Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Of 2008


It is now the year 2009. 2008 is only a memory. Many amazing things happened in 2008, including the election of our first African American President. Though the economic situation has left many to wonder, "What's next?" I believe we can find hope anywhere we look, especially the movies. 2008 offered us a glimpse into the psyche of Batman, made us feel for a dirty little tramp of a robot, and allowed us to watch as one man seemingly defied gravity between the two towers that have defined this decade. Amongst all of these things, 2008 offered us hope. Even the most cynical of films had glimmers of hope waiting to burst at the seems.

2008 is the first year I have seen this many films and been able to write at length about which are the best in my humble opinion. With that being said, I was still unable to see the following:
The Wrestler, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Che, Rachel Getting Married, Seven Pounds, The Reader, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, Happy Go Lucky, Let The Right One In, Trouble The Water, Hunger, A Christmas Tale, Ballast, The Band's Visit, The Fall, Frozen River, Shotgun Stories, IOUSA, Encounters At The End Of The World

I decided that I would go ahead and make my end of year list, although I had previously wanted to wait a couple weeks as a number of these films are opening around here in mid to late January.

Another thing, I went over my entire list of films I have seen many times, trying to make a top 5 actress column but was unable to come up with more than one, out of the films I have seen, that was above mediocre in a leading role. I found plenty of supporting actress'. I'm sorry to anyone out there hoping to see my opinion on that matter, but as you can see from my list of unseens, all the great female performances(at least according to the buzz) are to be seen in those films(from Frozen River to Happy Go Lucky to Rachel Getting Married) Anyways, without further ado.

Deadpan 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' Best Lists 2008!

Worst films of 2008(that I saw):

10. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull
-I won't lie, I did find a sense of enjoyment in this travesty. It was kind of fun, but only in the way watching a train wreck is, I guess. No, I am not talking about it's so bad it's good. I think this is a decent action film, but as an Indiana Jones film it is severely lacking in the area of, how shall I say, goodness?

9. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
-I found the first Harold and Kumar installment to be a surprisingly funny film. This one, not so much.

8. Semi-Pro
-Will Ferrel, what is wrong with thee?

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- CS Lewis is one of the great fantasy authors of last century and his series about Narnia and the four children it follows, is a wonderful and skillfully written group of books that has a rich, deeply thought out subtext. The films based on these books care about nothing more than putting the families butts in the seats.

6. Twilight
-Well, I wasn't sure if this one was going to be bad enough to make it on this list, but sure enough it is. Can someone explain to me why anyone thought Catherine Hardwicke was the right person for the job?

5. Hancock
-A very amazing premise turned into B-level material.

4. The Incredible Hulk
-Trying to right all the supposed wrongs of Ang Lee's Hulk(which I have yet to see) Edward Norton's testosterone filled meat-head fest does little for the brain besides make it backfire.

3. Vantage Point
- Here is a film that just doesn't even try, and with so many talented actors.

2. Strange Wilderness
- A new low in comedic cinema.

1. Jumper
- Another interesting premise brought down to B-level, hell, C-level material.

...............

Top 5 supporting Actors:

5. Haaz Sleiman-Tarek Khalil-The Visitor
-Sleiman's performance as a Syrian musician who is unknowingly involved in a real estate scam and inadvertently meets Walter Vale(Richard Jenkins) is a wondrous exercise in optimism within defeat. He is constantly smiling while allowing the audience to see the sadness in his eyes.

4. Brad Pitt- Chad Feldheimer- Burn After Reading
-This isn't an awards worthy performance, or even something that will be talked about in any acting forum as a means of outstanding achievement. What this performance is is a beating heart to the Coen's lifeless film. Every other performance in Burn After Reading, while funny, lacks any kind of sympathetic appeal.

3. Robert Downey Jr- Kirk Lazarus-Tropic Thunder
-Mr. Downey is a wonderfully eccentric and charismatic actor whom I would watch in most anything. Here, his satirical take on method acting is utterly hilarious and carries the film through it's rough spots.

