One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 2007 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 2007.
2007 saw the Coen Brothers and David Fincher battle it out for the No. 1 spot. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
3:10 to Yuma — 7 points
The Bourne Ultimatum — 7 points
Hot Fuzz — 7 points
The Simpsons Movie — 6 points
300 — 5 points
Once — 5 points
Ratatouille — 5 points
Juno — 4 points
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — 4 points
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — 4 points
Transformers — 4 points
Enchanted — 3 points
Eastern Promises — 3 points
Michael Clayton — 3 points
Reign Over Me — 3 points
Superbad — 3 points
The Darjeeling Limited — 2 points
I Am Legend — 2 points
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story — 2 points
Gone Baby Gone — 1 point
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters — 1 point
Lars and the Real Girl — 1 point
Live Free or Die Hard — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 2007, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
4 (tie). Knocked Up
8 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 3
Andrew Woltman: There’s a very hit and miss quality with the films of Judd Apatow. They begin with a fine dose of hilarity and a humor that transcends what should usually be appropriate. But towards the end, they develop too fine of a taste for sentimentality. It creates a minor gag reflex for my personal tastes, but this is not truly the case of Knocked Up.
The concept of the one night stand is nothing unfamiliar to the world of cinema. But the aftermath exploration has never been this in depth or fun. The chubby, lovable loser charisma of Seth Rogen leads us on a hilarious journey down this path. There is no sensible reason that a stoner running a website devoted to revealing the location of exposed female private parts should be becoming a father, and thats really all the charm that this film needs. The acting of Katherine Heigl has never been anything that I have enjoyed, but I tolerate her in this role seeing as though the premise isn’t as depressingly outlandish as some of her later rom-coms.
4 (tie). Across the Universe
8 points, ranked by 2 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price at No. 1
Kati Price: This is a musical that is based on the music of the Beatles. With hits like It Won’t Be Long, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and the title track Across the Universe, this film tells the story of two fictional lovers from different places and classes during a very real time in history: the Vietnam War. In a nutshell, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back in a big romantic gesture. While this seems overplayed in movies, the other characters help to take us on an emotional journey.
The girl in the story, Lucy – portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood, had a brother named Max that gets drafted into the army. He fights in Vietnam and is injured physically as well as mentally. When he comes back he is a different person. Another love interest in the story is between JoJo and Sadie. JoJo (Martin Luther) is a victim of race discrimination who loses his little brother in a violent attack. Sadie is a singer. Played by Dana Fuchs, Sadie is brought to life with her powerful vocals. JoJo and Sadie do a duet of Oh Darling that is absolutely chilling and possibly one of my favorites from the movie.
Another notable character is Prudence (T.V. Carpio). Prudence is a cheerleader who runs from home to get away from the girl she loves. She meets a contortionist in the circus and the two can be themselves. So much of this movie is about social issues that were and are still prevalent today: racism, war, and the issues that arise with sexual orientation.
The lead male character is portrayed by Jim Sturgess. He is perhaps one of the better known actors from the film and to me the best. As Jude, Sturgess takes on an accent as he is from Liverpool. If you are familiar with the Beatles works you have noticed that all of the characters’ names coincide with songs by the Beatles as well.
While Evan Rachel Wood is not incredibly outstanding in the film, Jim Sturgess and Joe Anderson (Jude and Max, respectively) are brilliant. Some of the scenes in the film are very whimsical and a bit like an acid trip, but others are very serious and moving. This vast array of scenes makes for a very interesting film that keeps you enthralled. Of course, what really makes the film, though, is the music. Some would probably say that the rearrangements of the classics is borderline heresy, but I think most of them are great and fit well with the movie. If you aren’t really a musical person, this movie is great because it is all familiar songs that will have you singing from beginning to end.
11 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1
Andrew Riche: I have to get this out of the way firstly: I am an unabashed disciple of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. I consider Boogie Nights as one of the five best films of the 90’s and I also think The Master was one of the five best movies of this decade already. I have yet to be utterly let down by any movie he has written and directed, even the uninspiring Adam Sandler romance Punch-Drunk Love. P.T.A. spent four years making his follow-up to Punch-Drunk Love, and just as I expected, he did not disappoint. Anderson wanted to make a movie about two dueling families, but the script wasn’t coming together right when he received inspiration from Fast Food Nation writer Eric Schlosser, who had just purchased the film rights to a 1927 Upton Sinclair novel titled Oil! Anderson had never adapted a separate work for his own film before, and Sinclair’s book sparked his imagination like the fire that burst through the oil rig into the dim sky in the story.
That brought upon a 150-page script adaptation that even Anderson admitted was not faithful at all to Sinclair’s book. But what set this film apart from a lot of P.T.A.’s other cinematic achievements was his casting of bravura performance extraordinaire Daniel Day-Lewis in the main role of Daniel Plainview, a man from humble beginnings who finds the holy grail of oil drilling and becomes a tycoon. But along with his increased wealth comes the unending hunger for more in the new capitalistic frontier as we leave the 19th century, and Daniel bumps into many problems both public and private in his attempt to find more land to drill, baby, drill. Plainview’s struggle also involves a strained relationship with his adopted son H.W., a man who claims to be his half-brother, and two twins (both played by Paul Dano) whose family sits atop an oil field that Plainview desperately covets. The plot seems thin and off-putting on paper when you read it aloud, but the story of Plainview’s financial rise and subsequent fall as a man and a father grows more compelling as you delve deeper into the depths to which these people will go in the name of greed.
