In between trimming the tree, lighting the menorah and other traditional holiday chores, folks all over the media have been putting together their top ten lists on all manner of subjects. For better or for worse the team here at the Alamo workshop have cobbled together our own "best of 2007" lists, in this case, our 10 favorite movies of the year. Scrutiny of these lists might offer some not-so-valuable-insight into the tastes and moral fiber of the staff of the Alamo Drafthouse programming team.
As a matter of brief introductions, here are a couple of the key duties of the 5 members of the Alamo programming team: Zack
hosts Terror Thursday and the Saturday Morning Kids Club; Lars
creates the Alamo preshows and is the host of Weird Wednesday; Henri
is the Alamo creative director and hosts sing-alongs, quote-alongs and about 50 holiday parties this season; Tim
(me) is the founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, is the director of Fantastic Fest and monkeys around in all kinds of stuff, and Brad
is the newest member of the team and serves as the office manager, keeping everything around here organized.
On with the lists!
From Tim (me):
10) KING OF KONG. One of the all-time classic battles of good vs. evil. Unbelievable until you see it unfold on screen. When I start recommending a Donkey Kong championship movie to my mother, it has to have some universal appeal.
9) EXTE: HAIR EXTENSIONS (Japan) Sion Sono. Remember that name. Someone in Japan had the amazing idea to give a supremely wacked-out transgressive director a boat-ton of money to make a send-up of JHorror movies. Not only did he succeed on the comedy front, but the film has some genuine thrills and jumps AND there's a mainline spike of weird deviant sexuality. Plus the Hair Extensions song the villain sings while driving around town should be a top 40 hit. Craziness that can only be delivered by the Japanese.
8) SUPERBAD/KNOCKED UP I feel bad for lumping these two films into one slot, but I can't decide which one I like better. All hail the new kings of comedy.
7) LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD I went into this one with very low expectations. Consider those shattered when John Mclane starts surfing on the wing of a stealth fighter. Perfect popcorn.
6) INSIDE (France) the BEST no-holds-barred thriller I've seen in a while. The premise of an extremely pregnant woman being stalked by an psychopath intent on a "premature" delivery is crazy enough, but when they amp up the gore quotient to Monty Python proportions, it becomes a thing of beauty.
5) TIMECRIMES (Spain) We all fell in love with Nacho Vigalondo AND his movie at Fantastic Fest this year. Timecrimes is smart, funny, and one of the best-conceived time travel movie I've ever seen. Look for a theatrical release later this year.
4) JUNO - Ellen Page was my favorite actress of 2006 with HARD CANDY and it's amazing to see her range with this a completely different role. Everything about this movie is perfect. If my top 3 movies weren't perfect in every way , then I'd give this one #1 billing, just like Roger Ebert.
3) THERE WILL BE BLOOD - Daniel Day Lewis is an absolute LOCK for best actor. One of the all-time great American movies. Citizen Kane, consider yourself trumped.
2) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - Total return to form for the Coen Brothers. After Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, I was getting seriously worried. Javier Bardem is the best cinematic badass since Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.
1) DAI NIPPON JIN (Japan) Holy crap! I may be alone in the world for putting this at #1 of 2007, but this crazy little number blew me away. Hitoshi Matsumoto is one of the most famous TV comedians in Japan. Will Farrel, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and all the rest should be bowing down at his altar.
1. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Best movie this year, I think.
2. EASTERN PROMISES
An admirable number 2 showing.
3. RESCUE DAWN
Painfully effective- and affective. An -ective double whammy.
4. LUST, CAUTION
I feel I have now been in love in war-torn, Japanese-occupied Shanghai.
5. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
6. THE KING OF KONG
I enjoy films that skirt the line between pathetic and triumphant.
7. KNOCKED UP
Very funny, but it makes you think.
Performances alone put this one here.
9. DARJEELING LIMITED
Lot's of war films here. Here's another. Love and war- that's what's
it all about.
10) INSIDE (France) tie with INVISIBLE TARGET (Hong Kong) - This was a toughie but both films had to be in my top ten. I mean, INVISIBLE TARGET had more broken glass than any action movie I've ever seen, from Hong Kong or otherwise. But INSIDE had the most ruptured uterus, and who doesn't enjoy that?
9) TIMECRIMES (Spain) - This was an intelligent, perfectly rendered quasi-scifi film with a deliberately uneasy blend of humor and tension. Plus the director taught everybody at Fantastic Fest how to do the Swastika Dance.
8) TAXIDERMIA (Hungary) - Disgusting and beautiful and brilliant. Competitive eating, pigfucking and taxidermy finally receive the treatment they deserve.
7) CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO documentary - The most engrossing sympathetic view imaginable of off-kilter fameseekers dressed in tights. Seriously a heart-wrenching movie. Superman himself came to the Alamo for the Ritz opening weekend. In the aforementioned tights. Top notch.
