2008 for me was actually somewhat disappointing as a whole, at least when compared to last year. I definitely enjoyed a handful of late fall/early winter release but aside from that slim pickings. I had more ease putting together my list last year and I’m still sketchy about my last two or so.
Out of films I wish I’d seen I’m not sure if there is any. I was mildly interested in Rachel Getting Married to see Anne Hathaway in her acclaimed performance and to see another Jonathan Demme film. I’m not sure in what form or when I’ll ever see Che, I just can’t take 230 something minutes. Though I love Benicio Del Toro so I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing the split up versions of the film. I assume they’ll probably end up “on demand” sometime in the not too distant future.
: Though I wasn’t as swept off my feet as some people, even I found a fondness for WALL-E’s beautiful imagery, light hearted humor and overall sweet nature. Pixar more or less stands alone in the world of animation with their jaw dropping visuals and simplistic yet moving stories. Good for bringing out the inner child in all of us WALL-E is one of the most unique animated films I can recall seeing. One thing is for sure is that Pixar continually sets the bar higher and higher for animated features… Good luck catching up Dreamworks.
9. Zach and Miri Make a Porno
Wow a Kevin Smith movie on my top ten. If you would of told me that at the beginning of 2008 I would of been all like “Say What?” Smith has found an excellent balance between his vulgar pop culture dialogue and more dramatic sensibilities to make in my opinion, the best film of his career. Funny man Seth Rogen and the continually busy Elizabeth Banks are a fantastic pairing and I can’t get enough of Craig (Daryl from The Office) Robinson. It definitely pushes the boundaries of what you normally see in comedies and that’s just part of it’s twisted charm.
8. In Bruges
The feature film debut of Martin McDonagh isn’t your normal hitman movie fare. Set against the the storybook backdrop of Bruges, Belgium, Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson are a match made in heaven as two hit men laying low after a hit gone wrong. Very funny but also bittersweet, In Bruges has a sincere feel to it and unusual tone that kind of reminds me of the Coen brothers. Ralph Fiennes is the icing on the cake popping in as the duo’s harsh yet principled boss Harry and don’t worry, it earns that “R” rating.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Probably the most visually impressive film of the year. David Fincher’s sweeping foray into fantasy is loads of fun with it’s colorful cast of characters, offbeat side stories (such as the blind clockmaker or the man who was prone to being hit by lightning.) and a touching sense of whimsy as Benjamin and Daisy try to carry on their relationship under most unusual circumstances. An ideal film to see around the holiday season and Brad Pitt at the best I’ve ever seen him.
6. Slumdog Millionaire
: Another winner from the continually unpredictable Danny Boyle. Slumdog is a striking love story following the uneasy journey of Jamal through a harsh yet stunning setting of India. An engrossing delving into Indian culture, Slumdog Millionaire is as heartwarming as it is daring and definitely the “Feel good movie of the year.” as many critics have been proclaiming it.
5. Ghost Town
Ricky Gervais’ first theatrical undertaking as the lead in a hollywood movie may not have been a huge success, but for those who saw it, it’s a definite comedic treasure. Veteran screenwriter/occasional director David Koepp weaves a romantic comedy with a twist of the supernatural to create a funny, feel good film that’s probably my favorite comedy of the year. Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni both shine as two very different people falling for each other, not to mention you have a highly comical and suave Greg Kinnear somewhere in between.
: An intelligent character piece about two very different men in an all out war of words. On one side we have the well liked bachelor interviewer David Frost (played to a tee by Michael Sheen) striving for more respect and on the other side the “people’s boogeyman” the disgraced former president Richard Nixon trying to fix his battered reputation, played by Frank Langella in his best role to date…. After Junior. Langella’s performance is magnetic as he embodies the former president with such energy and presence. I’ve never seen Nixon portrayed as such a tragic figure and here he’s almost Shakespearian. The final interview between Frost and Nixon is just about the tensest scene I’ve seen on screen this year. Peter Morgan does a top notch job translating his play to screen (my definite pick for best adapted screenplay) and Ron Howard scores another one for the gingers.
3. The Wrestler
Bleak yet beautiful, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is not only the “Resurrection of Rourke” but probably the best movie regarding the subject of wrestling in general. A keen insight into the world of underground wrestling matches, we get to see both the glory and the physical strain that plagues it’s mighty competitors. Mickey Rourke’s genuine performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson is one for the ages not only for his sincerity, but in the strange manner that this character parallels Rourke’s actual controversial career. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood are strong in supporting roles and the whole feel to the movie is immensely powerful. Top it off with a bittersweet ballad from “The Boss” and you got yourself a fine film.
2. Gran Torino
Something about this “Vintage Eastwood” outing really hit me and it’s genuine mixture of drama and humor sealed the deal for this veteran actor/director’s latest drama. An exhilarating piece of work from Eastwood with a talented cast and the mark of a talented film auteur, Gran Torino is one of the best Eastwood films I’ve ever seen. The climax has especially stuck with me and I can’t wait for the next time I see it.
1. The Dark Knight
: It’s tough to pick a number one with the tough competition near the end of 08, but I decided to utilize Sean’s philosophy to make my number one pick. That being out of all these films, which one would I see myself continually coming back to. So I just had to go with the superhero/crime epic The Dark Knight. Marvelously acted with stunning effects and “balls to walls” action The Dark Knight a superhero movie masterpiece. I could go on and on, but I wont. I have nothing but the highest praise for Christopher Nolan’s brooding action epic.
The Best of the Rest
Cloverfield – Exciting as any roller-coaster, Cloverfield is one those movies you just had to see in theaters. If you didn’t than you’re missing out.
Iron Man – A solid superhero flick and an excellent staging for the return of Robert Downey Jr. as a leading man.
W. – A bizarre yet compelling tragic comedy about a man truly “misunderestimated”