2007: The Movie(s)
December 28, 2007 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Indiewire put out their second annual film critic's poll recently. There Will Be Blood tops the list, with Zodiac, No Country for Old Men, Syndromes and a Century, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days following behind.

A spiritual successor/competitor to the Village Voice's film poll, Indiewire polled 106 North American film critics—mostly those who work online or in the alternative press—for their favorite films, performances, documentaries, etc, as well as their thoughts about the year in film.

Here's the full list, as well as the lists for best film, performance, supporting performance, director, screenplay, first film, documentary, cinematography, and undistributed film.

It all comes with an accompanying essay, as well as an essay about 2007 in undistributed film. It also comes with a collection of the critics' comments—critic's defending their orphan #1 picks, their thoughts about the best and worst films of the year, and comments about the state of film culture.

You can also view it by each participating critics' ballot.

(The ones that I follow are Scott Foundas, Ed Gonzalez, J. Hoberman, Nathan Lee, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Matt Zoller Seitz, Amy Taubin, Charles Taylor, Scott Tobias, Armond White, and Stephanie Zacharek).
posted by Weebot (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Black Book at 11? The widely reviled Southland Tales at 18? Seriously?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2007

I really want to see "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood." I've not been this psyched about new movies in a while. And I've not seen "Zodiac" either -- definitely want to get the DVD. Thanks for the post.
posted by blucevalo at 1:48 PM on December 28, 2007

What the hell? Zodiac was like walking around in circles for three hours loaded down with a backpack full of drear.

(Uh . . . so have fun with that, blucevalo!)
posted by Skot at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2007

Michael Clayton didn't even make the top 20?

posted by The Card Cheat at 2:03 PM on December 28, 2007

kittens for breakfest: With Southland Tales, you have to remember that a lot of polarizing films will score highly in polls like this because passionate advocates will place the film higher on their list, whether it be out of sheer enthusiasm, political considerations (they just want to see the film higher on the list, so they place it in their one or two slot when they really liked other films more), or both. Plus, their is no way to vote against a film. Black Book was awesome.
posted by Weebot at 2:04 PM on December 28, 2007

Who does the music in the trailer for Syndromes and a Century?
posted by chillmost at 2:05 PM on December 28, 2007

Syndromes and a Century

Whoa! That's a nice surprise. Go Thai cinema! (Wish it had shown in my town, though...)
posted by statolith at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2007

Yeah, Zodiac just wouldn't end. It was allright for two hours and then lost points for every five minutes after that. Ended up with something like a -83 on my scale.
posted by humuhumu at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Aha, and the top five includes two films shot (partially) in Marfa, Texas. Coincidence? I think not.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:12 PM on December 28, 2007

I would've put 3:10 to Yuma higher up. Also, ditto to what everyone's said about Zodiac.
posted by hopeless romantique at 2:16 PM on December 28, 2007

I guess critics like art films. And thank God. I suspect were it not for end of the year lists like this, every movie released by Hollywood would be about Bruce Willis and his gun.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on December 28, 2007

I liked Zodiac, but I also didn't think it was suspense-laden like some friends did, so I wasn't waiting for a resolution. It's an amazing period piece that is more about the personalities and the procedure than the case, although I think a few actors were underutilized or had some weak points.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was similarly long, so I opted to go alone rather than annoy my friends I took to Zodiac.
posted by mikeh at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2007

Some further info, 'cos I wanted to look it up myself and might as well save others the effort. :)

IMDB links: There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, No Country For Old Men, Syndromes and a Century, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Rottentomatoes links: There Will Be Blood (90%), Zodiac (89%), No Country For Old Men (95%), Syndromes and a Century (87%), 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days (94%).

Movies with RT rating >79% (including all of the above, obviously).

For the parents, there is only one movie in that list to take the kids to - Enchanted (IMDB). It was awesome! As good as Shrek, in my humble opinion. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really liked Zodiac, just saw it last night. But I seem to like movies that my friends have said they found boring, I like being able to kind of sink into a film, and Zodiac held my interest all the way through. I don't think I would've enjoyed it in the theatre though.
posted by cell divide at 2:30 PM on December 28, 2007

Weebot, I dug Black Book a lot, but I feel like its ranking is...high. Because when I say I dug it, what I mean is that it was this kind of awesome WWII exploitation movie in arthouse dress, and I can't help but love that; or, as a perceptive critic whose name I can't recall (s/he may have been a Netflix commentator, for all I know) put it, "It was like the Dutch Resistance as imagined by a feverishly horny fourteen-year-old boy." That's not a criticism, either. This is just generally how Verhoeven rolls, trash and bombast mixed up with social criticism, and in his best work (Flesh + Blood, Robocop, Starship Troopers, and, well, Black Book), none of these is more important than any other. Sometimes the trash takes over and you have Showgirls, sometimes it's all sound and fury like Hollow Man, but he hits more than he misses, and Black Book is a success. But it's also fucking ridiculous and melodramatic beyond belief, and while it never quite gets all the way to camp...man, I dunno. It's so over the top that I cannot take it completely seriously, and I do think I'm supposed to, and for that reason I'm surprised to see it occupy such a lofty perch on this list. Maybe I shouldn't be, and maybe the critics are just prescient; I think it'll stick around a lot longer, in a cult way, than more than a few Oscar contenders.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:34 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you really want to gorge on critics' Top Ten lists, you need the Big Ass Chart.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:35 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

