08 Year In Review
Before you check out the Oscars, take a look at what I thought were the best movies of the year and I will be back soon enough with my Oscar predictions as well.
I am going to do a couple things differently this year before I get to the list itself by sharing a couple thoughts and reflections I had about film and the year in general when it comes to world of movies, but first a couple movies I missed in time for my 08 review.
1. Death at a Funeral-Rent this now, it is hilarious and one of the funniest movies of the decade. I don’t want to spoil a thing, but just know this would have made my Top 10 last year has I seen it in time.
2. Before the Devil Knows Your Dead-I don’t know how I left this off my list, but this one still sticks with me from when I saw it. One of the more original crime thrillers in years and amazing performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei, I can’t recommend this one enough; though it is dark and different and not for everyone.
Now, for 08, the year was pretty good, but not really great. There were a lot of movies I was satisfied with but didn’t blow me away. There were a lot of solid B’s but not a lot of A’s, and only one or two that I just absolutely loved. Too many films were just missing that special something or had one thing holding it back from making that leap and while there are plenty of good experiences this year there aren’t nearly as many one was wowed by.
Most Overrated Film of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire. Now, I have been a big fan of Danny Boyle for years now and the first hour of this is some of his best stuff, but once Jamal gets all growns up the movie grinds to a halt, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto have zero chemistry and Patel’s acting is a bit lacking outside the interrogation room. The movie does gain a good amount of its mojo back in the finale and the Bollywood dance number is amazing. But a movie that is ½ amazing, ¼ dull and boring, and ¼ sweet, charming, and happy in the end doesn’t make it the movie of the year, which a lot of award shows are deeming it this year. I by no means hate this movie, in fact I like it quite a bit, and it just doesn’t gel into a great film.
Runner Up: Frost/Nixon (good, not great)
Most Disappointing Film: Choke. It’s not a bad movie, it just wasn’t what it could have been. One of my favorite books ever, it was bound to be a bit of a let down. Luckily Sam Rockwell was great in it and there are some genuinely hilarious moments in there. I think the film probably works better for people that don’t know the twists and a bit bigger budget might have benefited it. Let’s just hope an eventual adaptation of Rant, Lullaby, Survivor, or Invisible Monsters pans out better.
Runner Up: Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry writing his own stuff, not so sure about, did some awesome camera tricks/shots though)
Most Underrated Film of the Year: Speed Racer. There was probably only one film more fun in theaters last year and seeing this thing in IMAX was a sight to be seen. If they could have shot this thing in 3-D I think my brain might have melted. Was the plot and characters a little simple from time to time? Sure, but it is a family movie, it’s not supposed to be a mind bender. And the race scenes, I mean wow, just phenomenal and some of the best effects in a film this year. This film is not the stink bomb you have been led to believe, and I think this one will be in the public eye a lot longer then some of the other greats of the year. Also, this one looks glorious on Blu-Ray.
Runner Up: Quantum of Solace
Worst Movie of the Year: 21. Just terrible. Everyone is a type, plot twists are seen a mile away, and it just wouldn’t end. They also apparently butchered the real life story as well, bonus! I don’t want to even write anymore about it, avoid if you haven’t seen it, I don’t care what Chris Rasch says.
Runner Up: Four Christmases
Movie that Benefits Most from Second Viewing: Pineapple Express. This movie left me underwhelmed in the theater, but at home on my couch I enjoyed it a lot more. I think its rewatchability only got stronger as well and it is a lot easier for me to recommend to people now with less of a disclaimer tagged to it. Also, James Franco was amazing in this flick.
Runner Up: Kung Fu Panda (solidifies its greatness)
Score of the Year: Speed Racer. Another winner from Michael Giacchino, he has pretty much settled in as my favorite composer working today, hands down. The score captures the film so well and is exciting to listen to even when you aren’t watching the movie. Just a wonderful musical experience and the score I listen to the most at work from 08.
