New The American Culture correspondent Mike Long has put together a very contrarian and very good list of the best movies of the year for National Review Online, and he has been gracious enough to allow us to reprint it here in its entirety.
Contrary to most critics, Mike claims this was a good year for the movies. I agree. Another thing I strongly endorse about the article is that it does not succumb to political shibboleths of either left or right. That’s our approach on The American Culture.
And there’s more. In an exclusive for The American Culture, Mike informs us that since he wrote the article, he saw Sweeney Todd and would move it to number 4 on the list. Instead of altering the article, however, we’re leaving it as is, so that you will not miss the number 10 movie, which is well worth seeing.
Here’s Mike’s "2007 at the Movies":
2007 at the Movies
It was Judd Apatow’s year all the way.
By Michael Long
Still, I am no snob. I go to the movies to be entertained. And 2007 was an outstanding year for great pictures as I define them; a great movie must emotionally engage the viewer in the story, must do something unusual or difficult with storytelling while still being entertaining (e.g. tax accounting is difficult but I don’t want to watch someone do it for two hours), and must feel like something that people will want to watch ten or more years from now.
By that definition, these ten movies are the best of 2007:
10. Alpha Dog. Imagine Lord of the Flies with a morals transplant from a gangsta rap video. Emotionally impressive and with an all-star cast, Alpha Dog is a provocative demonstration of adolescents getting everything they want, with their disconnected parents not only approving, but urging them on. Not surprisingly, it’s based on a true story.
9. 300. One of the best-looking pictures of the year, 300 is hyper-stylized Grand Guignol that arrived just as the antiwar Kool-Aid reached flood stage. Whether intended or not, 300 was a timely rebuke to those who believe that superstitious and bloodthirsty enemies are just friends you haven’t met. (It resonated with the public, too, opening with a $70 million weekend.)
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. A hilarious and vulgar parody of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line — with songs! — Walk Hard is going to be playing for months. It’s another hit from Judd Apatow, the master of film comedy for the foreseeable future.
7. Gone Baby Gone. Imagine a Clint Eastwood-directed procedural with soul. Gone Baby Gone is a great, conflicted drama about choosing between following the law and doing what’s just. The movie’s principals make a choice, but director Ben Affleck (seriously?) doesn’t force the audience to. This is a rare picture that presents a life-or-death moral dilemma without preaching — and without a pat answer.
6. Zodiac. Another procedural, compelling for the clear way it tells a long and complex story. (Who was San Francisco’s Zodiac killer? This movie offers convincing answers.)
5. Michael Clayton. The best straight drama of the year, putting the tensions and power struggles of the business world on display as they really are.
4. Sunshine. Imagine if 2001 had made sense. Voila: Sunshine.
3. No Country for Old Men. While it’s not the most accessible of the Coen Brothers’ pictures (and it’s certainly not the funniest), it is their (or anyone else’s this year) most accomplished picture in using the finer tools of filmmaking — pacing and frame composition, for instance — to maximum emotional effect. You haven’t seen anything like this before, and you probably won’t again. Yet you’ll like it not because it’s an academic tour de force, but because it’s a great picture.
2. Superbad. Longevity: that’s among the best measures of quality. People will be watching the top two pictures of 2007 for years to come because they hilariously portray how people (young men in particular) really think, feel and act. Superbad is one of the dirtiest comedies ever to squeak by with an R rating — at times the dialogue is so blue I can imagine Snoop Dogg saying, “Couldja clean it up a little, please?” It also delivers peerless commentary on how much more complex and serious life, relationships, and sex are than young people ever imagine. Apatow strikes again.
1. Knocked Up. The best picture of the year is from a moral perspective was also the most conservative. Also the most profane; Seth Rogen, star of Knocked Up and co-writer/star of Superbad told Time, “We make extremely right-wing movies with extremely filthy dialogue.” The picture portrays real human behavior in delicate situations without once hitting a false note. Knocked Up fearlessly takes on topics — abortion, unplanned pregnancy, the value of marriage and the family, and self-sacrifice in the service of all of them — that reduce most comedians to sappy one-liners followed by clingy, politically correct cop-outs. Apatow rules!
— Michael Long is a director of the White House Writers Group and a consultant to the American Film Renaissance.