Though the cinematic waters are murky for 2008 and beyond thanks to the writers' strike, 2007 was an undeniably deep year for film and perhaps the best year in overall quality since the mini-Renaissance of 1999. Several dozen films stood out this year, and all deserve proper recognition. But the second annual Indys can only honor the cream of the crop. So without further adieu, the envelopes, please ...
The best of the best
Hardest Working Man in Showbiz: Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Oscar winner turned in a trio of first-rate performances this year in The Savages, Charlie Wilson's War and, best of all, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.
Best Portrayals of Drug Addiction: Benicio Del Toro, Things We Lost in the Fire; Ashley Judd, Bug
Del Toro's turn as a strung-out addict desperate to kick heroin for his late best friend's children was beyond brilliant. Judd's increasingly paranoid junkie was absolutely harrowing.
Best Sidekick: McLovin, Superbad
Christopher Mintz-Plasse was born to play McLovin. And we at the Indy wish him luck in being seen as anything else. I know we're in the midst of a writers' strike, but somebody needs to give this kid his own sitcom. It'll write itself.
Best Against-Type Performance: Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me
I wasn't convinced after Punch-Drunk Love, but writer-director Mike Binder's gem proved Adam Sandler is capable of an emotionally staggering performance.
Best Nude Scene (tie): Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises; Ray Winstone, Beowulf
Mortensen's fight-to-the-death in a bathhouse was unflinching in its brutal realism, while Beowulf's epic birthday-suit-battle gave new meaning to the term "sword and sandals."
Best Chase (tie): No Country for Old Men (on foot); Death Proof (in a car)
Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem's nighttime showdown was the very definition of suspense, while Quentin Tarantino and new leading lady Zoe Bell outdid themselves getting payback against Kurt Russell's lecherous Stuntman Mike.
Most Underrated: In the Valley of Elah
Paul Haggis' Iraq drama got lost in the Oscar shuffle this fall no doubt because of the glut of war-themed films but this was one of the absolute best of the year and featured the performance of Tommy Lee Jones' career.
Biggest Winner: Judd Apatow
In addition to producing both Superbad and Walk Hard, Apatow wrote and directed Knocked Up and established his as an unrivaled brand of comedy. The hot streak is set to continue with next year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Pineapple Express.
Biggest Loser: Stephen King
Not only is the Entertainment Weekly columnist now sharing the back page with flavor-of-the-month Juno scribe Diablo Cody, but the popular horror author had two perfectly good stories (1408, The Mist) turned into two of my picks for the year's worst movies.
The best/worst of the rest
Best Musical: Once
This little Irish indie was powered by star-making performances from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, whose heartbreaking original songs were musical treats to the ears.
Worst Musical: Across the Universe
Sure, director Julie Taymor's ode to The Beatles was visually stunning. But the story was an utter mess.
Best Horror Movie: SiCKO
Michael Moore's documentary about health care made me momentarily want to move to France. How's that for scary?
Worst Horror Movie: Saw IV
I hate the phrase "torture porn," but movies like this must stop. The shtick is getting old. At least Eli Roth's Hostel Part II had more on its mind than pure carnage.
Best Action Movie: The Kingdom
Most critics saved their praise for The Bourne Ultimatum, but Peter Berg's action-film-for-the-thinking-man pulled no punches with a searing finale showing how similar American and Saudi mindsets are.
Worst Action Movie: Transformers
"Me Michael Bay!! Me like explosions!!" I mean, do I really need to say anything here? Fine. Shia LaBeouf was great, but Megatron, not so much. And what the heck's an Allspark anyway?
Best Trend: Sibling comedies and true stories
Aside from The Brothers Solomon, this year gave us heartfelt, humorous films in Margot at the Wedding, The Savages and The Darjeeling Limited. Meanwhile, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, In the Valley of Elah, A Mighty Heart, Zodiac, American Gangster, Breach, Alpha Dog, Control, The Assassination of Jesse James and Rescue Dawn shone because of stories based in truth.
Worst Trend: Numbered titles
1408, P2, 300, The Nines, The Ten, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer stunk. Shrek 3 and Spider-Man 3 failed to reach expectations. The Number 23? Simply the worst of the year.
If we had a ballot...
With Oscar season fast approaching, here are the films that Indy critic Jeff Sneider would choose for the big awards.
Best Picture: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Director: David Fincher, Zodiac
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Best Actress: Laura Linney, The Savages
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Best Original Screenplay: James C. Strouse, Grace Is Gone
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Foreign Language Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Best Animated Film: Ratatouille
Best Documentary: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Best Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Score: Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.