Runner Up: The Dark Knight
Trailer of the Year: Watchmen. When I went into the Dark Knight I expected the trailer to be a one minute teaser with text taking up 75% of the trailer with flashes of footage intercut before a montage at the end. And what do we get a two minute plus trailer that starts off with the fucking creation of Dr. Manhattan! I was in chills the whole time and that trailer instantly put the Watchmen, which was foreign to many, on their must see map. Just fantastic and I can’t believe the release of is now only two weeks away.
Runner Up: Milk (just short of Watchmen)
Ok, moving on.
Movies I didn’t get to see: Waltz with Bashir, Ballast, Hunger, I’ve Loved You So Long, JVCD, City of Ember, The Foot Fist Way, Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay, Mongol
Honorable Mentions: Slumdog Millionaire (see above), Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (heads and shoulders above first one), The Spirit (a silly good time), Tropic Thunder (Downey Jr. is amazing), Ghost Town (more Ricky Gervais), Doubt (solid all around), Body of Lies (three great stars, and solid action), Cassandra’s Dream (Woody Allen’s dark film for 08), Pineapple Express (see above), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the show is even better), 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (can’t wait to see again), Man on Wire (an astonishing feat/story), The Incredible Hulk (shows how strong a comic book year this was), Son of Rambow (cute British comedy that I probably over hyped myself for) Ashes of Time: Redux (Wong Kar Wai is awesome), Smart People (Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church shine), My Blueberry Nights (see Ashes of Time) OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (fun French spoof of classic Bond movies)
And on to the list:
Why 38? Because I said so and this is a sampling of the 103 movies I saw from 08.
38. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls-a film that was, like Speed Racer, a bit over maligned by the public and media. The first hour of this movie is a great Indian Jones movie and the finale is a lot of fun as well. Are there something to pick at, sure, the not admitting they were aliens was a bit weird, the sword fight got absurd, and I don’t know what the fuck they were thinking with the monkeys, I mean seriously? But Ford was great again in a movie, Shia was funny and a worthy sidekick, the fridge joke killed me personally, and the movie looked fantastic. Either way, I think it was a worthy Indiana Jones movie and it will grow on people in time; I’m not saying its Raiders or anything.
37. The Duchess-Keira Knightly stars in this period film that feels authentic but doesn’t drag like many period films do. This film flies by, feels fresh, and is an interesting piece of history. Ralph Fiennes is also pretty much amazing in this movie and deserved to be nominated for an Oscar here. But if you are a fan of costume dramas this is one the best out there and is contemporary enough for the younger crowd to appreciate as well.
36. Frozen River-This micro budget indie flick is getting some Oscar love and it is totally deserved. Mellissa Leo is amazing in this as Ray and the path that she goes down might be a bit unbelievable at times but it still works. Throw in a great mother son relationship and an excellent commentary on poverty, this film is not only very well made but very poignant in today’s day and age. You can check this one out on rental now, I suggest you do so.
35. Red Belt-this martial arts drama also deals with poverty and shows what people will go through to defend themselves and their honor. David Mamet directs a sensational script and Chiwetel Ejiofor complete becomes Mike Terry, a financially in trouble instructor who has his honor tested. Through in some good work by Tim Allen and a couple of cool fight scenes and you have an interesting look at Hollywood and the way the system works.
34. Religulous-Bill Maher’s hilarious documentary about religion and why people believe may go after some extremes, but he gets enough of the sane people in there as well to more than make his point. Spending most of the film just asking people simple questions and looking for a logical answer, it’s amazing how little he actually gets. Maher doesn’t abuse people unless they deserve it and there are plenty of laughs abound. Outside a fairly broad generalization towards Muslim near the end, Maher is smart and insightful and, as always, quite the laugh.
