I've watched some of the oscar-buzz movies since writing that Movie post. And it is now somewhat clear what form my 2007 list might look like. I still have to see some movies that will topple some of the movies in the current top 10. Some of these movies that I have not yet seen but are likely to be really good, possibly worthy of a top 10 place (a couple of them are in with a chance of coming in even at number 1), are:
There Will Be Blood
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
3:10 to Yuma
Taare Zameen Par
The Great Debators
The Kite Runner
Jab We Met
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Away From Her
Gone Baby Gone
The reason Black Book is included in this list even though it was part of last year's oscar nominations is because it did not get a wide enough release in USA till some time into 2007. Which means I could not have included it in last year's list. Now that I have its DVD with me, I'll probably watch it soon enough and if it is REALLY good, it might figure in this year's list.
So, a couple of special mentions first. These are the movies that weren't great enough to figure in the top 10 for me at this time, but any of them might come in at #5-#10 if you ask me to make the same list 10 days from now. :) As it often happens, except for the top 4-5 movies, the rankings for the rest are quite dynamic. So, the special mentions...
16. Hot Fuzz
15. Chak De India
14. Cheeni Kum
13. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
12. In the Shadow of the Moon
11. American Gangster
Aaaaaand, here is the tentative top 10 list. Chances are that the bottom half might drop out later on, but the first 4-5 movies will probably still be in the list even after I get to see all the movies mentioned above, though not necessarily at the current rankings. So..
10. Juno : Saw it just yesterday, and it is quite funny. Really well written dialogue throughout the movie. Very often, in a comedy/dramedy at least some of the humor does not work for me. There might be some jokes that just fall flat or sound lame to me (as is true for everyone). But I don't remember a single line in this movie where I felt that way. But more than anything else it is Ellen Page's performance. This girl is just about 20 years old, and looking at her in this movie I'm sure Roger Ebert is right about her in saying that she is going to be one of the great actresses of her generation. See this movie if only for Ellen Page. But even if you see it for her performance, I assure you you'll find plenty to chuckle about.
9. Black Friday : Finally I got to see what all the hype about Anurag Kashyap was. His screenplay for Satya was brilliant, and his Paanch never got released. So, this was my first chance to see why people keep saying that he is SO good. And even though I haven't seen No Smoking yet, and even though it was almost universally panned, I think Black Friday was enough to convince me that AK is a director who can make some really good movies in future. some of the scenes in this movie are just superb! But then again, I thought there are some sequences where he just overindulges himself. It becomes too slow at times, and for a movie that is shot as if it were a docu-drama it has some very bollywood-y scenes (specially Tiger Memon's depiction. While Pawan Malhotra performed really well, everything just felt too over-the-top about those sequences).
8. Into the Wild: A wonderfully shot movie with some amazing performaces. Emile Hirsch will probably get a well deserved oscar nomination, and I'll be really happy if this also gets at least one supporting actor/actress nomination. Hal Holbrook will probably get it, even though his charater has only about 20 minutes of screen time. But then, Atonement might get a supporting actress nomination for a 3-minute role. So... :)
7. Lust, Caution: Ang Lee's new movie that won't be able to get a foreign-movie nomination because of some confusion about whether it is "foreign" enough and, if so, whether it belongs to China or Taiwan? Again, superbly shot with some great sets and amazing leading performances. I didn't like it as much when I saw it, and I'm surprised myself at finding it in my top 10! This is what I mean by the "aftertaste" of a movie. Some movies grow on you after every successive watch, but some grow on you (or at least me) without even watching them again. I just think back to some of the scenes/sequences and I realize that I enjoyed them more than some of the other movies in the list. So, here is Lust, Caution at 7!
6. Zodiac : A really well made serial-killer movie that showed more of the investigation into the murders than the murders themselves. This movie didn't really get its due at the box office and most of the critics have probably forgotten all about it because it came so early in the year. I have always liked Jake Gyllenhall but it is Mark Ruffalo who overshadows everyone in this one. He'd have got a supporting actor nomination had this movie come later in the year, but nobody is talking about it now. sigh!
5. The Bourne Ultimatum: I LOVED the second Bourne movie but this one was even better. It is essentially a mindless action movie disguised as an intelligent spy movie. And it is done REALLY well. Fun ride from first scene to the last.
4. Ratatouille: People still have a bias against animation movies. There is still a feeling somewhere that these are "kid movies" and probably don't deserve to compete against some of the "serious" stuff. But Pixar will probably slowly change all that. The Incredibles was nominated for its original screenplay and I'd dance all night if they remember to do so with Ratatouille too. Hopefully Pixar will keep coming up with such amazing movies and we'll see a Pixar movie getting its thoroughly deserved nominations for screenplay, music, direction, acting (even if just voice!) etc in 2015. Maybe even a best picture nomination! Ratatouille rocks! It is not quite Pixar's best, but that is like saying this is not Sachin's best century. It still is a Sachin century and it probably had more gorgeous shots than anyone else's 200. So, this might not be as good as The Incredibles but there are delightful sequences throughout Ratatouille that are way better than most live-action stuff that we get to see around. As for comparing with other animation movies here in the US, you must be joking! The Shreks and Ice Ages only seem like pretenders when you come out of a screening of something like Ratatouille!
3. No Country For Old Men : I've already written about it in the previous post. Read it here.
2. Atonement: Saw it only 2 days ago, so chances are that I might be over-estimating it due to the recency-factor, but then I saw Juno yesterday and it doesn't figure at number 1. So....
I LOVE movies with great visuals and sounds and most period costume dramas are great that way (most of the good ones, anyway). But this is something more than just that. Its a great story (apparently from a prestigous and popular novel), adapted into a really, REALLY good screenplay. It moves from British family drama to war epic to love story with amazing skill and keeps you interested for every single second of the movie. I normally do not like war movies a lot, so it helps that the war probably only takes up about 30% of the screen time. And it also helps to have a STUNNING 4-5 minute long single-take scene during that war sequence. I don't know if that scene really is single-take or it is made to look that way but, whatever the case might be, I was looking at it with open-mouthed amazement. I had no idea about how good this movie might be when I went to see it. Maybe that is why I am rating it so highly, because it just surprised and delighted me throughout its running length. I can't wait to go and see it again at the first chance. And I can't wait to buy the DVD whenever it comes out (and becomes cheap enough so I can afford it! :) )
1. The Lives of Others : I almost did this movie a great injustice by forgetting about it entirely initially. It got the foreign language movie oscar last year, and so should probably be considered as a 2006 movie but just like Black Book it came to the theatres later in the year so I could not include it in the last year's list. If I had, it would be one of the three best movies of last year (along with The Departed and Pan's Labyrinth). Its a great movie about socialism in East Berlin in 1984 (the year, not the book.. but it probably is intentional). Without telling you much about it, I'll just say that it is a spy thriller/drama about an official of Stasi - the government's secret police - who is given the task of arranging surveillance of a famous writer and his girlfriend, a theatre actress. A web is then spun about corrupt officials, fearful citizens, conspirators/rebels and the protagonist - an idealist whose faith in the system of government that he is serving slowly unravels as he observes what is happening around him. And for a movie that seems to be constantly moving towards doom, it has a strangely uplifiting end.
Best movie of the year. By far.