I had this whole thing prepared where I was going to be all, “Man, 2008 was so beastly awful for movies!” when I realised something important: it really wasn’t. Here’s the thing, I mentally noted back in March that if In Bruges didn’t make my top 10, that meant 2008 was better than 2007, because it would have hit my 2007 list around 7 or 8. And as you’ll presently see, it didn’t technically make my top 10, although a lot of that has to do with the eligibility games I played this year.
It wasn’t The Cinema that sucked in 2008: it was the movies that were supposed to be good that did. With a November and December hit-to-miss ratio that’s enough to put you off of prestige pictures forever, we all know that the Oscars are going to be terrible this year, but that’s only because the Academy has such a blinkered view of what makes for award-worthy movies. But taken all in all, there were quite a lot of truly wonderful little movies that snuck in under the radar, all year long. I think I prefer it this way: when all of the Big Movies hit, everybody’s year-end lists look the same. But when those movies miss, the lists start to look weirder, and more personal. I still wouldn’t stack 2008 against 2000, 2004 or 2007 – and that’s just from the ’00s – but I also don’t know that I’ve ever had such a pleasantly idiosyncratic Best Of list.
(NB: after three years of dicking around, I’ve finally decided that what is easiest is probably what is best, and thus I’ve officially decided that my Top 10 will follow the Academy’s rules for eligibility. Since that bumped my list of options from about 170 to about 225, I’ve also taken the liberty of extending my Top 20-including-runners-up to a Top 30.)
2. The Fall
4. My Winnipeg
5. Flight of the Red Balloon
6. Burn After Reading
7. A Christmas Tale
8. The Dark Knight
9. The Argentine / Guerrilla
10. Gran Torino
11. The Edge of Heaven
12. In Bruges
13. Wendy and Lucy
14. Still Life
15. Encounters at the End of the World
(titles below link to my original reviews)
1. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
Two years in a row, now with a Pixar film at #1 – if this keeps up, I expect people will start accusing me of taking kickbacks. What can I say, they have their reputation for a reason, in this case a film that clicks on pretty much every level I can name: it’s formally flawless, for all intents and purposes (show me a “real” film with better editing and cinematography this year, I double-dog-dare you); it has the year’s most sympathetic, appealing protagonist; it tells one of the most universal love stories I’ve seen in ages and ages. Even the much-maligned third act starts to improve and even become essential, once you’ve seen it enough times (six for me so far – all hail Blu-Ray). Of course, I wish the opening third, with its touches of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and environmental holocaust, could be longer, but “I wish this were longer” is probably the best praise I could ever give any film.
2. The Fall (Tarsem Singh)
Holy God Almighty, is it pretty. Probably in the running for the prettiest film produced during my lifetime. Which is enough for me, but to some people, that tosses it into the “style over substance” pile – first off, in a visual medium, style is substance, but I’m not getting into that in a capsule review. You want substance, how about this: it is a film about the way that fiction is born, imagination turning misunderstandings and lies into something true, beautiful, and unique. It is a tremendously effective story about the art of storytelling, because it is not blandly theoretical; it uses itself as a case study. Or maybe it’s enough that this is a visionary look into the mind’s eye of a child who hasn’t learned enough to be shackled by the possible. Whatever the case, it’s one of just a handful of movies that I’ve ever seen where I felt a palpable sense of disappointment that I had to go back into the real world when it was over.
3. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh)
No matter how many times I go over this film’s simple greeting card message, I can’t stop finding it unutterably profound: shit will happen, and if you let it get you down, then shit has happened and you’re depressed. Better for shit to happen and you’re happy. So be happy. Best of all is that it’s never spelled out all nice and neat for us: as Pauline “Poppy” Cross, Sally Hawkins, in the year’s best performance, simply embodies the principle, so that we learn from her example, rather than her lecture. Of course, we expect a Mike Leigh film to be almost too subtle for its own good, and to permit vast swaths of footage to go by only in the service of character development; but what a character he’s laid out for us! I could go on about his typically top-notch craftsmanship, the strong ensemble, and the like, but it all comes down to this: I kind of feel about Happy-Go-Lucky the way that well-adjusted people feel about religion.
4. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin)
A pack of lies in the service of a deeper truth. I have no idea how much of Maddin’s “documentary” is rooted in fact, and how much of it is a fever dream, but it doesn’t matter: who among us has not dreamt of our childhood home, twisted out of recognition but still familiar? Maddin just took the extra step of filming it. The result is one of his strongest films ever (initially, I called it his masterpiece, forgetting his miraculous 6-minute film from 2000, “The Heart of the World”), in which his customary aesthetic, ’20s and ’30s cinema by way of imagery David Cronenberg would reject as too surreal and disturbing, is clearly and appropriately linked to a driving thematic purpose. I think it’s a film about how time and distance warp our memories; maybe it’s more about how the desire for distance warps our perceptions. Either way, there can hardly be a more nakedly autobiographical film, even if most of the things he describes never happened.
5. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
If Hou’s films were any more sedate, they’d be still photographs, but to the extremely patient viewer, he’s one of the most rewarding filmmakers alive. Case in point: his gentle reworking of the classic French children’s film The Red Balloon is a domestic comedy, a post-modern commentary on the act of filmmaking, a study of the increased blurring between “The East” and “The West” in a world where all culture is global, a poetic tribute to the glories of Paris, and a formal exercise in stretching static compositions out as long as possible, all at the same time. Not that I can do any good my efforts to describe in horrid, clumsy words what a movie such as this feels like in your head. It’s the best and hardest kind of cinema – the kind that moves straight from image to feeling, even if it takes days, weeks or months to figure out exactly what feeling that is.
6. Burn After Reading (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
Unfairly derided as a “slight” film, mostly by the critics who have always hated the Coen brothers, but assumed that No Country for Old Men represented some new direction for the filmmakers, instead of just a very well-made aberration. For me, though, this is the Coens at the very best: unafraid to point out the incomprehensible idiocy that human beings can achieve, and willing to laugh at it. And laugh they do, in one of their funniest movies ever – certainly since The Big Lebowski, ten years ago. Besides, what better way to lampoon the biblically-scaled disaster that is American foreign policy than to mock the shit out of the intelligence community? Let’s hope that movies like this one are rendered irrelevant in the next few years, but for right now, I can’t name a better cinematic explanation of what we have become as nation since 9/11: incompetent fools and pleasure addicts.
7. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
Desplechin’s latest film isn’t quite the knock-out masterpiece that Kings and Queen was, but it’s still a marvel, overflowing with inventive formal tricks that sometimes pay off and sometimes are just there for the joyful hell of it, and boasting the year’s strongest ensemble cast, with particularly strong performances by rising French stars Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos, as well as one of the few remaining goddesses of cinema, Catherine Deneuve. I wonder a bit if the film errs too much on the side of caricature to really succeed as a piercing study of all the little ways that families devour themselves from within, but only in the moments when I’m not swept away by the scale and depth of it all, the feeling that we’re almost an unseen part of this messy, dysfunctional Vuillard clan. A cartoon it may be, but few American films even dream of such a vast emotional palette, from loathing to tenderness, and all of it earned honestly.
8. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
Anyone who claims to be surprised that summer tentpole films can be just as good for grown-ups as for kids simply hasn’t been paying attention for the last few years. But even so, I don’t think we had any reason to expect Nolan’s flawed but overwhelming follow-up to Batman Begins to be so terribly grand: perhaps the closest thing a popcorn movie will ever come to a Wagnerian opera. Taking a cue from Heath Ledger’s perfectly anarchic Joker – a performance that will still win the late actor breathless fans years after all the hype has been forgotten – the film presents a vision of civilisation collapsing in on itself like no other wannabe blockbuster would ever dare. That such a tremendously dour, unpleasant film could tear up the box-office like it did has given me more faith in the American filmgoer than I ever thought I’d have again, even if it has had a fairly dreadful side-effect in the miserable fanboys it spawned (see below). As modern America’s very own Ragnarok myth, there’s something purging about watching all of our worst fears and impulses acted out through narrative: like Burn After Reading, I kind of hope it’s rendered irrelevant came January 20th, but as a snapshot of a country in one of the worst years of its recent existence, The Dark Knight is potent pop sociology.
