This is my version of the Oscars. Because I haven't even come close to seeing all the relevant films from 2007 (unlike uber-watcher Sean), I won't pretend to give a best of list, especially when stuff like 4 Months...and There Will be Blood have just been released. Also, even if I had, it would most likely look like most other lists or awards.
So, instead, I present the best of...well, the best of what Sean and I reviewed over the course of 2007. By my count, I reviewed 26 movies since June, most of which Sean and I did our dual reviews. By doing it this way, I can count on two things: 1) That the movies under consideration I have seen and spent at least a few hours thinking hard about and 2) the list will look like nothing else out there.
As you will see in the next few weeks (I'll try to post two categories a week), there are some odd juxtapositions (Nicholson vs. Crowe, Melville vs. Fincher, etc.) but I think this makes it pretty interesting. Unfortunately, this means that some great movies that I did see this past year (Inland Empire, Old Joy, No Country for Old Men, Gone Baby Gone) half to be left off the list because I never got around to reviewing them. But, the good news is that if I review them in the next year, they will be eligible for the 2008 Couchies (meaning expect to see Laura Dern in a runaway for Lead Actress in one year!).
Before presenting this list (which, yes, does follow the Oscar categories) I should take a second to thank Sean for introducing me to half this stuff. A lot of it (see: Edmond, The Illusionist, The Fountain, Tears of the Black Tiger) sucked, but it introduced me to some things I never would have seen otherwise.
And now, sans podium...The Couchies (Part I)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Nominations
Christian Bale - The Prestige
3:10 to Yuma might have allowed Bale to play against his charm in the down-and-out Van Heflin role, and Rescue Dawn may have been an incredible physical challenge, but the best performance I saw him in this year was as the tortured and charismatic Alfred Borden. Not only obsessive, Bale also pulled of charming, manipulative, good and evil...it almost as if he was playing...oh wait, that's a spoiler.
Adrien Brody - Darjeeling Limited
I was initially concerned that Brody would have a difficult time inhabiting the alternative universe of Wes Andersen, but he managed to be as conceited, aloof, and confused as any Tannenbaum. With his ridiculous wide eyes, Brody went from sympathetic to loathsome in a flash. As the eldest Whitman, he genuinely seemed to annoy Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman and his delivery of one of the most heart-wrenching lines of the year - "I didn't save mine" - was perfect.
Peter Fitz - Werkmeister Harmonies
There is a scene in Harmonies where Fitz's György Eszter delivers his theory of music into a Dictaphone. I have no idea, really, what he was talking about, but for about 5 minutes I sat still, staring at his beaten face speak into the microphone. As a man who commands respect throughout the city but who is afraid of his own wife, Fitz is the closest thing to a role model that the young Janos finds in a decaying city.
Peter Fonda - 3:10 to Yuma
Maybe it was because he wasn't wearing sunglasses. Not until the end credits did I realize that the bible thumping Pinkerton was played by Peter Fonda. In a movie all about dualities and hypocrisies, Fonda steals the show for the first half of the movie as the gritty mercenary who survives a gunshot to help escort Ben Wade to the train. In a movie full of people "playing" cowboys (I'm looking at you Ben Foster), Fonda seems like he could have really been there. It was so good, it was almost enough to make up for his shameless cameo in Wild Hogs. Almost.
And the Winner is...
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Not a surprise, and likely the only place where the couchies will agree with the Oscars. I wrote a lot about Affleck in the review of Jesse James, but let me repeat that he is scary in this movie. He just seems to inhabit a different universe then the rest of the cast, much like Ford seemed incomprehensible to his peers.
The movie itself is baffling, and is driven mostly by the two leads (James and Ford) who have completely different outlooks on the world from one another, but from everyone else as well. While James seems to see the grime and misery in life, and people's attempts to hide it a joke, Affleck's Ford looks onto the world like an angel seeing the Garden of Eden after the fall. He seems to expect so much more of the world than it can possibly offer, and is crushed each time it fails to produce. Looking back on Lonesome Jim, a dreadfully written movie in which Affleck stood out it, you can see hints of this kind of hopelessness. But with The Assassination, Affleck shows an astonishing vulnerability that should lead to serious roles for a long time.
Next up...Best Actors