The Belated Top 25 Films of 2008

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I know, I know. It’s March of 2009. But honestly, unless you’re a critic it takes you at least through January to get to see all the films you need to see to make judgment. And while I definitely missed a bunch of the foreign film and documentary variety, I think I did good for a 20 year old college student with $60 in his bank account.

For my money, 2008 was one of the best years for movies in awhile, especially from a comic book fan standpoint, as 3 comicbook films grace this list. We also got another Kevin Smith film. And hey, a film written by JMS (Changeling). And then there was some of the best acting, both male and female in leads, that I’ve ever seen. Kate Winslet and Sean Penn, I’m talking to you.

Without further ado, I present you my humble list and humbler opinions. I hope you take the time to see all of them.

And goddammit I want to be on a gameshow.

slumdog

Spiffy’s Favorite Flicks of 2008

25. The Incredible Hulk: It’s a shame Edward Norton and Marvel got into a fight over this movie, because it was a far cry from the original clunker with Eric Bana. Tim Roth was excellent as Abomination, and the final fight scene with between him and Hulk was fucktastic. Goki and my review is here.

24. Religulous: Written and starring Bill Maher, this tirade against religion is one of the funniest movies of the year, and definitely something for people to watch. That said, it’s not like anything of this is TOO new.

23. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: It’s not Kevin Smith’s best, but it’s still as witty as ever, featuring that big thumping heart of his, and yes, that’s even with the title. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks make welcome additions to the View Askew stable, and Jason Mewes still rules. Craig Robinson (Daryl from the Office) was also a breakout hit, and had a breakout year in supporting comedic roles, and I’m sure by 2010 we’ll be seeing him in the lead.

Here is a link to what I said when I first saw it, which also features my thoughts on my 10th favorite movie of the year Role Models (as well as Quantum of Solace, which didn’t make the cut).

22. In Bruges: Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell and the awesome Brendan Gleason make a fantastic pair, swearing and bumbling there way through a “vacation” in Bruges, with Ralph Fiennes as their upset boss, shining in a limited role. This is a crisp, well-written and funny film that grows on you.

19. Changeling: Clint Eastwood’s other film this year, with Angelina Jolie scoring an Oscar nom for her portrayal of Christine Collins, the mother of a missing child. It’s stunning work on her part, and this lush yet droll (yeah that makes sense) depiction of 1920s and 30s L.A. is frightening. It’s a tad long, but Jolie’s performance makes it all worth it. Plus Amy Ryan shows up as a hooker.

18. Frost/Nixon: Frank Langella deserved an Oscar more than anyone last night for his fierce portrayal of Tricky Dick. This film, adapted from the play by Oscar-phile Ron Howard, is fairly straight forward stuff, but I’ve never seen someone with as much presence in a role as Langella’s Nixon. He is just fantastic. And Michael Sheen, as Michael Frost, was also deserving as some merit for his role as well.

17. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: If it’s going to have Michael Cera in it, I’m going to love it. That seems to be the pattern. And add Kat Dennings to the mix, who’s grown up since her whiny 40-Year Old Virgin appearance. This was just a great adventure film set in NY about a night that never ends, and the funny is fairly consistent throughout. Just avoid the gum, though.

16. Pineapple Express: Honestly, I’m probably not ranking this high enough. It has its flaws (it’s almost too fucked up, if that makes sense), but it’s the most re-watchable movie of the year, and is so hilarious. Rogen and Franco are perfect, with Franco’s Saul, the lovable pot dealer, stealing the show repeatedly. Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down, Foot Fist Way) is another scene stealer, playing the indestructible other pot dealer. The coffee scene at the end is worthy of an Oscar.

15. The Visitor: Richard Jenkins, finally getting a chance to play a leading role, is brilliantly understated and sad as a hermit college professor recovering from the death of his wife. When he finds two illegal aliens in his apartment in NY, things happen. Hint: lots of drum playing, and it rules. Just a great, small film.