9. The Argentine / Guerrilla (Steven Soderbergh)
I thought long and hard about this one: technically, the films haven’t been released yet, except as the ginormous Che, a too-long, too-repetitive monolith that doesn’t do either individual half (also known as Che: Part One and Che: Part Two) any favors. But I caved: they’re just too exceptional to ignore. Not just because of the fascinating narrative, reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia in the way it presents a man, whose only wish was to lose his identity in the service of history, turning into an icon – incidentally, I defy anyone of any political stripe to watch this film and not walk away concluding that those T-shirts are an abomination – but also for its dazzling formal elements. Soderbergh is, of course, a director more beloved by formalists than most other cinephiles, and the Che dyad is easily his most impressive work on that count since The Limey: from using something as elemental as the aspect ratio of the frame to build a particular mood to slowly breaking down the idea of a biopic’s narrative arc over the course of 4.5 hours, to making the first-ever movie shot on digital video (the RED ONE, specifically), that can honestly compete visually with celluloid film. It’s confounding in a lot of ways, but the fact that it drifts so far from conventional tastes is, for me at least, a healthy part of its appeal.
10. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)
Here’s why I don’t subscribe to that whole “objectivity in criticism” thing: I objectively believe that Gran Torino is a great bit of pulp melodrama. I objectively believe that it’s a knowing throwback to an age of filmmaking where big issues were explored in trashy little B-movies. I objectively believe that the film’s broad comedy and campy drama are part of what ties it to that age. I objectively believe that Clint Eastwood’s rasping lead performance is absolutely wonderful, maybe a bit limited, but a fairly incisive portrait of an aged man who’s too old to give a damn if nobody likes him or thinks he’s crazy. I objectively believe that the film has been made with a great deal of precision in its lighting and framing (maybe not as much its editing), because of its rushed production schedule. And yet there are people – smart, articulate people – who view the movie and objectively come to exactly the opposite conclusions. So here’s what else I objectively think: Gran Torino is a present to Eastwood fans, and as long as we’re happy, there’s no reason to try and force it on anybody else. Such is the subtle magic of opinion.
11. The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin)
A marvelously contrived film – bearing in mind that “contrivance”, in its strictest definition, has no negative connotation. Akin’s screenplay is more like a novel than a movie, with all sorts of threads weaving in and out of each other, connecting at strange junctures that we’d never, ever expect. It’s massively unconventional, but moving and beautiful; a film at once about life’s precious fragility and its surprising durability, Akin’s unusual brand of humanism comes down to a fairly simple theme: we’re all connected, every one of us. With a sprinkling of political commentary on top – there’s a lot in the film about the perilous relationship between Europe and the Middle East – and a keen eye for capturing the essence of a place swiftly but completely, this is the closest 2008 came to the ever-beloved “Whole World In a Single Movie” movie.
12. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
You’d never know that McDonagh had only directed a single short film before: besides its terrific screenplay, In Bruges enjoys a modestly sophisticated visual style that isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but still suggests more engagement with the camera than plenty of hack directors have managed after 20 years in the business. But back to that screenplay: mixing a theatrical act structure with a thoroughly cinematic command of shifting space, it also has, bar none, the finest, most literate, wittiest dialogue of the year. And, just because I know some people need a bit of thematic substance to go with their well-constructed, intellectually stimulating fun, there’s one hell of a message about guilt and atonement, buoyed up by Colin Farrell’s flawless leading performance. Yes, Colin Farrell.
13. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
It doesn’t get any simpler than this: a woman loses her dog while stranded in a little town, and goes looking for it. No glitzy stylistic tricks, no universal messages about the human condition, no showy character drama. At the end of the movie, I knew exactly this much about Michelle Williams’s Wendy: she is really in love with that dog. And damn me if that isn’t enough: watching one person dealing with a shitty moment in life the same way that any person might – that is to say, she complains, she dawdles, she yells at people who are just doing their job, but she never once loses sight of what she’s doing – counts as one of the most special movie-watching experiences I’ve had all year. This is humanity at is most direct and least-affected, a flawlessly empathetic film about down on their luck people striving for something better, without falling into sticky traps of sentimentality.
14. Still Life (Jia Zhang-Ke)
Half documentary about the Three Gorges Dam and its impact on local communities, half a story of individual lives in a time of chaos, half a meditation on the futile quest to relive the past – that math doesn’t quite pan out. Such is Jia’s Golden Lion winner, a movie that doesn’t appear to be about much of anything until it’s over, and you discover that just about everything that goes into being a human ended up crouched in one or another of the film’s lovingly-crafted frames. It’s not the best of the director’s films I saw this year – that would be 24 City, still awaiting a US release date – but was the first time that I fully understood what everyone has been talking about all this time: Jia has an unnerving knack for observing the human animal moving about restlessly, looking for meaning in an arbitrary world, and gently but remorselessly letting the bottom fall out from beneath his characters. It’s hard to make a humane film about humanity’s failings, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up Still Life‘s particular triumph.
15. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s most straightforward documentary in a long time – perhaps ever – is still a perfect grab-bag of his pet themes: crazy individuals, vicious nature, the perfect beauty found in life’s extremes. It’s the kind of film in which practically every viewer will find something to latch onto, whether it’s the strange details of living at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, the childlike amazement at all the scientific wonders that have been discovered in this alien place, or simply the joy in staring goggle-eyed at the breathtaking footage filmed under the ice shelf. Herzog has never before presented his quest of Ecstatic Truth in such an accessible film as this, and yet he ultimately hasn’t been forced to sacrifice anything of what makes him Werner Herzog. What isn’t beautiful in this film is inspirational; two of the best adjectives out there, if I say so myself.
Aleksandra; Australia; Chicago 10; Gomorra; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; Hunger; JCVD; Let the Right One In; Man on Wire; Rachel Getting Married; Shine a Light; Slumdog Millionaire; Stuck; Tropic Thunder; The Visitor
One Movie I’d Have Included, But I Think It Technically Came Out Last Year
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
One Movie I’d Have Included, But I Think It Technically Doesn’t Come Out Until January
One Movie I’d Have Included, But It Seemed Inappropriate to Rank It
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The most distasteful thing about this calculated insult to everyone who died in a Nazi camp, and those with the fortune to survive, is that the filmmakers obviously thought that it was a beautiful tribute to their memory. Apparently, the worst thing about the Holocaust was the effect it had on wide-eyed German children.
4. The Happening
AKA M. Night Shyamalan’s Killer Plants: The Movie. Proof that no-one, no matter how deftly they rip-off Spielberg and Hitchcock, can make wind scary. Proof also that Shyamalan’s twists cannot be so idiotic that they’re worse than a Shyamalan film with an even more idiotic ending you can see coming for miles.
3. Strange Wilderness
It has to be a comedy. There’s no other genre it can possibly belong to. But generally, one expects to laugh during a comedy, and I cannot see how any person, either sober or under the influence of powerful mind-altering substances, could laugh more than once or twice at the profoundly dispiriting wackiness on display. That it wastes Ernest Borgnine and Joe Don Baker at an age when neither of those men should be taken for granted, however, may be its most objectionable sin.
2. The Spirit
Frank Miller goes insane, and films it. This is Bad Moviemaking of the old school, and precious as liquid gold for it; how anyone involved could have been convinced that they were using their time well will forever remain a mystery to me. If you can ever eat an egg again without thinking of Samuel L. Jackson’s impassioned egg-related hijinks, you are stronger than me by far.
1. 88 Minutes
Al Pacino is at his sleepiest in Jon Avnet’s epic botch: a gimmick movie that consistently violates its own gimmick, and a mystery so anxious to keep us guessing that it pulls an eleventh-hour twisting ending right out of its ass. It’s about as stupid and sloppy as moviemaking can get without actually lurching into technical incompetence; look no further than the future classic “They siphoned my semen out of a dead hooker to frame me” scene for proof of how raw the bottom of the barrell got scraped in the production of this timeless work of cinema.
The Dark Knight
Hey, I gave it a perfect 10 out of 10, and I might even do it again. But I kind of don’t want to, and it’s all because of the terrifying fanboys who glommed onto the film even before it opened, meeting any attempt to reframe Nolan & company’s achievement as somehow less than the very epitome of cinema – for example, pointing out that it will not raise the dead, change the oil in your car, cure the common cold, or bring peace to the Middle East – with scorn, mockery and in a tiny handful of cases, something very much like death threats. It’s a great superhero movie, but Jesus, there was hyperbole being flung around that The Rules of the Game or Sunrise couldn’t have justified, let alone a film that has not, at this writing, celebrated its eight-month birthday. Test of time, folks. At any rate, surely we can all agree that the ferryboat Prisoner’s Dilemma bit really doesn’t work whatsoever, right?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Despite at least two thunderingly obvious flaws – Indiana Jones doesn’t fight aliens, and his son would never be a greaser played by Shia LaBeouf – I still thought this was a mostly entertaining successor to the three classic Indy adventures from the ’80s. My suspicion is that the hateful response that the film received, particularly its appearance on several year-end Worst lists, has to do with people’s over-fondness for the older films: many of the problems that people saw in Kingdom were already present in one of the sequels. In fact, may I make a terrible confession? I like the new film more than Last Crusade, with its endless opening 45 minutes (I’ve observed that Kingdom seems to have been better received by people who prefer Temple of Doom to Last Crusade than the other way around, probably because we have a fundamentally different idea of what an Indiana Jones movie ought to be). Bottom line, I had fun watching it, and I didn’t expect or require any more than that.
