Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 top list

Although I haven't seen all of the big year-end movies (the "Oscar movies") yet, it'll be after the end of the year before I get to see most of them. So I decided to just recap my top 5 movies of the year, and I'll expand it by the time of the Oscars, since most of the big movies will have made their way to me by then. So, without further delay, the best movie of 2008 IS..............

1. Wall-E

After a first viewing, I wasn't even sure it was my favorite Pixar movie, but after re-watching it, I feel confident in saying that it's the best movie of the year. Sometimes movies grow on you (the great ones do anyway). Last year I wasn't even sure how much I liked No Country for Old Men until I watched it a few times and became convinced that it was one of the best movies of the past decade. Wall-E was much the same experience. It's such a beautiful movie, both in look and in spirit. The love story between Wall-E and Eve is the best one that we've had since Julie Delpy sang Nina Simone songs to Ethan Hawke in Before Sunset. It's the most visually stunning movie of the year (narrowly besting my #5), and filled me with the awe of childhood. It's the best movie of the year, and Pixar will have a hell of a time topping themselves now.

2. The Dark Knight

Chris Nolan directs his best movie yet (which is saying something, the man's already made a number of great movies in his young career). Christian Bale is terrific as Bruce Wayne, and although his deep gravelly Batman voice is a bit annoying, he's still a wonderful Batman. But the story here, as everyone knows, is Heath Ledger's Joker. In his final completed performance Ledger creates a villain who's charismatic, disturbing, depraved, and never less than fascinating. It's the best performance of the year, and will likely go down alongside Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh as the greatest screen villains of recent memory.

3. In Bruges

Colin Farrell reminds us of why he was a star to begin with in the darkly hilarious In Bruges. He and Brendan Gleeson have such terrific chemistry with one another that it's almost a shame when other characters come into play. I say almost, because In Bruges is full of wonderful characters. Clémence Poésy as the slyly sexy drug dealer, Jordan Prentice's drunkenly racist dwarf, and especially Ralph Fiennes as the completely over the top mob boss. The cast is uniformly wonderful, but it's Farrell and Gleeson that stick most in the memory, and I was very happy to see them get some recognition when the Golden Globe nominations came out recently.

4. Iron Man

Who would've ever thought that we'd get 2 great superhero movies in one summer? Not me, but I would've never picked Jon Favreau to direct an Iron Man movie either. To me Favreau was (and always will be) Mikey from 1996's Swingers, the movie he wrote and starred in with his friend Vince Vaughn, propelling them both to stardom. Since then, Favreau directed the buddy dramedy Made in 2001 (also with Vaughn), and followed it with the Will Ferrell vehicle Elf which was a much bigger hit than his next family movie, 2005's Zathura. However, when casting the role of Iron Man, he was smart enough to pick a re-rising star in Robert Downey, Jr. Downey is superb as Tony Stark/Iron Man, keeping a sharp wit about him at all times, while also believably connecting with the other actors in the movie. The action is exciting and the special effects are top notch. Also top notch is the great supporting cast highlighted by Jeff Bridges, Gweneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard. Still, the movie could not survive without Downey's performance, and if not for his role in Tropic Thunder (he's the only reason to see that one), I'm sure he'd be getting more praise than he is for his performance in Iron Man.

5. Encounters at the End of the World

Since I just recently wrote about this one, I won't say too much here, other than to state that Werner Herzog is a master director, whether he's making fiction films or documentaries. He's one of the true treasures of the cinema, and Encounters is one of the best gifts he's ever given to us. Not an all-time great movie like his masterpiece Aguirre, the Wrath of God, but most definitely one of the best movies of the year.


That Film Girl said...

I also haven't seen enough "Oscar" movies to compile a good list. Hopefully by the end of January.

I'm glad that Wall-E tops the list. I saw it with my younger siblings and I kept thinking how lucky they are to have such great movies being made (specifically by Pixar) directed to their age group.

I have to disagree with The Dark Knight, however. I know I'm in the minority, but I think it is the most overrated film of the year. All of the great conversations (between Bale + Caine, or Bale and another character) were gone, and substituted for an overdose of action, trying to be bigger and grander, when it was the simplicity of the first one that I loved. In that sense, it lacked the balance that Batman Begins had. I don't completely condemn it, however. The scene at the end where Bruce is talking with the Joker and the camera slowly goes from showing the Joker upside down to right side up is incredible. BUT, I also think Ledger's performance was overrated. The role pretty much speaks for itself, and what he did with it a lot of other actors could have done (and done better).

Kyle said...

I think that's why I liked The Dark Knight so much, Nolan didn't try to repeat what he did with Batman Begins (which I also loved) while just changing villains. They do feel completely different from one another, but I think that's a good thing.

About Heath Ledger's performance, you could say that many actors would do better than any current actor in every movie ever made, because it's all hypothetical. All we can really judge is what is on screen. Certainly the writing of the role helps, as it does with every great performance, but the actor then has to produce something from that character. I felt like Ledger did that. Looking into his eyes, I didn't see an actor acting a part, I saw a pure unadulterated love of chaos. Which is exactly what the movie needed. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but I do feel that Ledger's is the best performance I've seen this year.

That Film Girl said...

I really don't think that can be said about every movie ever made. Of course, I can try to picture other actors in other roles, but I'm still going to conclude that either A. another actor could have done better or B. another actor couldn't have done better. An example of B is Pirates of the Caribbean. Absolutely no other actor could have nailed Captain Jack Sparrow, because Depp took something average on paper and made it more than even people working on the film could have imagined. We now have an iconic character. Or Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. You could throw around Bette Davis or even Greta Garbo (who was offered the role), but people conclude that the role was made for Swanson. No stage production of Sunset Blvd. tops the original film, because no other actress gives "Norma Desomnd" what Swanson did. I think Ledger's performance is an example of the "A" conclusion. The role of The Joker on paper is so incredible, it practically does its acting for it. An example of a fine performance would have been to take that character that people have known for decades and created more than what already mapped out in the script (even the few images of Johnny Depp as "The Mad Hatter" in Burton's new Alice in Wonderland, show that he's done just that with the role). It may be considered insensitive, but I still think that the the strange feeling surrounding Ledger's death is a reason for the praise he's recieving.

Kyle said...

But again, I think you could say that, because it's all hypothetical. You can point to Depp's Capt. Sparrow (a great example, btw) and see what he brought to the movie, but you can't say that another actor might not have had an equally interesting take on that role. It wouldn't have been the same take on it, because that particular one is unique to Depp's interpretation, but few actors play just what's in the script. I agree that The Joker is a very well written character, but having seen a number of terrible Hamlet's, I don't think just any actor can step into a well written role and knock it out of the park. I'm sure there are many actors out there that could've been great in the part, but I don't think it's one that just anyone could've played.

kathy said...

I can agree with most of your selections with the exception of Ironman. Frankly, I found it boring and actually fell asleep attempting to watch it!