The best (and worst) of 2007

For the first time since 1999, I can open my annual year in review by saying that 2007 was an exceptional year for movies. Most other critics and talking heads might disagree with this claim, but on the whole, this has been a banner year.

That's not to say I don't wish to point out some major turkeys and troublesome trends. As for the former, the early summer triumvirate of "Shrek the Third," "Spider-man 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" were all major creative disappointments. Because all three made a killing at the box office, you can bet this won't be the last we'll see of their respective franchises, even though these were supposed to be the final "Spider-man" and "Pirates" installments.

Apart from "Enchanted," "The Last Mimzy" and "Bridge to Terabithia," the roster of non-animated family films was utterly dismal. Besides being of extremely poor quality, most of what the studios pawned off as family fare was laden with vast quantities of offensive bathroom humor and bodily function noises. Even the feel-good documentary "Arctic Tale" lowered itself with cheap potty laughs.

On the upside, for the first time in memory, the studios mostly spread the wealth throughout the year. While the lion's share of the best movies, as usual, came out in the late fall, there was never a long stretch when at least one gem wouldn't pop up. As a result, box office receipts were up for the first time in years, although the overall number of actual moviegoers continued to decline.

If Hollywood wants to carry this minor upswing into 2008, it needs to quit competing with other mediums. Stop making movies based on video games and TV shows. Double or even triple the time in between the theatrical and DVD release dates of movies. If people know something can be rented for less in three months, they're less likely to leave their homes to go to a theater.

Time now for the list. Some choices are obvious, some hopefully, are not. Thanks for reading and have a safe and happy 2008.

Top Movies

Because of the wealth of truly memorable (non-documentary) 2007 movies, I've doubled my traditional Top 10 list:

1. Juno

2. American Gangster

3. Beowulf

4. Death at a Funeral

5. Rescue Dawn

6. No Country for Old Men

7. Atonement

8. There Will Be Blood

9. Youth Without Youth

10. 3:10 to Yuma

11. Sweeny Todd

12. Knocked Up

13. Superbad

14. I'm Not There

15. Bella

16. Across the Universe

17. The Bourne Ultimatum

18. Bridge to Terabithia

19. Enchanted

20. Michael Clayton

Best Lead Actress:

· Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose"

· Julie Christie in "Away From Her"

· Ellen Page in "Juno"

· Keira Knightley in "Atonement"

· Amy Adams in "Enchanted"

Best Lead Actor:

· Denzel Washington in "American Gangster"

· Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"

· Ryan Gosling in "Lars and the Real Girl"

· James McAvoy in "Atonement"

· Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd"

Best Supporting Actress:

· Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton"

· Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"

· Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There"

· Michelle Pfeiffer in "Stardust"

· Saorise Ronan in "Atonement"

Best Supporting Actor:

· Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men"

· Ben Foster in "3:10 to Yuma"

· Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"

· Alan Tudyk in "Death at a Funeral"

· Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton"

Best Director:

· Joel Coen for "No Country for Old Men"

· Ridley Scott for "American Gangster"

· Joe Wright for "Atonement"

· Tim Burton for "Sweeney Todd"

· Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will be Blood"

Best Foreign Language Film:

· "La Vie En Rose"

· "The Orphanage"

· "Lust, Caution"

Best Documentary:

· "Deep Water"

· "Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten"

· "Iraq in Fragments"

Best Original Screenplay:

· Todd Haynes for "I'm Not There"

· Diablo Cody for "Juno"

· Dean Craig for "Death at a Funeral"

Best Adapted Screenplay:

· Joel and Ethan Coen for "No Country for Old Men"

· Christopher Hampton for "Atonement"

· Steve Zaillian for "American Gangster"

Best Animated Film:

· "Beowulf"

· "The Simpsons Movie"

· "Ratatouille"

Best (or worst) of the Rest:

· Best cinematography: "Atonement"

· Best costume and set design: "Elizabeth: the Golden Age"

· Best sound: "Transformers"

· Best visual effects: "Beowulf"

· Best ensemble cast: "Juno"

· Best family film that wasn't animated: "The Last Mimzy"

· Best performance by a non-human: Javier Bardem's oxygen tank in "No Country for Old Men"

· Best stylistic throwback: "Hairspray"

· Best performance by an actor-turned-singer: Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd"

· Best original diva imitation: Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There"

· Best spoof of the South: "Randy & The Mob"

· Worst Southern caricature: "Black Snake Moan"

· Most accurate portrayal of the South: "Waitress"

· Pop singer most likely to star in a really bad 2008 film: Jessica Simpson

· Pop singer most likely to star in a really good 2008 Film: Mandy Moore

· Best comeback (male): Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"

· Best comeback (female): Julie Christie in "Away From Her"

· Best lay-low after looking desperate: Tom Cruise

· MVP: Josh Brolin in "Grindhouse," "American Gangster," "No Country for Old Men" and "In the Valley of Elah"

· Sellout: Jason Lee in "Underdog" and "Alvin & the Chipmunks"

· Best performance by someone not old enough to drive a car: Saorise Ronan in "Atonement"

· Best progression from movies to TV and back to movies again: Patrick Dempsey

· Best villain (male): Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men"

· Best villain (female): Michelle Pfeiffer in "Stardust"

· Bloodier than "American Gangster," "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" combined: "Sweeney Todd"

· Quirkier than the law should allow: Ellen Page in "Juno"

· Apparent pervert who really isn't: Ryan Gosling in "Lars and the Real Girl"

· Best date movie (clean): "Enchanted"

· Best date movie (risque): "Knocked Up"

· The worst family film of all time: "Daddy Day Camp"

· Worst scenery chewing: Jack Nicholson in "The Bucket List"

· Best movie no one saw: "Death at a Funeral"

· Most overrated film: "Ratatouille"

· Most underrated film: "Beowulf"

· Best guilty pleasure: "Transformers"

· Finally delivering on a promise: Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Gone Baby Gone"

· From the ashes of acting disaster emerged a filmmaking auteur: Ben Affleck for "Gone Baby Gone"

· Worst animated movie of the year: "Surf's Up"

· Worst waste of two legends: Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in "The Bucket List"

· OK, now you've tried comedy, time to go back to drama: Hilary Swank in "P.S. I Love You."

· Most memorable line: "I am Shiva, the God of death," spoken by Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton."

· Most rumpled: Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"

· Absolute proof women over 40 are still very sexy: Michelle Pfeiffer in "Stardust"

· Best soundtrack: "Across the Universe"

· Best new trend: the return of quality R-rated romantic comedies

· Worst new trend: the proliferation of movies about the Iraq war, most of them bad

· What was once cool is now getting out of control: CGI special effects

· Best performance in a so-so film: Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

· Most pretentious title: See above

· Three excellent but completely different viewpoints of the same divisive issue: "Waitress," "Knocked-Up" and "Juno"

· R.I.P.: Deborah Kerr