Nothing about the trailer suggested it would be any different from all the other “Hey, we’re animals! We spout pop-culture qups!” films that have made children’s cinema so unendurable since the mid-1990s. Besides, Disney’s track record in CGI movies is hardly the stuff that confidence is built on. So imagine my shock when Bolt was smart and fun, and not the least bit condescending to its target audience, to say nothing of how it features the best John Travolta performance since Get Shorty. I can’t help but be said that it should comes as a surprise that a movie from Uncle Walt’s dream factory should be worthwhile, but these are the depraved times in which we live.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I’ve always found it hard to engage with David Fincher’s films, but Zodiac was such a rip-snorting masterpiece that I couldn’t help but assume he’d turned a corner. Instead, Benjamin Button was one of his worst-ever (though nothing can surpass the godawfulness of Alien 3), a miserably long romantic drama with a robotic sense of emotion and a horribly miscast leading lady. A marvelous achievement in craftsmanship, but it’s one of the most soulless – nay, the most soulless film of 2008, nothing more than a clinical attempt at an Oscar nod. Only Antonioni or Kubrick could regularly make films this icy, and they were doing it on purpose.
Best Popcorn Movie
While Nolan was busy over there, doing all he could to suck the joy out of superhero movies, Jon Favreau (a middling choice for director) and Robert Downey, Jr. (an inspired choice for star) made sure that we all remembered how much goddamn fun it can be to watch a dude fly around and punch shit. I’m not sure what I think about the impending Iron Man 2, given that the best part of this first movie was everything before Tony Stark completed his Iron Man suit, but nothing can take away the gee-whiz, what-can-we-do-next quality that made it one of the breeziest treats of the summer.
Punisher: War Zone
My review basically consisted of one sentiment: my, how pretty it is when he kills the people in pornographically violent ways! It doesn’t get a lot more dubious than that, but it does mean that the film was a fairly satisfying adaptation of the comic book (actually, it could have done with some more violence and moral ugliness to be a really perfect adaptation). Look, I have a nihilistic streak, okay? Which, from time to time, I like to feed, and War Zone was the most gleefully nihilistic movie of the year in a walk.
The perfect little silent Tati-esque short that opens WALL-E. Or maybe that sweet moment between WALL-E and EVE, where he’s trying to impress her with all his doodads, one of the truest courtship scenes I’ve ever watched. Perhaps the “dancing among the engines” sequence. At any rate, it’s in the first 60 minutes of WALL-E. Fuck it, maybe the best movie moment of 2008 is the first 60 minutes of WALL-E. “Moment” doesn’t really have a solid definition, right?
Backing away from my terrifying WALL-E love, here’s my second choice: in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, there’s a scene where a solitary penguin manages to separate himself from his merry penguin clan, and marches off, with unswervable determination, to the far horizon and his inevitable doom. It’s hard to say if the director regards this as noble, foolish, or the act of a simple animal without a trace of sapience, but it’s a handy summary of the film’s theme of mad individuals seeking their fate in the most extreme place on Earth, and as haunting as any scene in any film I’ve seen in a long time.
Ken (Brendan Gleeson): “We shall strike a balance between culture and fun.”
Ray (Colin Farrell): “Somehow I believe, Ken, that the balance shall tip in the favor of culture, like a big fat fucking retarded fucking black girl on a seesaw opposite a dwarf.”
The “Hey, That’s the Name of the Movie!” Award for Clumsiest Line of Dialogue
“There appears to be an event happening.”
Line That Most Benefits from Being Said by Samuel L. Jackson
“No egg on my FACE!”
Line That Most Benefits from Being Said by Joan Allen
“Cocksucker! Fuck with me and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk!”
“If your Uncle Jack helped you off an elephant, would you help your Uncle Jack off an elephant?”
