Again another year at the movies finished and all is well with the world.
I finally finished all the movies I've wanted to see this year with the exception of a French-language film called The Class because of its shitty one week oscar run.
I will see it on the 21st, mark my words!
So here's my best movies of 2008. I decided to go for 15 because happily, I think I saw more good movies than bad ones this year and I'm even happy that the bad ones I saw didn't suck as bad, so I'm only going to name 5 of those.
5. Seven Pounds - it wasn't so much the acting of Will Smith that made me hate this movie it was just everything else. From the amazingly insipid plot to the boring as fuck Rosario Dawson and to the numbingly bad direction of Gabriele Muccino. Will was fine, but the problem was I didn't give a shit about him. This movie shoulda been donated (get it?!?! HAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA) to a $2.99 straight-to-dvd sales rack after completion.
4. Mister Foe - I've waited for this movie since last year when I heard about it and apparently it finally got its release date this year here in the states. Nothing about this movie is good, from the bad acting by Ciaran Hinds, Claire Forlani and Jamie Bell, to the horrible fucking plot (Jamie just spies on people, fucks Claire, and does something in the end that reminds him of how he killed his mother when he was young - TRUST ME, YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW). The whole movie was a jumbled mess, I don't even know why I bothered downloading it.
3. Boy A - another import form England that was again, released back in 2007. This kid killed someone when he was younger (like 5 years old or something), comes back to society after serving time, saves someone only to have his face in the news and then his identity is revealed - "oh no, child killer!!! AAA!!!!". DUMB! Andrew Garfield plays the kid and Peter Mullan as his parole officer. Both of whom need a sad sorry lesson in acting. I hardly even remember this movie it was so bad, so I'm leaving it at that.
2. Jumper - so apparently since Tobey Maguire didn't release a movie this year, all my movie hate has transpired onto Jamie Bell. The sad thing is, the only good thing about this movie was "Arctic Fox" Bell. For three seconds he had this sadist streak in him that would've made a better movie, too bad it lasted only 3 seconds. Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson make this movie an epic fail of life. Even from director Doug Liman (Go, The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith - yeah I know, talk about epic fail on his part), who couldn't direct any of the action sequences in this movie even if he was sadistically eye-raped each scene.
1. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - as a animation movie fan I hate when I put animation on bad lists, because sometimes it can't honestly be that bad. THAT IS, UNTIL I SAW THIS PIECE OF SHIT. Whoever at Dreamworks animation greenlit this should be castrated on some slum back alley of Tibet and left to fend themselves against hungry malnourished dogs. From IMMEDIATE copycat references of The Lion King (I blame Katzenberg for that shit) to a plodding, pointless, and highly un-entertaining plotline. Even the running gag of the abusive old lady from the first movie fell flat on arrival. And those damn penguins that made me appreciate the first movie so much? ANNOYING!! This movie spelled epic fail from every angle, I'm just sad I actually paid money to see it.
Cloverfield - All the haters to the left! There really wasn't anything wrong with this movie at all. Sure the acting was sub-par, the plot thinner than a razor-blade, but the special effects were pretty damn cool. And while there is nary anything of what can be called camera-work to speak of, I think the way it was handled and shown was alot better than the typical Matrix-style action sequences that take up alot of films today.
The Spiderwick Chronicles - Two Freddie Highmores was kinda stupid to begin with. But the movie had a somewhat understandable and enjoyable plot to keep me interested till the end.
Charlie Bartlett - I've wanted to see this movie since it screened at Tribeca back in 2007. It was cute and had a funny performance by RDJ. But the plot wasn't that great.
Vantage Point - This movie was well done. It tried to hard with the action sequences to make it more interesting than it was though. If they didn't go so far and do the whole reverse the plot trick to explain it, it probably woulda been a decent action film, but since they had to be all "different", it became just very... meh.
Funny Games - God this movie coulda been soooooooooo much better than the original. Especially when you have Heneke directing his movie again for a second time. The fail here is the un-believability of Brady Corbett and Michael Pitt as murdering yuppies. If I had to cast those two fuckers, I'd make it Ryan Gosling and Christian Coulson, because that woulda been funnier. It is called Funny Games after all!
21 - I enjoyed this movie. Spacey kinda brought his A-game but looked bored doing so. Sturgess was alright but the real winner for me was Kate Bosworth. She had the sexiness and the smarts to pull off a great con.
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull - Spielberg has a knack for bringing the fun into action movies and this movie didn't disappoint. I liked all the chase sequences and even the fire ants. Harry made it perfectly clear that his stunt double should get more money than him for all his films. Shia was even more entertaining than good ol' Indy. And Cate did what she could with her accent and shifty eye movements. Unfortunately all of that praise died when the UFO plotline came into being about 10 seconds into the film.
