Top Ten Faye-vourite Films of 2007

The year 2007 was a great time for film, at least films to my taste. Maybe it's a consequence of living in New York City and being able to see the films before everyone else, even ones that don't make wide release. Therefore, I bring you my top ten list of faye-vourite movies of 2007. Even so, I couldn't include them all, yet I would still like to briefly acknowledge The Simpsons Movie and Enchanted, which were both ridiculously fun, and the very emotionally-charged Namesake. A special mention also goes out to Paris, je t'aime*, a culmination film centred around one of the loveliest cities in the world.

Disclaimer: The following list is limited to films I have had an interest in or opportunity to see, and is obviously not comprehensive and is entirely subjective. Unfortunately, however, I did not manage, but would have liked, to see the following: Zodiac, The Kite Runner, Disturbia, Persopolis.


1. Ratatouille

I never really cared much for branding, but if I see 'Pixar' stamped anywhere on a film, I'm sold. This is a studio whose featurettes are nearly as interesting as their movies; their creative process is nothing short of inspiring. Someone said that Ratatouille became "the canvas for everybody's best work," which is something Pixar genuinely embodies---and every individual's role in the film, big or small, from executive producers to custodial staff, was dutifully recognized in the credits. It is quite clear that the people who made this film loved their jobs, whether they rendered hair or scored the film or drew the closing credits. Pixar chooses voice actors to match their characters, not the other way around, and the dialogue is timeless, devoid of any pop culture references which will inevitably be obsolete in a few years (take a hint, Dreamworks). Every aspect of Ratatouille is done with the utmost attention and care. Ratatouille radiates the very sweet message to follow your own convictions, regardless of the odds against you and how unpopular or unfeasible they might seem. Pixar has made the best film of the year, live-action or animated. Props!

You might like it if you liked: The Incredibles (2005), Finding Nemo (2003), any Pixar film ever

2. Juno

Juno, Juno, Juno. In Hollywood, the teen pregnancy concept has been used, abused, thrown around like a hot coal. The sobbing parents, the abusive boyfriend, the your-life-is-over-at-age-16 cry of disdain, the susurrus of condemned whispers, the dirty looks by other members of society---superficially , Juno could be pegged as the run-of-the-mill forgettable melodrama. But what about it, man? Finally, here is a young girl, knocked up by her close friend, getting pregnant and not crying her eyes out on a street curb. She's doing something about it, finally giving whip-smart Junogirls everywhere their due. The best part about this film is, aside from the stylized dialogue (though, people do speak like this, and yes it is tiresome), that Reitman and Cody are way too smart to paint adults as clueless morons who don't know the difference between Jack White and Jack Sparrow. The sensibility of Juno's father and stepmother and Juno's acquaintance with her child's adoptive parents are handled deftly. Finally, the bright, sunshiny colours, hamburger phones and Kimya Dawson's very awesome tracks are only a few of the elements that craft a sweet, funny, unforgettable Juno. And no, not like the city in Alaska.

You might like it if you liked: Thank You For Smoking (2005)

3. Stardust

Oh, Stardust. You are my love. It pains me to know that this film didn't do very well in theatres---it truly was a disaster of marketing. The poster screamed Lord of the Rings, and if you were looking for that, you were in for a vast disappointment. There was a journey, a chase, a king, an evil sorceress, a love triangle, an enslaved princess and a special necklace, and but that's about as close as it gets to the Lord of the Rings films. Based on the fantastic book by Neil Gaiman, who is easily one of my favourite contemporary fantasy authors, everything about Stardust is light-hearted, sweet, and quietly touching. Its closest comparison is the Princess Bride, it has that same sort of cheeky humour, magical elements, quotable lines and utterly charismatic personages---each and every one. Charlie Cox really carries the film as the coming-of-age leading man---as Yvaine says to Tristan: "There are shop boys, and there are boys that just happened to work in a shop for the time being." Adventure, swashbuckling, romance, magic. What more could you want here?

You might like it if you liked: The Princess Bride (1987)

4. Hot Fuzz

I hate action movies, what I charmingly like to call "[Look at me; I'm an idiot] flicks." Car chases, beautiful but vacuous women, guns that never run out of bullets, senseless killing, shattering glass and lots and lots of explosions. With that said, Hot Fuzz is all of those, minus the vacuous women (not really a loss for me personally), and shockingly funny. If you're a fan of cop movies and don't take yourself too seriously, this film not only includes every cliché in the book, it takes it over the top, which makes it both absurd and awesome. By the same team who brought us Shaun of the Dead, which took its inspiration mostly from zombie flicks, every character and situation in Hot Fuzz is exaggerated to the point of hilarity---not just Tim Pegg's super-cop or the barking-mad super-villan, but even the elderly couple who gets gashed in the face near the end (not a spoiler, I swear). Well-paced and never a moment lacking in energy, the film's momentum builds up to one of the most hysterical chase scenes I've ever watched---as we find out the real reason the sleepy English town of Sandford hasn't had a crime in 20 years.

You might like it if you liked: Shaun of the Dead (2002)

5. Once*

Never had I viewed a piece of cinema filmed for the pure pleasure of filming it. Once proves that, for musicians, life is already a musical, without need for sequined dresses, big hair, snooty prima donnas or painfully trite dance routines (here's to looking at you, Hairspray). Once's story is stripped and unprocessed with the shaky handheld camera and overexposed flashback. Yet, my theatre collectively gasped in awe at the first song our two nameless protagonists played together, without any pretentious backstory, forced situations, or meeting cute. What makes Once so unique and special is the music, from shameless indie pop to hardcore sadcore--the leads are talented musicians who sometimes act, not A-list actors who sometimes sing. Ultimately, Once is a musical---and its frugal visual effects and cinematography are part if its charm; and if you don't like it, well, just remember that it wasn't made for your ticket sale---it was made for the music. Undoubtedly, a film like this would have been awful if Hollywood had a part in it. Oh wait, they did, it's called Music & Lyrics.