While the movie really hits its stride when the conflicts become more and more personally driven in later years, the movie walks that fine line of depicting the figurative battle between capitalism, represented by Plainview, and religion, represented by Dano’s seedy church pastor Eli Sunday. There is no true answer, obviously, to which institution overcomes the other between the two (although, judging by the film’s memorable last moments, Plainview defeats Eli via bowling pin). But it is within that ideological tug-of-war that the movie sings its greatest songs, and receives its highest praises. Robert Elswit won an Oscar for the film’s brooding yet simplistic cinematography and Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame hit a home run with one of the strangest musical scores you will ever hear.
Anderson is known for working with a plentiful ensemble cast in most of his films, but he shows yet another side of his brilliance as he directs a very compact cast in a film dominated by Day-Lewis’ transformative performance as Plainview, winning him the second of his three Best Actor Oscars. Don’t forget about the solid performances from miscellaneous actors like Dano, Dillon Freasier, Hans Howes, Cirian Hands, and Kevin J. O’Conner in roles that perfectly blend into Plainview’s story of success and hopelessness. Although said blood in the movie’s title only really appears at the start and finish of the film, There Will Be Blood drinks the moviegoer’s brain like a milkshake as a hypnotic meditation on the ambitions of the American way and the moral sacrifices that usually go along with it. Of all the great films I watched in the 2000’s, this is still the one that will stay with me the longest.
18 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Nick Duke at No. 1
Nick Duke: At this point, it’s no stretch to call David Fincher one of the best directors alive. Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and most recently, Gone Girl. Clearly a film career that speaks for itself. But when I think of Fincher, I don’t think of mysterious boxes, split personalities or misanthropic website creators. No, I think of California in the late 1960s and 1970s and one of the more captivating true crime stories of all time — Zodiac.
Zodiac tells the story of the titular killer that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area from 1969 until … well, no one knows exactly. Unlike many true crime stories, the case was never officially solved, even if it is now technically closed. But, rather than treating us to a blow-by-blow account of the killer’s victims, both confirmed and rumored, Zodiac instead chooses to focus on the lives the investigation affected and how obsession with the case led to drastic consequences for many. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, an editorial cartoonist with the San Francisco Chronicle, who becomes obsessed with the case when the first of the Zodiac’s letters and coded ciphers arrives at the newspaper’s offices. Gyllenhaal is the closest thing the film has to a point-of-view character, but we also spend many minutes with both Mark Ruffalo’s police inspector David Toschi and Robert Downey Jr.’s crime reporter Paul Avery. And, in a pre-Iron Man world, Downey is a revelation as Avery. He’s simultaneously lovable and detestable, brilliant and foolish. In short, he’s a very believable character. Ruffalo as Toschi also shows us a man who is constrained by the law. By the film’s end, he has to make his peace with the fact that even though he believes he knows the truth behind the case, it will never stand up in court.
But it’s Graysmith who we spend the most time with as he forgets his previous life as a cartoonist, slowly transitioning into something of a private investigator in order to chase down every available lead. Along the way, he marries and starts a family, but eventually loses them due to his overwhelming desire to see the case solved and his insistence on putting himself in places where harm could come to him and his.
All of that isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have some murder scenes to go along with the character studies, because it certainly does. Fincher filmed slow-motion murder scenes in film rather than digital to give the scenes a distinctive grainy quality. In order to add to the ambiguous nature of the case, three different actors portray the Zodiac during murder scenes throughout the movie, and none of those actors are used to play the various suspects later on. And ambiguity certainly reigns supreme throughout. By the movie’s end, we are told what the filmmakers and the respective men involved with the case believe to have happened and the suspect they feel is most likely the Zodiac. However, the film also ends with text on screen informing us that modern-day DNA evidence was unable to confirm those suspicions. So, as the credits roll, the viewer is left wondering: What really happened? Who was the Zodiac? And just how many lives did he destroy along the way?
1. No Country for Old Men
22 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Greg Phillips and Russell Sellers at No. 1
Russell Sellers: You can chalk this one up as a movie that defines modern filmmaking and is easily one of the best films of all-time. Joel and Ethan Coen have given us lots of great movies like Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski, but this stands above all of them.
While this is a great example of how to make a great thriller using the cat-and-mouse formula, it gets much deeper than that when it addresses the themes of fate vs. chance and what life means for those who live to see old age. In that respect, this might be Tommy Lee Jones’ best performance ever. His portrayal of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is intense, at times light and ultimately heartbreaking. And Josh Brolin hits it home with some of the most quotable lines in the entire film. But it’s Javier Bardem who steals the show.
Anton Chigurh is easily this generation’s best on-screen villain. You’re never sure just exactly what he’s going to do next. And that he carries a weapon that is as inventive as it is unconventional. Most people had no idea what a captive bolt pistol was before this but everyone who sees this will definitely remember it after. And Bardem’s performance will leave you breathless and likely speechless. You will never find a more ruthless and intense scene than the coin-flip in a gas station. That scene, like the rest of the film, is devoid of music which only adds to its power. You will have no idea which way it’s going to go because there are no musical cues to manipulate your emotions. All you have are the scenes and the film demands the audience pay attention to every moment. While that could easily make a movie pretentious, it only serves to make this one that much better.
The Coen Brothers are an incredible directing duo who will go down in history as one of the best of all-time. And while they have plenty of great movies to choose from, No Country for Old Men is their undisputed masterpiece.
That does it for 2007. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 2008!