Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film Lists Specific to 2008

These are my Movie Lists for films of 2008 thus far. Keep in mind I've seen pretty much nothing. I have seen very little of the films that have been released into theaters this year but with Oscar Season rolling around and new things coming out on DVD every week I expect to see many more things.

Hopefully. So far I have been impressed with this year for a couple of different reasons. While it looks like there were a lot of releases that I had no interest in, the good films from this section of the year have been of higher quality of those in recent years during the January-September period. Although the year got off to a very slow start, this summer has been very very strong offering lots of different types of films. There was something for everyone and more films were surprise critical successes than there were disappointments. May was a rough month. It brought Indiana Jones and Speed Racer, two highly anticipated films that failed. “Speed Racer” failed with fans and critics while Indiana Jones made tons of money and left the majority of critics pleased but left fans pissed off. I actually enjoyed both of these movies but can understand where people are coming from with their complaints. Admittedly “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is annoying when compared to the earlier installments, even Temple of Doom, but on its own I had a fun time despite it having some truly lame moments. Nevertheless once summer kicked off, it did not stop until the end of August.

An area that makes 2008 a great year so far is the comedies. When I love comedies, I love them, but it takes a lot for me to enjoy one. The genre is played out, it's nobody's fault but it just is, like many other genres. It happens. These past few years though have been quite impressive when you look at the best that comedy films have to offer. While much of it still looks to me like it’s the regular mundane comedy, the Apatow clan and others have consistently brought their A game to the table. “Pineapple Express”, while a bit long, impressed me immensely with its combination of stoner comedy and 70’s trashy action flick. Having an art house director make this movie gave the film a certain edge that another director would not have brought to the table and further proved the awesomeness of David Gordon Green. It also boasted a career changing performance from James Franco showing us that yes indeed he can act, (Freaks and Geeks was not a fluke)and not just act but steal the show, finally shedding the blandness of his Spider Man role and his numerous bad film choices mostly because of Hollywood trying to pin him into the heartthrob status.

Before Pineapple though we were given “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, a film that I happen to enjoy more than “Knocked Up” and “40 Year Old Virgin” (although “Superbad” still holds the top Apatow related film spot for me). Jason Segel shows he is a cut above the rest by writing and starring in a film that changes the roles of men and women in romantic comedies and spinning it into his own innovative and refreshing story. This film had me laughing so hard I was crying and also crying because I was touched.

And finally we were given Tropic Thunder, a satirical film that I found to be veering dangerously close towards genius. I normally do not get excited when I see Ben Stiller's name. I get a bit annoyed. I don't hate him; I am just not very into him. Then he writes (along with Justin Theroux, who I adore and Etan Cohen, not to be mistaken for Ethan Coen) and directs and stars in this movie and blows my mind. Tropic Thunder for me worked on more levels than any movie I've seen this year. It managed to balance out all forms of comedy, to be hilarious in all the aspects of comedy that it portrays, even the kinds I do not normally like. It is smart about how it presents itself and finally the film is ultimately a satire and one of the best I've ever seen. Stiller's satirical skills and knowledge of the Hollywood system he grew up in, match up perfectly here. He's not afraid to make fun of himself; nobody gets off the hook here. He is over the top and simultaneously subtle about it, I don’t understand how he does it. He cleverly delves into the absurdity of Hollywood, fully understanding that he is also a part of that system. Very few things in the film do not work for me. I've had some sort of minute criticism about every movie this year and most movies in general. This does not necessarily make me enjoy the movie any less but as long as I’m pointing out the aspects I liked…and anyways I've seen very few movies that get it all right. Robert Downey Jr. lives up to the hype built around this performance and knocks it out of the park. What he has to do and balance is so hard yet he makes it look so effortless. People need to understand how disastrous this would have been is anyone else had done it. The great thing about “Tropic Thunder” is that it feels like a film that I'll discover something new every time I see it because it held up completely in my second viewing of it and I saw so many things I did not see the first time. It works about 90% of the time I'd say and for a film that is taking as many risks as this one did that's a pretty damn good percentage.

And of course we have “Burn After Reading”, a comedy by the Coen Brothers that hits the target. It's extremely strange and pointless but that's the point. I've gone on too long about other movies so I won't drivel on about this one but trust me. It’s good. It defies conventions, it’s structured differently, it has a refreshing vibe about it and has great performances. So needless to say comedy or at least the best of it has been absurdly strong.

Action seems to be making new leaps this year as well, proving a summer blockbuster can dominate at the box office and also be a film that accomplishes as much as films that are not blockbusters. “The Dark Knight” certainly proved that a blockbuster has the power to surprise everyone in its construction and intricate execution. Seeing it left me thinking and appreciating how impossible it must have been to put a film like this together, script wise. How do you make all the elements work cohesively together they way they did here? That's what happens when you have someone like Christopher Nolan directing and writing (with his brother) a film like this and you have a cast like the one in this film, especially obviously Ledger as The Joker turning in a truly frightening iconic performance that managed to live up to a year and a half of hype. I love how mature the film is and I love the way it addresses the thematic issues in an intelligent way that is not dumbed down for the audience. I admit though I'm a bit put off by the status the film has gotten. There is absolutely no way that this film is the 4th greatest of all time according to imdb voters. It probably shouldn't be in the top 250 at all and if it is it should be at the bottom. It's annoying how quick people are to completely ignore 100 years of film for one admittedly fantastic one. One that yes, in its best moments left me astounded at what it was doing. But it's becoming the film that everyone proclaims is the best ever and that is frankly an absurd statement. Yes, it’s remarkable but is it that much of a masterpiece? I'd have to say it isn't. Not far from being a masterpiece but ultimately I can’t call it that because I do think the film has a few flaws, some minor and some larger.

