2007 Was Great for Film. But Does the Future of Listmaking Lie in Jeopardy?

2007 was a great year for movies—one of the best in recent memory. It was a particularly strong year for American cinema. In addition to offering new important films from American auteurs (Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen Bros, and Todd Haynes among others), 2007 provided exceptional works of mainstream commercial movies, including Hollywood summer releases like Ratatouille, Knocked Up, and The Bourne Ultimatum, all of which one could argue are also the work of auteurs. There were interesting, significant works of American cinema across nearly all budget levels and genres. Less foreign films made my top 10 list than in previous years, which probably has less to do with a lack of quality than with the fact that I had the opportunity to see less foreign films due to increasingly poor distribution for international titles. But even if we were to just look at the U.S.’s output of movies in 2007 in isolation from the rest of the world (probably not an advisable position in today’s geopolitical climate, I admit), we would still have an exceptional crop of pictures for discussion.

[Read More, Discussion & Lists]

2007 was a great year for movies. But what does that mean for us end of the year listmakers? In such a great year, it’s tempting to expand the top 10 into a top 20 or even a top 30. Or layer on the “honorable mentions” and equivocating remarks so thickly that the greatness of the year’s very best pictures becomes diluted. Many major film critics this year have done just this or gone even further—dispensing with the numeric ranking of their lists altogether or prefacing their lists with disclaimers about how arbitrary end of the years are in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, the venerable institution of listmaking is under attack. What is the point of making an end of the year list without ranking, without excluding some titles in favor of others, without having the conviction that what you are doing is on some level meaningful? Furthermore, it seems to me that in a year that offered many very good and worthwhile films, it is all the more important to sort through the lot and hold up the very best, most interesting, and exceptional movies.

I want our 2007 discussion here on Cosmodrome to draw a line in the sand. Let us assume that traditional top 10 listmaking is something righteous. Maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe our lists are completely arbitrary and meaningless. We shall see. But at least we’ll put up a good fight—going down like the gang at the end of The Wild Bunch with our guns blazing, as opposed to somberly taking a bullet in the back of the head while hanging a picture, like Jesse James.

I challenge all of you posting lists this year on Cosmodrome to submit your list of the top 10 films of 2007. Not top 20. Not top 50. Not top 10 with 17 honorable mentions. Just 10 titles. Maybe you will feel torn about which movies to include. Good. It’s my hope that our tighter, more focused lists will amplify the passion and strength of the subsequent online discussion. I would encourage everyone to write a little something about at least a couple of movies from your list that you feel particularly strongly about. This will help generate some debate—for what is at stake is not simply what the best films are but why they are the best films.

Maybe you hate this idea and approach. I open the floor to debate. But my ultimate goal is not simply to generate a discussion about listmaking. It’s my hope that creating tight lists will focus our thoughts and passions and lead toward a revealing discussion about what mattered most cinematically in 2007. I envision knock down fights between the enthusiasts and haters of I’m Not There; discussions about the different ways There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men reconceptualize the American West; debates about the comedy and politics of Knocked Up.

The Lists:

Eric Hoyt
Jon Lefkovitz
Jeff Deutchman
Alex P. Sherman

Coming Soon:

Oscar Boyson
Nate De Young
Peter Duchan
Andy Garland
Kyle Smith
Meredith Ward

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