Its that time of year again. Our six critics dont always (or often) agree, but weve combined their top 10 lists (allowing for ties) to pretend like they do! So without further ado, the 10 (or 15) best movies of the year, kind of:
There Will Be Blood
The Texas tea bubbles up from the ground like primordial blood at the start of Paul Thomas Anderson's turn-of-the-20th-century oil-prospecting epic (which won't open in most parts of the country until January and stars Daniel Day-Lewis). Nearly three hours later, the blood spilling across the floor of a Beverly Hills bowling alley looks suspiciously like crude. In between, we are held rapt by a big, bold, iconic story of the greed that drives some men to greatness and just as often proves their undoing. —S.F.
I'm Not There
Semiotics, symbolist poetry and Velvet Goldmine are not without their use when contemplating the intricacies of Todd Haynes' deconstructed biopic—not to mention everything ever written about Bob Dylan. But for this non-Boomer, having lived through none of the era chronicled, knowing little of Dylan's life, and caring not much more for his music, I'm Not There struck me—hard—as an emotional experience unencumbered by historical baggage. —N.L.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
The title of Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's Cannes Film Festival prizewinner refers to the length of a pregnancy—specifically, the one a college student named Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) seeks to terminate in a midsize Romanian town circa 1987, when Ceausescu is still in power and abortions are illegal. Those who accused Judd Apatow's Knocked Up of being a thinly veiled Family Values polemic may find 4 Months more to their liking, but it becomes clear early on that Mungiu is less interested in the life-versus-choice debate than in the way people living in a socially repressive society adapt to circumstance. —S.F.
Killer of Sheep
Poetic in the very best sense—the exaltation of bedrock existence through concrete detail, closely observed—Charles Burnett's 1977 film about a Watts family man making ends meet with a literal dead-end job proved to be the triumph of the year in its long-delayed theatrical release. Uncommercial, eh? Milestone's successful distribution showed that its audience was narrowly focused, all right—to roughly anyone who's ever come home beat and soul-sick from a day at work. —J.R.
Muddled. Self-involved. Overbearingly ambitious. Insufferable. Funny how the critical mud slung at Donnie Darko on release has the same consistency as the shit storm that raged against Southland Tales, yet another—how dare he!?—ultra-convoluted sci-fi satire from the incorrigibly precocious Richard Kelly. Southland Tales looks and feels more like life in 2007 than Juno, In the Valley of Elah and Michael Clayton combined. —N.L.
Obsessed with codes, graphs, symbols and technology, David Fincher returns the serial killer genre to its roots. This is a movie for number crunchers, systems analysts, archeologists of the analog era and anyone interested in how we came to inhabit the cognitive chaos depicted in Southland Tales. —N.L.
Not just a gourmand rat, or a beautifully animated French kitchen, but, as with Brad Bird's other work of genius, The Incredibles, Ratatouille makes a witty argument for passion and cooperative excellence. —E.T.
In this heroic film by Portuguese director Pedro Costa, a Cape Verdean immigrant named Ventura wanders dazedly between the gutted-out remnants of his former residence in a Lisbon housing tenement and a couple of prospective new ones, crossing paths with a succession of fellow travelers whom he refers to as his "children." Difficult to describe, but impossible to forget, Costa's film is like a waking dream. —S.F.
Like A History of Violence, David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises could almost pass for an exceptionally well-made B-movie—in fact, this gangster flick is a dark, rhapsodic fairy tale set in a world populated by angels, devils, walking corpses and human wolves—and most impressively by Viggo Mortensen. —J.H.
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Cynics will grouse that this isn't as important as Sicko or No End in Sight—when, yeah, it kinda is. Not because Seth Gordon's doc about two dudes vying for title of World's Best Donkey Kong Player in the History of Ever will change the world, but it might just change your life. Who doesn't want to be awesome, even at something totally pointless? —R.W.
Parisian hotties riot in the street, smoke dope, boogie to the Kinks, fuck, mope, pose, lounge and stare beautifully at the walls of beautiful apartments in Philippe Garrel's film. This, mes amis, is why cinema was invented. —N.L.
Hands down the funniest movie of 2007—not so much a parody of buddy-picture conventions as an affectionate rehabilitation—Edgar Wright's incredible two-headed transplant of Hollywood cop-socky histrionics onto the tweedy British whodunit was the only balls-out comedy this year with a visual style to match its verbal wit. If only every muscle-headed shoot-'em-up were set in a precinct house with a swear jar. —J.R.
Come for the dirty words and bong hits, stay for the trenchant observations—no, seriously. Sure, it's the one-liners that linger ("You look like a cholo dressed up for Easter"), but even they barely obscure life's biggest truth, which is: "Marriage is like a tense, unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond, only it doesn't last 22 minutes. It lasts forever." —R.W.
The opener of Jennifer Baichwal's beautiful documentary, a tracking shot that takes about eight minutes to roam from one end of a Chinese electronics factory floor to the other, tells you all you need to know about modern labor, our disposable world and who will own the global economy. —E.T.
Private Fears in Public Places
Directed with light-fingered mastery by Alain Resnais, now 84 and fully indulging his delight in golden-age cinematic gloss, this exquisite ensemble comedy-drama about the perils of seeking love late in life resembles a Vincente Minnelli musical with the songs elided, leaving only the persistent ache of unexpressed desires. —J.R.
Honorable Mentions: Into the Wild, Black Book, West of the Tracks, No Country for Old Men, Syndromes and a Century, My Kid Could Paint That, Grindhouse, Offside, Day Night Day Night, Away From Her, Once, Paprika, Lars and the Real Girl, The Host, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Honor de Cavalleria, The Band's Visit, Lake of Fire, No End in Sight, The Bourne Ultimatum, Terror's Advocate, The Savages, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Music and Lyrics