–The Love Guru
Burn After Reading
Somewhere, Saul Bass is smiling. The retro-chic design isn’t just it’s own reward, though: it calls to mind an entire generation of counter-cultural, politically engaged films about how the world is going to hell, but at least you can keep cool while it’s happening. Which is fair descriptor for every Coen movie. Besides, just as a graphic, the smudgy reds, crude lettering, and that little arm on the left side are all funny and stylistically brash, just like the film they’re advertising.
Worst Poster – TIE!
Two studies in the horrible things that can happen when Photoshop is used for evil. In the Bangkok Dangerous poster, a fairly normal design went very bad when the MPAA raised a stink over the angle of the gun Nic Cage was holding; apparently, it came too close to pointing directly at the viewer, this being 1820 and everyone being unfamiliar with these “photo-graphs” that mimic reality but are not themselves real. So out went the gun, and with it Cage’s body is suddenly turned into some nightmare of contortions, in which his left arm seems to be melting into his right armpit, and his right hand juts towards us like Death’s own claw.
In the Untraceable poster, meanwhile, Diane Lane has a mouse pointer right on top of her lips.
Milk (Apple) (YouTube)
Promising a much more poetic film than we actually got – and I really do wonder how much of my relative disappointment with the film was just because it was so very pedestrian compared to the ad (and lacked the breathtaking shot of the rainbow flag unfurling). With impeccably-selected music that is both lovely unto itself and appropriate to the subject at hand, and edited quickly but fluidly, introducing us to the overarching topics that would define Harvey Milk’s life, the trailer communicates everything about the film (which is good), while being significantly moodier and hypnotic (which is bad for the film, great for the trailer).
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Happening. It freaks me out.
Come on, it’s the last time I get to use that gag.
Best Sequelized Title
Step Up 2 The Streets
Most Hype-Deflating Title
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Not since Episode II: Send in the Clones have I been thus directly confronted with George Lucas’s jackassery.
Title That Means the Least
Quantum of Solace
Title That Least Succeeds In Making Me Forget the Deeply Flawed Original
The Incredible Hulk
Title Change That I Was Disappointed In At First, But Then I Got Used To It, and Now I Really Think the New Title Is Better
From Dancing with Shiva to Rachel Getting Married
Title That Most Demands That You Turn It Into a Dick Joke
Film That Will Least Deserve My Negative Review a Decade Hence
Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman was the wrong man to direct this screenplay, and that will never change. But even at a remove of just a couple of months, I find myself dwelling on the film’s inventiveness far more than its miserabilism and lack of momentum, the two things that bothered me most when I first saw it. It will always be frustrating, but those frustrations hide a much richer experience than I gave it credit for at the time.
Film That Will Least Deserve My Positive Review a Decade Hence
An extravagantly shallow movie about how pretty the Napa Valley is, and how much fun it is to drink wine. Now, Napa Valley is very pretty, and wine is a lot of fun to drink, but those points aren’t enough to make a film whatsoever memorable; if anyone can still remember a single frame of this film by the summer of 2010, I’ll be amazed.
Film That I Gave a Positive Review That Will Seem Even Better a Decade Hence
An eerily smart satire, and the more I think about it, the more I’m impressed by seemingly minor things like director Mabrouk El Mechri’s use of crummy film stock and underlit interiors to suggest how weary is the world of sad-sack Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is exactly the kind of movie that’s fun and slight the first time you see it, and then you re-watch it two years later and it’s not so slight anymore, and after another three or four viewings, you find yourself obsessed with how the tiniest little details all contribute to the whole.
Film That Will Most Deserve a Remake a Decade Hence
Or maybe not even a decade. Maybe just a year. You know, after we’ve had some time to actually reflect on George W. Bush’s presidency. Like, maybe, once he’s no longer the sitting president.
The Oscarbait Misfires Ranked from Least to Most Tedious
Miracle at St. Anna
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
My Worst Prediction from Last Year
I happily proclaimed an end to the “sassy animals” subgenre of animated films, on the grounds that there was only one in all of 2007. Oops.
Best Film I Saw for the First Time in 2008
Thanks to my journey through the They Shoot Pictures Top 1000, it’s a tough call – there were some damned fine masterpieces in there. But I think Viridiana just edges out The Battle of Algiers and Vampyr. Ain’t nothing like giving the bird to a totalitarian dictator in his own backyard.