33. W.-Oliver Stone’s look at the Iraq War build up of W’s administration and his pre-White House life was an entertaining and even handed affair. Stone was very fair to the man and the result is actually a bit of sympathy towards the man and the situation he was thrown in. He was surrounded by a bunch of gung ho war mongers and he didn’t watch his own ass in it all. Josh Brolin is also phenomenal as W. and he continues to show that he is one of the finest actors of his generation with each picture he puts out. The film is an interesting look at the man and for fans and detractors of the man and regardless of your opinion the film is more that worth your investment.
32. Revolutionary Road-Sam Mendes latest is a dark and disturbing tale of suburbia that rings true and terrifying to the problems a couple can have. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are both spectacular and Winslet’s implosion is one of the finer performances of the year. Though the film is definitely tough to watch and while Michael Shannon’s great turn brings some lightness to the picture, nothing can save this dark trip from leaving a haunting impression on you. A great drama that will be interesting to analyze as time goes on.
31. Wendy and Lucy-this indie film is another movie about poverty that captures so well what it is like to be in that situation. Wendy and her dog Lucy are working their way towards Alaska for work and Michelle Williams gives us an amazing performance as her world crumbles around her in a small town in Oregon. A minimalist picture and a very narrow look at the overall story of Wendy’s tale, the film is sweet, heartbreaking, and feels incredibly true and believable. If you are a fan of independent film or dogs, this is a great film to look into.
30. Burn After Reading-The Coen Brothers follow up to No Country is a dark and silly skewering of the DC world of politics and espionage. The film is shot and presented like a serious spy thriller, but once you give in to just how absurd everyone is in the picture the film becomes even more enjoyable. Though, the plot can get a bit sad from time to time and the violence is graphic when it happens, but the picture is worth seeing alone for Brad Pitt’s amazing performance as Chad. One of his funniest roles in a while and it was nice to see him break his mold a bit. Clooney is also fantastically goofy in her as well and an angry John Malkovich is quite the laugh as well.
29. Towelhead-This dark coming of age tale from Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) looks at the life of a young Arab-American that is coming to grips with her sexuality in the midst of a potentially hostile environment in a Texas suburb. Araon Ekhart is fantastically creepy as a sleazy neighbor and Summer Bishil gives one of the finest performances of the year as the main character in question. Filled with dark, dark humor, the film isn’t for everyone, but if you can get somewhat comfortable with the subject matter this is a fantastic black comedy that flew under a ton of people’s radars.
28. The Bank Job-another little seen gem of a movie, Jason Statham stars as a criminal in the midst of an elaborate bank heist in 1970’s London that is fast paced, has plenty of twists and turns and never bores along the way. It might not bring anything terribly new to the table, but it does a heist movie so well that it is one of the more entertaining crime films to come along in a while. I am always down for a good heist picture and relish the opportunities to watch Jason Statham actually act in a real movie instead of playing an over the top action star which he has to do to often in my opinion.
27. Cloverfield-one of the early hits of the year, Cloverfield is a great creature picture that keeps things tense, provides a couple of good scares, blends in humor well, and does a good job at putting a fresh spin on the disaster genre. The handheld camera might get to some but the energy and franticness it brings to the picture helps elevate this movie from being just another sci-fi creature picture and is one of quite a few cool bits the movie throws at you. Oh yeah, and Michael Giacchino’s song over the credits was fucking amazing, makes his own little Godzilla theme.
26. Changeling-Clint Eastwood’s superior film this year was sadly not the most received one. But Angelina Jolie’s turn as a mother looking for her lost son is terrifying, haunting, and an excellent period pic about the corruption of police and the strides to over come it in early 20th century Los Angeles. Based off actual events only make the material more unsettling and the fact that incarceration facilities were managed like this makes you happy we live today rather than back then. Jolie is great here and Eastwood’s direction is superb and it is all captured beautifully here with some fantastic cinematography, it’s just a shame that it gets over looked due to the engrossing story.
