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Friday, January 9, 2009

2008 Top 10

Better late than never, though in my defense I wanted to hold off until I'd had the opportunity to see a couple more films before making my list (sadly it looks like The Wrestler won't be here for a while, if at all, and Frozen River and Synechdoche, New York never made it). So here it is, my Top 10 of 2008:

#10: 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days

Yes, technically this is a 2007 film which is why it’s only at #10. This stark and brutal slice of life in Ceausescu’s Romania is the kind of movie that stays with you in all its hardboiled glory.

#09: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Fincher’s epic is flawed to be sure but it features a number of the most beautiful film sequences to be seen this year (my favourite? Daisy’s mist backdropped ballet for Benjamin).

#08: The Visitor

A quiet little character film with a bittersweet ending that will leave you lamenting its honesty. Great performances abound, starting with Richard Jenkins who finally gets a shot at the lead after toiling in character parts for decades.

#07: The Dark Knight

The high-water mark of the comic book genre. I don’t know how the next instalment in the Batman series can possibly top it, but I’m waiting with baited breath to see. Heath Ledger’s untimely death was tragic but at least he got to go out on a high note, ending his career with a truly amazing performance.

#06: Milk

A timely film with a lot of heart and a fantastic performance by Sean Penn. Director Gus Van Sant deftly blends fiction with news and documentary footage to raise this story above the confines of its genre.

#05: Slumdog Millionaire

This is a film which positively hums with energy, weaving a spell with its Dickensian tale of poverty, enduring love and, ultimately, triumph of the little guy over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A brutal and beautiful film.

#04: Wall-E

This latest release from Pixar captured my heart, which came as a surprise to me because I’m generally not big on animated films. It succeeds on all levels: it looks great, it has a strong message, and it managed to make a trash compacting robot a compelling protagonist.

#03: Happy-Go-Lucky

More than any other film I saw this year, Mike Leigh’s latest made me feel, well, happy. Playing the eternally chipper lead character, Sally Hawkins renders the best performance of the year and makes it seem effortless.

#02: My Winnipeg

Not quite a documentary and not entirely a fiction, this merger of genres and forms is unlike any other movie released in 2008. Oh Maddin, you master, you maverick, you marvel!

#01: Fugitive Pieces

This was one of the first theatrical releases I saw this year and it has stayed with me ever since. Jeremy Podeswa’s poetic examination of the power of memory is a beautiful film which stands the test of time and stands up after multiple viewings. No film moved me more in 2008 than this one.


blake said...

I totally agree...with most of your list. I feel bad for 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. It was clearly one of the very best films of 2007, but fell into some sort of time vortex where it wasn't able to garner any Oscar attention last year, and will certainly be skipped this year.

Norma Desmond said...

Yeah, the Foreign Language category is in dire need of an overhaul. It's practically designed so that it overlooks the very best non-English film every year.