December 24, 2008


Best Movies of 2008

Every year David Edelstein, movie critique for NPR's Fresh Air and New York Magazine, puts out a 10-best list in movies (and is usually a couple more than 10) which is something I look forward to. Click here to see his list for 2008 and listen to his comentary about this year's best and worst. Also you can click here to see his list for 2007, and here for the commentary for that year. Or here for his list for 2006.

So I was going to make a list of my own 10 favorites from 2008 but looking back I could only think of about five. So I have a 5 some.

I should be honest though, I still haven't had a chance to see what will probably be considered some of this year's best; such as Slumdog Millionairs (IMDb), or Aronofsky's The Wrestler (IMDb), not to mention Charlie Kauffman's directing debut in Synecdoche, New York (IMDb).

So without furthur ado...

#5 Cloverfield (IMDb) probably wouldn't be on a lot of people's best movies lists but I thought that although it wasn't a great movie in a typical sense, it was really interesting idea for a film and where Cloverfield really thrived was in the online community that developed around it thanks to the genius of its viral marketing. If nothing else, it may have served as a cheap way to bring in cash for Bad Robot's next big screen project, the rebirth of the original Star Trek (IMDb), which is one of my most anticipated films for 2009 just slightly behind Watchmen (IMDb).

#4 Be Kind Rewind (IMDb) is not as amazing as Michel Gondry's previous two films Eternal Sunshine of the Soptless Mind (IMDb), and The Science of Sleep (IMDb), but it is one of the more uplifting movies from last year, and it has a lot of quirky humor that I enjoyed. The chemistry between Jack Black and Mos Def is perfect. The premise is simple – Mos Def's character is responsible for running a VHS movie rental shop owned by a character played by an aloof and suspicious Danny Glover. Mos Def's best friend is played by Jack Black who after becoming magnified accidentally erases the content of all the stores VHS tapes. Their solution is to film over the blank tapes with their own very-low budget versions of the erased films. This seems exactly like territory where Gondry's talent for creative real special effects would shine, and it does, but my only wish is that there would have been more film parodies.

#3 The Dark Knight (IMDb) -- a sequel to Batman Begins (IMDb) which itself was a restart to the series, was probably the number one film I was looking forward to this year, and I have to say that it packed a solid punch. Especially the first two-thirds of it. The final confrontation of the movie seemed a bit underwhelming to me, but I can live with that because of the excellence of the beginning.

#2 Sweeney Todd (IMDb) -- came out in '07 but I missed it until it came out on DVD. Tim Burton and Johnny Dep go together like PB an J. Usually musicals don't appeal to me very much but this humorous and surprisingly bloody movie is brilliant. It goes right up there as one of my favorite of Tim Burton's films.

#1 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (IMDb) -- again, technically this was a film released in '07 but since I failed to see it until this year I'm listing it in my favorites for this year, not only that, it was my favorite film of the year. Based on a true story about the editor for the French magazine Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby – the film begins the moment he regains consciousness after a massive stroke leaving his only way to communicate with the world by blinking his left eye. The Diving Bell is a movie that reminds you why you should be appreciative of life, which is a characteristic I really love in movies. I felt the same way after watching The Shawshank Redemption. Max Von Sydow who is I think a very under-appreciated actor who turns up in a lot of unique movies (Strange Brew, Minority Report, and Dune to name a few) is amazing as the protagonist's father in this film.

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Since I'm running short on films to include for this year, I want to re-recommend some from last years' list- they include:

Lars and the Real Girl (IMDb) -- I found this to be a really touching and uplifting comedy about a small town coming together to support someone with a mental illness. I would list this in my favorite films of all time.

With all the attention Christian Bale is getting as the Caped Crusader in the The Dark Knight, I want to suggest seeing Rescue Dawn (IMDb). If you've missed this film you're in for a unique war movie experience. Not only is it based on a true story, its directed by a well-known German documentary film-maker Werner Herzog who had previously made a documentary film, Little Deiter Needs to Fly (IMDb), about this exact story ten years prior – Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, and Jeremy Davis are excellent.

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Some other movies that were entertaining this year include: Iron Man (IMDb), Rambo (IMDb) (the 4th installment, rumor is they're working on a 5th that would finish the series back in America), and The Happening (IMDb). I would warn though that both Rambo and The Happening are excessively violent films. RocknRolla (IMDb), the lastest Guy Ritchie film will appeal to fans of his previous British gangster films (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (IMDb), and Snatch (IMDb)). Quantun of Solace (IMDb) is pretty decent action film although definitely not as noteworthy the 007 film it follows, Casino Royale (IMDb).

Big Disappointments: Two movies you can avoid all together are the latest Indiana Jones (IMDb) film and The Day the Earth Stood Still (IMDb) which are both whopping failures. Indiana Jones 4 was so bad someone I know told me it spawned a new phrase amongst movie fans called “nuking the fridge” which is a reference to a part in the movie I enjoyed the most (as far-fetched as it is) when Indy survives a nuclear explosion by climbing into a lead-lined fridge.

For my best of 2007 list click here, or my best of 2006 list click here.