Sunday, March 15, 2009

My 10 Favorite Films of 2008

I should have posted this list several weeks ago, but it took me a little while longer to see some of the movies I wanted to because even though St. Louis is a large city, it's not really a hot-spot for film debuts. Anyway, here's my list of my favorite 10 movies from 2008.

IRON MAN--Until another comic book movie came along last summer, IRON MAN was the king of comic book movies. It has many of the elements people have now come to expect in a superhero movie, but also included a hugely talented cast that gave some wonderful performances. Also, though the characters origins are steeped in tragedy and full of lessons about the dangers of pride, the film is really about redemption. It's a feel-good movie and a good one at that.

9.In recent years I've become a huge fan of documentaries. All of us have great stories about life, but many are never told because a person has no idea how to convey their story in a meaningful and proper way to the world at large. Documentaries, if done right, are able to do this. In the past few years since I've discovered this genre of film, I've seen all kinds of great documentaries from some smaller films that friends of mine have made that have never been marketed to larger marketed pictures such as MURDERBALL, GRIZZLY MAN, and THE KING OF KONG that have examined (respectfully) the lives of people involved in wheelchair rugby, people living with grizzly bears, and people who play Donkey Kong as a second job. MAN ON WIRE is about Philippe Petit, a professional tightrope walker from France, who in 1974 before the buildings were completed walked between the Two Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. For many people this movie has a nostalgic appeal because of the now eradicated Two Towers. Discounting that, the film is still a remarkable film about who dream dreams and make them come true as well as of living the life of an Artist who tries to make some beautiful. In the words of the Muppets, it's really about the "lovers, the dreamers, and me."

8.Five years ago, people would say that a cartoon love story between two robots that has hardly any dialogue with a largely environmental message would be a box office killer. Fast-forward in time and that movie was the biggest animated film of 2008. Of course it was created by the people at Pixar who just fifteen years after their inception hasn't forgotten that the heart of all moviemaking, especially animated films, isn't in the animation itself but in the story and the characters.


Okay. I'll admit. I've heard about this movie for two years because a friend of mine worked on it. Even if I had no connection to the film, I still would have loved it. The movie is filmed in a realistic way (with the feel of a documentary) with a naturalistic story. The acting is incredible, especially that of Melissa Leo. Even though she was beaten out of the Oscar by Kate Winslet, Leo's performance is hand's down the best performance by an actress from any movie released in 2008. Leo's been around for a long time, but does mostly small and indpendent stuff so very few people recognize her name.

6.Robert Downy Jr. had his comeback in IRON MAN. THE WRESTLER is Mickey Rourke's. I grew up watching Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Piper, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, Hillbilly Jim, Sgt. Slaughter, Andre the Giant, the Iron Shiek, etc. As a kid, all you ever see is the stuff that goes in front of the cameras and even when you're a little older and recognize some of the theatrics, you have no idea what actually happens behind the cameras and off-stage. Now I know. Rourke gives a dynamic performance and should gave the best performance of any actor on screen in 2008. Like Melissa Leo, even though he didn't win an Oscar he'll still be giving great performances years from now. Besides that, Rourke could easily kick Sean Penn's whiny ass any day.

5.Critics hated this movie. "There's too much going on." "It doesn't know what type of movie it wants to be." "Nicole Kidman can't act." And on and on. However, everyone that I've talked to who's not a filmmaking insider and who has actually seen the movie, loves it. I know I did. The film is a cross breed of genres, but that's kind of the point. It's not supposed to be just a love story, or a Western, or a war movie. The movie is really about Australia and it's people and the characters in the film are just symbols used to tell this beautiful portrait of Baz Luhrmann's homeland.

4.The funniest movie of the year. You'll love it even more if you've worked in film or theatre.

In all honesty, I wasn't all that impressed with Brad Pitt. He's a decent actor and does a good job, but what makes his performance stand out isn't his acting but the special effects and make-up. Unbelievable. Cate Blanchett and Taraji Henton (Queeny) give the real star performances in this picture. Also, the sets, props, and costumes were unbelievable.

Directed by one of my favorite directors, Danny Boyle, and set in India this coming of age love story set within a rags to riches tale taking place during the biggest trivia game in history, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was the most-deserving of the five nominated pictures to win the Oscar. The cinematography is magnificent and the music is a real treat. I love the way how the story unfolds before the audience, told through flashbacks after questions asked on the show. The movie displays some very dark and disturbing parts of life, yet at it's core the film is about hope, joy, and love with a happy ending that unlike most Hollywood-type movies doesn't seem at all out of place.

1.There was so much about this movie that could have gone wrong. Yet, THE DARK KNIGHT avoided all of those pitfalls and once and for all showed the world that superhero movies based upon comic books aren't all cotton-candy. The movie is a dark film ending with a bizarre turn of events that leaves the hero of the film taking on the role of villian. Yet, the final moments of the film revel in an anticipation of hope.

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