Sex and The City - shut up, I thought this movie was funny. Although it had alot of stretchy boring parts, but the funny bits made me laugh. The inclusion of Jennifer Hudson was a downgrade though.
The Incredible Hulk - I was indifferent to the first one, just how I'm indifferent to this one as well. Norton is no better at the Hulk as Eric Bana and I feel bad because I know he's capable of good acting, it's just his shitty scripts that give his talent epic fail. The rest of the superhero plot was all predictable and painless.
Get Smart - I just saw this movie today and I laughed. I'm sorry but this movie is fucking hysterical. Oh Carell, you are a mad genius when you get to showcase it. And Hathaway, you are just a funny and heeelarious acting god. How I love both of you in this film.
Leatherheads - Decent. JKraz and RZell offered mucho lulz, but no chemistry whatsoever and Clooney's zaniness was only overshadowed by his meticulousness of time and setting, which, for a movie like this, didn't really need to be that accurate.
Wanted - as much as this plot sucked (and oh fuck yes did this plot suck) I enjoyed the action sequences and McAvoy's whiny acting along with Jolie's near-mute performance to give it an even keel.
Mama Mia - meh. It had its fun moments and Le Streep can really belt out the songs but all I felt throughout the film was meh. Someone find Dominic Cooper better work and some type of voice re-modification system.
American Teen - I liked this movie on initial viewing but after a second shot at it, I felt more annoyed than interested in each of the kids' lives.
Burn After Reading - The Coens take the whole spy genre into a whole new level of weirdness. But I thought it was a little too weird for me to actually appreciate what they were trying to say.
The Duchess - Keira and Ralph and even Dominic Cooper with his shitty ass voice were ok in this film, the problem was the plodding plot. And while Knightley looked good as a leading lady, her acting chops seemed to have been overshadowed by the large-as-fuck production.
Choke - in a righteous world Sam Rockwell would be one of the highest paid actors of today pulling off performances that never mirror the next with great ease. Here he does just the same. But the issue at the end of the film left me feeling uncaring about the main character's predicament.
Eagle Eye - Shia shia shia. While you were ok in this and you did actually look like you could hold your own in a big production such as this that doesn't involve transforming robots, I still can't buy your love story with Michelle Monaghan. Maybe if they cast someone around your age, I would've enjoyed the chemistry you two had a bit better.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - The good about this movie was NYC and Cera and Dennings. All of whose parts were done well enough to have me entertained till the end. But the simplistic and predictable plot made me wish there was more!
Gran Torino - Sorry Clint. I loved you man and this movie and your whole gang violence meditation. But your movie lacked something I always want in movies, and while the thought-provoking plot was handled exceptionally well, I wanted some form of entertainment to fall through somewhere in the picture. Oh and never cast unknown, untrained actors, because they made your movie look like an afterschool special.
15. Doubt - As much as I enjoyed the acting chops of PSH and Streep and even a little bit of Amy Adams, I think I would've preferred the acting talent of the stage version. Because it's obvious to everyone that Streep and Hoffman can do confrontational voice shouting drama in their sleep, so to see it here is not really as revelatory as I woulda hoped. But kudos to an well-written script and a knockout performance by Viola Davis, who deserves every accolade she can get.
14. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - You can begin mocking my list now for adding this picture into the mix. I loved the darker tone of the storyline and hell the effects looked to have been one upped from the first one as well. And while the acting isn't exactly Shakespeare, Bin Bon's Inigo Montoya accent I think held up well throughout the film. And Skandar still has the best lines ("Just King though. Peter's the High King. I know, it's confusing.") Oh and Peter Dinklage FTW!
13. Kung Fu Panda - This movie was entertaining as fuck. And while it's not the awe-inspiring creation of wonderment brought about by a certain Pixar film that came out this year, it does hold the torch for having the funniest one-liner in a film this year. But to say it would ruin the best part.
12. The Reader - Funny how this poster mirrors another Winslet film that came out. But anyways, KATE KATE KATE!! The never failing Kate Winslet does it again in another extremely daring and strong performance. Stephen Daldry's deft direction is apparently in every scene with small touches and glimpses that, like the film, never truly reveal what is right there for all to see. Ralph Fiennes does a killer job of the conflicted man who still feels for a woman that cannot be given forgiveness for her sins. Excellent performances from both with a delicate screenplay that manages to invoke some form of sympathy to a monstrous human being.
