So here is a ranked list of the movies from 2006-2007 that I saw last year and found to be outstanding:
1. Pan's Labyrinth
I knew coming out of it that it was the best movie I was going to see this year; not only was it one of the best movies I saw this year, it was one of the best movies I've seen ever. I do regret, however, that when I was giving my initial reactions to it, I understated (hardly stated at all, really) how violent it is, so let me say right now that this movie is very, very, very violent.
2. Sweeney Todd
It's strange to me that the top two choices on my list should be movies rated R for violence, because I typically don't like violent movies. Therefore, I think it's a testament to how good these movies are that I enjoyed them in spite of the violence. There's not much more I can say about it that hasn't been said already; it's a masterful musical adaptation, good writing, good acting, good singing (if you don't mind character-singing as opposed to concert-singing), and if not the best of Tim Burton's oeuvre then certainly in the top five.
3. Stranger Than Fiction
I love this movie because I can't tell you the number of times I've contemplated the possibility that maybe my entire reality is a story that somebody somewhere is making up. I love it because transcends genre; it's comedy, but there's the possibility at any moment it could take a tragic turn. The premise is surreal, but if you can suspend disbelief that such an implausible situation could ever happen, you can believe that the characters would react they way they do in that situation. A movie with a weird premise like this might go off somewhere and leave you behind, but this movie takes you gently by the hand and guides you along. The excellent ensemble cast plays so well together and so well off of one another; I never would have thought of casting Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah together, but they make perfect foils for one another. And Emma Thompson...who better to play the tortured writer, the pure artist, and the voice of God? Will Ferrell goes back to his largely expressionless acting technique, but it works because his character is supposed to be a bland, mild-mannered schlub. And Dustin Hoffman...so brilliant, so understated, so consummately academic..."aren't you relieved to know you're not a golem?"
4. (tie) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End
The best Harry Potter movie to date and my favorite Pirates movie (though not the best, that honor still belongs to the first one). As I've been watching the DVDs nearly non-stop, alternating, since I received them in the mail on Thursday, I realized that they have very similar themes (i.e. rebelling against an oppressive, corrupt government and tyrannical leader). For various reasons which I prefer not to discuss right now, that theme is particularly resonant with me at the moment and give these films tremendous emotional significance and a special place in my heart.
5. Spider-man 3
Although I really enjoyed it at the time, for some reason this film has proven to be largely forgettable to me. I don't know why, and it really makes me sad. I found it to be a better film than Spider-man 2 (though I haven't yet decided if it's better than the first Spider-man), but Spider-man 2, even though a lot of the story points make no sense to me, shows our hero at his most achingly, poignantly sympathetic. Whereas in Spider-man 3 things are going well for him, and while I'm happy for him, he's being a jerk about it, and I don't like that. I understand why he had to be a jerk, to show that the Venom symbiont isn't changing his personality completely but rather just exaggerating personality traits that are already there, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't like to see him being a jerk before he meets the symbiont.
There are many things that I love about this movie, but I don't think that it's a very skillful adaptation and, judging it simply as a movie, I find it to be rather incoherent (although to be fair, I might not find it as incoherent were I not familiar with the stage musical). While it would have been nice to see more original musical cast members, most of the original "teen" cast are either pushing or in their 30s by now, and having 30-year-olds playing teens works much better on stage than it does on screen where their faces are 15 feet tall (although of course that depends on the 30-year-olds in question).
Insofar as I have a favorite movie genre, it is probably the fantasy genre (although the definition of "fantasy" is probably broader for me than it is for most people). Whether in books or movies or what have you, I can't get enough of the long-ago-and-far-away stories (or here-and-now-but-strange-and-magical stories), so I embrace the epic fantasy films. That said, there's a lot about this particular interpretation of the Beowulf epic that really rubs me the wrong way.
So that is the list, and indeed that is nearly all of the 2006-2007 movies I saw this year, because after all, I don't waste time and/or money seeing movies if I don't think I'm going to like them. As far as I can remember, the only other 2006-2007 movies I saw this year were Shrek the Third and Eragon which, while enjoyable in their own ways, I found largely forgettable.
I'd like to acknowledge some outstanding actors and performances as well, but I don't want to rank them or comment on them in depth because we'll be here all night. So here's a list in no particular order:
- Johnny Depp, from Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End and Sweeney Todd (No surprise there, right?)
- Ivana Baquero, from Pan's Labyrinth
- Nikki Blonsky, from Hairspray
- Helena Bonham Carter, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Sweeney Todd
(one comment unrelated to her performances; when I went to see Sweeney Todd I had forgotten that she was also playing Bellatrix Lestrange, but then when I watched Order of the Phoenix again, I noticed that she had the weird white streak in her hair similar to that in Sweeney Todd's hair, and it was such an MST3k moment because it was like "It's Sweeney Todd! No, it's Mrs. Lovett! No, it's Bellatrix Lestrange!")
- Queen Latifah, from Stranger than Fiction and Hairspray
- Orlando Bloom, from Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End (his best performance in the series, and possibly ever)
- Emma Thompson, from Stranger Than Fiction and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Robin Wright Penn, from Beowulf (I wonder if, now that she's getting divorced, she's going to go back to being Robin Wright.)
- Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard, from Spider-man 3
- All actors playing members of Dumbledore's Army in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (because it would take too long to mention all of them)