Category Archives: Best of 2008

Best and Worst of 2008 (that I have seen)


trophyI felt it necessary to clarify that title, because although I see a lot, I don’t see neaarly as many as actual film critics, and I know there were plenty I missed.

These lists will include films released in 2008. I might amend it later this year, after I’ve seen more 2008s on DVD.

The good news (for me, anyway) is that I didn’t see too many bad movies released in 2008, mostly because I am not a real film critic who has to review/view everything. So for the worstest movies of the year, we’re going to do only five.

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BEST

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. Man on Wire
3. The Wrestler
4 Slumdog Millionaire
5. Milk
6. Vantage Point
7. Iron Man
8. Tropic Thunder
9. Quantum of Solace
10. Choke

In the past, I haven’t seen the best movies until after they’ve come out on DVD, sometimes after the Oscars. But this year was different, as I made more of an effort to see the best, rather than the trendy.

Really, any of the top five here could be in the number one slot, and I believe one of them will take home Best Picture this year.

Benjamin Button is so good that you don’t realize it’s almost three hours long. Pitt and Blanchett are perfect together, and even with only one really good action sequence (in WWII, no less), it’s a remarkably well-paced film.

Man on Wire is the rare documentary that could double as a crime drama; it’s exquisitely shot, using both original footage and the archival Petit walks.

The Wrestler is powerful stuff, too, and it’s more than just “Mickey Rourke’s comeback,” as Marisa Tomei is lights-out in an unflattering role.

Milk is similarly not just Sean Penn’s movie, as he’s helped by James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch.

A lot of people thought Vantage Point stunk, but I’m not one of them; I remember being blown away by it in the theater. As long a you buy into the gimmick of showing the same event from, well, different vantage points, you can see how wonderfully well done it is, and it’s full of intrigue and mystery as well.

Robert Downey, Jr. is on this list twice, with two flawless efforts as Tony Stark in Iron Man and Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder. Each is exhilirating in its own right, with Iron Man finally being a superhero who’s not brooding or out for revenge (in fact, he’s a bit of a heel, isn’t he), and Lazarus the perfect Method actor. Both films are great, and Downey, Jr.’s performance lifts them to dizzying heights.

Quantum of Solace, the 22nd Bond adventure, was expected to be good, and it delivered. Daniel Craig’s Bond is angry as hell, and he’s going to keep on being angry until his questions are answered. He’s more like Mel Gibson’s character in the underrated Payback. The gadgets are gone, but not the chicks. Good.

Finally, Choke is a movie about as idiosyncratic as its lead character, a man addicted to sex and not really ashamed by it. Sam Rockwell is ideally cast, and Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, and Brad William Henke (of Sherrybaby) offer strong support.

rex-the-happening-1_hWORST

1. The Happening
2. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
3. 10,000 BC
4. Cloverfield
5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

The Happening was a disaster in every sense possible. Well, except for actual trees actually attacking humans, I suppose. It was, as with most Shyamalan movies, an exercise in hubris and futility. Mark Wahlberg wasn’t believable as a teacher; neither was John Leguizamo, for that matter. Zooey Deschanel was marginally better, but the movie was the absolute pits.

I wish Harold and Kumar had remained in Guantanamo Bay. The first movie was creative and witty, but the second was a mean spirited, nasty pile of vomit. The only saving grace was the legendary Neil Patrick Harris, playing Neil Patrick Harris. On a unicorn.

Someone should tell Roland Emmerich to stop making epics. Or stop paying him to do so. 10,000 BC was an anachronistic bonfire, with a dumb plot lifted from the much-better Apocalypto. It was all sound and fury and signified nothing.

Similarly, Cloverfield was horrendously overhyped and seemed to feel that making the audience dizzy was the same as entertaining. It was like Blair Witch Project fueled by alcohol and paint thinner, and it was so distressingly hard to follow – logically – that I openly pined for a Curious George redo. (Okay, not really.)

Finally, the much-ballyhooed Woody Allen movie Vicky Christina Barcelona had pretty women and pretty locations, but the plot was rather messy and unrealistic. And it got tiresome, watching Javier Bardem ping pong from hot chick to hot chick. It perks up only – and I mean only – when Penelope Cruz shows up. Scarlett Johansson, who’s a good actress, turns in an annoying performance here.

In the coming months, I bet I add to these two lists. Any other contenders?