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10) Juno – A media sensation as much as a rollickingly fun film, this female take on the Knocked Up scenario featured a tough-on-the-outside, soft-inside teenage heroine to die for in Ellen Page. When Juno (Page) discovers she's pregnant, she takes a thoroughly unconventional course in dealing with the situation. The film also marked the impressive screenwriting debut of stripper/blogger/sexed-up riot grrrl Diablo Cody, who offered a distinctly female take on the teen sex comedy.
CURT HOLMAN'S TOP 10
1) Ratatouille – This sublime screwball comedy about a rat aspiring to be a gourmet French chef transcends the cold aspects of computer animation to offer, paradoxically, the year's warmest portrayal life's sensory pleasures. Brad Bird, director of Pixar's equally brilliant The Incredibles, finds emotional depth and surprising jokes in a potentially familiar "follow your dreams" scenario, while celebrating the sensual joys of cooking and eating. One of cinema's great "foodie films."
2) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Cooking and eating find different meanings entirely in Tim Burton's lavish adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's dark musical. A grisly revenge story touches on operatic passions and finds darkly humorous metaphors for the man-eat-man capitalism of Victorian London. Burton's superb cast, including Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, may not have classical musical training, but they capture the material's intensity in skin-crawling close-up.
3) Zodiac – In recounting the decades-long pursuit of San Francisco's notorious "Zodiac Killer," Fight Club director David Fincher captured our culture's obsessive fascination with serial murderers while doing justice to the sprawling complexities of police work and investigative journalism. Despite its technical brilliance, wide-ranging moral vision and clear fondness for 1970s classics such as All the President's Men, Zodiac seems to have been virtually forgotten, but perhaps it'll find its audience on DVD.
4) The Savages – Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman give two of the year's best performances as self-absorbed siblings saddled with caring for the ailing dad (Philip Bosco) who abandoned them years ago. Writer/director Tamara Jenkins, writing the year's finest original screenplay, somehow manages to mercilessly mock the immaturity of Wendy and Jon Savage while eliciting sympathy for their emotional paralysis. The sharp, often hilarious portrayals of grown children grappling with an aging parent strike closer to home than any other film conflict of the year.
5) Hot Fuzz – The creators of Sean of the Dead turn their satiric sights to Hollywood shoot-'em-up action movies, and craft a loving parody that works as both a hilarious comedy and, in its last act, an adrenaline-fueled, flamboyantly edited action movie in its own right. (And no, I'm not just saying that because you can see me on "The Fuzzball Rally," a minidoc about the Hot Fuzz press tour on the film's DVD.)
6) No Country for Old Men – National critics have, in consensus, anointed the Coen brothers' comeback film as the best of 2007, and for good reason. The Coens redirect their trademark irony for a thrilling portrayal of men pursuing a fortune on opposite sides of the U.S./Mexican border, with Javier Bardem's coin-flipping hit man providing one of the year's most memorable performances. Audiences may argue whether the film laments America's moral decline or simply echoes it, but its excellence is undeniable.
7) Deep Water – This year featured powerful documentaries about such subjects as the Iraq war (No End in Sight) and health care (Sicko), but the most compelling nonfiction film harked back to a round-the-world yacht race in the late 1960s. Amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst's doomed bid to win money and glory touches on the dark sides of competition and commerce, and its astonishing, stranger-than-fiction outcome proved that no one can outrun fate.
8) Atonement – Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's acclaimed novel first captures the class and sexual tensions of a 1930s English estate in microscopic detail, then expands to encompass the sweep of World War II. Although Keira Knightley and James McAvoy have won acclaim as star-crossed lovers separated by a young girl's misdeeds, the real stars are Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave as the same character who discovers, at different points in her life, that words cannot undo their power to harm others. Click on the movie title for the original review of the film where applicable.
9) There Will Be Blood – Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson moves from his comfort zone of contemporary California to recount a cautionary tale of a ruthless oil man (a towering, misanthropic Daniel Day-Lewis) who alienates friends, family and possibly God in his efforts to strike it rich. Like No Country for Old Men, the film features compelling, dialogue-free sequences against harsh landscapes, with moral authority in short supply. The extended epilogue evokes Citizen Kane without quite living up to it – but that only conveys the extent of the film's ambition and ability as it portrays the symbiotic relationship between religion and big business.
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