What a strange year for movies… There’s almost always some super-pretentious “Oscar-bait” film out there… but not so much this year.
So, without further ado: my favorite films of 2008:
1) Slumdog Millionaire
Remember the first time you saw Trainspotting and how you were blown away by the pacing and style? The same director – Danny Boyle – takes on the story of a poor kid from the slums of Mumbai that somehow makes his way to India’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and wins it all. The film captures all the color and grandeur of India, while at the same time showing you the ancient dark side of Indian culture that still exists today. It’s a lovely film, and would be the perfect date movie were it not for a few “rough around the edges” gangster scenes.
2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
OK, so the film’s not perfect. But it’s lovingly done and absolutely beautiful. Oh, and it’ll remind you that yes, Brad Pitt can, in fact, act his ass off! “Smashing the sub” aside, anyone that doesn’t tear up at least once during this film has no soul. None.
3) The Bank Job
You know those movies you don’t really have high expectations for? I saw the ads for this and thought, “Oh, Jason Statham in a bank heist film! Looks like fun!” Well, The Bank Job is a heist film, it does star Jason Statham… and it is a lot of fun. But there’s so much more to the story than that. This film might (or might not) be based on a true story that might (or might not) involve everyone from the Royal Family to MI6 to the Black Power Movement. We won’t know for sure until sometime in the 2050s, when government records can be unsealed… but in the meantime, enjoy this movie!
4) The Dark Knight
What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? You might think, “oh, it’s just another Batman movie”. And, technically, you’d be right. But there’s it’s so much more than that. This is a Batman film that’s damn near Oscar worthy, and not just because of the “Oh, Heath Ledger died” nonsense. Heath (and Christian and Morgan) really do kick ass in this film, and director Christopher Nolan’s insistence on actual stunt work in place of CGI really shows. An excellent, excellent film… perhaps the best comic book movie ever.
5) Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Wow! Scarlett Johanssen and Woody Allen go together like Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham, don’t they? And yes, I meant that as a compliment. Although named for the two title characters, the film’s really all about Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz , who steal the show as (ex?) lovers that really are made for each other. Sort of. And the scenery! Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and it shows in this clever (but not too clever) film.
6) In Bruges
This black comedy (written and directed by Martin McDonagh) is the best gangster film I’ve seen in the past few years. Part of this has to do with the scenery – two Irish hit men are sent to Bruge, Belgium after a particularly nasty job. The fairy tale scenery is a perfect contrast with the dark pasts of the people involved. There’s also an off-beat love story and the world’s angriest midget – an illusion to paintings by Hieronymous Bosch – to round out the film. Amazingly done, and near perfect in every way. It’s the film Guy Ritchie wishes he’d made.
7) Revolutionary Road
There isn’t much to say about the plot of this film, other than it reminds me of Mad Men. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Wheeler, a man trapped in a job he hates for the woman he loves, while his wife April (Kate Winslet) still hopes for an acting career. Underneath their pleasant exterior, however, things are getting rotten (see? It’s Mad Men I tell ya!). This film is really, really, really depressing, but worth it. And Kate Winslet’s never been prettier!
Ron Howard’s take on the play written by British screenwriter and dramatist Peter Morgan is exactly what you think it is: about the famous interview Richard Nixon gave to David Frost in 1977. But it’s gripping, in the “I just can’t turn this off right now” sense. Being a Ron Howard film, it’s very well done, and I especially appreciate that Frank Langella gave an only slightly exaggerated version of our 37th president, not the caricature that has become so prevalent in the past few years.
9) Forgetting Sarah Marshall
A Judd Apatow movie… featuring Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis in bikinis! Unfortunately, the only naked bits we get to see are Jason Segel’s! Seriously, though, this movie is funny and sweet (if predictable).
I honestly don’t know how they made this film – Angelina Jolie was so hot that it would have melted the film! Seriously – Angie’s hawt in this film, which is basically a very well-done thriller. I like it in the same way I liked Shoot ‘Em Up, only this film made (slightly) more sense. The SFX were awesome, and the car chase scene is one of the best I’ve seen in ages!
Quantum of Solace