6) I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH - Jeff "The Fat Guy from CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM" Garlin writes, directs and stars in the most gut-punchingly realistic romantic comedy of the year. Love is cruel and there is no hope...now laugh!! Also, for those of you who like to sit around and wish you were (ugh) Jimmy Kimmel, his long-time ladyfriend and much more talented comedianne colleague Sarah Silverman is in this movie almost naked. Yeep. But don't let that be the reason you do or don't rent this...it's a great film through and through, with plenty of the awkward humor that makes most movies of this type self-conscious and unfunny, except Garlin pulls it off with a massive degree of lovable chubby aplomb.
5) LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD tie with BLOOD, BOOBS AND BEAST (Don Dohler documentary) - Both of these movies knocked my bellybutton through my spine. DIE HARD IV was everything I wanted and nothing I expected. The fact that it was released as a PG-13 film didn't hold back the massive onslaught of irresponsible violence. In fact, there were probably more offscreen innocent bystanders injured by the shrapnel of Mr. Willis in this film than in the first 3 combined. Those of you who whined that it wasn't enough like the other films...well, at least it didn't have another stuffy British terrorist in it this time around.
BLOOD, BOOBS AND BEAST was a really moving documentary on late, great Baltimore schlock-horror filmmaker Don Dohler (THE ALIEN FACTOR, NIGHTBEAST, BLOOD MASSACRE). It would have been easy to point and laugh at the backyard limitations of Dohler's films, but the film instead covers the life of an iron-willed cinematic maverick and family man with terrible luck and no critical or social respect. The film ran at Fantastic Fest and there wasn't a dry eye in the packed house.
4) THERE WILL BE BLOOD - A huge sprawling epic of the highest caliber of huge sprawling epics. They just don't make movies like this anymore, ever. A seething slow boil from Daniel Day Lewis eliminates the standard story arc and instead opts for a redemption-shunning downward spiral. Pretty goddamn incredible.
3) EASTERN PROMISES - I kick the ass of anyone who speaks ill. This was an incredible step forward AGAIN from the once-seemingly-watertreading David Cronenberg. Intelligent, unflinchingly violent and featuring none of the expository crime film training wheels that wrecked THE DEPARTED. I'll be dipped if this isn't among a great director's very best work. And not just because we see Viggo Mortensen's dingus.
2) KING OF KONG doc - Without hyperbole, this is truly the most palpable battle of real-life Good VS. Evil ever captured on film. Steve Wiebe is the greatest role model of the 21st Century. Billy Mitchell: get out of here...nobody invited you to this party.
1) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - My favorite new American movie of the last decade or longer. For reals. Sass me and Lars will beat you up (see below).
AND...Honorable mention: UNDERDOG - There goes my credibility.
I didn't get a chance to see THERE WILL BE BLOOD or JUNO (yet) but I imagine
they would have made this list, along with EASTERN PROMISES, which I
stupidly missed. If there seem to be a lot of old (rereleased) movies here,
it's because I like them old movies.
1) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: The Coen Brothers make it good, Tommy Lee Jones
makes it transcendental. The ending is perfect. Don't think so - call me and
we can make an appointment for me to punch you in the face!
2) A COLT IS MY PASSPORT: The U.S. Premiere of this 1967 Japanese film
happened at Fantastic Fest. There's a lot of catching up to do. The audience
looked grateful and stunned at the same time, like they just found out the
world was full of candy and nobody'd ever told them about it.
3) KILLER OF SHEEP: Charles Burnett's small film (made in 1977, only widely
released this year) radiates life and beauty. The struggle to get an engine
block into the back of a truck is far more compelling than 300 and
TRANSFORMERS lashed together and set on fire.
4) HOLY MOUNTAIN: They packed the house for this hopelessly pretentious,
brilliant film by Jodorowsky at the late lamented Downtown. The colors were
booming! The crowd of mostly college students was alight with movie-love.
5) KING OF KONG: I didn't like it QUITE as much as everyone else but it was
6) UNCLE'S PARADISE: Beautiful Japanese surrealist sex fantasy. My favorite
new film of Fantastic Fest 2007. Great performances, insanely inventive,
austerely beautiful and even pretty sexy.
7) ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES: So imperfect, so doomed to fail. What could be
more romantic than a lost cause? A lot of people HATED this but I respected
director John Turturro and the actors for trying to do something different.
The quiet, unhuried scenes between James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon were
masterful and worth sitting through the stuff that didn't work so well.
8) DARJEELING LIMITED: Seriously flawed but funny in the way ROYAL
TENENBAUMS was. Also, visually beautiful (an underrated aspect of films now
I think.) I was ready to give up on Wes Anderson as tragically celebrated
and full of himself after THE LIFE AQUATIC but I think he might make some
more good films now.
9) and 10) SUPERBAD & KNOCKED UP: Everybody's surprised when I say I liked
these. With the exception of a few masters, rude, dirty comedy is the best
thing the American film industry has going for it.
