Beth’s Top 9 Films of 2007
Starting on 8, because there are 2 films tied for the number one spot!
This film feels like an indie animated movie; different to previous Pixar efforts. The story of a Remy, a rat who loves to cook, following his dreams to become a chef (kind of) left me warm inside and that ain’t easy when the lead character is a rat! The animation is superb, the sequences where Remy guides his human chef friend to improve recipes are brilliant, and the ending is cleverly tied up. There aren’t as many out and out laughs as expected from a Pixar film, but charm and heart pour out by the bucketload, making it a film that’s difficult not to fall in love with.
7) Gone Baby Gone
An unfortunately badly timed release, due to the McCann tragedy this year, Gone Baby Gone is a really thought-provoking movie from first time director Ben Affleck. After a little girl is abducted, a PI and his partner/girlfriend agree to work with the family to try and track down the child. The police, headed up by Morgan Freeman and detective Ed Harris, are also trying to track her down for her junkie mother played by Amy Ryan. The missing child’s mother is the cause of much audience and on-screen ponderings about the best thing for the child, should she be found. In the film, just as in Dennis Lehane’s book, the sad story balances many viewpoints and possibilities, making it a difficult watch and a certain conversation starter. As the story develops the second half gets more and more interesting, with confusing elements adding really thrilling moments of payoff late in the film.
6) Lagerfeld Confidentiel
Karl Lagerfeld is an icon of the fashion world. Even if you can’t place the name, you will surely recognise his mostly monochromatic signature style, the grey ponytail that sits at the nape of his neck, and the ever-present sunglasses that serve to make him appear even more enigmatic. Fittingly, on Day 3 of London Fashion Week 2007, I attended a screening of Rodolphe Marconi’s documentary on this stalwart of the international fashion industry, in the hope to learn more about the man behind Chanel’s creative direction. Having always seemed aloof and pretentious, posed between pale, gamine models, it is a breath of fresh air to hear his no-nonsense quick wit regularly come to life on the screen. Whether photographing his pet American male model at his favourite time of day, or planning Nicole Kidman’s appearance on the catwalk, Lagerfeld is careful to keep a planned distance between himself and the filmmaker. He offers morsels to keep Marconi happy, and then contradicts them in the next sentence. Or he lets us in on the odd bit of childhood ‘trauma’ and then dismisses it with a joke. For any fashion lover this is a must-see, and I really enjoyed seeing the life of the man behind the sunglasses.
5) A Mighty Heart
A Mighty Heart documents a significant and harrowing snapshot of Mariane Pearl’s life; the few months in 2002 in which she and husband Daniel dominated headlines worldwide. Mariane (Jolie) was expecting their first child when Daniel (Futterman) was kidnapped in Pakistan while researching for The Wall Street Journal. He was eventually murdered by terrorists, the proof horrifically captured in a film that his widow will never watch. It’s a difficult story to retell, especially as those events are so recent, but Mariane wants this story out there; she’s still an inspirational font of positivity. Jolie is superb in this role, the nature of the woman she is portraying allows her to internalise much of her performance, which gives those scenes portraying the searing pain of her loss all the more impact. Hunched over in shadow, screaming until she is hoarse, her emotion bursts through the screen powerfully; even though her back is to the camera. Jolie keeps this hectic film and its intense rush of events centred, with not only an Oscar-worthy performance, but one that truly honours the disposition of the woman she is playing.
Amy Adams puts in a fantastic performance as the Disney Princess forced out into the harsh (ish) reality of New York City. James Marsden’s Prince follows her into this new adventure and plays the naivety as well and as humorously as Adams. Scenes where Gisele’s underskirts get caught in normal sized doors instead of swooshing through as they do in traditional animation, and the animals of New York City helping with the cleaning (cockroaches, pigeons, rats) of an apartment brilliantly translate to an audience who have grown up with Disney. A true family movie and an inventive and fun one at that!
This is a warm, kooky comedy about a pie-baking diner worker who embarks on an affair with her charming doctor when she discovers she is pregnant by her insecure husband. Keri Russell plays the title role in the last film from young writer / director / actress Adrienne Shelly, who heartbreakingly died before this film gained acclaim as a Sundance selection in the US. Russell carries the film beautifully, playing for laughs as easily as she induces the audience’s tears, and always reflecting a familiar feeling of reality in the surreal turns the film occasionally takes. The cast are brilliant and the story is warm and funny, with just enough angst to become moving when it needs to be. Surreal moments throughout the movie ensure this is not a typical rom-com, and hints at the interesting career Shelly could have developed if she was still here with us.
2) High School Musical 2
Does this count as a film of the year? I mean, I certainly haven’t seen it on any other lists, and the only possible reason I can think of is that as it’s ‘made for TV’ other critics have left it out of their end of year summaries… Okay, so it might not be the only reason all those over 12 years old aren’t waxing lyrical about it this year, but I am! Think of all the hours that parents have got back thanks to these HSM movies! Babysitters, if in doubt, just plonk the kids in front of these colourful, singing-filled films and watch their faces light up! I’m proud to say I’ve watched this movie more than once this year, and thoroughly enjoyed every viewing. The inoffensive fluffy fun is Disney through and through. But one thing you can count on is these six stars and their castmates work incredibly hard to get these movies out. Extremely short rehearsal periods and short shooting schedules mean that quality is a little less than that of Hairspray, but still pretty damn good. Zac Efron has become a fully fledged star this year, with articles in Time and a Rolling Stone cover to boot, Vanessa Hudgens has had her share of unwanted photos coming back to haunt her, and Ashley Tisdale has a new nose. But they are all still beloved by their young fans, who can’t wait for the New Year and High School Musical 3 to make it into cinemas around the world!
Oh, Hairspray. Let me count the ways in which I love you…
This movie got me through a rollercoaster of a year: On the tube in the morning I would listen to the lyrics of ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ and smile my way to work, and when I was feeling nervous or stressed I would pop the DVD in the player and let the cast sing my troubles away. It transported me into another world, a world where there is hope, positivity, and people willing to do what they can to change things. There’s choreographed dancing and superbly effortless performers (Elijah Kelley, your time is now), as well as gorgeous teens (Brittany Snow, Zac Efron) and hilarious adults (Christopher Walken, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and a fab performance from James Marsden). And then, the lead role of Tracy Turnblad played by young Nikki Blonsky, is so full of effervescent beauty and innocence that you can’t help but be charmed by the former ice cream salesgirl. The touches of John Waters’ signature humour take it from being completely saccharine, and give it the bite that takes the edge off the shiny pastel colours of early 60s Baltimore.
=1) This Is England
The complicated social landscape of Falklands-era England comes alive in this film thanks to flawless performances from the main cast and fantastic attention to detail. This Is England centres on young Shaun Fields (played beautifully by newcomer Thomas Turgoose) who, having recently lost his father in the war and become outcast from others at his school, finds acceptance from a skinhead gang of older boys and men who mould him in their image. From start to finish this film is enthralling thanks to the cast’s wonderfully nuanced performances and the realism of the writing and cinematography. The humour and warmth that emanates from the first half of the film subtly and slowly darkens to build up to the confused racism and hate that fuels the finale.
In addition to these I can’t wait to catch up with all the movies I missed this year in 2008!