Best-of Film 2007

By Chris Azzopardi

Nothing like knocked-up chicks, a real-life princess, a drag queen and a foodie rat to get someone through 2007. Those zestful personas were the meat and potatoes of a pretty tasty box-office year. Even though some dumb disappointments scored big bucks ("I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"), namely the indies - like rom-com "Juno" and modern-musical "Once" - scored with the critics. Like yours truly.

10. Ratatouille

Rats aren't exactly the cutest little critters roaming around. That's why kudos go to Pixar Animation Studios for creating one that is. Remy's not your typical rodent; he wants to rise above his family's garbage-picking shenanigans. He wants to be the next Emeril. Delish concoctions follow, and the eye-scrumptious flick - boiling over with all-ages humor and a sweeter-than-pie story - is a recipe for super success.

9. Lars and the Real Girl

Who's ever fallen for a sex doll? I haven't - until Bianca. What could've been a five-minute silly skit actually emerges as an endearing, clever comedy from writer Nancy Oliver ("Six Feet Under" alum!) and director Craig Gillespie, who turns the twisted guy-digs-mannequin scenario into an illuminating character study of Lars. Immaculately played by Ryan Gosling, the accomplished actor remarkably makes us believe in more than the lonely hermit he plays. We believe in Bianca, too.

8. Juno

Writer Diablo Cody used to strip while horny dudes tossed money at her. If studios are smart, they'll be doing the same after this indie charmer about a knocked-up teen, Juno (a wonderfully-sarcastic Ellen Page), who says "no" to abortion and tries to find the kid - or "sea monkey," as she calls the unborn - a home. In comes a suburban couple that seems like the perfect pair. Plans change, killer music plays and we cry - from laughing so hard. Why? 'Cause Cody's sharp script elicits laughs bigger than Juno's belly.

7. Away From Her

Julie Christie is hauntingly, heartbreakingly brilliant. There. That should be reason enough to see this first feature-length heartbreaker from writer-director Sarah Polley, whose graceful drama tells the tale of a seemingly-everyday elderly couple. Here's the catch: Fiona (Christie) has Alzheimer's. Her hubby struggles to send her to a nursing home, and when he does her memory becomes fuzzier, forgetting who he is and falling for a fellow patient. Not just a waterworks piece, Polley's film is one of the best love stories of the year: A delicately-crafted meditation on letting go.

6. Waitress

Before writer-director Adrienne Shelley tragically died, she left us with a little piece of heaven. Baked to near-perfection, this sweet Southern tale of a down-and-out pie-diner waitress (the incredibly-charming Keri Russell) who gets preggers by her no-good hubby and falls for her quirky ob-gyn (an offbeat Nathan Fillion), is a whimsical, melancholy rom-com filled with delish dishes and fresh starts.

5. Knocked Up

Something is big in this love-child comedy from perverted director Judd Apatow ("40 Year Old Virgin"). And it isn't just Katherine Heigl's belly. It's those king-sized laughs, earned from zingers like: "It's doggie style. It's just the style. We don't have to go outside or anything." With class-A players (newcomer Seth Rogen! SNL's "Penelope" Kristen Wiig! Hottie Paul Rudd!), Apatow's morally-ambivalent film finds an optimal balance of raunch and chicken-soup moments.

4. Once

Told through some low-fi indie tunes, this small-scale mellifluous gem is an atypical-musical masterpiece. Writer-director John Carney's simple tale centers on two folks, a street musician (real-life singer-songwriter Glen Hansard) and a woman swooned by his music who urges him to record his tunes. There's nothing that particularly screams hit: Two people, some instruments, and a mess of alluring tunes. But with its realistic reflections on music and relationships, this nostalgic Irish-indie film brilliantly scores the beat between two souls.

3. Enchanted

Once upon a time, Walt Disney thought up something so good, so magical and so charming. Its name: "Enchanted," a mostly live-action charmer about a blissfully-ignorant princess who's forced into the happily-ever-after-less New York City. With a CG-created chipmunk and a brain-dead prince (the yummy James Marsden), giddy Giselle (a super-duper dazzling Amy Adams) tries to ward off a wicked witch to return to her Happy-Go-Lucky Land. Adams glows in this live action-animated hybrid, a cleverly-scripted romp that sizzles with wit, romance and hella-pleasing Disney parodies.

2. Atonement

Simply breathtaking in every sense of the word - luscious cinematography, first-rate performances and a dashing musical score - "Atonement" is a masterful, epic love story. The decade-spanning screen adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel begins in 1935 and gradually, and gracefully, builds to a bittersweet finale that hits like a natural disaster - both hard and without much warning - resulting from a young girl's selfish lie. A serious weeper, the seven-time Golden Globe nominee, much like "Titanic," isn't easily forgettable.

1. Hairspray

Nothing can top this bubbly dance-off piled high with hardy-har-har gags, fab bouffants and a dress-donning John Travolta. As more-femme Edna Turnblad, Travolta shakes his badonkadonk in '60s Baltimore, where chubby daughter Tracy (the smashing Nikki Blonsky) scores a stint on a local shimmy show and becomes a bona fide household name. With dazzling musical numbers, an all-star cast and an accept-everyone motif, this rambunctious feel-good flick isn't one bit sticky. It just shines.

<ITAL Note: Films released Dec. 14 or after were not included.>

Chris Azzopardi is the entertainment editor of Between The Lines. To reach him, send an e-mail to chris@pridesource.com.

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