AFI AWARDS 2007 – American Film Institute

AFI Awards

Honoring a year of excellence.




…is a film that races with the pulse of a young filmmaker, but is constructed with the depth and maturity of an American master at the top of his game. Sidney Lumet’s dark and intricate tale takes place in a world you will not want to enter, but the powerful screenplay by Kelly Masterson grabs you and won’t let go. The film is a grand opera of immorality and is staged exquisitely by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney, whose performances fuse to form a diamond that sparkles with the dazzlement of dysfunction. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is a soaring cinematic achievement, one where the transportive nature of film takes us inside the mind of a paralyzed protagonist. Director Julian Schnabel astounds in his fusion of poetry, humor and profound humanity to examine the struggle from inside the mind as the character reaches for the impossible. Janusz Kaminski’s brilliant cinematography illuminates the film’s commanding point of view, visually enveloping the audience in the deeply emotional, but remarkably unsentimental screenplay by Ronald Harwood. Adapted from an extraordinary true story, the film challenges us to look into a mirror, appreciate the fragility of our own lives and marvel at the power of the mind. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is a vast journey across America — and deep inside oneself. Writer/director Sean Penn’s sensitive adaptation and expansive direction brilliantly captures the exuberance and idealism of youth — and the danger of pushing love away. The story lives in the eyes of Emile Hirsch, the warm smile of Catherine Keener, and the luminous spirit of Hal Holbrook. INTO THE WILD celebrates the dreamer in all of us — and the danger of dreaming alone. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is the tiny but true heartbeat of American film. Director Jason Reitman has an extraordinary control of tone, shifting sympathies and a clear respect for the fully realized characters created by screenwriter Diablo Cody. The result is a surprise in almost every scene as cliches are upended and life is celebrated at every turn. Elliot Page delivers the breakthrough performance of the year — one that embodies the comedy inherent in being a misfit and the strength that comes when facing life’s biggest challenges. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…delivers the funniest, freshest comedy of the year. Writer/director Judd Apatow stretches the boundaries of romantic comedies by introducing one of American film’s most unlikely pairings, and then brilliantly crafts a story where moment by moment, laugh by laugh — the couple embrace each other — and the audience — in a world of humor and heart. The film marks a star turn for Katherine Heigl, who lights up the screen with every smile. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is pulse-quickening entertainment for both the heart and mind. Driven by a screenplay that ranks among the finest in American film, Tony Gilroy’s film astounds at every turn — each word, each scene resonating beyond their literal meanings. George Clooney shines as one of the great actors of his generation, adding a dimension to his movie star persona that harkens back to the classic roles of Humphrey Bogart — still and silent, dark and deep. Extraordinary supporting roles by Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton add humor and horror to the riddles posed throughout the plot, and when the answers begin to arrive, no one is safe at the film’s surprising and spectacularly satisfying end. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…breathes new life — and death — into the classic American western. Joel and Ethan Coen construct the film like a steel trap, one that springs and snaps with a ferocity seldom seen in the movies. The film features a killer combination of acting talent — Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, who creates and then unleashes one of the great screen villains of our time. Driven by heart-stopping tension and pacing, the Coen Brothers’ masterful juxtaposition of savagery and innocence is a powerful tale of morality in a bleak world where a life can end with the flip of a coin. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is a soaring, sumptuous feast for all who love the movies. Writer/director Brad Bird continues to define himself as one of the great filmmakers of our generation, this time with the inspiring tale of a rat who aspires to be a chef. This animated gem creates environments that are so fully realized, so rich with detail, that both young and old alike will feel as though their passports have been stamped and their palates sated. At the film’s significant heart, is the relationship of artist and critic — and to celebrate their union here, AFI raises a glass of a fine French cabernet to RATATOUILLE. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…paints an intimate portrait of America’s emotional future. Writer/director Tamara Jenkins’ richly detailed character study beautifully captures the complexity of a sibling relationship and the struggle to deal with an aging parent. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman — two of our finest actors — portray people at an awkward moment in their lives who step backward into their heart and heroism. Intelligent and entertaining, funny and yet rigorously unsentimental, THE SAVAGES places our destiny firmly in the hands of talented artists, and, ultimately, proves the power of film in bringing us all together to celebrate life. Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is bravura filmmaking by one of American film’s modern masters. Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic poem of savagery, optimism and obsession is a true meditation on America. The film drills down into the dark heart of capitalism, where domination, not gain, is the ultimate goal. In a career defined by transcendent performances, Daniel Day-Lewis creates a character so rich and so towering, that “Daniel Plainview” will haunt the history of film for generations to come. Read the AFI Catalog entry



