Friday, January 16, 2009

My Top 10 Films of 2008 List

The year in films and particularly my pics embody a sort of optimism perhaps a reflection of the YEAR OF OBAMA. It was a hard list to make as many films had superb direction, nuanced performances and intelligent writing, films like Frost/Nixon, Milk and Revolutionary Road but ultimately didn't move me or stay with me beyond the screening. Instead, my top films had one unifying quality, a return to the belief that cinema should uplift and transport us to a different world that gives us hope and comforts us in difficult times.

10. Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Despite the lack of chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett and annoying flashback structure,this film is on my list for its technological achievement and sumptuous cinematography. I admire Finchers dedication which shows in every frame of this flawed film.

9. Wall-E. Pixar does it again in it's smartest and perhaps most adult film to date. The film pays homage to movies like Brazil and 2001 and manages to make a scathing social commentary amidst the dazzling animation.

8. Happy-Go-Lucky. Mike Leigh knows how to cast a film and just let life happen on screen. Poppy played with heart by Sally Hawkings, goes from loveable to irritating and finally by the end of the film to human.

7. Man on Wire. Best documentary of the year. The mixture of archival footage and live action is seemless and the heroic tale of Petit is pure magic.

6. Rachel Getting Married. Jenny Lumet has written a no holds barred family drama. Debra Winger and Anne Hatthaway give nuanced performances. Demme uses his documentary style to give more intimacy to this story.

5. The Visitor. Quiet and restrained this film would be higher up on my list if not for the ending. Richard Jenkins has created a complex character and the supporting cast is wonderful.

4. The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke is heartbreaking in a role that seemed to be made for him. Aronofsky pulls back form his usual showing off antics and never resorts to exploitation in this tender drama.

3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. My favorite film from Woody in years reminds me why I love him so much. Penelope, Scarlett, Rebecca Hall and Javier in the Spanish countryside is a great place to start, but Woody proves again how he understands the female psyche.

2. Slumdog Millionaire. Classic Capra meets City of God. This fairytale of rags to riches is told with exuberance and optimism and non-stop energy. The film is best in the first act with it's talented young actors. Danny Boyle proves you can tell a tale devoid of cynicism with an artful and delicate hand. Kudos to any film that has you dancing in the aisles literally.

1. Reprise. This small film from Norway about two 20-something writers tackles friendship, love, creative angst, insanity and ambition. Writer/director Joachim Trier perfectly captures the spirit of youth and creates to me the most fresh and original film of the year both in style and substance.

***One film that I thoroughly enjoyed but because of illness slept through a large part would be on my list but I would feel dishonest having not seen the whole thing is Waltz with Bashir.

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