Sunday, February 22, 2009

Top 10 Films of 2008 (so far)

The Academy Awards are night and the speculation is that this years’ show is the most boring and anticlimactic of all time. I’d have to say I agree. Most of the major categories for all intents and purposes have already been decided (Ledger won best supporting actor in May when he ate sleeping pills like they were trick-or-treat candy). And this year’s releases have for the most part been uninspired. Despite it all, there were a couple of movies released in 2009 that are worth a viewing. Here are my top 10 (this list is only based on movies I’ve seen so far as of posting this):

1. The Wrestler (Aronofsky): I’ve always loved Aronsofsky is if he takes too many risks. But with “The Wrestler,” Aronsofsky returns to the basic of great filmmaking with a stunning character piece on an aging wrestler. No fancy special effects. No moral message. It’s just a great story that basks in its simplicity. It also happens to feature one of the top 5 film performances of all time (Rouke).

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher): Of all of the Best Picture nominees, this one is the only film that deserves to win. Fincher weaves a touching and complicated tale of mortality into an equally heart wrenching love story. It is a modern fairy tale so beautifully and painstakingly shot by Fincher, you’ll never notice its three hour running time. Even if the story is a little reminiscent of Forrest Gump (it was the same writer after all), it is a far superior film technically.

3. Paranoid Park (Van Sant): Even though “Milk” was nominated for Best Picture, it wasn’t the best film made by Gus Van Sant to be released this year. Improving on “Elephant,” Van Sant takes another trip down the road of teen angst and uncertainty.

4. The Wackness (Levine): Like “Paranoid Park,” this film is a look into the world of teen slacker-dom, but from a humorous angle. It’s the best comedy of 2009. 

5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Mungiu): Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, you can’t deny the emotion and heartache behind one’s decision to terminate a pregnancy, and this film uses a no-holds-barred approach in bringing that to you.

6. In Bruges (McDonagh): Who said action films can’t be smart? McDonagh makes the film Guy Ritchie has spent his whole life trying to make. It should run away with the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. You can read my review of “In Bruges” from earlier this year:

7. Redbelt (Mamet): Only David Mamet could merge his Hollywood angst with mixed martial arts and create one of the best “fight” movies of the last 20 years.

8. WALL*E (Stanton): Though suffering from a weak, villian-less, and hypocritical (especially coming from Disney), Wall*E is one of the most beautifully animated movies of all time. And even if it isn’t Pixar’s best movie, it still is leaps and bounds ahead of anything else the other animation studios are releasing.

9. The Dark Knight (Nolan): Nolan finally makes the Batman movie a fan (like me) would make. A serious portrait of a conflicted vigilante strikes a chord with our terrorist filled times.

10. Slumdog Millionaire (Boyle): I’ve always loved the way Danny Boyle brings a setting to life, and making Indian slums look beautiful is no easy task.

Honorable Mention: Choke (Gregg), Milk (Van Sant)

Films that might make the list when I actually get to see them: Hunger (McQueen), Ballast (Hammer), Gomorrah (Garrone), Waltz with Bashir (Folman), Happy-Go-Lucky (Leigh), Wendy and Lucy (Reichardt), Che (Soderbergh), The Class (Cantet)

Films that are getting a lot of Oscar buzz, but I have no desire to see them: Frost/Nixon (Howard), The Reader (Daldry), Revolutionary Road (Mendes)