Sunday, January 11, 2009
Favorites of 2008
It’s hard for me to make a “best of” list for 2008, because I’ve seen so few of the big movies this year. It seems that film has become seasonal, with all the awards contenders and critical favorites crammed into late December, and many of them only released in the big cities. So I still haven’t seen some of the movies that are getting lots of attention, like the Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In or the documentary Waltz With Bashir, both of which are collecting awards left and right. As for the Oscar bait-- like Milk, Doubt, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon-- I’m willing to wait for the video releases.
That being said, I’ve managed to come up with ten films from 2008 that are legitimately good and well worth checking out. Some of them have already been mentioned on this blog, but a few are totally new. To mix things up a bit, I’ve also included a list of the best movies, some recent, some very old, that I caught up with on video this year. Most of the movies I see in any given year are on video, and these are the ones that I can most enthusiastically recommend.
Best of 08 (in no particular order)
MAN ON WIRE
The most exhilarating and engrossing movie that I saw this year. It's already on video. Rent it now.
You probably won’t find it listed as a comedy, but this is the funniest movie of the year. I could watch it endlessly.
ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Some directors have already won me over to such a degree that I can’t even begin to review their films, and Herzog is at the top of that list. I am convert to the church of Werner, but even if I weren’t I would still be saying that this weird, fascinating documentary was one of the best of the year.
The same could be said of Danny Boyle. This is the kind of crowd pleasing, feel good movie that should be at the top of the box office charts.
It’s always bothered me that Hollywood films seem to exist not in the true culture of America, but in a fairy tale culture of their own devising. It’s such a problem that a great movie like Shotgun Stories, so steeped in the culture that it’s documenting (in this case the South), seems oddly like a foreign film. It's as though we need subtitles to understand it. But this faithfulness to regional filmmaking is what makes movies like this one, and Chop Shop, to a lesser extent, so rewarding.
YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH
Not technically an ‘08 release, but I had no chance of seeing it until then, so I’m including it on the list anyway. A lot of people have a lot of bad things to say about this movie, but I see it as one of the best of Coppola’s career. Watch it to remember why you ever thought he was great to begin with.
Peter Mullan is great as always, and Andrew Garfield’s performance is nearly the best of the year.
I say “nearly” because the best of the year, not surprisingly, is Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. It’s an all around well constructed film, but the whole thing is propped up by his presence. I can’t imagine anyone else playing his role, which I’ve always considered to be high praise for any performance. This film also has my favorite ending of the year.
Like any Mamet movie, it has its flaws, but it also has Chiwetel Ejiofor. Enough said. And I’m a sucker for any modern day Samurai in Los Angeles story.
STEPBROTHERS/ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO/FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
This is my summer comedy trifecta, and even though it’s probably unfair to lump them all together, I don’t feel like choosing one. After all, American comedy these days is pretty much all Will Farrell, Judd Apatow and Co., and Kevin Smith, so I figure I’ve got all the bases covered.
OTHERS WORTH SEEING:
Surfwise, The Visitor, Diary of the Dead, Chop Shop
2008 VIDEO FAVORITES
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
The Fallen Idol (1948)
Ace In The Hole (1951)
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
Belle De Jour (1967)
My Night at Maud's (1969)
Atlantic City (1980)
Deep Water (2006)
The Man From Earth (2007)