2008, in my mind, was a remarkable year for film for two reasons. One, there were a hell of a lot of comic book movies. Two, it seems like most of the critically admired films never made it to anything even close to wide release. Ultimately, out of the about 45 films I saw last year, there were plenty I liked, but only two that I loved.
Of the movies I was not able to see, the top of my list would be Happy-Go-Lucky, Let the Right One In, My Winnipeg, and, of course, Synechdoche New York. Oh, and I haven’t seen Revolutionary Road yet, either. Honorable mentions to Redbelt, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Incredible Hulk, Ghost Town and Iron Man. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was originally on this list, until I realized I had two number 6s. Both documentaries I saw this year were awesome, Man on Wire and Young @ Heart.
Oh, and I’m not doing a bottom 5 list, because no other movies I saw belong on the same list and Star Wars The Clone Wars and The Happening.
Top 10 Movies 2008
10. Paranoid Park
Paranoid Park shows the story of Alex, a sullen, teenage skateboarder with a dark secret. As he tries to sort through his memories of one night at the eponymous skate park, director Gus Van Sant treats us to a surreal, engaging little film. I liked it a lot.
9. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
My favorite Kevin Smith film yet. What he does here is so much more sophisticated than what we’ve come to expect from him, Zack and Miri is a very well put together film. What pushes it over the edge is the great cast and absolutely hilarious writing. Yes it’s sexually explicit and extremely vulgar, but these characters make it seem like the most natural thing in the world.
8. Slumdog Millionaire
Quickly becoming one of the most overrated films of the year, Slumdog still deserves much of the praise that has been heeped upon it. Hell, I know I’ve recomended it to plenty of people. Did those people see the film? Mostly, yes. But it took some of them a while. After they saw it, they told me they liked it. I was all, “yeah, it’s good.”
A fun little film about stickin’ it to Dick. I just reviewed the film a little while ago, and I still like it! Frank Langella totally steals the show in the second act, pretty much relegating the rest of the cast to reactionary roles. Really nice performance. Like I said, my biggest complaint is the choice to use those weird interview cutaways. Ron Howard, you fool! You foolish fool!
6. Gran Tornio
Clint Eastwood is back and he is pissed. Over his lengthy career he has done a crazy amount of work on both sides of the camera, and here is channeling some of his best work. It’s just too bad the rest of the cast can’t really live up to his performance.
5. In Bruges
Remember a year or so ago, when everyone was all about In Bruges? We should have kept that going, because I was all about that movie (two posters!). Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are just a great team on film, with both of them turning in some of their best performances. The whole film is just so quirky, how can you not love it?
A lot of praise has been heaped on Sean Penn for his performance in this film, but if you ask me it was James Franco who stole this show. But what do I know? Penn is great in this biopic which unfortunately succumbs to some of the cliches of the genre while at the same time telling a compelling and important story.
3. The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke turns in the best performance of his career, and maybe one of the all time greats. I’m not joking, I really think he was just in a completely different league than his co-stars. The film’s weakest link is its writing, with a few key scenes ringing just a little to false. But, damn, what an emotionally powerful film. Who would have thought, after all of this time, that wrestling is real?
2. The Dark Knight
What can I say that everyone else isn’t already saying? The Dark Knight is straight up the best Batman movie ever made, and most certainly among my favorite movies. I’d almost go as far as calling it a perfect film, but the Two Face scenes at the end of the film are just a little too rushed. If the movie had ended at that shot of Batman standing in the debris, then, damn, I don’t know how amazing it would be. But Nolan pushes the film farther, giving us a satisfying conclusion, along with that cheesy but fantastic speech from Gordon. Great, great film.
Really, The Dark Knight should be my number one. I am all about that film, and will probably come back to it more than WALL-E. There’s just one problem; WALL-E kicks too much ass. One of the most straightforward, beautiful stories in years. This little robot reminds us that even the littlest creatures can make a difference. I honestly can’t think of a single thing I would change about this movie, which is why it’s here, at the top of the list.