It has to be said that 2008 was a great year for films, and we’ve certainly spent a lot of time watching them. Despite the fact that every new DVD we buy is the wrong zone for back home, will also need to be shipped back home, and will then have to be replaced by blu-ray in a few years, we’ve still bought them by the dozens.
Picking a top 10 is pretty tough, but it has to be done, and I’m bored enough- I mean, inspired enough to do it!
(I’ve tried to resist adding films that I’ve only just discovered this past year but were released earlier – that’s a whole new list!)
- Wall*E is quite possibly the perfect film – yes, I love it enough to say that! Pixar are well-known for their philosophy of ‘story comes first’ and this little gem proves it. This touching story of a lonely trash-compacting robot, the only ‘survivor’ on an Earth polluted then abandoned by humans, is easily my favourite film of 2008. The music (La Vie en Rose, etc and the score), sound effects (by the Star Wars guy), animation (some of Pixar’s finest), characters (from Wall-E and Eve, down to the cleaning bot, ‘Mo’) and of course, the story are so well-developed, touching, funny and beautiful… I just love it!
- The Dark Knight was certainly the biggest earner of 2008 and the most hyped film of 2008! But it lived up to the hype and even after 3 watches (one on the brilliant IMAX screen) it’s still a pretty exciting story. Does it deserve to be at number 2? I’m not sure… but it definitely makes the top 10 and despite the other film son the list all being brilliant, I think this is the one I’ll revisit most often (and only partly because Mike sleeps with it under his pillow!).
- Slumdog Millionaire was wrongly labeled as a ‘feel-good’ film. It’s not. But it’s brilliant none the less. I’ve only just seen it so it’s still a bit fresh in my mind and may have inched it’s way up the list because of this, but it is a MUST SEE film. It’s uplifting, depressing, beautiful and horrid all at the same time. Brilliantly filmed and an amazing story.
- Frost/Nixon is the boxing film of the year. An epic battle between two unmatched competitors. An interesting piece of (television) history and a thrilling story.
- Waltz with Bashir is sadly the only good doco I saw this past year. But makes up for the lack in quantity with it’s superb quality. Beautiful animation (has it been nominated in every category from animation, to doco, to foreign film?) and a startling story (The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1980’s). Told through interviews and ‘re-enactments’, it’s an interesting deviation from more conventional documentary styles.
- Speedracer GO SPEEDRACER GO! One of the most misunderstood films of the year. The Wachowski’s first directorial effort since The Matrix trilogy didn’t meet most critics expectations. But then those critics didn’t realise that it’s a children’s/family film. Based on a Japanese anime cartoon. Awesome stylings and effects, the Wachowski’s have truly created 2.5D/CG animation. It’s trippy and fun, has cool cars and evil baddies and the good guy wins in the end. What more do you want?
- Juno, I saw for the first time in 2008 (even if it was technically released in 2007), so it makes the list. This is a feelgood film. Nice original story, witty dialogue and great soundtrack. ’nuff said.
- Hunger is quite possibly the worst film I saw in 2008. I actually felt physically ill watching most of this film. Watching IRA prisoners go on hunger-strike is not my idea of fun. But it was so beautifully captured and poetically told that you felt like you were there, in the room. And it certainly created the right tone for such a hopeless story.
- Persepolis makes the list for being an outstanding story and for the most surprising animation. Based on the comic written by and based on the life of Marjane Statrapi, it also uses the comics art style, very simple outline sketches in black and white. Surprisingly this turns out to be quite beautiful and very well-suited to the story.
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is another true story, based on the life of French Elle Editor, Jean-Do Bauby, who becomes completely paralyzed after a stroke. This film gets points for the amazing way it shows Jean-Do’s viewpoint and of course, the very poignant story.
Iron Man/ Hellboy 2/ Hancock – was 2008 the year of the comic book films? Maybe, but 2009 seems to be following suit. Watchmen will be the big one. Ironman 2 is in production and there’s a couple of Neil Gaiman adaptation (of his novels though, not comics) to watch out for. You can run, you can hide, but you can’t deny that comic book adaptations are leaping box offices in single bounds!
Burn After Reading – you gotta love the Coen brothers’ dark twisted comedy’s. No, I mean it, you HAVE TO! It’s a deal breaker!!! Starring a cast of regular’s and with the type of genre-story they’ve made their own, Burn After Reading is most enjoyable. Most. And like a fine wine, it will get better over time (excuse the rhyme- d’oh, did it again)
Che 1 & 2 (But really The Motorcycle Diaries) – Saw these two films back to back on New Year’s day, which was a bit of a struggle. They’re both good films, and apparently quite accurate depictions of events and people, but… the reason I mention it, is that we decided to finally watch ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ seeing as it’s the unofficial prequel to Che 1&2. I now know why everyone loved this film. (And not just because Gael García Bernal is a beautiful man!).
Happy Go-Lucky is just what the title says. Don’t expect a light bit of fluff though. It’s not fluffy, but is ‘feel-good’. Great performances all round. “En-Ra-Ha!”
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Johnny Depp singing. Tim Burton directing and Helena Bonham Carter stealing the show. ’nuff said.
Now, I’m sure I’ve missed some. Feel free to add or comment!