Do you think moviegoers in 1967 knew they were lucky? That was a year when they got to wake up on lazy Sundays and walk outside to see Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner or The Heat of the Night for the very first time. I'm guessing no. (BTW, tickets were $1.25. And cigarettes were 30 cents. But on the other hand, there was also that whole Vietnam thing.) And neither did the 1974 audiences who were living through a year that would include Chinatown, The Conversation, Godfather II, and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (not to mention Blazing Saddles!)-or those 1980s peeps who had to choose between going to see Raging Bull or Ordinary People. You know why I know this? Because I didn't appreciate 2007 as it was happening.
When the scholars (or aliens from outer space, take your pick) look back at 2007 they'll probably shake their heads or tentacles in wonderment. Because, oh yes, it was some heady, heady stuff cinematically speaking.
Let's start with the nominees for the Academy Awards Best Picture: No Country for Old Men, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, and Atonement. Juno is the lightweight in this group, for sure, but try to remember how much people liked this movie before the inevitable backlash against Diablo Cody, Michael Cera and, generally speaking, fast-talking, wise-crackin' teens (cause God, yeah, they're annoying). On the plus side, Jason Bateman! And here is when I should talk about the fact that Juno director Jason Reitman will probably win best picture in 2009 for Up in the Air. But I won't. I won't I say!
Anyway. I have no doubt whatsoever that when looking back at the 00s (which I still think should include 2010 no matter how times I count it out on my fingers) that both No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood will be considered classics; Michael Clayton should be taught in every scriptwriting class in the world; and if Atonement had been released in any other year than '07, it would have probably won Best Picture (for sheer prettiness! And hot sex against a bookshelf). But this is only part of the story of 2007! Let's take a look at some of the other releases (that's what she said!):
§ The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
While I very much appreciate No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, secretly this was my favorite movie of the year. It is not only beautiful, moody, and plotted like something out of the glorious '70s, but it has a very interesting-in-hindsight cast: in addition to Brad Pitt (who is actually really good in this!), Sam Rockwell and Casey Affleck (who is excellent), the supporting cast includes Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Paul Schneider (Bright Star), and Garrett Dillahunt (The Road, Last House on the Left). Do not be put off by the title. Watch it.
Yes, Zodiac. I'll just say it: Better than Benjamin's Buttons.
§ Away From Her
AKA the movie that will wreck you for a night or maybe your whole life it is so bittersweet and heartbreaking — especially if you happen to have even a teensy amount of fear of Alzheimer's Disease. It will probably be remembered as Sarah Polley's fantastic directorial debut and also for how hot Julie Christie still was in her mid-60s.
§ The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Another gorgeous movie that, like Away From Her, might make you want to kill yourself and yet somehow hopeful. Sorta. Like in the way The Road is hopeful.
§ La Vie en Rose
The movie that introduced us to Marion Cotillard (who would go on to win best actress in the best dress and give the best Oscar acceptance speech of the year. Youtube that shit right now!)
§ The Lives of Others
Speaking of Oscars! Thought this German film was released in 2006, it did not come to America until 2007. Maybe the best movie of the decade. Boom.
§ Knocked Up
Well? It was an important moment because it was when Judd Apatow became, you know, Judd Apatow. And when we all started hating Katherine Heigl.
§ The Bourne Ultimatum
Doesn't everyone agree this was the very best of the series?
§ Eastern Promises
Viggo, Viggo, fighting-naked-Viggo, who is oh-so-good. Oh, and Naomi Watts!
§ Into the Wild
Sean Penn directs little Emile Hirsch into almost freezing himself to death! Big beautiful Alaska-before-Sarah-Palin-Ruined-It skies. Pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart! Hal Holbrook will make you cry! Now imagine how much more people would have flipped for this movie if had come out in crappy 2009.
§ The Savages
Philip Seymour Hoffman + Laura Linney + snow + dysfunction = awesome.
§ Lars and the Real Girl
Remember when Ryan Gosling used to act in movies?
§ Gone Baby Gone
There was a time when we all would have laughed our asses off at the phrase "Ben Affleck, director." And yet? Pretty wicked okay.
§ Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
More Philip Seymour Hoffman with Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei. Sidney Lumet directs.
§ Margot at the Wedding
I know, I know! But try revisiting: not nearly as good as The Squid and the Whale, but not all bad, either.
§ I Am Legend
Perhaps the movie that could best see into the future and what 200Hate and 200Swine was going to be all about. Think about it.
This is not to say that 2007 didn't have some clunkers too (I'm looking at you, Blood and Chocolate, Ghost Rider, PS I love You, The Bucket List, Reign Over Me, Stomp the Yard, Lions for Lambs). But, when a random 2007 meh weekend included Grindhouse, The Brave One, The Valley of Elah, Persepolis or Control in theaters, it's hard to complain.
But did we appreciate it? No. We thought the world would just keep on turning and "swine flu" sounded like a funnier alternative to Bird Flu, and everyone had jobs and healthcare, and expected raises and were buying apartments. Ha ha ha ha. Suckers! All of us!
Sara Vilkomerson really hated 2008 and 2009. She works at the New York Observer and is, OMG, a "Top Critic" on Rotten Tomatoes!