25. Zack and Miri Make a Porno-lets lighten things up a little here with one of the first straight up comedies on the list with Kevin Smith’s latest staring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks. The tale about two platonic roommates who decide to make a porno to pay the bills is absurd to begin with so you should know to accept some absurdly rude and crude humor to accompany it. Featuring a huge and hilarious cast this film actually isn’t as racy as the title would suggest. But it is nice to see Jason Mewes play someone besides Jay and to see Kevin Smith branch out a bit from his Jersey roots. Also, Justin Long is fantastic in his brief appearances here, and the best laugh from any film this year came from this one (fair warning, it is quite a nasty gag).
24. Snow Angels-This small town drama is a sad look into the lives of a select set of intersecting individuals that happen to get involved in an even bigger mess of problems. Sam Rockwell is wonderful as usual in this as he captures a man trying to redeem himself perfectly. Olivia Thirlby is cute and desirable as usual and Kate Beckinsale plays a struggling single mother as good as anyone. This one turns fairly dark as it goes on but David Gordon Green’s direction and pacing is so marvelous he should be getting accolades for this over his entertaining stoner romp Pineapple Express.
23. The Reader-Kate Winslet is amazing as an ex-Nazi that has an affair with a young German boy and we follow the two’s lives as they cross each others paths as time goes by. You never know where the film is going and the relationship and connection Winslet makes with her young lover never ceases to surprise you. A couple of intriguing twists and a final act that you don’t see coming, The Reader is great cinema from start to finish while also showcasing a couple of solid performances by Winslet and Ralph Fiennes under the direction of the super talented Stephen Daldry.
22. The Wackness-another coming of age story on the list, this time focusing on the life of a just graduated high school drug dealer who has one final crazy summer before heading off to college in the fall. Ben Kingsley turns in one of the best supporting characters of the year as a pot smoking psychiatrist that has a couple of loose bolts up top of his own, along with Olivia Thirlby doing what she does best again here. The soundtrack to the film is also quite fantastic and the humor in the film is earned and genuine. Josh Peck also does a great job at creating the lovable loser type that goes through sexual awkwardness with little grace and plenty of humiliation. A hidden gem of the year, after watching this you will put Jonathan Levine on a short list of young directors to watch.
21. Speed Racer-I wrote about this earlier in the column but I can’t understate how much fun this film is. It makes you feel like a kid again and the wiz bang imagery will get you drunk from the orgy of colors. The action is fast paced, there is plenty of humor along the way, and Emilie Hirsh is cool and collected as Speed Racer. The Wachowski brothers have created an action movie unlike anything anyone has ever seen and a family movie that everyone can enjoy. Kids are going to eat this one up for years and I can see this becoming a favorite film of many future generations of movie buffs a few years down the line.
20. Quantum of Solace-Essentially part two of Casino Royale, the movie picks up right where the last one left off and for all intensive purposes service as the second act of this tightly connected story. Gone is the happy and smug Bond, which has been shed after the betrayal and loss of Vesper, and in his place is a cold and vengeful beast that will stop at nothing to get the answers he seeks. Craig is Bond and he only solidifies it more here as he beats his way to the finish to get to a place where he might get back some of that swagger so all of the pointless and stupid detractors to this great action picture can have their old Bond back (even though they praised Casino Royale for creating a new Bond, what do you guys want?).
19. Kung Fu Panda-The most fun in a movie this year is this action packed and very funny tale about Po the panda. Living in a world where he worships The Furious Five, an elite group of martial arts experts, Po is thrown into the mix as he is selected to be the Dragon Warrior and he must train to defend the country from the evil Tai Lung. Tai Lung’s escape from prison might be the best scene in any film this year, just simply astonishing, and the action in general in this picture is top notch and unlike anything seen in an animated film before. One wishes there were more from the Furious Five here, but hopefully in the planned sequel or two they can keep up the quality and give us a lot of the story that thee seems to still be told.