kittens for breakfest: I think we're on the same page; I like Black Book precisely because it's such a debased film. In the same way Showgirls' awfulness is tied to its utter contempt for star-is-born narratives, Black Book shows that cinematic depictions of the Holocaust have devolved into empty artifice by employing said artifice.
posted by Weebot at 2:49 PM on December 28, 2007

aeschenkarnos: Ratatouille came in at a respectable 20.
posted by Weebot at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2007

I was just about to post a link to the same chart that Horace Rumpole linked. That is one of the most definitive critics lists each year. They try to be as inclusive as possible.
posted by bove at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2007

No This is England (93% Rotten Tomatoes), no top ten...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2007

I'm gonna have to disagree with you people regarding Zodiac. Closest thing to a masterpiece I have seen all year and Fincher's best work, imo.
posted by aldurtregi at 4:17 PM on December 28, 2007

Here's my list, in case you care, topped by There Will Be Blood. I missed 4 Months, but it's #1 on Marcy's list, and it's getting released in January. All in all, it's been a great year for movies.
posted by muckster at 4:22 PM on December 28, 2007

Oh, and while I wasn't asked to participate in the indieWire poll, I'm pleased to see I made that big-ass MCN list.
posted by muckster at 4:24 PM on December 28, 2007

I don't understand all the fuss about Ratatouille. It was ok, not fantastic, just ok.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:25 PM on December 28, 2007

arcticwoman, I liked Ratatouille a good bit -- it's my favorite of the Pixar flicks -- but I think one reason it ranks so high with critics is that it's, among other things, about critics and criticism.
posted by muckster at 4:41 PM on December 28, 2007


You're just taunting those of us who live in flyover country and won't be able to see There Will Be Blood for a while.

(*** burrows into snow, goes into hibernation ***)
posted by lukemeister at 4:42 PM on December 28, 2007

Wow, there were at least 113 movies this year better than Charlie Wilson's War? We are truly living in a golden age of cinema.
posted by lukemeister at 4:46 PM on December 28, 2007

Why are the awards shows and critics' lists forgetting 3:10 to Yuma? That was a damn good movie. Ben Foster deserves to win a few supporting actor award for his performance in 3:10.
posted by Titania at 6:34 PM on December 28, 2007

Zodiac was flipping amazing. The cinematography was flipping amazing. the acting was very good. The screenplay was amazing. All around, still the best movie I saw this year. Give fincher the nod for best director please.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 6:57 PM on December 28, 2007

Agreed...Zodiac was brilliant and captured the essence of the case far better than I would have hoped for.
posted by dhammond at 7:04 PM on December 28, 2007

I gave up on meta-critic analysis after I saw A History of Violence on Rotten Tomatoes' suggestion.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:44 PM on December 28, 2007

Manda Bala, which I imagine isn't very well known, came in 5th on the documentary list and I would highly recommend it. Stylistically beautiful and edgy, about corruption in Brazil. Made by a disciple of Errol Morris.

On another note, I'm with fearfulsymmetry... This Is England is way way too low on the list. You should all do yourselves a favor and go see it.
posted by troubles at 7:48 PM on December 28, 2007

I have not yet seen There Will Be Blood or Zodiac yet, but No Country for Old Men might be one of the greatest movies of the last 25 years. I have seen that movie three times, have read the script countless more, and I still discover new things in it. I haven't seen a film with so many layers, so much text in it, since Eyes Wide Shut. I'm not sure whether the genius of it lies in McCarthy's novel or the Coen Bros. direction, or a combination of the two, but wow.

And seconding Titania's comment about 3:10 to Yuma. That was easily one of the best westerns ever made - much better than Unforgiven and Pale Rider. I actually tried to see Yuma, but it had disappeared from the theater by then.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2007

I loved Zodiac. Saw it twice in the theatre and once on dvd. No Country was also grand. Cannot wait to see the PTA film as I've been looking forward to that for a year. It's been a great year for American cinema--probably the best since '99.

As for the Pixar Rat movie, I don't get the hype. I didn't see Cars but I thought this one was easily the worst so far. I also thought the Host was weak. I shut it off out of boredom.

So bizarre to see Killer of Sheep on there. Nice to see Hal Holbrook--his performance made that picture for me.
posted by dobbs at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2007

And seconding Titania's comment about 3:10 to Yuma. That was easily one of the best westerns ever made - much better than Unforgiven

The mind, it boggles. I thought 310 was a fine film but it's no where near the same caliber as Unforgiven. Also, they blew it in the last 5 minutes, imo.