towered above America’s television comedies in 2007. A spiritual descendent of classics like THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and MURPHY BROWN, the show establishes Tina Fey as one of the true talents of her generation — an artist who not only embodies a rare quality of wit and wisdom, but also exudes an unguarded awareness of the culture around her. Alec Baldwin’s spectacularly pompous presence is a welcome wonder in every scene, and together, with the quirkiest ensemble on television, 30 ROCK proves there is life in laughter — at a time when we need it most.


places its hands firmly on the throat of expectation and — minute by minute — tightens its grip until audiences begin to question their idea of morality. Michael C. Hall’s masterfully nuanced performance as Dexter breathes humanity into a monster – a killer who murders those he believes have gotten away with murder. The world through Dexter’s dark, droll and wickedly funny gaze, in many ways, defines today’s era of television — stories that are wildly ambitious, intricately told, and deeply, emotionally engaging.


 came of age in 2007. Born from the life experiences of Chris Rock, who narrates the program with equal parts sweetness and sass, the show provides a very real look at growing up in America — a challenge that demands a discussion of race and class often absent from television today. EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS provides this forum for all generations and does it with great humor and humanity — both embodied by Tyler James Williams, a young man who stands tall among the talents of television.


scored another winning season in 2007. Hard-hitting and heartfelt, the show brings audiences together at the big game to explore issues of family, friends and faith. Each week is a celebration of small-town Texas truth, a paean to the hopes and dreams of a community that reaches for more. And each episode is a verse in an epic poem about America, its citizens driven to tackle their differences aglow in the lights of a national pastime.


poses a question — “Does everyone have something good or redeeming inside them?” — and then searches for the answer in a light projected by the finest in television long-form. Impeccably scripted and directed, this telling of a true tale will echo across the ages in the performances of Jim Broadbent and Samantha Morton, who create characters of such detail that one man’s search for redemption in the darkest of souls threatens tragedy for all who crusade for an ideal.


packs the punch of a three-martini lunch. This hypnotic time capsule brilliantly captures 1960s Madison Avenue, along with all the discomfort that hides in the dark corners of nostalgia. The show’s extraordinary writing, characterizations and art direction neatly package a time filtered through the haze of cigarettes and sexism, but the message is for today — that those who sell a way of life are often mad for a world that is not their own.


is a whimsical, magical fairy tale that blossoms in the lavish beams of talent that emanate from Barry Sonnenfeld and his talented creative ensemble. Rooted in unrequited love and death, the show bounds with endless invention, a stunning visual palette, and a team of actors who revel in the surprises that come to life in each episode. PUSHING DAISIES is both sensual and smart — and proves that hope springs eternal for American television.


delivered the goods in its final season and, in doing so, cemented its place in the pantheon of American television. David Chase’s masterwork spanned eight years and raised the bar with each and every episode, inspiring not only audiences, but also a generation of artists who are creating more complex, morally ambiguous dramas. James Gandolfini and Edie Falco defied expectations with each new storyline and took their bows this year with a continuing passion for their characters that is an achievement unto itself. Though the last season was filled with great expectations, nothing prepared the world for the soaring moment of artistic inspiration that turned the lights out on television’s great American epic.


pulls back the covers on “happily ever after” and offers an unblinking look at life’s most intimate moments. Both sexually explicit and emotionally resonant, the series raises questions we often don’t want answered in our own lives, and searches for the answers with a courageous visual style that sets it apart — a camera lingers, with no romantic fade-out. The show is groundbreaking for taking adult content out of the sleazy back alley of late-night cable TV and placing it squarely in the respectable neighborhood of prime-time programming — providing a rare and welcome home for our shared humanity to a topic of true conversation.


hit its stride this season, gliding confidently down the runway and smashing stereotypes about race and ethnicity with every turn. America Ferrera shines as TV’s sweetheart, embodying the timeless triumph of geek over chic, a message and meaning more welcome than ever. Campy, catty and adorably over the top, the show’s creative ensemble flings power and prejudice aside like yesterday’s fashion to celebrate UGLY BETTY as the most beautiful of all.



The ongoing digital revolution has upended conventional economic models, and uncertainty abounds when attempting to project how an audience will receive its storytelling in the years to come and how creators will be paid for their work.