18. Forgetting Sarah Marshall-Jason Segel proved he has the star power to carry a picture on his own as well as displaying he is a pretty good writer to boot. The comedy revolving around a guys attempt to get over his girlfriend in Hawaii only to have her be staying at the same hotel once he gets there is a romantic yet hilarious look at relationships and break up and the emotions that come with it. The film while hilarious feels genuine throughout and rarely resorts to gags and stupid humor at the expense of a cheap joke. This easily holds up with any of the comedies to come out of the Apatow camp so far and was one of the funniest pictures of the year.
17. Iron Man-Robert Downey Jr. started off his huge year by headlining the most fun comic book entry this year by playing the title character of Iron Man. The reason that Iron Man worked so well can be placed solely on the shoulders of Downey Jr. and the character of Tony Stark. I want to see a Tony Stark movie, I would gladly pay for that, he is such a cool character, snarky, and a brilliant smart ass you can’t not give in to his charisma. Plus the movie bounds right along, has plenty of humor, and great chemistry among all of the characters. Iron Man is one of the most re-watchable films of the year and is the great starting point for a new franchise superhero.
16. Vicky Cristina Barcelona-Woody Allen’s witty and observant dramedy is one of his best films of the decade. An all-star cast filled with beautiful women, Javier Bardem is suave and hilarious, Rebecca Hall is amazing as the flustered “romantic”, Scarlett Johansson is sexy and inquisitive, and Penélope Cruz tops it all of as an insane ex-lover. The dialogue is witty, the story unfolds unexpectedly, and the movie will have you enthralled until the end. A grown up comedy that only got better a second time around, and I am sure it will grow even more so in the future.
15. Hellboy II: The Golden Army-The Dark Knight isn’t the only sequel this year that took a very solid first film, and expanded its universe and took the series to the next level. Hellboy II was action packed, hilarious, and it was all realized in an amazing fantasy world. Guillermo Del Toro proves he is the fantasy director of his generation after his last few efforts, and I can’t wait to see what Peter Jackson and him do with The Hobbit. Ron Pearlman owns the role of Hellboy and he is hilarious here and Doug Jones really comes into his own as Abe Sapien; can’t wait for the third one, but it is a long ways off.
14. Che-I recently reviewed this epic film and I think me being a history buff lends me to really liking this movie. Part One is going to find its way into war buffs hidden gems of cinema and the film as a whole will be an excellent companion to anyone interested in the life of the man. Wonderfully put together by Stephen Soderbergh the film moves along with ease and never feels strained or bloated. Yeah the run time is intimidating, but it is worth the challenge, and you can always break it up on video in the future and take a break at intermission. A great biopic and one wonders why Benicio isn’t nominated for an Oscar.
13. Appaloosa-the western continues to come back with this buddy action adventure from Ed Harris. Staring along side Viggo Mortensen the two have a great banter and chemistry together and they are a joy to watch. Jeremy Irons is also a fun villain and the plot never really goes the way you think it will. Renée Zellweger is a bit out of place in the picture, but she is enough of a side character to forgive her (what happened to her by the way). This movie is about the boys and they shine. If you are a fan of westerns this is another fresh entry to the genre and let’s just hope it doesn’t die out again anytime soon.
12. The Brothers Bloom-none of you have probably seen this, as I saw it at the St. Louis Film Festival, but you need to keep it on your radar for this May. From the director of Brick and staring Rachel Weisz, Adrian Brody, and Mark Ruffalo, the story follows a pair of con artist as they go for that last big con. Here is the kicker though, we are in on the con the whole time the film isn’t trying to con us; we are just along for the ride. And the ride is fun from start to finish, with a globe trotting adventure, plenty of humor, and a bit of a Wes Anderson feel to it all this one is bound to be a crowd pleaser. So mark it on your calendar, as it will becoming out in the mess of blockbusters, and you don’t want to miss it.
11. Taken-released just a few weeks ago in the US has been out for almost a year already everywhere else in the world so I am throwing it in to 08. Taken is awesome. An action packed thriller that after it sets up the characters grabs you by the throat and never let’s go. Liam Nesson’s character takes no prisoners and is relentless and ruthless with anyone that gets in his way. Produced by Luc Besson should give you an idea of what you are getting into, and this should easily hold up as one of the better action films of the decade. Fast paced, smart, funny, and brutal, it’s all an action fan can ask for and I can’t wait for the eventual uncut version on Blu-Ray later this year. See it, now!