11. Milk - "My name is Harvey Milk. and I'm here to recruit you!" A movie can never just be a movie if it ends up being significant to the times that it came. Milk is a prime example of a movie that was released when our world changed and yet also stayed the same. I keep thinking if this movie had been released a few weeks before the election, would the outcome of certain propositions in certain states be different. Gus Van Sant's movie didn't know it would be playing right in the heart of something more, but it did and showed what change can do to society (both as an accomplishment and as a tragic consequence). Sean Penn's performance is both entertaining and dramatic. And he held this thin line so well throughout it that it's not surprise he's getting the accolades he's getting. But the real reason this movie works so well is an excellent script by Dustin Lance Black, who deserves an original screenplay Oscar for this extremely well-written biopic.
10. Frost/Nixon - Screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan's bravura screenplay about the interviews of David Frost and Richard Nixon and what came about before and after is a an excellent study of restraint. Restraint in what can be found in entertaining the audience with the subject matter (Frank Langella's Nixon is all you need for that) while walking the thin line of not showing you everything about what really happened (was there actually a phone call the night before the last interview?). Ron Howard's direction helped push the screenplay along to some laugh out loud moments that helped balance the seriousness of the subject at hand. While Langella can reap in the accolades of a performance that is eerie as sin to Richard Nixon, Michael Sheen's David Frost should not be ignored, for he became the catalyst for finding the one thing everyone wanted to know, simply, the truth.
9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - "Life is like a box of buttons..." Seriously did anyone else have Forrest Gump comparisons when watching this movie? And the weird thing is, for me, this movie was BETTER than Robert Zemekis' film! Yes I know, it's blasphemy, but I thought Fincher held a grand eye to the whole visual of the movie while keeping certain things about it intimate and small (the hospital room while Hurricane Katrina roared outside for instance). Obviously Brad Pitt's performance is not Tom Hanks' but Pitt I thought held his own really well throughout the movie, along with a subdued performance you hardly see from him. Cate Blanchett flawlessly captures her character with little to no effort on her part. While Taraji P. Henson's carried out the difficult role of responsibility without the need to understand. But the star here is definitely David Fincher, who proved to anyone that he has a talent for directing more than what he is known for or shown beforehand.
8. Tropic Thunder - Easily the funniest fucking movie I have seen all year. Kudos to all three stars, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller for a hysterical piece of work. And while Tom Cruise seemed to be a bit overused in the end and Matthew McConaughey seemed to be useless, all can be forgiven just by the first five minutes of this movie. And yes, I would pay money to see The Fatties, Satan's Alley and Scorcher, Scorcher 1, Scorcher 2, Scorcher 3, Scorcher 4, Scorcher 5 and Scorcher 6: Global Meltdown. I hope Justin Theroux gets an oscar nomination for writing this shit.
7. The Wrestler - When a movie wins you over for being something more than what you think it is, I believe it's done its job of being a good film. The thing about Mickey Rourke's performance is that it wins you over so much that you never want the movie to end, regardless of how brutal the film can be. The greatest thing an actor can do to a character is doing a performance that can call it their own. You can place whatever actor to whatever role, but when you see an actor define a character so much that you can't see any other actor do the role, then they've done their mark in that film. Rourke's performance is of that nature. Harrowing, depressing, painful, realized, and engrossing, he made a character that shouldn't be ignored by anyone. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a best actor Oscar for this performance, in fact I'd probably be downright upset if he didn't. The one that brought him here is director Darren Aronofsky, who's complete 180 degree form of directing this film in comparison to his past work is a true revelation of talent. Technically, there is nothing about this movie that brings in the originality of say his Requiem for a Dream but it's because of shots of simplicity that makes this movie, for me, his best one he's done to date. He holds an eye to the performances of not only Rourke's, but of Marisa Tomei's and Evan Rachel Wood's, that you are shown a more uncompromising look into the situations they are placed against. Excellent film.
6. The Dark Knight - I know, it didn't make my top five, but there were just five other better films than this for me. And I while I can accept that this is probably one of the best comic book films I've ever seen, I'd still rank, just by a hair, Batman Begins over it. Just because I thought the sole purpose of this franchise reboot was to focus more on the main character of Bruce Wayne and less on the villains. And while I thought Bale was good here, he was better in the first one, and yes I'll admit, even Katie Holmes was better than Maggie Gyllenhaal. But of course this movie holds its own for one reason and one reason alone - Heath Ledger. To call his performance a work of brilliance seems like an understatement. He embodied a true comic book villain with such sadistic and frightening verve that his psychotic tendencies brought about a believably scary and extremely entertaining character to the screen that will be remembered for years and years. And as much as I'd find Ralph Fiennes' character in The Reader just as equally impossible to perform on screen, there's no doubt in my mind that all the awards Heath is receiving for his performance is very much deserved.
