Saturday, February 21, 2009

Best of Movies 2008

Okay, it's Oscar time so I'd better put out my Best of Movies for 2008 while it's still a little relevant (I know, it's very very very late this year and no one really cares by now but I'm doing it anyways, if only as record keeping for myself).

People can complain all they want that 2008 was a bad year for movies but I thought it was generally fine, and the same as most every other year (I did notice looking back at my lists (some on the blog, some not) though that I generally only give one or two perfect 10's (or A+) a year at most anyways, so 2008 was really no different, and the past few years only looks bad because there were a couple of years that was particularly good (2000 and 2002 were particularly good)). Though I did readjust a few grades since my original reviews.

I tried to catch up as much as I could before I published this list (which is always on-going and will constantly be updated in the future when I've seen a 2008 movie) but at this moment, I still have yet to see Doubt, The Class, Wendy & Lucy, Frozen River, Man on Wire amongst others that have made it on several "lists".

UPDATED: Apr. 20th 2009 *** latest review

So here are the Best of Movies for 2008 (based on either a North American theatrical release date or if I saw it at a festival in 2008 since some have yet to open):

1. Boy A = A+ (Review)

Technically this came out in 2007 in Britain (and won lead unknown actor Andrew Garfield a Best Actor at the Bafta's last year) but this tiny British indie film managed to open on this side of the Atlantic and... well... still no one has heard of it. But look for it. It's outstanding. It's another quiet little film (the way those British movies always seems to do them so well) about a young man who must re-enter society after being taken away since childhood. I won't spoil much more, but the film delicately deals with tragedy and the aftermath with intricate and intimate performances by an amazing cast of mostly unknowns (at least to us here in North America). The movie inches towards such small joyous moments in life like a first date, or doing well at a job, but the film slowly reveals the boy's past and our hearts are so wrenched for (or against) this "boy a" that you begin to ponder the realities of our society and how our system does or does not work.

2. The Wrestler = A

Another quiet film, this time a very unflinching look at America through the eyes of a has-been wrestler as he tries to do right. Both Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei are tremendous in their portrayals of two people trying to survive life and the movie is surprisingly sweet and poignant, if not slightly sharp from staples.

3. Slumdog Millionaire = A (Review)

Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy have melded together a joyous cinematic ride through every possible genre, from Cinderella story, to crime thrills, to travel docs, to romance, to Bollywood musical, to indie drama, to comedy and mixed it all together to give us Slumdog Millionaire. The movie may be imperfect (which the naysayers (hello DJH!) have latched onto), but by juggling its' "best of cinema" threads, adding a glorious soundtrack and all with some whizzy cinematography, Boyle manages to create something bigger than it's individual parts.

4. Blindness = A (Review)

This didn't get great reviews and apparently simplified the core themes and diluted the metaphors from the Nobel Prize winning book, and even at one point in the movie, I would have walked out if I believed in that (I don't ever walk out of films though). In the end though, it was an uncomfortable and disturbing film that I never want to see again but I also loved it.

5. The Dark Knight = A- (Review)

It ran a little too long (I would have saved the Two-Face story for a sequel) but you can't deny that Chris Nolan crafted an outstanding MOVIE. Not just action movie, or comic-book adaptation, but this was a fully formed FILM of immense gravitas but really, do I need to tell this to anybody? Who hasn't seen this movie yet?

6. WALL*E = A- (Review)

While the absolutely perfect first half of the film gets a little thwarted by the second half, that, dare I say it, get's a little too "cartoonish", Pixar still has done it again with a magnificent story (even without the environmental message, at its core, the love story is already enough), an environmental message, a bevy of fascinating characters (most who happen to be robots and who have more personality than Hannah Montana), and simply breathtaking animation. Seriously, breathtaking.

7. Milk = A- (Review)

A biopic that while is a point by point retelling of Harvey Milk's career, does so in such a fluid manner that it becomes more than just a history lesson, or a message movie, but a story that touches the emotional impact of Milk's campaign and reverberations in the fight for LGBT rights.