10. Rachel Getting Married-Anne Hathaway is phenomenal in this film and she is surrounded by a cast that is performing at a top notch level to boot. About a rehabbed sister who makes her first reappearance to the family for her sisters wedding, the film is an intimate, funny, and sad look at a family and the effect major events can have on it. The wedding itself is a character all on its own and the film feels so real and lived in that you almost forget you are watching a movie and might think you are watching your friends wedding video, that is how easily you get sucked into this picture.
9. RocknRolla-Guy Ritchie is back and as good as ever. RocknRolla is a fast paced and twisting crime caper that is littered with a number of fun characters and some fantastic performances by a number of the leads. Mark Strong solidifies that he is here to stay as he is a badass as the right hand man Archie. Gerald Butler is hilarious as One Two a smaller time member of the Wild Bunch, a group of criminals around London and these two are just a couple of many that end up an elaborate plot that slowly becomes clear culminating in a fantastic finale. This film is another one that was sadly ignored and I implore you to go and rent this one now, especially if you are a fan of Snatch or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, as this holds up right with those awesome flicks.
8. Let The Right One In-This Romanian vampire thriller is fantastic and will definitely grow on subsequent viewings. Telling the tale of Oskar, a loner, picked on, adolescent that dreams of fighting back against his bullies becomes friends with a ‘young’ neighbor girl, Eli, who he begins hanging out with at night in the buildings play ground. The two begin to bond and she encourages Oskar to stand up to his bullies while Eli’s attempts at food begin to cause distress in the town. The film isn’t a horror film per say, but is an excellent vampire thriller with an amazing story and superb filmmaking. And the ending, ohhhh boy the ending, incredible! Do not miss this on video on March 10th as this one could easily find itself even more highly regarded after I give it a spin on Blu-Ray.
7. In Bruges-A quite dark comedy about two hit men in hiding is full of great performances, great humor, and a story that will keep you engaged till the end. Following Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as the fore mentioned hit men, the two are lying low in the tourist town of Bruges only to have Farrell’s Ray get a bit of cabin fever as he tries and moves past the events that got him there. The film is an interesting look into the psyche of a hetman and the obvious moral dilemmas it brings up and throw in an amazing debut by director Martin McDonagh and a third amazing turn by Ralph Fiennes this year and you have a film that withstood all comers this year to stay in the top ten; it was the first film of the year to really give itself a shot at the top 10.
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-David Fincher is one of my favorite directors and he delivers a fantasy epic unlike anything he has ever done. The biggest hurdle for this film isn’t the pacing, length, or bizarre nature of the film but the fact that nothing happens. Well, stuff happens, there just isn’t a plot. There is no twist, or life altering decisions, or events that will decide his life, Benjamin Button is just as normal a man as he can be and we get to observe through a window the course of his life. The story telling is magnificent, the special effects are incredible, and the two leads in Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett both do marvelous work at all ages of their characters. This film will only gain support with age as it is a truly wonderful film that makes you look at life and mortality of ones self and the world around you and the older this film gets I think it will work better and better as it ages.
5. The Dark Knight-The best comic book film of all-time? That might be up for argument (Sin City?) but it definitely might be. The story is bigger, darker, and the cast is as good as ever. Christopher Nolan has definitely crafted one of the most superior sequels of all time though, greatly improving upon the original Batman Begins which created a fantastic base for Nolan to expand on. The pacing was near impeccable, the action was breathtaking, and there was plenty of intelligence and humor slipped in. Sure the sonar at the end was a bit lame and the ferry scene drug on a tad to long, and the Bat Voice is a bit much, but when those are the only complaints one can muster I think you got a pretty good thing going. Aaron Eckhart is charismatic and creepy as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Bale cemented himself as the best Bruce Wayne/Batman yet, and Heath Ledger as the Joker was phenomenal. Ledger easily turns in the performance of the year and created one of the best villains/characters in cinema history. The movie is worth watching alone for Ledger, but it is so much more as it will easily go down as one of the greatest comic book adaptations and films of the decade.
