Bourne Ultimatum -- too much, um, action. Short on the clever dialogue. The Lives of Others was #2 movie last year and #1 in foreign (I saw it last year when it opened in L.A. for Academy consideration). Favorite foreign this year is Lust, Caution. Some others I loved are No Country for Old Men, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Michael Clayton, Zodiac, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Starting Out in the Evening.

    That's probably more than anyone wanted to know :)

  14. You've got a very interesting blog here -- nice work.

    "3:10 to Yuma" is actually based on a Elmore Leonard short story. It's only film I think you really missed the boat on. The characters are guilty of making decisions based on the plot -- rather than on their character. That's why Crowe's murdering outlaw is allowed to kill the posse members one by one and they don't even tie and gag him.

    My full take on this fantastically bad movie: