Here’s my totally personal, subjective list. I am also including some films I saw in January (in 2009), because they will be remembered as 2008 films. You can see my entire list for 2008 and the grades I gave them here.
I am including Chad’s top ten as well – although he says that only the top three are in order.
1. Revolutionary Road (IMDb 7.9/10.0) I think I had watched twenty minutes of this film before turning to Chad and saying, This is going to be the best movie I’ve seen all year. And I was right. Apparently, Kate and Leo have been BBF since the Titanic… And Kate is the one behind this film – she convinced her husband Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, need I say more?) to pick it up as a project and then he convinced Leo to do it with her. Lucky for Kate as she has already won the Globe for Best Actress in it. This movie is very theatrical – and brings to life the very real warring forces that sometime happen in a marriage. Emotionally intense.
2. Let the Right One In (IMDb 8.3/10.0) – I almost put this one as my top movie of the year, because I think it was my favorite – even though it is, *gasp* yet another vampire movie – A Swedish vampire movie to boot. I can’t stop thinking about it. What can say now that will stop you from thinking I am obsessed with vampires? I liked that the stars of the film were two kids age 12 – and that the subject of vampires was dealt with in a very practical, yet creative way. A fresh imagining, if you will, without all the sentimentality of the Twilight series. And if you get a chance to watch it, the Morse code at the end of the film spells *kiss*.
3. Happy-Go-Lucky (IMDb 7.3/10.0) – This is one of the worst titles for a movie ever, but it still made my top three. The story revolves around an elementary school teacher who could be perceived as happy-go-lucky, but is, is, is, so much more than that! Poppy is crazily giddy on life and enjoying the heck out of being young, single, and attractive, but she also has a deep-seated humanitarian desire to help those around her which leads her into questionable situations. You, as the viewer, follow Poppy into places that might make you uncomfortable. Stunning acting by Eddie Marsan, her driving teacher.
4. Slumdog Millionaire (IMDb 8.7/10.0) I’m already a bit sick of hearing how much everybody LOVED this film, but what can I say – what was there not to love? Adorable Indian brothers who are as tough as nails and not only escape the guy who mutilates children, but end up making loads of cash as “tour guides” for the Taj Majal? Undying love for a childhood girl friend? The absolute serendipity that allows Jamal to know that answer to every question to millions of rupees? Danny Boyle (I’ll watch anything by the guy who directed Trainspotting) directs with unabashed glee – and it works! Hurray for the Bollywood dancing at the end.
5. Burn After Reading (IMDb 7.4/10.0) – I ask you, how could you go wrong with the Coen brothers, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and people like Tilda Swinton playing minor roles? And the dead dad from Six Feet Under crushing so hard on his employee that it’s painful to even watch? You can’t. This movie is a good laugh – and one to save to watch again. I would call it this generation’s Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb. It’s that kind of hysterical silly-ness making fun of all that is political paranoia CIA. Wonderful moments with J.K. Simmons as a CIA superior.
6. Son of Rambow (IMDb 7.3 /10.0) – Another film about two young boys, and not surprisingly – awfully sweet, with lots of boyish exuberance and some childhood reality (you know, facing up to the fact that you hate your family’s religion or that you hate that your mom’s not there for you – ouch) These two boys fall in together to make a film sequel to Rambo and their unstoppable enthusiasm will make you grin from ear to ear. The tagline for the movie is goofy, but great: Make Believe. Not War.
7. Wall-E (IMDb 8.6/10) – So Chad tells me that they are thinking about letting this movie compete in the “Best Movie” category, not just “Best Animated Movie” category (which is obviously a slam dunk). Not likely to happen, but says something about how people feel about this movie: we love to make fun of how fat and lazy we’ve all become. Yipes. And how many movies, series, shows are we going to watch about the world ending? I think this movie is about nostalgia for old stuff, but then you leave the theater wanting to upgrade your iPod…
8. Man on Wire (IMDb 8.1/10.0) – This is an excellent documentary about an unusual man whose lifelong dream was to walk a tightrope between the twin towers – and his dream was born when he first heard about the towers being built! And like other passionate dreamers, Philippe Petit roped in a team of believers who helped him commit “the artistic crime of the century.” Fascinating to hear the detail that went into the planning and harrowing hours part of the team spent frozen under tarps while an unexpected watchguard showed up on their floor. Petit too, is an interesting man who has dedicated his life to his art. Don’t meet many of them these days.
9. Milk (IMDb 8.2/10.0) – Sean Penn gives an outstanding performance as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to win an elected political position in California. You already know that he, and the mayor of San Francisco at the time, are shot to death by their colleague, Dan White, so the film is not so much about the storyline (James Franco as his lover and lifelong friend) but a close, but not too sentimental examination of Milk’s steadfast determination to work his way into the system – indeed, how any disenfranshised minority might work to obtain a voice. (Did you read about Barney Frank in the Jan 12, 2009 New Yorker? He was the first member of Congress to voluntarily reveal that he is gay back in 1987. Great article.)
10. Frozen River (IMDb 7.4/10.0) – This one’s a low-budget indie film that follows a single mom in desperate straits, just a few days before Christmas. Basically a hard look at trailer-life, Indian reservations, and what we will do to keep our dignity and to provide for our families. No big action scenes or fancy effects, but a perfectly tempo-ed look at Ray Eddy’s hard choices as single mom. Melissa Leo got an Oscar nomination here for her performance as the mom.
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Burn After Reading
The Bank Job