Originally posted on December 31, 2008
It’s that time of year where I share with all of you the list of my favorite films of the year. I saw less movies than I did last year but I think that may be because I was in a bit of black hole for about three months when a little movie called QUANTUM OF SOLACE completely kicked my ass. Thanks to Chris Brown’s dance anthem, “Forever,” I got through those long nights at the office. But I still managed to see 94 movies in the theater and 31 additional movies on DVD so Bond didn’t entirely usurp my movie going habits. Before I get to my list, I’d like to mention that, personally, 2008 was a watershed year for me because I got to meet my hero and role model since I was 15, Michael D. Eisner. And I met him on a day where he was being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for all his extraordinary accomplishments in Hollywood. Eisner was my inspiration in my formative years and taught me so much about what it means to have a true passion for what you do. Meeting him was everything I’d hoped it would be- he was kind and gracious and took a moment to sign his book for me.
So enough of my personal reflection, let’s get to my true intentions- rolling out my lists for my favorite and most hated films of the year. I have to say that 2008 wasn’t as great a year for films as years past. In fact, several films that would normally make my honorable mention list landed in my top 10 for sheer lack of films which I absolutely adored. However, I am insanely excited about the movies hitting the multiplexes in 2009- it’s going to be a great year to be a Sci-Fi fan with the highly-anticipated STAR TREK prequel, James Cameron’s AVATAR and the film us Terminator fans have been waiting for- TERMINATOR SALVATION. Getting to see John Connor become the man he is destined to be, and the future war between man and machines, which the previous films all sufficiently whetted our cinematic appetites for. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Alright, here are my lists:
My Top Ten Best Films of the Year
I discovered this year that the theme of loneliness resonates with me more than any other subject explored in cinema. But that makes a lot of sense as to why I am so drawn to Bergman movies. The story of a robot who is the last of his kind in a post-apocalyptic world shook me to my very core. The feeling of loneliness conveyed on screen in the first 20 minutes of what seemed at first like a silent movie, was so overwhelming that it had me in tears and reminiscent of my favorite movie of 2005, the Japanese film- TONY TAKITANI. In fact, I can only think of a few moments in this marvel of a movie that I wasn’t crying. In the end, when I thought WALL-E may have lost his true self, I was sitting there in my seat completely sobbing. On top of this film being so incredibly moving, it may have also been one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen.
2. THE WRESTLER
An affecting character study which allows you to follow around a man who, despite his obvious flaws, is really quite remarkable. He clings to his humanity even when life is cold, brutal and unflinching. Darren Aronofsky captures Mickey Rourke’s heartbreaking performance so delicately that you can’t help but root for this wrestler and Rourke himself to reclaim the greatness they once let slip through their fingers.
3. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
The tale of lonely 12-year old boy who forms a beautiful friendship with the girl next door, who has been twelve for a very long time…on account of she’s a vampire. This Swedish movie takes you into a world where two souls can connect when they need each other most and allows you to believe that despite their differences, they can change one another for the better.
An incredibly moving and poignant true story about a man that was strong enough to stand up for what he believed in the face of true adversity. Sean Penn is terrific in all the little nuances he captures to bring to life the charismatic Harvey Milk and Emile Hirsch just about steals every scene he is in.
5. IN BRUGES
A bracingly dark comedy that is so smart, witty and twisted that it had me gleefully giddy in my seat. Ralph Fiennes use of profanity was startling and hilarious and his scenes alone may have been my favorite in this cleverly-written feature.
6. THE DARK KNIGHT
A gritty, crime drama that is a true piece of art. Christopher Nolan weaves together a complex and dark story and packs it with sweeping camera shots, edge-of your seat suspense, a mesmerizing villain and jaw-dropping action sequences. It’s the kind of movie that makes young kids want to be a director and/or fall in love with cinema for the very first time.
7. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS
This stoner buddy comedy had me laughing so hard and consistently, that my laughter actually morphed into some bizarre sound that I had never even heard before. What I loved so much about this movie was how completely unpredictable it was- you literally did not know what was going to happen next. Seth Rogan reminded me of a young Albert Brooks with his smart, self-deprecating style of humor, while James Franco was unbelievably wide-eyed and sweet in his own naiveté. The ending diner scene was also pure comic genius.
I saw this slice of pulp horror heaven twice in the theater and loved every second of it. Its shaky-cam real time storyline takes you straight into the heart of Manhattan as an unknown entity invades and wreaks havoc. The subway chase sequence is visceral and terrifying and the ending is tragic and brilliant.
I stalled seeing this Guy Ritchie film for a while because I’m not terribly enamored with his style of filmmaking. But I was absolutely won over by this thoroughly entertaining story of the London crime underworld filled with fascinating characters like Tom Wilkinson’s gangster boss and the totally magnetic breakout star Tony Kebbnell who plays a junkie rock star. This film was, hands down, the coolest movie of the year.
10. VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
An instant Woody Allen classic that would fit nicely in the company of some of his best comedies of the ‘70s. Rebecca Hall’s character is sardonic and biting in her observations on life and Penelope Cruz is just terrific as the crazy ex-lover of Javier Bardem. The dialogue is sharp, witty and fun- it’s a great time at the movies.
Honorable Mentions: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, HAPPY GO LUCKY, DEFINITELY-MAYBE, FROZEN RIVER, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, REPRISE, THE STRANGERS
My Top Five Worst Films of the Year
1. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
I just want to first say that I think Charlie Kaufman is brilliant and I just adore Samantha Morton, so to say that this film was a disappointment would be a huge understatement. About 20 minutes into this movie, I actually thought about taking my own life. It’s an absolute mess of a movie and suffocates in its own pretentions and quirkiness. And it just gets worse and more convoluted as it plods along and along. And all the while different and increasingly unique ways of committing suicide start to mill about in your head…anything to make this movie end.
2. THE LOVE GURU
To call this movie a comedy would be a great disservice to the genre. It was painfully unfunny- the jokes fell flat, were distasteful and adolescently gross. Jessica Alba was so cringe inducingly bad that she deserves the Razzie this year.
3. MAMMA MIA
Wow, this movie was a hot mess. It looked as if it was choreographed by some second rate high school dance instructor, Meryl Streep seemed to be inebriated for the entire length of the movie and the actors sang as if it was karaoke night at the cinema. Please, Pierce Brosnan, never, ever sing again.
As always, Samuel L. Jackson sucked it in this movie. I can’t take this guy serious anymore. He always seems like he is playing a caricature of himself. None of the characters were likeable and this script didn’t make any sense. Jamie Bell saved this movie from ranking higher on this list because even when he’s trapped in a horrible movie, he can’t help but be interesting.
5. MADE OF HONOR
I wanted to love this movie- I mean it was the flip side to one of my fave Rom Coms of all time, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING. Except it lacked any sort of redeeming quality and felt as if some frat guys got together and wrote this mean-spirited toilet humored piece of dreck.