8. Iron Man = A- (Review)

Like the jetpack that Robert Downey Jr. sports, the movie goes full blast to provide and a whizbang good time. It's smart, it's shiny and is the second movie this year to prove that comic book adaptations don't have to be dumbed down, and can be profoundly artistic and clever.

9. In Bruges = A- (Review)

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell make for an unlikely duo, but their comedic repartee and strangely emotionally human insight during their stay in Bruges turns this crime thriller into something with far more depth and pathos than you could imagine. Martin McDonagh first foray into film (having written several award winning plays) is hilarious and heartbreaking and Farrell reminds us that he's not just a pretty face.

10. Definitely, Maybe = A- (Review)

Yes, I tend to throw my 10th spot to something completely different and light and frothy (last year it was Enchanted, the year before that, The Devil Wears Prada) but this really did land in my 10th spot for the year. A by-the-books romcom that subverted the books, throwing in slight twists and turns to create a surprisingly unpredictable romantic comedy. The charming and delightful movie led by a dashing Ryan Reynolds and terrific love interests Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz AND Isla Fisher (plus a loopy cameo from Kevin Kline) keeps things witty and intelligent in the film version of How I Met Your Mother.

Everything else (in order), grouped within each grade, is listed below:

The Reader = A- (Review)
The Visitor = A-
Rachel Gettting Married = A-
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl = A-
The Duchess = A- (Review)
Every Little Step = A- (Review)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona = A- (Review)

Twilight = B+
Frost/Nixon = B+
Revolutionary Road = B+
Gran Torino = B+ (Review)
Get Smart = B+
Role Models = B+
Kung Fu Panda = B+
Wanted = B+
Yes Man = B+ ***
Step Up 2 The Streets = B+
Caramel (Sukkar Banat) = B+
Charlie Bartlett = B+ (Review)
Cloverfield = B+ (Review)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button = B (Review)
Waltz With Bashir = B (Review)
Mamma Mia! = B (Review)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall = B
High School Musical 3: Senior Year = B (Review)
Recount = B
Sex and the City = B (Review)
Baby Mama = B
21 = B (Review)
RocknRolla = B
Were the World Mine = B (Review)
What If? (Notre Univers Impitoyable) = B
Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day = B (Review)
Summer Hours (L'Heure d'été) = B
American Teen = B (Review)
Horton Hears A Who = B (Review)
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist = B
I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) = B

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull = B- (Review)
27 Dresses = B- (Review)
A Year Ago In Winter (Im Winter ein Jahr) = B- (Review)
A Woman in Berlin (Anonyma – Eine Frau in Berlin) = B- (Review)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 = B-
Easy Virtue = B- (Review)
Marley and Me = B- ***
Tropic Thunder = B- (Review)
Leatherheads = B- (Review)

The Adventures of Food Boy = C+
Synecdoche, New York = C+ (Avg of A- and D-) (Review)
What Happens In Vegas = C+ (Review)
Speed Racer = C+ (Review)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian = C+ (Review)
Step Brothers = C+ (Review)

Four Christmases = C
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay = C
The Stone Angel = C (Review)

Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List

Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List

Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List

Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005

Vance at


Esther said...

Wow, I don't think I've even heard of Definitely, Maybe. And I'm a big rom-com fan. I loved Notting Hill and Love, Actually. (And About a Boy.) So I'll definitely check it out.

Dame James said...

lol Am I forever going to be known to you as the guy who hates Slumdog? Well, I guess it's better than not being known at all ;)

Slumdog, Iron Man (seriously love RDJ and the first 20 minutes but as soon as the action movie part came I tuned out) and Definitely, Maybe (Isla Fisher and Abigail Breslin are as excellent as always but the rest didn't work for me) aside, I find this to be a quite good Top 10 list. I especially find the love for Blindness amazing because I'm sort of a Fernando Meirelles fanboy.

Vance said...

DJH: I think just cause generally we have similar tastes (though I enjoyed Mamma Mia far more than you did too) so hence my surprise at our total opposite take on Slumdog! Oh and don't worry, you won't be just known as the guy that hates Slumdog. Now you'll be known as the guy that dislikes Slumdog, Iron Man and Definitely, Maybe!