It's the last day of the year, so I thought it appropriate to post my choices for the Best Movies of 2008. As I've said before, unlike 'professional' movie critics, I don't get to see every movie that comes out (as much as I'd like to), so I can only offer my opinions on movies I actually saw this year. Some I've commented on or reviewed before. Others are getting their first mention here. In any case, here are the 10 Best Movies I saw this year:
Previously reviewed on my Best Horror Movies list, Teeth is one of those movies that stays with you long after you've seen it; inviting all sorts of questions about morality, resposibility and sexuality. Highly disturbing and often very amusing. Michael Lichtenstein's feminist parable is a film you won't soon forget.
Like The Blair Witch Project a few years ago, many patrons at showings of Cloverfiled were made nauseous by the film's hand-held camera work. But producer J.J. Abrams (Lost; Fringe) and director Matt Reeves put together one hell of a monster movie. Combining the best elements of classic Japanese kaiju movies with exciting special effects and some truly human moments of terror and despair, Cloverfield was an internet sensation long before it hit local cineplexes, and proved that giant monster movies don't have to be as stupid as the 1999 remake of Godzilla.
8. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Lat den ratte komma in)
First, I must apologize for the lack of subtitles in that clip, but I am so tired of posting trailers all the time. Second, let me say that this is probably one of the most original, chilling and atmospheric vampire movies ever made. If Bergman made horror movies (and some would say he did), this would have been one of them. Forget Twilight (yeuch!). For a truly great vampire film, see Let the Right One In.
Ben Stiller can be incredibly funny or horribly lame. Lucky for us, his send up of Hollywood stereotypes, co-written with Justin Theroux, is incredibly funny. Terrific performances from Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tom Cruise (yes, I know) and a bitingly satiric script add up to one of the year's funniest films.
Director Guillermo del Toro brought us my pick for 2007's Best Film, Pan's Labyrinth. In his follow-up to Hellboy, he treats us to a visual orgy, employing both CGI and physical effects to create the most eye-popping film of the year. Personally, I can't wait for his Hobbit movies and his planned take on H.P. Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness.'
5. IN BRUGES
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh makes murder funny in this hilarious little film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen sent to a small, picturesque town in Belgium to await their next assignment from boss Ralph Fiennes. This often over-looked comedy deserves to be seen by wider audiences. Hopefully, DVD and word-of-mouth will help turn this quirky and very funny film into the cult classic it deserves to be.
4. IRON MAN
Director Jon Favreau helped re-start Robert Downey, Jr's career and made a Superhero movie for people other than just fanboys. Funny, exciting, romantic and just plain fun, Iron Man is also the first movie over which Marvel Comics had full creative control. Let's hope it's the start of a trend from the fledgling studio.
I blogged about the importance of Milk before I saw it. I managed to sneak away to matinee last week and must admit that I was simply blown away by it. Hit-or-miss director Gus Van Sant has hit a home run with his partially fictionalized account of Harvey Milk's rise to public office in San Francisco; his fight for gay rights in that city and his assisnation at the hands of fellow City Councilman, Dan White. Amazing performances from Sean Penn; Josh Brolin; James Franco; Victor Garber and Stephen Spinella are icing on the cake.
Yes, it's a tie. I simply couldn't choose.
Pixar's Wall-E is an amazing warning about rampant consumerism while still managing to be a delightful romantic comedy, all without a single line of dialog for the first half-hour. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Dolly Levi would all be so proud.
As for The Dark Knight, I refuse to write more than I have to about Christopher Nolan's chaotic and brilliant entry into the Batman franchise which, finally, fully took the Superhero movie out of the hands of fanboys and into the hands of an auteur. The late Heath Ledger may have gotten all teh praise, but The Dark Knight also features some terrific performances from Michael Caine as Alfred and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey "Two-Face" Dent. Not to mention one of the best and most terrifying CGI FX in movie history (Dent's scarred face).
Well, what a year for movies, eh? Superheroes ruled, vampires rocked, gay folks refused to stay silent and a little trash-compacting robot stole our hearts. I hope at least one of your favorites is on my list. If not, maybe next year.
I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years! See you at the movies!
As always, more of this, anon.