14. Revolutionary Road: It’s not easy to watch, and that’s a testament to suburban hater Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and the exquisite performances by Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio, in their first onscreen appearance together since that movie about a boat sinking. It’s a little different this time around, with bullets flying everywhere between, no holds barred, and it’s alternately beautiful and terrifying to watch. Also, Michael Shannon, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as a man with too many days in an insane asylum, is just as brilliant and memorable as the couple of the century.

13. The Reader: Hey, it’s Kate again. I still can’t decide which performance was better, but now that her Hannah Schmitz has won her an Oscar, it might last the longest. She’s great as the tortured former Nazi soul, and stones to her for getting with a guy who turned 18 while shooting, the great newcomer David Kross. Ralph Fiennes also does great work here, and Stephen Daldry was nominated for an Oscar for directing for a reason. Again, not an easy film to watch.

12. Rachel Getting Married: This one could be the hardest to watch of all. Case in point: my sister vomited midway through it because of the shaky camera, eating right before and probably the uncomfortable nature in general achieved by this film. Anne Hathaway is illuminating here, shedding that princess pretty girl image completely, full well deserving of an Oscar just like Kate. But it wasn’t just about her, the entire, eclectic and awesomely multiracial cast was pitch perfect. See this with your newlywed (don’t).

11. Tropic Thunder: The next three comedies are pretty much inseparable in my mind. They are all hilarious and represent one of the greatest years in comedy ever (with Zack and Miri, Nick and Norah and Pineapple Express already mentioned). This one, starring and directed by Ben Stiller, is a brilliant commentary on action and war movies. You also get the Academy Award nominated performance by Robert Downey Jr. as an Australian playing a black man after pigmentation alteration surgery (I was going to say he’s by far the best part of the movie, but then I remember how great everybody else is in one of the best comedy ensembles of all time), Jack Black making fun of Eddie Murphy and himself, Nick Nolte being ridiculous, Matthew Mcconaughey as Stiller’s devoted agent, funny newcomer Brandon T. Jackson as a rapper turned actor, the underrated Jay Baruchel (of Undeclared and Knocked Up, and another man who will probably break out into his own starring role in an Apatow film) and of course, Tom fucking Cruise, as the CEO from hell (and possibly the hippest dancer of all time), reclaiming himself a spot in Hollywood (seriously, I’m ready for the guy to be BACK). It’s basically a 2 hour romp, and remember, don’t go full retard.

10. Role Models: Hey, whaddya know, another Apatow produced film. This one stars Paul Rudd as a sarcastic prick and Seann William Scott, who plays a decade older and funnier Stifler, who’s Rudd best and only friend. You can check my review, here.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Why say it all again, when I can link you to my quickie review from last year?

8. The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky, the director of such crazy shit as Requiem of a Dream and The Fountain takes on the all too familiar genre of down and out [insert athlete here]. This time, obviously, it’s a wrestler, played by the guy who this story was written for, Mickey Rourke, and it’s a little different (see: the incredible ending). Rourke’s story of redemption is as beautiful as his heartbreaking performance as Randy “the Ram” Robinson, and Marisa Tomei as the requisite stripper with a heart of gold shines as well. This is one of the more painful, yet rewarding, movies of the year, and Bruce Springsteen’s title song was Oscar worthy.

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: David Fincher’s nigh three hour long narrative of the magically aging backward Ben Button (a role Brad Pitt was perfect for) has been compared to Forrest Gump, because it’s a magical life we see from beginning to end, and it’s fitting. There really isn’t a better word to describe this movie other than magical. It was just a treat for the eyes, with the landscapes and cityscapes and the settings, and Cate Blanchett ain’t bad neither.

6. Milk: Gus Van Sant’s biopic of Harvey Milk, the first gay official elected into office (in the San Francisco office) is positively brilliant, as Sean Penn carries the movie on his back in one of the best performances of his sterling career. Josh Brolin, also nominated for his trouble, is haunting as the troubled congressman Dan White. And James Franco looks great with a ‘stache. Even though you know the ending, this movie is gripping and funny, alternating from laughs and seriousness.

5. Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood’s a busy man. He stars, directs and fucking writes the soundtrack (and even performs one of the songs) in this film about a racist, gruff old man. Clint Eastwood draws on his persona to perfection, and is surprisingly hilarious if you’re into racist humor (I’m not and it’s still funny). This movie wasn’t recognized by the Academy or much of anybody, but it just grabbed me from the start. I loved the story, and I can’t say no to the biggest badass in Hollywood, who’s, clearly, still got it.

4. Iron Man: You know we’ve entered a Golden Age of superhero films when Iron Man, one of the best comicbook movies ever made, isn’t even the best comicbook adaptation of the year. That honor goes to this year’s best movie. Click here for what I said at the time.

3. WALL-E: I was late getting on the Pixar bandwagon (I loved Toy Story, but I’ve never seen Finding Nemo), but I’m onboard from now on, because they obviously can do no wrong. This one might be my favorite yet. It’s the perfect film to end a bad shroom trip: I’ve never seen a movie so cute in my life, and [insert Jimmy Stewart voice here] it’s just wonderful, and quite the topical piece with a helluva message and outlook on humanity. And, it produced perhaps the best coupling in a movie this year. I need to find my EVE. Not to mention, it’s Pixar, so you know it’s beautiful to look at. This movie, and the next one, is just the movie to make you happy.

2. Slumdog Millionaire: I fucking love this film. I know it’s been slightly controversial with some of the actors in the film still in the slums and for it’s take on Indian life, but that doesn’t mar one of the best love stories of the past few years. And of course, it allowed me to discover my future wife, Freida Pinto, which can’t hurt. This tale of poverty and destiny is stunning in every which way. The cinematography, the acting, and in particular, the insanely genius soundtrack by Rahman (Gai-Hooooooooooooooo!), I could go on forever. You know how it’s going to end, but Danny Boyle’s film doesn’t lack intensity or drama in any moment, the writing and editing is as crisp as any movie this decade (I love the structure!) and Dev Patel’s Jamal and his story can ring true for any audience. And yes, that’s my final answer.

1. The Dark Knight: The best comicbook movie ever? I feel like that phrase is thrown around each time a new film comes out these days (although Watchmen, review coming soon?, doesn’t inspire the phrase, although color me impressed), but this movie transcends comics and superheroes. It’s not a superhero movie. It’s a fucking brilliant film period. Christopher Nolan is a God. And one of the most talented casts ever doesn’t hurt either. See what I said when it came out.

 

Notables that don’t make the cut (in no particular order): Frozen River (which should’ve made the list but forgot), Twilight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Quantum of Solace, W., Burn After Reading, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Wanted

Notables that I didn’t see: JCVD, The Class, Waltz with Bashir, Man on Wire (doc winner), Kung Fu Panda, Bolt, Happy Go Lucky, American Teen, Defiance, and Mamma Mia!

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3 Responses to “The Belated Top 25 Films of 2008”

  1. cello85 Says:

    awesome list! Great to see in bruges get some love, but at the same time I thought Nick & Norah was unbearable, although kat Dennings is such a beautiful woman. Overall i would rank my favs right alongside yours, great post my friend! Heres to a good 09 of movies!

  2. gokitalo Says:

    A mighty fine post indeed! It makes me realize how many movies I DIDN’T see last year. Luckily that’s already started to change in 2009 (thank you, film course).

    So many of these I want to see: Slumdog, Milk, Changeling and WALL-E, to name a few. I still can’t believe Tropic Thunder made it to the Academy Awards (even though Downey didn’t win).

  3. spiffyithaca Says:

    Thanks Cello, and I can see why people wouldn’t really like Nick & Norah. Welcome to the blog!

    Stop doing what you’re doing and watch Wall-E, Slumdog and Milk. Changeling can wait. The others cannot.

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