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.
Fellow film blogger, Benjamin Wright, reached an half-baked conclusion in discussing the state of title sequences coming after the 1990s.
Most Hollywood films held the ‘main’ credits for the end, reversing a long history of studio filmmaking that announced up-front who was responsible for the film you were about to see. Some have attributed this move to audience polling during advance screenings. Studios risk losing the audience’s attention during long, cumbersome title sequences. Even Steven Spielberg has noted that he prefers the end credit system, since it enables him to start the film without disruption or pause.
While this observation is true to an extent, it stinks of a moth-ridden jeremiad towards contemporary cinema as a creative wasteland overloaded with razzle-dazzle technology, but lacking in innovative wit. Upon reading several detailed studies on film credits, including their evolution through the 60s with Saul Bass’s revolutionary minimalist design, the “endangered species” label is still more applicable to perishing wildlife than this ever resilient cockroach of the film going experience. Perhaps its duration will be shorter, less of an introductory warmer than an sudden blast of words followed by an already running treadmill of suspense and action (Think LOST). The annoying question of whether a prologue should adhere to the contents of the actual body of the film sometimes hinder the titles sequence as less foreshadowing or an extension of thematic reassurance than a mini-movie in itself…an immediate appetizer before the bloated main course of recognizable edibles. As they change, we change, and there’s an absolute rush of adventure in the air of not knowing how our viewing positions and expectations will twist and turn as the decades rushes by. Regardless of the presence or absence of “elaborate credit sequences,” films will still present the most basic of information in order to situate the viewer in its reception, generally by foregrounding itself as only fiction, part fact, part bricolage of still frames with legible typeface, and lastly, part narcissism on behalf of its ‘valued’ authors and actors. Without a doubt, the spirit of Saul Bass manages to survive among the prematurely called “dying breed” of professions at one of the industry’s most respected firms, Prologue, a Venice(CA)-based cooperative of famous motion graphic artists such as Kyle Cooper (Se7en) and Danny Yount (Spiderman, Ironman).
Just marvel at the company’s impressive resume below.
Iron Man [Favreau, 2008]
Spiderman 2 [Raimi, 2004]
Married Life [Sachs, 2007]
EuroTrip [Schaffer, 2004]
Standard Operating Procedure [Morris, 2008]
Pushing Daisies [Fuller, 2007-Current]
And what a pleasure to witness the art in its most stunning and jazzy incarnation, in Spielberg’s own Catch Me if You Can.
and again in 2005, at the beginning of a brilliant underrated crime thriller, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
THE SCOOP: Back to Old Europe
Giulia y Los Tellarini: Not only has Woody got his groove back (that’s assuming if the critics’ positive feedback of his latest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, was not a fluke), he also regained his hearing, more attuned to music being made in the NOW, and no place better than his host country, Spain for its local flavor and neglected indie troubadours. The music you hear in the film’s trailer, and presumbly its soundtrack (Allen stated that “Barcelona” is its main theme) will eventually land these Lucky 7 on the global map of music meccas. This might be the year when people would start humming (and clapping) to Spanish songs like they did 2 years ago.
Latest album: Eusebio
Think: Early Belle and Sebastian + Ponies in the Surf + René Peña-Govea
Best Variety Show Appearance, love the Carmen Maura look in little girl white:
Sporto Kantes: Formed in 1990, this French drum-and-bass duo has been pumping out outstanding albums one after another. Though still under the radar, they seem content in playing outside of the competition when the year’s best lists are announced. Weaving Afro-Caribbean and Spanish melodies into a heavy electronic framework, Sporto indulges the sin of sampling with enough originality to pass under everyone’s favorite ambivalent term, “fusion.”
Latest: 3 At Last
Think: RJD2 + Gonzales + Groove Armada
Best Guest Stint: Bonus song “Ferdinand” in Jean Luc-Godard’s Histoire(s) du Musique compilation
I think this tune might kickstart your neurons: