Like last year, this isn't a best-of 2007 list, but rather a list of the best things I first encountered in 2007.
Ten Nights of Dreams -- The best movie of the year, easily. I had the pleasure of watching this at a Montreal film festival. 10 short segments of various styles. Some hilarious, some sad, some horrifying, all utterly beautiful. Highly recommended.
No Country for Old Men -- I'll discuss my feelings on the book a little later, because my thoughts about the two are increasingly different. Which is odd, since this is one of the most faithful book to movie adaptations I've ever seen.
"No Country" is an exsquisite mix of chaos and stillness. There's no soundtrack, and the landscape is always still and quiet. The characters speak in hushed tones with a stoic ethos; and yet the hurricane winds of evil are all about.
The story telling structure is ballsy. Things happen off screen that any other story teller would have had front and centre. The ending doesn't really wrap up the plot, but if you have to be shackled to the plot, then you're missing something about how stories work.
I'll come out and say it. "No Country" separates people that have taste from people without taste. If "No Country" isn't in the top third of your own top ten of 2007 list, then you have bad taste. It's that simple.
I didn't feel this way after first seeing the movie. I thought it was amazing, but I've since read an incredibly insightful and persuasive review at this blog, which I recommend in general for strong truth. There's a quote from Jean-Luc Godard there:
"To me, style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body—both go together, they can’t be separated."
Can the Coens top "No Country"? We'll all be better off if they do.
Inland Empire -- David Lynch's latest act of insanity. The question I always come away with from his movies is about the position of the irrationality. Is the insanity accounted for within the world of the movie, i.e. one of the characters is crazy? Or is the insanity an excess, something that has no real place within the movie? Is David Lynch just crazy? I dunno, but I enjoy trying to find out.
The Bourne Ultimatum -- Once again, the character of Bourne is the smartest, most capable fellow around. That's a repetition of the first two movies, of course. There's basically one reason this movie is on this list: the rooftop chase in the middle east. It reminded me of this article, which reveals that the Isreali Defense Force is making certain philosophy books required reading for the brass. The idea is to fashion a new form of urban warfare, in which inside is the outside. The chase scene in this movie seemed to fit that model perfectly. Who says philosophy isn't useful?
Paprika -- Some well badass anime. A great soundtrack, and a dose of Lynchian insanity. Highly recommended.
Honourable Mention: 28 Weeks Later, 300
Yeah, slim pickings this year. It's strange. Why did I see so few good movies?
The Boxer by The National -- Nice mellow rock. A friend with a better ear for music than I tells me that the drummer is a genius.
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal -- I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met who could appreciate Georges Bataille. That's right, its an album by a bunch of theory geeks, so hey. Plus the music is awesome.
The Ticklish Subject by Slavoj Zizek -- Universal subjectivity is back, and it exhorts you to dare. The chapter on Alain Badiou alone is excellent, and the chapter on Heidegger's reading of Kant is required.
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie -- I'm actually not yet finished this book, but so far it is a serious work of art. The density is incredible; there is more meat on a page of this book than in entire chapters of, say, Orson Scott Card. This might be a test case for taste in books, like "No Country" is a test case for taste in movies.
Ethics: An Essay On The Understanding of Evil by Alain Badiou -- A highly readable book on why the standard blathering about morality and human rights is really just a cover for a lack of adventurousness in life.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche -- Does reading this book accord with good sleep? Thankfully no.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy -- Sparse prose and the ballsy structure that inspired the Coen Brothers movie. An amazing book, but I think it actually translated into a better movie.