Since I finally got around to seeing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button via the wonderful world of Netflix, I thought it would be a good time to publish my annual Top Films of the previous year list. And here…we…GO:
Top 15 Films of 2008:
1. Slumdog Millionaire – there were films that featured better acting and slightly better cinematography, but no film combined story/conflict/humor/tension the way Slumdog did. It had the kinetic energy that has come to be expected from Danny Boyle’s films (see: 28 Days Later and Trainspotting). It features arguable the best love story of the past 25 years. It felt like a throwback to the magical Hollywood films of yesteryear, before Hollywood became dedicated to only doing remakes, reboots, and sequels. That said, I look forward to Slumdog Millionaire 2: Slumdog Millionairer
2. The Wrestler – no one has been more perfectly suited for a role than Mickey Rourke was for Randy The Ram. Everything in The Wrestler works; the romance betweeen Tomei and Rourke, the true-to-life behind-the-scenes professional wrestling material, the realistic disdane that Randy’s grocery store boss has for profession wrestling, the realistic portrayal of the physical and emotional damage that professional wrestlers deal with all in an attempt to entertain the fans, and the in-ring wrestling. Of all the films from 2008, this is the one that the American Film Institute is probably putting on lists 10 or 15 years from now.
3. Revolutionary Road – a brilliant take on the pressures of societal norms. The easiest way to sum this up is that if you are married and have kids it will likely be upsetting due its constant questioning of the institution of marriage and societal structure as we know it. If you aren’t married, or have ever wondered why it is assumed everyone should follow the same basic formula: get married, have kids, work a job you probably don’t enjoy because you need the money, stop enjoying life, and eventually die from stress; then this is the film for you. Personally, I thought Winslet should have won this Oscar for this instead of The Reader, but six of one, half dozen of the other.
4. Let the Right One In – a Swedish vampire film period peice about love and revenge. Sorry True Blood fans, but this was the superior vampire-related media of 2008. Visually stunning due to the snow-covered landscape, audibly stunning due to some of the best sound design of recent memory, emotionally moving, and featuring the best dark comedy since the early seasons of Nip/Tuck.
5. Burn After Reading – the Coen brothers magnificent return to comedy which simply crescendos in humor as it goes.
6. The Reader – a pedophiliac love story carried by a frequently naked Kate Winslet. And it involves Nazis.
7. Doubt – superbly acted drama about a priest (played by the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman) accused of molesting an alter-boy.
8. Frost/Nixon – I generally don’t enjoy biopics, can take or leave Ron Howard’s films, but Frank Langella’s performance as Nixon is so transcendent that it over-rides either of those factors.
9. Snow Angels – David Gordon Green’s lesser known film of 2008, Pinneaple Express being the more marketed one for obvious reasons (see: Rogan, Seth), follows the interweaving story of a married couple, divorced couple with a young child, and a pair of teenagers who have just started dating. Simultaneously uplifting and depressing.
10. The Dark Knight – rarely does a mainstream movie, much less a comic book movie, actually become such an artist achievement. Also, it was nice to be reminded that comic book films don’t always have to follow the same formula of guy with superpowers fights villian who is just like him with greater powers that leads to redundant CGI-filled battle scene climax between them.
11. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – if someone can explain how this didn’t win best cinemtography that would be great.
12. Transibberian – the latest installment from Brad Anderson, aka this generation’s Hitchcock.
13. Counterfeiters – the true story of a concentration camp the Nazis had for counterfeiting money.
14. Frozen River – a story about a single mother, the always brilliant Mellisa Leo of Homicide: Life on the Street fame, struggling to raise her children. A film not without flaws, which can be completely ignored due Melissa Leo’s extremely realistic and naturalistic performance.
15. Man on Wire – documentary about Philippe Petit tight-ropping across the twin towers in 1974.
Edit – realized I had forgotten a couple of films from the first half of 2008 that deserved mention, and watched a couple of other films from 2008. So, here is an honorable mention section:
The Strangers, Rachel Getting Married, Cloverfield, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, The Changling
If there are any I missed, or over-valued, let me know in the comments section below.