... and Pale Rider

That ain't saying much considering Pale Rider is just a bad rip of Shane.
posted by dobbs at 8:23 PM on December 28, 2007

I really liked Southland Tales and I hope it gets some (cult) love on DVD. Part of the problem is it immerses itself thoroughly in the messy absurdity of Post-9/11 America. So all the tragedy and ridiculous camp and youtubery clash together without any warnings. And there aren't many cues telling you how to react to any particular scene. No wonder critics aren't too keen on it. As long as you can accept that this is all intentional, though, it's a pretty hilarious and intriguing movie.
posted by naju at 9:09 PM on December 28, 2007

can someone tell me if 3:10 to Yuma is better than The Proposition? Because that's the best western I've ever seen.
posted by sineater at 10:11 PM on December 28, 2007


I find that hard to believe. I've seen the movie, I haven't drank the koolaid and read the books. I really wanted to like it. I loved Donnie Darko, and I could see the attempts of a coherent film beneath it, but it just wasn't there. And I don't think this is something like Divine Intervention, a film whose experience watching it is meant to capture what it feels like to be in Palestine (best description I can think of for that film).

Southland tales is poorly put together. The acting is wooden, and it feels like Richard Kelley couldn't bring himself to make a single coherent story (or back away from his pseudo christian time travel messiah story) because everyone was waiting with baited breath for another Donnie Darko, so they weren't questioning his technique or style.

Instead you got a film that had some awkward laughs, a decent soundtrack, and leaving people with the experience of WTF did I just watch? I never left a film angry because of the director before. And I really wanted to like to film. I was ready to lay back and soak it in, but there was nothing there. To claim that it is intentional is to ignore the amount of massive editing and redubbing and narrative (which is just insane) that they did after they purchased the films at cannes, to make a marketable product.

If all of this was intentional, then it wouldn't have had to be so heavily edited to be the end result. I envision the process was more of a "great, you shot 5 different story lines here, have really no context or introduction, lets try our best to make a 100 minute movie out of it that will recoup our expenses, and be easily marketable to all those people who will pick it up on dvd trying to understand how artistic it is."

There are some good elements in it, and you can see the direction he was trying to go, but it just doesn't hang right. Nor does it have the level of "OMG, I have to see that again" that you got from Donnie Darko.

I don't know, maybe I am just pissed from wasting my money on the film, but I don't think it belongs on any "best of" lists. Unless it is "Best films that demonstrated that no one questioned what the artist was doing (and how that is a bad thing at times)" which would also include Matrix 2&3, etc.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:07 AM on December 29, 2007


Fair enough, and that's the opinion of most people who've seen the movie. And I haven't read the books, nor seen the Cannes edit (which might be an even better movie, actually). But I find it even harder to believe that this was intended to be a "single coherent story" within a traditional film framework. I think it's more likely that people are trying to fit it into that mold, and of course the movie fails spectacularly in that way. This movie is trying to do something very different, and you can see it even in the individual unedited scenes - within a single scene in the span of a few minutes, the movie can jump wildly from satire to kitsch to non-jokes to melancholy to outrage, and sometimes several of these simultaneously. I mean, there are enough pomo hijinks in every frame, that eventually you have to say, "OK, this clearly isn't trying to be the next Donnie Darko."

A lot of your complaints seem built into the movie from the very start. Of course you'll get wooden acting when you cast teen pop stars and SNL/Mad TV washups and D-listers and let them loose in your pop-culture-nightmare-wasteland. Even the soundtrack operates on a spectrum between seriousness and kitsch - surely it's no accident that he had Moby create the score, when he's basically the posterboy for soundtracking commercials (and there's even a joke about that with the SUV commercial). Not to mention the ridiculous faux-product-placements of Bud and Hustler. I can see I'll just end up writing an essay, so I'll stop. But I really do believe there's a lot of stuff going on here...
posted by naju at 10:03 AM on December 29, 2007

zodiac tops my list - and i don't even particularly like fincher. loved ratatouille, probably would list it second. 3:10 to yuma is awesome, not better than the proposition but just as good, in a totally different way. it has a fantastic soundtrack, a very clever and subtle hommage to old-school western soundtracks as well as hints of hugo montenegro' style, throughout, without being derivitive. only other soundtrack that came close was the one for bourne ultimatum, which is about all i liked of that movie. no country for old men was very, very good, but i think it faltered in the last few minutes and the only thing i could figure that makes it work is if it is a meditation on impotence. i still rank it up in the top 5. i haven't seen cate blanchette's performance in i'm not there, but kate winslet has my vote for her performance in romance and cigarettes - hers is a freakin' fearless, bawdy, amazing performance. i think it could even top bardem's supposrt work in no country for old men. too bad for steve zahn... who was also brilliant. best sound editing was for the orphanage. i'm looking forward to seeing there will be blood. aaah - gotta run to catch a plane - thanks for this post, it is excellent!
posted by lapolla at 2:32 PM on December 29, 2007

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