In fact I've seen two films just this year that I feel are a little more accomplished than “The Dark Knight” and they are “Wall-E” and “Snow Angels”. “Wall-E” would be in my list of masterpieces. It showed a subtlety that I rarely see. In “Wall-E” I saw Andrew Stanton taking a chance and putting his trust in children and adults to pay attention and use visual storytelling and sparse dialogue to communicate its story. I saw many reviews of “Wall-E” that compared the films poetry to that of Chaplin’s and I see it completely. While “Finding Nemo” is still my favorite of the Pixar films, “Wall-E” is their best, showing us a piece of art ranking in the top tier of originality. It made me see what movies were capable of. “There Will Be Blood” was the last film that did that. “Snow Angels” is interesting because it did not get amazing reviews. It got very good reviews but not stellar ones. However the people, who love this movie, seriously love it. I am one of those people. It takes a type of film that’s become a sort of cliché at this point, loosely connected stories about a group of people and delivers in a way that truly moved me, that had more truth in it than I was actually comfortable with and again boasted performances that blew my mind.

“Snow Angels” has the best ensemble acting of any film I’ve seen this year and one of the best period. There’s a lot I haven’t seen but I be amazed if I saw better ensemble acting in any of the movies I haven’t seen in 2008. “Burn After Reading” is a moderately close second. Sam Rockwell gives the best performance of this year so far. It’s sad that the film is going under the radar completely because I found his work here to be painful and uncompromising and with more depth than I can say. Kate Beckinsale, an actress I normally don’t enjoy very much is a revelation here. And Michael Anagrano, a young actor who I’ve seen around for years and is finally given the opportunity, character and directing to shine. He gives the most authentic portrayal of being a teenager I’ve seen in recent years, even topping Michael Cera’s best work in my personal opinion. (I’m not hating on Cera by the way, he’s one of my favorites) I can see how people think it’s just one of those movies that try to have its point be “this is the way life is” and that’s it. However I see so much being said about life in a superbly executed way that I found this movie to be completely authentic. The only critical thing I can say about it is that yes at times it came off as trying too hard to be what it was but David Gordon Green is starting to become my favorite young director and what he’s accomplished is unique and profound for me. It's a pretty disturbing and not fun but well worth it. Although his first film “George Washington” is still a lot better if that’s possible.

So anyways, I could go into “Teeth” and “Kung Fu Panda”, two movies that went under the radar despite being fantastic. Or I could go into “The Ruins” which took typical horror fare and elevated it into not great by any means but definitely a cut above most horror movies these days. Or I could go into the fact that while I thought “Iron Man” was very good excelling in many areas, I still don’t seem to be obsessed with it the way some people are. Or I could talk about how well “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” was a technical achievement for the ages, well worth seeing multiple times for the visuals alone, I still can’t get into the Hellboy series nearly as much as I wished I was, despite enjoying it a trillion times more than the first Hellboy an overrated film in my opinion. Or I could talk about my flat out disappointment about “Redbelt”, Mamet’s latest film and “Run Fatboy Run”, something I wasn’t expecting to be any good anyways. Or I could talk about how everyone seems to have forgotten about “Cloverfield”, a film I enjoyed quite a bit despite annoying lead characters, even though the film’s influence is still being seen with recent releases like “Quarantine” and George A. Romero’s “Diary of the Dead”. But I won’t go into any of that. Instead I’ll finally just show you my three lists and hopefully have many more films to add before the year is up.

Favorite to Least Favorite Movie in 2008

1. Tropic Thunder
2. Snow Angels
3. Burn After Reading
4. Wall-E
5. Pineapple Express
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. The Dark Knight
8. Kung Fu Panda
9. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
10. Cloverfield
11. Teeth
12. The Ruins
13. Iron Man
14. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
15. Speed Racer
16. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
17. Redbelt
18. Smart People
19. Run, Fatboy, Run

Greatest to Worst Movie from 2008

1. Wall-E
2. Snow Angels
3. The Dark Knight
4. Tropic Thunder
5. Burn After Reading
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. Pineapple Express
8. Kung Fu Panda
9. Iron Man
10. Teeth
11. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
12. Cloverfield
13. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
14. The Ruins
15. Speed Racer
16. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
17. Redbelt
18. Smart People
19. Run Fatboy Run

Top 15 Performances of 2008 So Far (from the little I’ve seen)

1. Sam Rockwell – Glenn Merchand - Snow Angels
2. Robert Downey Jr. – Kirk Lazarus – Tropic Thunder
3. Heath Ledger – The Joker – The Dark Knight
4. Michael Anagrano – Arthur Parkinson - Snow Angels
5. James Franco – Saul - Pineapple Express
6. Jess Weixler – Dawn O’Keefe – Teeth
7. Kate Beckinsale – Annie Merchand – Snow Angels
8. Aaron Eckhart – Harvey Dent – The Dark Knight
9. Frances McDormand –Linda Litzke - Burn After Reading
10. George Clooney – Harry Pfarrer – Burn After Reading
11. Gary Oldman – James Gordon – The Dark Knight
12. Brad Pitt – Chad – Burn After Reading
13. Jason Segel – Forgetting Sarah Marshall
14. Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts – Iron Man
15. J.K Simmons – CIA Superior – Burn After Reading


Yayavar said...

u have a good taste for movies

Catherine said...

why thank you very much! you do too!