the best of 08 - the movie edition

I didn't find very much out of Hollywood this year to be all that worthy of my time or money, but there were a few that I enjoyed quite a bit. Again, some of these may not have come out in '08, but that's when I discovered them, so that's when they count.

8. Burn After Reading | The Cohen Brothers: These guys can do no wrong. Everything they do is at the worst mildly entertaining, and at the best provides a pretty fantastic movie-going experience. Continuing with their theme of comic, bumbling criminals who should've just left well enough alone, Burn After Reading deals with the needs of one aging woman who will do anything to get the plastic surgery she wants in order to keep bringing the men to her doorstep. I usually don't laugh out loud at movies but this one had me almost in tears. Despite the mild bits of overacting by Clooney and Pitt, the rest of the cast was outstanding.

7. Iron Man | Jon Favreau: I'm kind of a sucker for comic-book-turned-into-motion-picture movies, and my bar is pretty low on what I think makes a good one. However, I would have to say that this has to be one of the best of the bunch. The set-up was a little overly long, but they didn't stray too far from the original story line and Robert Downey, Jr was fantastic as millionaire playboy turned savior of the world. He had the perfect mixture of charm and sleaziness in portraying a man whose motivations were originally based on money, but became solely based on redemption.

6. There Will be Blood | Paul Thomas Anderson: Anderson has a lot of stellar movies on his CV, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, but this one knocks him out of the ballpark by a long shot. Daniel Day Lewis performs perfectly as a man who uses the appearance of having a strong religious faith in order to make his fortune and ends up killing the one man who could've possibly saved him from himself. It's also a pretty excellent documentary on the Dust Bowl era and the struggles of a nation to save itself from destruction.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford | Andrew Dominik: This movie was simply breathtaking. Beautifully shot and directed, it brought to life the inner workings of one of the most brilliant criminal gangs in American history and the man who ended it for all time. Even at such a young age, Casey Affleck has to be one of the best actors on the planet. Here, he does a stunning performance of sycophant turned destroyer. The only thing that ruined it for me, just a little, was the always annoying Brad Pitt.

4. Gone Baby Gone | Ben Affleck: Surprisingly, Ben Affleck is a great director. Better than he is in front of the camera anyway. He does a stellar job with this gripping tale of a low life, drug dealing mother trying to find her kidnapped child. And Casey Affleck gives another great performance as the private director struggling to find the truth amid the people of his hometown neighborhood who curse him for making their problems public.

3. Persepolis | Marjane Satrapi: The autobiographical graphic novel that this movie was based on deals with one woman's childhood in 1970's Iran, the revolution that occurred then and the havoc it wreaked in everyone's lives. Somehow the less-than-sophisticated, black and white drawing style gives the perfect voice to Satrapi's irreverent sense of humor in chronicling her country's struggles with a very horrific ordeal. It's a heartbreaking and touching story that leaves you with a strong belief in the ability for humans to not only endure, but overcome. And it translated surprisingly well to the big screen.

2. Wristcutters, A Love Story | Goran Dukic: In this strange, magical tale, people who commit suicide end up in a sort of way station (or purgatory if you lean that way) where they suffer through lives much like the ones they tried to escape on Earth. They have jobs, shitty apartments and toll through the boring days trying to survive the crushing loneliness. One kid refuses to take it lying down and goes on a quest to find the woman he loved (who's dumping him for another guy caused him to kill himself in the first place) when he learns from a recent immigrant that she might have committed suicide shortly after he did. Gorgeous and brilliant.

1. The Dark Knight | Christopher Nolan: In the history of Hollywood, it's a well-known fact that the sequel is rarely anywhere near as good as the debut—the first trio of Batman movies is a concrete testament to this fact—but The Dark Knight is a rare exception to the rule where not only is the follow-up as good, it far outshines it. This is due in large part to an excellent script that pulls no punches and offers lots of fast-paced, exploding action, but, if we're being honest, most of the credit should go to Heath Ledger's awe-inspiring performance as psycho criminal, The Joker. Usually, there is a strong willing suspension of disbelief that is necessary in order to watch the make-believe comic book worlds come to life on the big screen, but that was not the case here. Nolan and Ledger made it entirely believable that a man would go crazy and try to destroy the world. Maybe that's one of the after effects of 9/11 (that we can believe more easily terrorist actions on American soil), or maybe it was just a really well-told story, whichever, together the two made this an awesome movie-going experience.

Honorable mentions:
Rocket Science, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, 3:10 to Yuma, The Darjeeling Limited and Howl's Moving Castle


Jeannette said...

I'm Not There?

d said...

never saw it, but i heard it was terrible.