Brandon Fibbs’ top 10 films of 2007

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Francois Duhamel/Paramount Vantage

While fully cognizant of the fact that a best-of list is little more than an inventory of personal favorites, I, unlike many other critics, actually enjoy coming up with such year-end catalogs.

As I look the list over, I am reminded what a rich and satisfying season we’ve had, even if it has been one of the bleakest, bloodiest and most … knocked up – certainly a reflection of the times in which we live.

1. There Will Be Blood [Paul Thomas Anderson]
There Will Be Blood, the story of a misanthropic oilman at the turn of the last century, is the sort of film you stumble out of, desperately searching for an adjective that is both descriptive enough to encompass your experience and distinctive enough to convey your stratosphere-bound senses. There was but a single word for me: gobsmacked.

2. No Country for Old Men [Joel Coen and Ethan Coen]
No Country for Old Men, about a man on the run from a relentless assassin and the sheriff trying, in vain, to make sense of it all, is quite simply a flawless film. What is, perhaps, most amazing is that a film this terrifying, this violent, and this relentlessly nihilistic should also be this enthralling.

3. Into Great Silence [Philip Gröning]
I have never before experienced a greater example of utterly transcendent filmmaking. This documentary, chronicling the everyday life of French monks who have taken a vow of silence, isn’t interested in merely recording the mundane activities of monastic life, but rather immersing the viewer so completely that the barrier between projection and reception vanishes. Never has a camera been more intimate or observed as closely. It becomes a thing metaphysical rather than mechanical.

4. The Lives of Others [Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck]
The film’s pacing is so meticulous, the control of story so faultless, the script so literate, that The Lives of Others, about a East German police officer’s surveillance of a subversive artist, feels less like a film and more like a chilling reality taking place in real time while we watch, unobserved but hardly impassive. What is perhaps most shocking is that it ends with such blistering hope.

5. Eastern Promises [David Cronenberg]
You cannot walk out of David Cronenberg’s masterpiece without thinking of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy. Its gravity is that palpable. It is not that Eastern Promises is guilty of regicide or succeeds in actually usurping the throne. But the film effortlessly and majestically takes its place as a great crime epic in miniature, arguably more Godfather than Coppola’s final installment of the classic cinematic triumvirate.

6. Once [John Carney]
Once is a film about the love of music, our need to express ourselves in it and its singular ability to enfold and transport our histories, hopes and agonies. The film is one of the most authentic and genuine things I’ve ever seen. It will renew your faith in all that is beautiful, transcendent, graceful and simple in movies. It will renew your faith in the art form itself.

7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [Andrew Dominik]
More than just a study of jealousy, obsession and revenge, The Assassination of Jesse James deconstructs American folklore to reveal that obsession with celebrity and the uncomfortable tether between crime and fame is nothing new to the 21st century. The film is awash in the sort of attention to detail that few pieces of art, let alone motion pictures, ever come close to achieving. Ravishing elegant and heartrendingly beautiful, The Assassination of Jesse James was one of the most incandescent things to grace theater screens this year.

8. In the Shadow of the Moon [David Sington]
In the far-flung span of human history, only twelve men have ever stepped on the surface of another celestial body. And yet, somehow we have managed to convince ourselves that such acts of mind-boggling ingenuity and stunning heroism are now commonplace. In the Shadow of the Moon reminds us all that America’s space program is nothing short of astonishing and that humankind’s venture into the vast, freezing abyss of outer space is one of the most extraordinary and significant moments in the history of our species.

9. Atonement [Joe Wright]
There are some films that deserve, no, cry out to be seen more than once. Atonement, the story of love lost and honor betrayed in WWII-era Britain, is such a film. It does not raze the watchtowers of our hearts all at once, but slowly, methodically, over days and weeks after the lights go up.

10. The Bourne Ultimatum [Paul Greengrass]
There is a misconception out there, among those who read film reviews, that those of us who write them do so with utter dispassion and cold, steely resolve. Yet, even we have films that set our pulses racing and cause us to yelp in pleasure when carried away on the emotion or intensity of something completely exhilarating. The Bourne Ultimatum is exactly that sort of movie.

© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.

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