On November 5, the 12,000-plus members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Though the strike is itself traumatic, it is but a part of a larger paradigm shift. At best, it may be a defining event in shaping the future.

AFI looks forward to the day when a new business model will form, and an artist’s work will rise above the numbers and continue to inform and inspire us all.


Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, two of the world’s most influential filmmakers, both passed away on July 30.

Bergman directed more than 50 films in a career that spanned 40 years. Classics like THE SEVENTH SEAL, WILD STRAWBERRIES, CRIES AND WHISPERS and PERSONA explore religion, death and existentialism with an unflinching honesty and eloquence.

Antonioni’s career also spanned more than 40 years, with landmark films like L’AVVENTURA, BLOWUP, LA NOTTE and THE PASSENGER, each marked by the director’s innovative approach to narrative storytelling.

Bergman and Antonioni were artists emblematic of an era–a time when audiences around the world sought out a challenging cinematic experience. The unique personal and artistic vision of these towering figures catalyzed conversations long after moviegoers left the theater and continues to inspire a generation of artists today.


Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, sparking a cultural frenzy. In addition to operating as a phone, camera and computer, the user-friendly iPhone allows consumers to stream and download television programs and movies. Overnight, the iPhone became a symbol of a public that demands its content where they want it and when they want it.


2007 marked a year when American film artists responded to the war in an attempt to create order out of chaos. Though it was largely difficult to find an audience for their stories, filmmakers marched forward in a struggle to understand — to ask questions — to demand answers.

Films like IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, LIONS FOR LAMBS, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, GRACE IS GONE, A MIGHTY HEART, THE KITE RUNNER and REDACTED all wrestled with the war directly. And this emotional quandary carried into the core of other films as well — the dark brutality of THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and the moral questions raised by MICHAEL CLAYTON also reflect our country’s bruised and brooding times.

No other American war has inspired this deep a cinematic expression while the conflict is still taking place. Films released during World War II were supportive of the war effort, but movies dealing with the emotional, psychological and societal impact of that war, and also Korea and Vietnam, weren’t produced until years after they had ended.

Part of this new immediacy is due to the accessibility of information from the front line. Whether from an embedded journalist or an Iraqi citizen posting photos on the Internet, news about the war is plentiful, direct and personal, arriving virtually the same day it happens. Given these images and information filmmakers are driven to make sense of it all here and now and project their stories across America and around the world.


DEFINITION On March 24, the Discovery Channel presented PLANET EARTH, an 11-part series that illuminated the power of television as a unifying force in our global community and reminded viewers that, despite our differences, we all share the precious gifts of our planet.

Over five years in the making, PLANET EARTH captured breathtaking images from more than 60 countries and over 200 locations. From the forests of Eastern Russia to the Gomantong Caves in Borneo to a volcanic mountain chain at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, this epic visual document captured some of the world’s most remote and awe-inspiring locations and brought them into the living room.

That the series came to life in high definition crystallized a moment in the public appreciation for this welcome and wondrous technology.


2007 marked a year when traditional news became subsumed by coverage of material normally relegated to tabloid magazines.

Coverage of Paris, Nicole, Lindsay, Britney, O.J. and Anna Nicole often eclipsed news on the war, an economy in turmoil or topics of international scope or scale.

Websites like and attracted devoted audiences, with TMZ even spawning a half-hour television version of its Internet activity. These types of sites are fueled by the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and other recording devices that empower a “citizen paparazzi” who are aggressive and eager partners in helping to tear down pop idols.

America’s cultural obsession with scandal is not a new trend, but in 2007 the tide turned, and the nation began to drown in a sea of celebrity.


In 2007, basic cable television exploded with new and inventive shows that created a seismic shift in America’s viewing habits. Summer is traditionally the season when television is dominated by reruns, but this year audiences enjoyed the premieres of DAMAGES, ARMY WIVES, SAVING GRACE, BURN NOTICE, MAD MEN and THE STARTER WIFE, and of particular note, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2, which attracted over 17 million viewers for its premiere.

Combined with these new forces in narrative fiction, cable also offered a variety of reality and documentary programs, including PLANET EARTH, MAN VS. WILD, ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, MEERKAT MANOR and DEADLIEST CATCH.

When the avalanche of summer options met the traditional fall premiere of network offerings, the question arose — “Is there a TV season anymore?”