5. Revolutionary Road - If you want to make a good movie great, hire Kate Winslet. An exceptional performance in a difficult role, Kate's April Wheeler showed me that it doesn't take leaping moments of acting in film to convey a character's true emotions. In fact, it can only take one glance and a small, harrowing pace, to show everything about one's pain. And while Leonardo DiCaprio tried to play catch up to her performance, he does manage to match her wit-for-wit in an ending that can leave anyone drained. Director Sam Mendes made 1950s suburbia into something we've seen countless times (specifically if you've seen Mad Men) but add a performance by Kate, Leo and actor Michael Shannon (who's devastating 20 minute role encapsulates the pain of the Wheeler's relationship) and you've got the makings of a an excellent film.
4. Let The Right One In - In a year where Vampires ruled the tube and the screen (True Blood and Twilight) this little vampire gem from Sweden proved that you don't need much to convey true horror. The story of little boy who befriends a girl that only comes out at night has a mean streak to it that is at times horrifying and at times entertaining. You feel for these two people because of their predicament but never once do they want the audience to feel sorry for them. They hold on to each other for survival even if it means a little bloodletting from time to time. With an atmospheric look that makes it very much a Bergman film done with a blood splattered coolness of a Coen Brothers outing, director Tomas Alfredson doesn't shy away from the fact that the blood spilled is of little children or done by them. By the time you reach the ending, you want to know how it ends, how these two lives will once again intersect to find the resolution that has haunted them from the beginning. And when it does, the violence cuts so razor sharp and so maliciously brilliant that you cannot look away in horror but actually glue yourself to the screen in absolute amazement. I've never seen an ending like that before and I don't think I ever will.
3. Wall-E - As much as I dread the day that Pixar will make a bad film, I am happily and thankful grateful that that moment has yet to happen. Another crown in their illustrious credentials of brilliant storytelling matched with spectacular animation, Wall-E is just a barrel of happiness all wrapped up into a nice 88 minute film. Two animated characters that seemed so real and so alive than virtually any real life actor or actress I've seen all year. It is the best love story I've seen all year, the best animated movie I've seen all year, and most beautifully shot movie I've seen all year, animated or not.
2. Rachel Getting Married - Demme. Hathaway. Winger. DeWiit. Lumet. oh my! Director Jonathan Demme's handheld intimate movie about a family wedding became a revelation of a movie for me for the sole reason that it just took me to a different place. The film was so inventive in its storytelling that to call it a movie seems fake. It's as if we were actually THERE with these people attending this wedding. The camera so up-close and luring us in to each character with such ease no matter how uncomfortable the situation ends up being. Anne Hathaway showed a performance that completely and utterly demolishes what we knew about her beforehand. Here is an actress unafraid to convey raw emotion without the twitch of an acting school pause (for scene effectiveness) or act in moments that show more than what she can achieve. Here is her achievement, and take it for what it is, even as she shreds to pieces a wedding dinner toast or even crashes a car into a tree. Demme and Hathaway show that actors in all their glamorous allure can even bring themselves down to us normal folk and relate to all that we experience in life. Add to that, performances by Debra Winger and Rosemary Dewitt as Rachel's mother and sister respectively and you've got a trio of women who hold their own in each and every scene they're in. Screenwriter Jenny Lumet holds absolutely nothing back when it comes to family dilemmas and throws everything at the audience to experience it head on. It's powerful, draining, and in the end, absolutely enlightening in every way. This is a wedding after all, so no matter how bad the situation became, you still could sit and enjoy a wedding, that even you yourself, attended.
1. Slumdog Millionaire - Surprised? This is absolutely positively one movie that I think I can watch over and over again and never EVER be sick and tired of watching it. A movie that truly puts a smile to my face in the end of the film with the satisfaction that you've seen something different, new, and truly original. I'm not saying this film is absolute perfection (the only drawback: the love story of Wall-E and Eve held more believability than this) but the rest of it had something of an awe-inspiring presentation to it that you just can't help but watch and savor and enjoy. This is a film that has to put a smile on your face no matter what you're feeling. Brilliantly handled by director Danny Boyle and perfectly written by Simon Beaufoy, this film carries with it something you rarely see in movies anymore. It grounds you with the harrowing scenes of reality experienced by the three main characters as they grow up but then elevates you to a kind of euphoric happiness that you find and treasure in fairy tales. It successfully meshes both worlds with ease and would make anyone with half a brain, half a heart and a lot of hope, to believe that movies like these do exist and made for the sole purpose of entertainment.