You might like it if you liked: The Commitments (1991), Lost in Translation (2003)

6. Waitress

This film has gotten a few beatings. Was Jenna depraved? Did Earl deserve it? Was the affair morally justifiable? What kind of message does this film leave for those in an abusive relationship? The questions sprouted from watching Waitress are exactly what make it worthwhile. Though not getting much attention upon its initial release, Waitress has been a darling of DVD sales. It is a complex character study, set against a brightly-coloured cinematic palette of pinks, blues and yellows. Each character weighs in on some sort of moral accounting, Jenna herself is not exempt, not even with her charming voiceovers and droolworthy pie recipes (even "Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie"). Working in a pie diner in the deep south, Jenna goes on an emotional journey to emancipate herself, which I found empowering despite---or perhaps because of---all the baggage and complicated motives. It's heartbreaking that writer-director-actor Adrienne Shelly was so tragically murdered before this film's release; this film, essentially a love letter to her daughter, may have been her breakout piece instead of her swan song.

You might like it if you liked: The Good Girl (2002)

7. Cashback*

Wait, Sean Biggerstaff's still acting? Rather unknown on my side of the pond, Cashback has yet to procure the legions of followers it deserves. It has, however, found a niche audience: namely me. Originally a short, Cashback was expanded to a full-length feature after receiving much critical acclaim, but instead of reworking the story, Sean Ellis has created an Act I and Act III that comfortably accompany the brilliance of the original. Seeing the world through Ben's eyes, our recently dumped protagonist, was very much like seeing it through my own. As an art student who gets insomnia, he begins to work the night shift at Sainsbury's, thinking he may as well earn some money for his lack of sleep. Here we meet a pirate band of odd characters, from immature and comedic Barry and Matt, the karate guy, the David Brent-inspired boss, and the intriguing and lovely Sharon, played by Emilia Fox. Though the story could easily be dismissed as unfocused, the genuine comedy rivals Cashback's dreamy cinematography and epic soundtrack; the combination of slapstick humour with quiet scenes of reflection only make Cashback all the more remarkable. Just beware, fans of the Oliver Wood---this film is nothing like Harry Potter and has a lot of nudity.

You might like it if you liked: Amelie (2001)

8. Helvetica

A documentary about typeface? Who thinks about this stuff anyway? I do, and all the time. For people who don't categorize their world in superficial matters such as text, let me tell you this. There are many ways to dress content, and only partly important is style. The other part is typeface. The font helvetica reveals an aspect of modern design so ubiquitous it has managed to be the default font on most computers for the past 50 years, exemplifying the quintessence of good design: simple, clean, flawless. Centred around the cultural history of the font, combined with interviews with quirky designers and corporate personalities, Helvetica provides a lighthearted and humourous commentary on our modern society. Street signs, subway warnings, warning labels and manuals, Helvetica is your friend.

You might like it if you liked: Wordplay (2006)

9. Atonement

The second novel-to-film adaptation taken on by Joe Wright, Atonement is a splendid sensory experience for the aesthete. If you like action and plot in your movies, you may find Atonement slow; at least this is what my friends tell me. Not that the film is all style and no substance---far from it---but I was often distracted by the costuming and cinematography, which were both extremely impressive. The biggest zing I got, however, was from Dario Marianelli's score---he incorporated typewriter sounds in his soundtrack that lent the scenes an urgency and trepidation that enhanced the unfolding story. The details in this film are so exacting that the mole on young 13-year-old Briony still remains visible in her later years, and a truly spectacular war scene at Dunkirk shot all in one take remains emblazoned in this film lover's memory. Still, as masochistic films go, this one is going to make you sob buckets if you're emotionally-inclined, but don't deprive yourself of this visual feast. It's the prettiest film about war, loss, suffering, and anguish I've ever seen.

You might like it if you liked: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

10. Wristcutters: A Love Story---October

Indeed, the most conflicting thing about this film is the title. Leave out "A Love Story" and it sounds like a slasher teenage suicide flick. Add it in and it's a forgettable goth romance. Its sinister title only plays on the offbeat dark humour that is to come from a film set in a world inhabited only by those who have offed themselves (indeed, there is a "Kamikaze Pizza" place---sorry to disappoint religious fundamentalists). Accompanied by flamboyantly straight Eugenio, whose family members all committed suicide, and free-spirit Mikal, who insists she's in this realm "by mistake," our protagonist Zia goes searching for his ex-girlfriend over whom he killed himself, also reputed to be somewhere in suicide-limbo. Shot in traditional indie style, and that means: close-ups, unconventional angles, quirky dialogue and morbid humour. Also, road trips. Lots of road trips. Road trips seem to be an extended metaphor for driving through life (even in Wristcutters' pseudo-life) of which I am an unabashed fan. I think it's because you ultimately connect with the people with you, and it's less painful than living with them.

You might like it if you liked: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

* Completed and released elsewhere in 2006, but did not reach NYC theatres until 2007.

Editor's Note: The editors of the Alte would like to remind our readers that the discussed films may not be suitable for all HOLers.