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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

best of 2007 (that’s already on DVD)

It’s that time of the year: critics like me are starting to put together our final best-of lists for the year. And the sad truth of the matter is that the content of those lists will consist mostly of movies released in the last month or two. (And some of those movies are ones we critics lucky enough to be based in New York or Los Angeles are scrambling to press screenings to see now — they won’t open till Christmas in our megapolises, and not in the rest of the country till well into the new year.) This is because the studios don’t trust critics and other awards voters to remember movies we saw months ago… maybe as long ago as the spring! So they hold off on releasing what they think is their best stuff till now.

But we do remember. And there are plenty of excellent movies to recall from early 2007 that are already available on DVD. Have yourself a mini early Oscars with these goodies:
Best Movie of 2007 (that’s already on DVD): Sicko. Michael Moore’s best film ever isn’t just a bitterly funny exposé of the way things are, as his past films have been — this one is an explicit call to revolution, a muckraking cry for change that’s as passionate as movies, narrative or documentary, ever get. [read my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Documentary That Isn’t Sicko (that’s already on DVD): An Unreasonable Man, a portrait of Ralph Nader, the man some see as the “spoiler” of the 2000 presidential election that reminds us, through the legacy of Nader’s lifelong career as a consumer advocate, of the true meaning of “democracy.” [read my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Animated Move of 2007 (that’s already on DVD): Ratatouille [review/Amazon], a raptuous articulation of the power of a dream and the necessity of following it… even if you are a rat. (See also Meet the Robinsons [Amazon], a wackily off-kilter celebration of family and imagination.)

Best Actor of 2007 (who’s already on DVD): I’m gonna cheat just a tad here. Eastern Promises [review/Amazon] will arrive on DVD on December 26, and Viggo Mortensen’s ironic portrayal of a Russian mobster in London who’s a gentlemanly mystery is the actor at the very top of his game. (For Best Actors available now, check out Chris Cooper as FBI agent turned spy and traitor in Breach [review/Amazon], and Ben Kingsley as a recovering alcoholic and active hitman in the black comedy You Kill Me [review/Amazon].)

Best Actress of 2007 (who’s already on DVD): Julie Christie in Away from Her [Amazon]. As a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she creates a guise of unruffled, slow detachment from the world and those who love her. (See also Carice van Houten’s starmaking performance as a Jew undercover among Nazis in Black Book [Amazon], and Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman in Snow Cake [Amazon].)

Best Ensemble of 2007 (that’s already on DVD): The cast of Evening, a striking drama about a tragedy that occurs during a wedding party and how it reverberates through the lives of those it touches. The veteran cast members are extraordinary, of course — Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close — but it’s the younger set that is revelatory: Claire Danes, Patrick Wilson, Mamie Gummer, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Dancy. [read my review] [buy at Amazon]

Best Screenplay of 2007 (that’s already on DVD): Zodiac [review/Amazon], by James Vanderbilt (based on the book by Robert Graysmith). Here’s a serial killer movie that isn’t a shallow psychoanalysis of an aberrant but an All the President’s Men style unpeeling of the “normal” men who hunt him down, who become obsessed with him. (See also Year of the Dog [Amazon], the least sentimental and most affecting expression of the romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.)

Best Visual Effects of 2007 (that’s already on DVD): The impressionistic narrative space created by director Zack Snyder in 300 [review/Amazon] (which is also one of the best movies of the year, on DVD yet or not). By placing his tale of bravery and pride within a painterly space that represents the world in a mythic, metaphorica way, he elevates this to a bold study of the power of storytelling. (See also: the grandly mythic realms of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End [review/Amazon], and the goopily, tentacly realistic monster of the Korean horror flick The Host [Amazon].)

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