Although there has been a severe lack of worthwhile movies in the past couple of years, I've still managed to come up with a list of ten movies from 2007 that I think are worthwhile. Three of these movies were actually released in 2006, but I saw them in 2007, so I am counting them amongst the Bunsnip Best Movies of 2007. These movies are listed in no particular order of preference:
1) Shortbus (2006)
This film is a character study in sexuality. From the creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus tells the stories of five or six main characters who are dealing with issues surrounding their sexual lives. The film basically addresses all types of human sexuality (of the strictly human-to-human kind) with compassion and acceptance. Shortbus does an excellent job of drawing the line between what is explicit and what is pornographic. The sex scenes leave little to the imagination, but they are not indulgent or crass (this is no Two Girls One Cup, that's for sure!). Instead they are tender, passionate, and realistic (the latter quality especially being something pornography generally lacks).
2) The Science of Sleep (2006)
This is one of my favorite films ever, which is why I'm pretty sure almost none of you are going to like it. That usually seems to be the case with my favorite films. (I tend to really like really strange movies.) But if you do decide to see The Science of Sleep, you can expect to see into the mind of a young man whose sense of reality skirts the divide between the conscious and unconscious mind. The result of this dreamlike story is a showing of the symbiotic relationship between absurdity and reason in defining one another. The story is also somewhat tragic, however, as our hero never really comes to grips with the juxtaposition of absurdity and reason in his own world view.
3) Perfume (2006)
A story of a man with a superhuman sense of smell. Sounds innocent enough, but when the man becomes obsessed with the idea of bottling the scent of women, his obsession accidentally leads him to the life of a serial murderer. Before that scares you off, let me just say that serial murdering is one of the themes that I object to the most fiercely in movies. But I still loved this movie. The interesting thing about this film is that you as a viewer begin to sympathize, and very nearly empathize with the olfactory-obsessed killer, even while you root for his undoing. In the end, it is we the viewers who are undone.
4) Beowulf (2007)
I liked this movie so much that I saw it twice in the theaters: once normally, and once in IMAX 3D. The 3D definitely adds. The movie explores the theme of a single weakness in otherwise unconquerably strong men: lust for beautiful women! (Isn't that just the way?) As the oldest piece of extant literature written in the English language, Beowulf remains a timeless tale of the demons that are born from the foolish pride of men.
It is interesting that I so loved this movie, because I so hated this book. The book is very difficult because it is soaked in negative energy. Harry is very, very angry, which incites anger in the reader, and the frustrations caused by the infuriating Professor Umbridge incite even more anger, and all this angry energy made the book very difficult for me to read. Top that off with the death of a beloved character in the end, and I was worried that the series was going downhill after this book. But the movie somehow handles the darkness of this story much better than the book does. I can't exactly tell you how, because it's one of those things that is better felt than expressed, but whatever it is, it's the difference between the words "love" and "hate", and that's mighty powerful stuff.
5) Harry Potter 5: The Order of the Phoenix (2007)
6) Knocked Up (2007)
The premise of this movie had "bad movie" written all over it: attractive, successful woman meets slobbish, underachieving man; the two become intoxicated, one thing leads to another, and before you know it, she's pregnant and the two find themselves in the position of trying to make a relationship work. Sounds like your standard bad movie. Luckily, however, Knocked Up features some really intelligent writing, and a rather realistic perspective of what it might be like to be in this situation. It's received some criticism for being somewhat sexist, painting the women as up-tight emotional harpies and the men as fun-loving rational guys. This may be true to some extent, but overall I felt that the portrayal of male and female behavior was fairly realistic.
7) Hot Fuzz (2007)
From the same people who brought us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is equally hilarious and shocking. The film tells the story of a London Police Officer with an embarrassingly good track record who is forced to transfer to a sleepy peaceful village in order to allow the rest of the London force to save face. Only this little village isn't as innocent as it appears. My only complaint with this movie is that it runs a bit long. The first time through, I thought the movie was wrapping up when it was only halfway over. But in a way that's the beauty of this film: it subverts your every expectation of what's going on, all the way up to the actual ending.
8) The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Although The Simpsons Movie is drawn in a 2D style, the big screen adds a definite 3rd Dimension to the characters of TV's most beloved dysfunctional family. The dynamic between Bart and Homer, for instance, is best displayed at the beginning of the film as they engage in banter and teasing that nevertheless communicates their affection for one another. The dynamic between Homer and Marge is likewise well illustrated when Marge follows Homer to Alaska despite Homer's effective extermination of Springfield. The same old Simpsons humor comes through on the big screen with even more laughs than on TV, perhaps because the big screen allows for writers to get away with more outlandish circumstances. In any case, this is one of the best Simpsons "episodes" ever.
9) 300 (2007)
Two syllables: SPAR-TANS! 300 manly and extremely fine-physiqued men are enough reason to see this movie. But of course, drool-fest aside, the movie does have other fine attributes that encouraged me to add it to the Bunsnip Best list. Style is one: supersaturated colors and strategic slow-motion framing added to the comic-book style of the film. So did the grotesque features of the Persians and their beasts. I am not generally a fan of violent films, but I make an exception for sensationalized violence like that in this film. The blood is not realistic, nor are the battles themselves. It is the fantasy abstraction that makes this movie more accessible to sensitive viewers like me.
10) The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Wes Anderson is one of those filmmakers that you either love or hate. I'll admit it took me awhile to tune into Anderson's sense of humor and manner of viewing the world, but somewhere between Rushmore and The Life Aquatic, I fell in love with Anderson's minimalistic style of storytelling. The Darjeeling Limited is Anderson's finest film in my opinion. It deals with a trio of brothers who embark on a train journey through India in order to improve their sense of brotherhood and self, while dealing with their own issues of trust and past hurt. Do they get anywhere? See for yourself.
I saw this movie a couple days after originally posting the Bunsnip Best Movies of 2007 list, and so it didn't make the original selection, but it arguably belongs on this list. Juno is a 16-yr old witty, outspoken, tomboyish girl who finds herself in a pregnant situation. While attempting to "procure a hasty abortion" at the local abortion clinic, she runs into a schoolmate protester who points out that her unborn child has fingernails at its current gestation. This ultimately prompts Juno to opt for the other A-word: adoption. Wishing to provide her child with a perfect homelife unlike her own broken family, Juno picks out the perfect couple from the penny ads, and as her pregnancy develops, so does her relationship with the couple. Yet when the husband tells Juno of his plans to leave his wife, Juno is forced to reexamine her ideal of the perfect couple and the perfect homelife. The strength of the movie is in Juno's character, brilliantly and hysterically portrayed by Ellen Page, but the film is well balanced by the strong cast of supporting characters. And the soundtrack is mostly The Moldy Peaches. Can't go wrong there.
Tune in next time for the Bunsnip Worst Movies of 2007!