I refute the claim that 2008 was bad. Sure, there wasn’t the stunning pair of There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, but there were some fine films – a lot of them much smaller on the release scale. My short list follows, with even shorter commentary. If I could summarize what I love about all these films, it would be the directors. I admire them for the strong and difficult choices they made, often resulting in opposing moods and tones that I’ve never seen sutured together so beautifully.
- Teeth – Pitch perfect in tone, this movie was smart, steadily directed (especially for a first feature), and downright hilarious.
- Waltz with Bashir – One of the most stunning explorations of memory and forgetting ever to play upon the screen. A perfect union of content and style.
- Synecdoche, New York – The simple fact that Kaufman can always blow my mind puts him up here. I’ll be coming back to this movie for a long time because it bent my brain in a way that only Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Dr’ ever has.
- Mister Lonely – Almost like a beautiful collection of short stories, every scene in this movie stood alone as a tiny film. Gorgeously shot and flawlessly cast.
- In Bruges – A film that turned out to be far deeper than it’s advertisements led on, I was hugely impressed by the film’s flips between the darkly comic and the religiously existential.
- The Dark Knight – It’s like Nolan made an action movie out of Soren Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”. I’ve been quietly suposing that the man might be the reincarnation of Hitchcock, and now I’m just gonna come out and say it. (Plus, Ledger is bat-shit crazy).
- Up the Yangtze – Another documentary snuck its way in here, but well deserved. A heart breaking and quiet observation of a singular incidence of suffering in the massive devastation that is the Three Gorges Damn Project.
- The Wrestler – Aronofsky said that in his previous films he, “used the camera like a paintbrush. Here, I tried to use it more like a camera”. Aside from Rorke’s fantastic performance, I appreciate Aronofsky for boldly trying new things, new styles, and new formats (super 16!). Many directors are too chicken shit to stray from the style that made them famous, so props to Darren for mixing it up.
- WALL-E – There may or may not be complaints about the second half of this film, but the simple fact is that I was screaming with laughter for the first 30 minutes or so, and still giggling continuously after that. Plus, any movie that can make me feel intense empathy for a steel box wins something in my book.
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Woody Allen is smart and funny again! Yay!!
Editor’s Note: The rest of our team’s thoughts on the 2008 roster in future posts.