Friday, February 27, 2009

Best and Worst Films of 2008

"A film is-or should be-more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later."~Stanley Kubrick

I wanted to have this list compiled before the Oscars as a little deadline for myself but I missed it unfortunately. Nevertheless here are my lists for best and worst films of 2008.

I watched 150 movies last year, down from 167 the year previous. Clearly I love film and if I could choose another profession I would love to be a cinematographer, as a previous blog entry mentioned.

So the following 10 Favorite Films of 2008 are ones that spoke to me on a level that others might not have. I am sure that some of you will disagree, perhaps vehemently with my choices, but that's the fun of art, its variety of opinion that matters and creates diversity.

Top 10 Favorite Films (In no particular order):

1-The Wrestler. I thought this film was the epitome of poignant. I love Aronofsky's work and I found the style of filming quite simple and uncomplicated, which added to its almost documentary feel. I love that we don't know what happened at the end. A story of a broken man, broken lives, broken hearts and the will to persevere through the pain.

2-Milk. Penn really owned this role. I was quite impressed at his transformation. Great study of Milk (though I still have to watch "The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk" if I can ever get my hands on it), his politics, his passion and his desire to prevail against all odds. Kudos to set design and production. Franco and Brolin were excellent as well. I preferred it to some of Van Sant's other, less accessible work.

3-Frozen River. Another difficult watch. Quite haunting. I wanted so badly to take the characters out of their situation and help them. Raw, unflinching and powerful.

4-Encounters At The End Of The World. I actually blogged about this film in its own entry here if you want to read it. Herzog is such an odd guy, I love him for his eccentricity. I, like Herzog, have a compulsion to seek out inhospitable places and study the people who choose to make these harsh climes their homes. I dream of going to Antarctica and Herzog's film solidified that desire.

5- Man On Wire. This could easily be my film of the year. I would argue that it is possibly the best documentary I have ever seen. The score, the shots, the entire production was flawless in my mind. Petit made me believe that if he could do what he did, that we can attain anything that we put our minds to. He is a poet, a dreamer, but also a realist. The film let him tell his story perfectly. See this film.

6- In Bruges. Martin McDonagh is a genius. I love dark comedy and this one was the darkest. I almost don't know if I would describe it as a comedy. There was a sombre atmosphere that hovered above the quips and jests of the characters. I think this film deserves many viewings as it has many layers. If you're watching the DVD make sure to watch all of the excellent extras.

7. The Dark Knight. Despite Bale's recently revealed on-set diva-esque shenanigans I still like him as an actor, especially here. This is my favorite film of the entire Batman franchise. I didn't care for the post-production effects on Bale's voice, however, Ledger, Oldman et al, combined with lots of technical prowess made this certainly the darkest of the oeuvre and most enjoyable by far for me.

8. Slumdog Millionaire. In accordance with all of the hoopla, I think this film is terrific. I have enjoyed Danny Boyle's work all the way back to Shallow Grave (one of my favorite suspense films of all time). With Boyle you know you are going to get amazing camera work and a fantastic score, both of which are evident here.

9. Kung Fu Panda. I am not really a huge animated feature person, but this film was excellent. I was in Newfoundland in a remote little cabin with no internet, tv etc...and I watched this film four times over a two week period and laughed every time. The beauty of Newfoundland pulled me away often but the film was a lovely little periodic diversion.

10.The Visitor. I was quote moved by this film. It did not seem contrived as the story was simple yet compelling due to solid writing, acting and camera work. I particularly enjoyed the musical thread that knitted the characters together. I genuinely cared about these individuals and their respective fates, for better or for worse.

Worst Films of 2008

Perhaps 'worst' should be put in parenthesis here. I love to watch 'bad' movies....I love movies that think they are good but really are 'chud' (as in 'bad',see C.H.U.D. the film for reference). High budget films that fail miserably have a certain schadenfraude attached to them. Thus some of these films know they are chud, and others simply are as a result of their own making.

1. In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. I didn't see the Razzies but I know this film was up for Worst Picture. Two words: Jason Statham. The rest of the cast is hilarious in and of itself: Burt Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Leelee Sobieski...and Matthew Lillard for crying out loud? My favorite line was "How do you like my Krug?" Brilliant. A must-see for those seeking a good mockfest.

2. The Happening.  Oh M. Night Shyamalan, what happened to you? I watched this on an airplane, and that didn't help it. I saw more action with the snack cart going up and down the aisle than in this stinker. Wahlberg has perfected the vacant stare. He must be taking lessons from Keanu

3. Max Payne.  Wahlberg continues to steal the spotlight of worst films with this piece of nonesense. I believe "bleh" is an understatement here. Thank goodness I had a friend who I could share mocking this marshmellow with. 

4.Vantage Point. Save yourself some wasted time and rent Rashomon instead. This film piggyback's on Kurosawa's creativity and isn't a tenth as compelling.

5. Death Race. Two words: Jason Statham. I applaud Statham for being the beefcake in the middle of a litany of chuddy films. He certainly does it with aplomb. This silly flick is actually falls into the category of an enjoyable time waster. So I would actually recommend as some empty meringue with some car crashes and gratuitous violence thrown in.

6. Anaconda 3: Offspring I'm sure its no surprise as to how this film made it onto the list.  The first Anaconda film was one of the best cheesy movies ever (skip to the scene with Jon Voigt winking at Jennifer Lopez...hilarious). Therefore I have seen all of the Anaconda films out of a sick type of loyalty...its really masochistic but there you have it. 

7. The Reader  Yes, it is on this list...sort of out of spite as it wasn't HORRIBLE, but it was fantastically mediocre and splendidly over hyped. As soon as she called the young man "boy" for the first time an inner voice said "oh please, don't call him boy when you're both old and have it be saccharine and pathetically ironic" guessed it, it happened. When the characters cried I yawned. I could not get into their roles or the entire film at all. 

8. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull Talk about having huge shoes to fill. However, having that to live up to does not excuse a movie for being just plain ridiculous, which this was. Ford seemed genuinely bitter and there only for the paycheck. Dear Mr. Spielberg: Please see The Dark Knight to realize that successive entries into a franchise do not necessarily mean it has to be lesser than its predecessors. Thank-you. 

9. Australia.  I have heard this film described as "Titanic with kangaroos" but that would be insulting "Titanic" to say that. This was a sweeping pile of rubbish as far as the eye could see across the Northern Territory. Zero chemistry between Nicole Kindling and Huge Action. I was bored, bemused "I'm used to dealing with dingos, not duchesses" and quite disappointed as I really enjoyed Moulin Rouge and was hoping for something from Luhrmann as enjoyable as that.

10. Wanted. Ok, this one gets points, like Death Race, for fun silliness. Hello? A "Loom Of Fate"? Are you kidding me? Now, I have not read the graphic novel etc, but really, you should not have to do homework to see a film based on previously created material. It should exist on its own. This was an expensive waste of time. Watch Man On Wire again and steer clear of this one. 

Now, I'm sure you may well disagree with me on some of these films, and perhaps you may agree with some too. Either way, good or bad, as long as we are taken out of the moment and transported to another place for 90 minutes, the film has done its job. Perhaps we can learn from the bad ones how much more we appreciate the truly beautifully crafted films. 

Have a wonderful weekend,


"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight of the soul."~Ingrid Bergman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you sure do love movies, I too loved The Wrestler....a chunk of humanity to feed your soul for a day or three. I just wanted to recommend a couple...if you have not already.....Dead Man with Johnny depp----Snow Falling on Cedars...both on my all time list. Every Morn and Every Night Some are Born to Sweet Delight...