Because that pile of hats doesn’t quite seem big enough, I’m going to go ahead and toss in mine and give you yet another top 10 list of movies to close out 2007. The difference here is that while those other lists may require you to either gas up the car and head out to the cinema or do a little waiting on DVD release dates to play along, mine you can pretty much participate in right away with just a few clicks of your mouse (if you’re a Netflix subscriber; otherwise, yeah, you’re probably gonna have to make a run to the video store).
Another difference you’ll notice is this list isn’t bound to a 2007 release date restriction; these are simply the top 10 films I watched from Netflix this past year. Narrowing it down to just 10 was a bit of a challenge so I cheated in a couple of places (trust me — the cheats make sense). But given that I see close to six DVDs a week this had to be expected — there were a lot of great films to choose from.
My only real criteria for choosing the 10 films I did was how they made me feel while watching them and did they linger afterwards. Some of these films I may never watch again — and that’s fine — while others I may revisit on a regular basis. Either way, they were all rich cinematic experiences that evoked emotions ranging from heartbreak to jackpot style elation. Which, when I leave my critically thinking film theory brain back in its box, is really all I’m looking for.
Oh, one final thing. Not wanting to deprive you the joy of reading Netflix’s head scratching synopses of these films, I’ve refrained from writing my own. I’m sorry if this adds any confusion to the list below, but I’m certain you’ll thank me later.
1). This is England — A small masterpiece that took the air out of my lungs. Paradoxically sweet and brutal. A tough, truthful look at youth that broke my heart and gave it back to me, tattered, but with a hopeful glow. This is one of the best films I’ve seen in years.
2). The 400 Blows/Antoine & Colette/Stolen Kisses/Bed & Board/Love on the Run — This is the first of my cheats. It’s difficult not to consider Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films as a singular piece, so this might not actually be considered a cheat. Either way, following a fictional character played by the same actor (Jean-Pierre Leaud) over five films and 20 years — especially in the hands of a master like Truffaut — is a cinematic experience like no other. Deeply rewarding. Stick with the Criterion Collection versions.
3). Red Beard — Being a huge Kurosawa fan, it’s odd how this one escaped me until this year, but, man, what a beautiful and life-affirming piece of cinema.
4). Deep Water — Following “weekend sailor” Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated attempt at successfully completing a solo sailing race around the world, this documentary — through the use of amazing archival footage — had me riveted. It took me from one emotional place to the exact opposite on several occasions.
5). The Lives of Others — Well deserved winner of the best foreign film Oscar in 2006. This film looks at art as a transformative power and how doing the right thing — regardless of the costs — will make a difference. Inspires bravery.
6). Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring — Originally released as two films back in the mid 80s, this is actually one film (you get both on the same disc. Jean is part one and Manon is part two). As good as they were when I saw them 20 years ago. Great performances by Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu.
7). Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple — I was a kid when all of this happened, but I remember it having a profound impact on the adults around me. A fascinating documentary that shines a light on who Jim Jones was and how the tragedy came about. If you don’t know much about this history (or even if you do) this film will really surprise you.
8). A Broke Down Melody/Zen & Zero — I don’t know what kind of year it would be if a surf movie didn’t make it into the top 10, but this year I got two. Neither falling into the category of surf porn (wave after wave of stellar rides over a contemporary punk soundtrack), both are uniquely cinematic expressions of the surfing lifestyle. A Broke Down Melody feels a little like a dream; stylistically impressionistic with amazing surfing from some of the best surfers in the world. A great down-tempo soundtrack complements this globe trekking gem. Zen & Zero, while lacking the same quality surfing as Melody (it follows a bunch of amateur Austrian surfers from LA to Costa Rica), more than makes up for it in its style, philosophy, writing and original score. Both are modern surf classics.
9). Death Proof — Even though it’s Tarantino, this one really surprised me. Typically the horror/exploitation genre isn’t my cup of tea, but I gotta say, this one was a rockin’ good time. There’s love (and a bit of blood) all over this latest homage by Q and it shows. Welcome back Kurt.
10). Knocked Up/Superbad — What can I say, Judd Apatow has the Midas touch. These two films are hilariously funny. There’s no question this brand of humor isn’t for everybody, but if you let yourself go the pay off is tremendous. What makes these films truly enjoyable are their hearts… their big, vulgar sincere hearts.
Honorable mentions to add to your queue (no particular order): The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Gates of Heaven, Don’t Look Back, Old Joy, Once in a Lifetime, O Lucky Man, The Fountain, Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5, Talk to Me, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, A Mighty Heart, Sherman’s March, After the Wedding, Mutual Appreciation, 49 Up, Scanner Darkly, Half Nelson, Weeds: Season 2, Marie Antoinette, La Vie en Rose.