Top 10 from 2008 – a year of Film in Review

This post is a few months late, but I had to see a few more from 2008 before I felt good about having a complete list. My roommate Caleb likes to give me grief about my Netflix account being made up of way more independant and foreign films than box office killers, but thats the only way to see some of the best movies when you live in Nashville unless you go to the Belcourt twice a week…

So, in the words of Lauryn Hill, “ready or not, here I come.”

Honorable Mention

Happy Go Lucky – I really liked this one. Poppy Montgomery was so jovial that it became annoying. No one is that happy in life. Great performance, good story, but everyone else sucked pretty badly.

Waltz with Bashir – This was a Belcourt movie for me, and I really liked it. Animated story of the Israeli war with Lebanon in 1982 and the toll it took on those involved. It was a little strange, but the actual video at the end was a good reminder that these events really happened. It was a sobering look at war in general, but in a different way than I had ever seen.

The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke and his triumphant comeback and Evan Rachel Wood in what I think was her best role I have seen were not enough to make it into the Top Ten in a really great year for film. I was totally weirded out by Marisa Tomei’s character. However, Darren Aronofsky did a great job. It would have been Top Ten last year for sure.

Ironman – I know Robert Downey Jr. is literally the hottest actor in Hollywood right now. Everyone I know loved this movie. In all honesty, I fell asleep 3 times trying to watch this movie. Gwyneth bored me. Downey was great, but I just got tired of it. I liked what I saw, but it wasn’t Top Ten for me. And I tried to watch it 3 times…

I’ve Loved You So Long – Kristin Scott Thomas plays a woman just out of prison for a heinous crime. Her younger sister takes her in while she readjusts (somewhat) to life in a world very different than when she left it. Highly recommend.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – Not for everyone. A Romanian film about a young woman seeking an abortion at the end of a semester of university in a country where it is illegal. Worth a look if you can handle the subject matter.

Curious Case of Benjamin Button – I know everyone said it was Forrest Gump in reverse, but I still loved it. Cate Blanchett might be my favorite female lead actress from 2008. Brad Pitt was great. Taraji P. Henson, also great. It just felt weird, and I think F. Scott Fitzgerald might be a little disappointed with the story changes, but overall, I liked it.

Slumdog Millionaire – Ok. I liked this one. Everyone else raved about it. It is a great story. It was well directed and the actors were good. Freida Pinto was great. I just don’t think it was the best of the best from 2008. Please don’t crucify me for it…

The Visitor – Richard Jenkins was awesome in this. The movie deserved more press and a better marketing effort, but I haven’t talked to anyone who hated it. Great story. Very relevant subject matter.

Milk – Sean Penn is great again. As much is I hate his ability to influence politics as a celebrity, he gets it done on screen. Emile Hirsch is also really good in his role, and Josh Brolin continues his ascent into excellent film.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – Another WWII Nazi v. Jew movies, but I don’t tire of these. Great story about a child living outside of a concentration camp befriending one inside of a camp.

Gran Torino – Eastwood. I thought this should have been up for Best Picture over The Reader.

Tropic Thunder – No better comedy this past year strictly because of Jack Black. Again, Downey Jr. is great. Tom Cruise’s cameo was good, but not SAG/Oscar worthy.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall – Some nudity, but not the type you would expect. Judd Apatow keeps his troops in line with this one. It wasn’t Superbad or 40-year Old Virgin, but it was good.

The Reader – Kate Winslet’s best performance in years. I don’t love her accent if it isn’t British.

Frost/Nixon – Great presentation of a very odd interview.

Defiance – Hard to see Daniel Craig as Jewish. Blue eyes and blond hair… eh. It was good. Again, I don’t get tired of WWII related film, so this was a keeper for me.

Dishonorable Mention

Wanted – Trash. Morgan Freeman, I thought more of you.
Jumper – Hayden Christiansen should just quit. Again, Samuel L. Jackson, I thought more of you.
Revolutionary Road – Leo and Kate, back together. Way too much hype, and it felt really Mad Men inspired. It was going to be in my HM section, then I remembered how bored I was.

Wes’ Top Ten…. (drumroll…..)

10. The Class – Up for best foreign film at the Oscars in 2008, and I think it should have won. It felt like a documentary. It felt so real. The emotion, the stress, the students, the faculty. Everything. If you get a chance to see it, do it. Watch with subtitles too… I think movies with subtitles have way more to offer than any overdubbed ones.

9. Man on Wire – Crazy documentary about a French acrobat/tightrope walker; he planned and executed a high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of NYC in 1974. It’s presented almost like a crime movie, laying out the details and plans and worries and exuberance of a “heist” pulled off. Phillipe Petit is crazy.

8. Rachel Getting Married – I hated Anne Hathaway in this. She was that good. Her character (Kym) is truly unlikable as a self-centered, drug abusing, life-altering family member. All that said, the movie was really great. Not unlike 2006’s Danish film “After The Wedding”, it centers around a wedding in the family and the return of Kym to the home.

7. Synechdoche, New York – Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His only black mark over the past 4 years is Mission Impossible III, and I don’t hate him for doing a blockbuster film. Great in this Charlie Kauffman gem, but it’s not for everyone. It is every bit Kauffman.

6. The Dark Knight – I really, really like where this franchise is going. Losing Ledger is hard, but I think it is in good hands with Bale, Freeman, Caine,and director Nolan. What a movie. I had never left a theatre and not been able to sleep after a midnight showing. It took me a good hour to finally calm down enough to go to sleep. See it. It’s totally worth the 2.5 hours.

5. In Bruges – Colin Farrell is great. Brendan Gleeson is great. Ralph Fiennes is good. The story is crazy, the violence gruesome, the comedy really funny. Who knew Colin was funny? I didn’t.

4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Woody Allen. I love his movies, even the really bad ones. It’s obvious now that he literally loves Scarlett Johannsen. Good for him, bad for everyone else. She’s not phenomenal, but Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardiem are excellent in this movie. Just amazing. Great story.

3. Let The Right One In – This excellent Swedish film is already being remade in english to be released in 2009 (I hope they don’t ruin it). It was awesome. A really well drawn story of a young vampire girl befriending a young boy living nearby. Although there were a couple of strange moments, it was really really good. Enjoy the crazy scene in the pool toward the end.

2. Wall-E – Pixar did it again. I loved this movie. It’s heard enough to make a movie, especially an animated film in this age. Now do it with nearly no words. Yet this movie had all of the emotion and passion of Vicky Cristina, without the sex and violence. Dreamworks wishes they could make a movie like this just one time. Pixar does it nearly every time.

1. Doubt – Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Meryl Streep. Amy Adams. Viola Davis. I am religious and I loved this movie. I loved it for the subject matter, the focus on fact versus belief, the acting, the script, everything. Best movie of 2008 for me, no question.

So, there is my review of 2008. You may agree or disagree with my choices. I list these as I liked them versus what others may have liked (i.e. The Academy, The Guild, etc.). So, take it or leave it.

I just love movies.

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