My Top 10 Movies of 2008 -- 1-5

  • Thursday, June 11, 2009
  • Payton Bartee
  • The Top 10, Cont'd

    5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

    "I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life."

    Yet another romantic comedy to crack the list, Sarah Marshall does an excellent job of portraying the harsh brutality of a severe breakup, while never failing (or stopping) to hilariously entertain. This one grew on me all year--I assumed a rom-com in my Top 5 would be impossible. The charm of the male/female leads, the believability factor (much of it was based on writer/star Jason Segel's life), and some very clever writing all add up to a movie with little fluff--and it's much better for it.

    4. Iron Man

    "They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it...and it's worked out pretty well so far."

    What a year for Robert Downey Jr--his roles as playboy weapons genius Tony Stark and hardcore method actor Kirk Lazarus (Tropic Thunder) have him back in the good graces of audiences nationwide. Downey's always been respected for his talent, but he makes Iron Man his movie, to the point where no one else would seem right for this franchise. Downey's Stark is a spoiled but troubled prodigy, but it is the actor's talent that gradually shows the clouded morality of a hidden hero. Actor-turned-director Jon Favreau makes this one of the more enjoyable moveis of the year, and doesn't botch the action sequences like many others would have. Can't wait to see the next adventure for this legitimate man of steel.

    3. Slumdog Millionaire

    "Money and women. The reasons for make most mistakes in life. Looks like you've mixed up both."

    Director Danny Boyle is often cited as the "Spielberg of Britain" due to his versatility behind the camera. From Trainspotting to 28 Days Later to Sunshine, he is clearly fearless in choosing his projects. While without a doubt being the unexpected gem of the year, it's no surprise then Boyle handles the Dickensian tale Slumdog Millionaire so masterfully. Like Little Miss Sunshine before it, this indie drama crept up on audiences nationwide via preliminary Oscar talks and massive internet buzz. Considering Boyle used both children and largely inexperienced actors in crafting this wonderful tale of love, poverty, and destiny, it deserves every accolade. Try not to get swept away by this film, I dare ya!

    2. WALL-E

    "Too much garbage in your face? There's plenty of space out in space! BnL StarLiners leaving each day. We'll clean up the mess while you're away."

    It would probably save me some trouble if I just reserved a spot in my Top 10 every year for Pixar. Outside of Cars, their films have never failed to impress or entertain. WALL-E is the most ambitious Pixar creation to date, throwing a Cast Away-like first half at the viewer, then wading into the grim waters of social justice and moral responsibility in the second. It's not out of the ordinary for Pixar films to cater their clever humor to adults, but this time they've pointed their arrow at our generations. While children will love WALL-E solely for the loveable robots, we definitely walk away with more to stew on. If this is Pixar going out on a limb, exploring new territory, being curious as to their potential...let's see more of it.

    1. The Dark Knight

    "Those mob fools want you gone so they can get back to the way things were. But I know the truth: there's no going back. You've changed things...forever."

    By no means my favorite quote from the best movie of 2008, but easily the most applicable. I could have (and have been meaning to) dedicate an entire blog post to the performances found in this movie. Absolutely everyone is noteworthy, but special kudos to Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, and Gary Oldman. What stands out more to me is the scope of this movie. What Christopher Nolan and crew have done with The Dark Knight is nothing less than a turning point for all future "superhero" or comic-book adaptations. This is the film all the rest will aspire to be, and adversely, the film audiences should come to expect from the genre. Using daft story-telling, rock solid performances from top to bottom, and a real-world feel never fully realized in superhero movies before it, The Dark Knight stands alone as one of the truly best films of the 2000s.

    My Top 5 Performances of the Year

    1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
    2. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
    3. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
    4. Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man
    5. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

    HM -- Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight

    My Top 10 Movies of 2008 -- 6-10

  • Payton Bartee
  • Last year I posted my Top 10 of 2007 shortly into the new year, and I had planned to do the same for my '08 list. Alas, Lady Procrastination had her way with me, and this sucker got pushed back to mid-JUNE. And I call myself a movie buff...


    2008 was a very strange year in cinema! We saw the continued rise of legitimate comic-book superhero movies as mega blockbusters and even award contenders (Dark Knight, Iron Man). Animated films like WALL-E and Kung-Fu Panda proved yet again how solid a film from that genre can contribute. Comebacks were a major story in the year, as Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke showed you can always come back strong.

