Here are my twelve favourite films from this year — it's twelve simply because I couldn't decide which two to cut — although, as I write this, I’ve still not seen several contenders that might well have forced their way onto the list. Anyways, without further ado and in alphabetical order…
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
The first time I saw this, it was unfinished and projected from an Avid cut, but it didn’t matter one iota — it was simply sensational. Elegiac and masterful.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
It may be 25 years old, and I may have seen it countless times down the years, but seeing it on the big screen in Venice, I felt like I was watching this for the very first time. And, in a way, I was. Glorious.
Telling some of the same story covered in 24 Hour Party People, rock photographer Anton Corbijn’s directorial debut adopts a more intimate, up close approach that, coupled with the monochrome cinematography, serves the story beautifully.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
An extraordinary film that soars and tugs at both the heart and soul, Julian Schnabel’s poignant memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby who, having suffered a massive stroke is paralysed with locked-in syndrome, could only move his left eye, exquisitely paints Bauby’s interior landscape and is perhaps as close as cinema gets to pure art.
The Lives Of The Others
I know for many this may be last year’s news, but it's in the running for the 2008 BAFTAs and I only caught up with it recently. Another extraordinary piece of filmmaking with a sensational performance from the late Ulirch Muhe. Exemplary stuff.
No Country For Old Men
I remember seeing Blood Simple on its initial release and being dazzled by the sheer impudence and wit of the filmmakers. This wasn’t only a return to form, it was a near masterpiece from the Coens. This has Oscar writ large all over it…
Smart, funny, delightful, and inventive. Not as good as The Incredibles, mind. But then again, what is?
The funniest film of the year and a wonderful ode to bad taste. I McLoved it. Sorry, it had to be done…
Danny Boyle may have trouble finishing a film (see A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, and the 28 Days Later DVD for proof of this) but he’s still one of the best we have. Alex Garland’s script had the single greatest BIG IDEA in a movie this year, and the cinematography was sublime.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
Did you think I wasn’t going to include this? Sure, I spent a lot of time on set and wrote the making of book, but this was Burton at the top of his game, with another sensational performance from that man Depp.
There Will Be Blood
PTA + DDL = Genius.
I have yet to see the slightly extended Director’s Cut but this version was damn near perfect. Fincher cut back on the cinematic pyrotechnics to tell a compelling story, beautifully.
The Bourne Ultimatum, The Lookout, Michael Clayton, A Mighty Heart, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead.
Best Action Sequence
It’s not because I’m British and I’ve spent a substantial amount of time passing through Waterloo, but to see Matt Damon doing his stuff inside and out the station in The Bourne Ultimatum was simply electrifying.
If the prize was for the prettiest, it would arguably go to Seamus McGarvey for Atonement, but I thought Janus Kaminski’s POV work for The Diving Bell And The Butterfly was, like the film itself, extraordinary, Alwin Kuchler painted with light in Sunshine, while Roger Deakins showed why he’s the master with Jesse James and No Country.
I figure that Sweeney’s ineligible since it’s pre-existing, so it would have to be Dario Marianelli’s marvellously insistent click-clack score for Atonement.
I know Casey Affleck’s been around for a while now, but his turn as Robert Ford suddenly woke me up to him. Ditto: Rosie Byrne in Sunshine. Control’s Sam Riley, meanwhile, embodied Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis physically and vocally.