10) KNOCKED UP - Of the two, I think SUPERBAD was by far the better film, and KNOCKED UP had all sorts of problems for me, not the least of which was how conveniently they just argued past the point of an abortion. Cause I know it makes for a funny sitcom idea, but if you end up getting pregnant with someone that you hooked up with while drunk and don’t like at all, you should not feel like you have to raise the child together at all. Still, this movie makes it onto my list over SUPERBAD simply because of the super gross birthing scene at the end. That will single-handedly win any argument I have with any girlfriend over whether or not we’re ready to have kids. Until I’m ready, I’ll just keep that on my iPod and any time she says that she thinks it sounds fun, I’ll remind her of exactly what she’s signing up for. Boom! No trips to Babies ‘R Us for me! That kind of power to affect my life for the better automatically makes KNOCKED UP one of the top ten films of the year.
9) BEOWULF - BEOWULF is also kind of a shitty movie, but it was the one and only time I ventured outside of the Alamo to check something out, and I went and saw it on a 3D projection system (while sneaking in a flask to complete the experience), and holy crap, that blew my mind. Yeah, the actors in motion capture looked kinda creepy, but a 3D flying dragon fight? 3D Angelina Jolie staring at me while slowly rising out of cave water? Sign me up, and keep your Godard to yourself. Plus seeing this and loving David Ellis makes me very dedicated to the task of getting 3D digital projection at the Ritz before FINAL DESTINATION 4 comes out, as that movie will undoubtedly be my favorite film of the year it is released in.
8) SPIDERMAN 3 - Fuck you, haters. This movie would be higher up on my list but too many people have whined on and on about their problems with it and have thereby ruined my love, which was otherwise pure as a morning snow on a newborn baby’s butt. Yeah, there were a lot of villains, and yes the amnesia plot device for Harry was a bit of a cheat, but I loved so many moments in this and don’t care that they drastically altered the plot of the comics, because the spirit of all of the characters was there and right on. Bring it on, fanboys.
7) ZODIAC - The murder scenes were amazing. The bleakness and drudgery and the documentation of how obsession can ruin your life even if you aren’t killed was fascinating. But the best thing about ZODIAC was that it wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized that the movie wasn’t about a serial killer or detective work or any of that, but was really about how much more difficult life was back in the analogue age. When you watch DIRTY HARRY or some other movie from the 70s with 70s actors and 70s cities in it, you don’t notice how life before cell phones was a pain in the ass for these characters. But watching Jake Gyllenhaal having to actually travel all up and down California to get information from big boxes in back rooms really made me appreciate my life in the Internet age.
6) BLACK SNAKE MOAN - 2007 will go down in history as the greatest year of film ever for one simple reason: Justin Timberlake. In three movies. And while his lip sync scene in SOUTHLAND TALES was the best three minutes in motion picture history, the rest of the movie around it still isn’t worth sitting through. BLACK SNAKE MOAN is fantastic, though. I thought it was going to just be about torturing Christina Ricci and was happy enough with that premise. When the movie became so much more I was just plain thrilled.
5) THE KING OF KONG - Part of me just wants to put a documentary high on my list so I can sound like a film snob who knows what I’m talking about, but really, this movie will seriously stay with me longer than any of the others listed here. It had all of the good qualities of the “look at this quirky group of people” genre of docs, but also had a real story and genuine characters to root for and hope alongside. And it taught me a lot about how to play Donkey Kong better.
4) RATATOUILLE - I love Patton Oswalt. I love Brad Bird. I love crazy chefs and going out to eat and fantastic foods. Even so, I thought the idea of a rat wanting to be a chef was going to be a tired and clichéd children’s film and before seeing the movie and thought that maybe, just maybe, Brad Bird had lost his touch. I should be shot for having lost my faith.
3) MIRAGEMAN - The best part about picking the Chilean action movie from FANTASTIC FEST as one of my top picks this year? After it gets released in theaters next year I’ll be able to include in my 2008 list, too! I can tell you right now that it’ll be a toss up between this and FINAL DESTINATION 4 for my number one film of all time. I can only hope that they make a MIRAGEMAN 2 with the same sort of digital video in your face feel, but in 3D. If they do, that’s my favorite movie of 2009, 2010, and every year after that. Hell, if that film happened we could all stop watching movies because there is no way a trip to the cinema could ever be better.
2) BOURNE ULTIMATUM - That chase scene? Amazing. And my favorite moment in the theater all year was definitely while I was watching that on opening weekend at South Lamar – right after the whole chase ended and we all realized we’d been holding our breath for 15 minutes straight someone in the front row yelled out, “Yes! That was awesome!” Normally we hate talking in the theater, but that one little exclamation (followed by nothing else) was a perfect expression for the sheer joy we were all feeling.
1) THE LANDLORD - If Lars is allowed to include old movies in his list of the top ten of 2007, then I’m allowed to use web movies. I’ve watched and quoted Will Ferrell’s break out hit from Funny or Die more than any other movie this year. “I want my MOONNEEY!!!” Thank you, Pearl. You can have your four beers now.