4. The Wrestler-Daren Aronofsky is no stranger to my top five (The Fountain was my favorite film in 06) and he couldn’t have found his way back in a more different film then that one. The Wrestler follows Randy “The Ram” Robinson as he struggles through the day to day grind of being a washed up professional wrestler with his days in the profession seriously numbered. In the wake of his realizations he tries to mend family wounds and make new bonds in his life and the result is a heart wrenching, touching, and brutal account of The Ram’s life. Mickey Rourke delivers the 2nd best performance of the year and has made his call to everyone in Hollywood that he is back (though anyone who watched Sin City could have told you that). Aronofsky shot this thing for nothing, but he makes the most out of the film creating some great shots and just nailing the world of wrestling both in the ring and backstage. A magnificent film and what will go down as one of the greatest sports films of all-time (that’s right a sports film, for all you people that bash the athletes of wrestling, these guys are athletes).
3. Milk-The best biopic of the year also includes a marvelous performance by Sean Penn as the title character. Gus Van Sant remerges from his experimental world to create his most main stream film since Good Will Hunting and the results are quite fantastic. Sadly still relevant, the fight for gay rights serves as the calling of our nation’s first openly gay politician Harvey Milk, who alone would be an engaging and interesting individual. Capturing his fragile love life against his brilliant politicking creates a portrait of one the most human characters to grace the screen in a while. Josh Brolin turns in another great performance here as well as Dan White, a rival politician, which has him batting about a thousand over the last two years in a number of big roles. A fantastic history lesson and look into politics, Milk is a timelessly relevant film and everyone can learn from this film about the absurdity and bigotry that politics, and in particular gay rights, can have in the name of upholding the ‘moral compass’.
2. Synecdoche, New York-The directorial debut from the insanely brilliant screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is a bizarre mind trip/fuck of a film that demands repeat viewings to try and make sense of it all. The film is darkly humorous, from the subtle to the absurd, and contains such an intricate and intertwining plot that it is a marvel that it doesn’t cave in on itself. But while you might get lost the film knows what it is doing and as we watch Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Caden’s play unfold. Characters are playing real people inside the play, which is already just an interpretation of Caden’s life; so you will have Caden directing an actor who is playing Caden who is recreating a scene that Caden directed the day before but the actors Caden directed are now played by other actors playing those actors; confused yet? Well you should be, because it is an insane amount of stuff to digest, and I haven’t even mentioned the burning house, Caden’s many ailments, and the complete recreation of New York City in an enormous warehouse (which in turn has a warehouse that has a recreation of the recreation it already exists in). So just trust me on this that this film is as great as I am saying and if you are a fan of any of Kaufman’s other works you owe it to yourself to see this; at least twice.
And the Drum roll please……………………………………………………………………………
1. Wall-e-Hands down my favorite and best picture of the year, I had zero complaints about this film from start to finish. From the brilliant opening half of the, film which is basically the most beautiful silent film ever put on film, to the skewering message film that fills the second half of the picture, the story is a wonderful love story not scene in years in a film. Add to this the amazing animation, best Pixar has done yet, and an incredible and fully realized world from Andrew Stanton and team this firmly sits as my second favorite Pixar film to date. Wall-e is also filled with great comedy and was probably the funniest film of the year. The character of Wall-e is also my favorite character in a film since Tyler Durden and the ending would have absolutely destroyed me had they gone the way it could have. I can’t pour enough superlatives on this film so I won’t bother trying but know, Wall-e is the best animated film since The Incredibles, and Wall-e continues to prove that Pixar is the best studio in cinema today and I will be re-visiting this in glorious Blu-Ray for years to come.