    As with 2007, a few of my favorite movies in '08 emerged before the fall/winter Oscar season. This was the first year in awhile where I did see all of the Best Picture nominees, as well as other contenders I was curious about. So while I may not be as truly excited about 2008 as years' past, it was still a fantastic year in film.

    Here are my favorites...

    Honorable Mentions: (Just missed the cut)

    15. Role Models
    14. In Bruges
    13. Gran Torino
    12. Quantum of Solace
    11. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    The Top 10:

    10. [rec]

    "Good evening, this is Angela Vidal speaking. Tonight on "While You're Asleep" we'll accompany a team of firemen on their rounds through the city. Not only that, but we'll see things never revealed: how they live, sleep, what they eat. We'll get an inside look at this fire station. Join us for 'While You're Asleep'."

    I don't have the keenest eye for international indie films, but I took note of this 2007 Spanish horror gem due to the great online word of mouth. It almost pains me to have two similar films in a Top 10 (Cloverfield), but both were made differently using the same style. You follow the duo of cameraman and reporter following firemen for an evening, when a routine call becomes unthinkably frightening. Simply put, [rec] is a good bet to scare the pants off you, something American producers agreed with in importing a shot-for-shot remake to American theaters only one year later (Quarantine).

    9. Definitely, Maybe

    "Did you know that penguins mate for life? Although, Mr. Monell told us that sometimes the husband and wife penguins get separated because of their migraine patterns."

    Released on Valentine's Day weekend, this little rom-com couldn't be more pidgeon-holed...and subsequently ignored. Ryan Reynolds gives one of the best performances of his career as a guy reminiscing his romantic history, but top acting dibs go to Isla Fisher. What sets apart Definitely, Maybe is the lack of a certain utterly annoying yet all-too-common factor in modern romantic comedies--predictability. This screenplay isn't afraid to lead the viewer through a maze to get to its conclusion, but you'll like the journey. In that sense, it's like a slightly more serious movie version of the TV sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."

    8. The Wrestler

    "I'm an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be all alone, I just don't want you to hate me."

    'Witness the resurrection of Mickey Rourke.' That's the tagline for one of the more talked-about films in 2008, The Wrestler. From Requiem to The Fountain to Wrestler, director Darren Aronofsky seems to love floating through genres in order to sculp material that challenges everyone involved in the production. Rourke literally carries this heart-wrenching story, with great support from Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Be prepared, though; the emotions present here are just as raw and bloody as the wrestlers getting in the ring.

    7. Cloverfield

    "Okay, just to be clear here, our options are: die here, die in the tunnels, or die in the streets. That pretty much it?"

    Ah, the JJ Abrams Magic Touch. I remember seeing the first teaser trailer for this at my first viewing of Transformers and leaving the theater speeding home towards Google. Abrams keeps his take on the monster/survival/chaos thriller incredibly simple, consequently establishing complete control over the audience's experience. Filmed from a character's point of view on a handheld digital camera, Cloverfield is instantly immersive, with the script doing an adequate job in the time alotted to make you feel for and like these characters before the chaos hits. Next up for Abrams & writer/director Drew Goddard--a horror movie simply titled Cabin in the Woods.

    6. Frost/Nixon

    "But that was before I really understood the reductive power of the close-up, because David had succeeded on that final day, in getting for a fleeting moment what no investigative journalist, no state prosecutor, no judiciary committee or political enemy had managed to get; Richard Nixon's face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat. The rest of the project and its failings would not only be forgotten, they would totally cease to exist."

    This movie had many things going for it before I ever walked in the theater--Ron Howard behind the lens, a truly fantastic ensemble cast, and dynamic historical material to work with. Ever the history buff, that last point hits home for me. But while some have criticized Howard's quasi-documentary style for Frost/Nixon, it only aids in immersing the viewer in the importance and weight of the circumstances presented. It's really a one man show though, as Frank Langella gives an incredible performance as the "I'm not a crook" President. This film could easily bore you to tears, but thanks to the momentum established by Langella and Michael Sheen, the verbal sparring is riveting.

    Check back tomorrow for the second half of my Top 10, aka Payton's Shameless Attempt at More Comments.

    Copyright 2010 occasional contemplations