2. Heath Ledger-The Joker-The Dark Knight
- I will be wearing a bullet proof vest for the next few weeks when I leave my house because I'm sure that not putting this performance as numero uno grants me some death wishes. The truth is, I loved Ledger's performance so so so so much. It is one for the ages, but I can't get past the fact that the man's death has affected this performance. I simply do not know if I would be stark raving mad for it if he were still alive today. His 2ND place spot can also be attributed to the fact that one man surpassed him in his performance, in two totally different films.

1. James Franco-Scott Smith and Saul Silver-Milk and Pineapple Express
- I remember seeing this guy on Freaks and Geeks before I knew who he, Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow were. Now I am watching him grow into a formidable force as an actor. Mark my words, this name will be synonymous with the name Oscar.

Top 5 Supporting actresses:

5. Freida Pinto-Latika-Slumdog Millionaire
-I just really thought she was wonderful.

4. Samantha Morten-Hazel-Synecdoche, New York
-In a film like Synecdoche it's hard to get past the oddity of it and really grasp each performance. Morten really understands her character and goes for it wholly. She will be overlooked for sure, but this is a wonderful performance that helps carry a beautiful film.

3. Isamar Gonzales-Isamar-Chop Shop
-This girl has never acted before? Really? She just seems so real. Chop Shop is a film that doesn't manipulate in anyway. We simply get to watch these people live their lives.

2. Mila Kunis- Rachel Jansen- Forgetting Sarah Marshall
-I never would have thought the worst actress on the show That 70's Show would give us a Lauren Bacall-esque performance in a comedy produced by Judd Apatow. There I go thinking again I guess, as she is outstandingly gorgeous and truly becomes Rachel Jansen. A guy can't help but fall in love with her on the screen.

1. Marian Seldes-Barbara-The Visitor
-Alongside Richard Jenkins, this woman's chemistry is top notch. Her quiet sadness while her son is being detained is so disheartening and one of the things that really makes this film work.


Top 5 Actors:

5. Sean Penn-Harvey Milk- Milk
- Over the top? yes, but Harvey Milk himself was over the top. Sean Penn, yet again, shows that he is one of the greatest actor of his generation.

4. Josh Brolin-George W. Bush- W
-Without becoming an impersonation or a caricature, Brolin really captures the essence of what and who Bush is. I applaud his performance, not only because it is noteworthy, but because it transcends the film itself.

3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman-Caden Cotard-Synecdoche, New York
-Hoffman could very well play any role that Sean Penn could, but maybe not quite as well. With that being said, I am not sure that Penn could play any role that Hoffman could, in particular this one. His melancholic tone throughout allows for everything he says to sink in and become something tangible.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor-Mike Terry-Redbelt
-I am still a little unsure of what to think about Mamet's latest film, but Ejiofor's performance at least allowed me to sit back and enjoy skillful acting.

1. Richard Jenkins-Walter Vale-The Visitor
-Shortly after this film's release there was so much buzz surrounding this performance, just month's later everyone seems to have forgotten about Jenkins and the film. There is so much strength in the subtlety that Jenkins and the film exudes. They compliment each other.

...................

5 Disappointments:

  • The lack of awards buzz for Synecdoche, New York
  • Final 45 minutes of The Dark Knight
  • In Bruges
  • W.
  • American Teen

5 Surprises
  • Role Models-2ND funniest film of the year.
  • Young@Heart-Sweetest film of the year.
  • Religulous-Funniest film of the year.
  • Chop Shop
  • Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

5 favorite Quotes

''No, venti is 20. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn't mean large. It's also the only one that's Italian. Congratulations, you're stupid in three languages.''

—Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd) in Role Models

"You wanna know how I got these scars?"
-Joker(Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight

" I know who I am! I'm the dude, playing the dude, disguised as another dude."
-Kirk Lazarus(Robert Downey Jr) in Tropic Thunder

"It's impossible, that's sure, so let's start working."
-Phillippe Petit in Man on Wire

"There are millions of people in the world, and none of those people are an extra, their all leads in their own stories."
-Caden Cotard(P.S. Hoffman) in Synecdoche, New York


Top 5 Characters

5. Aldous Snow(Russell Brand) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Hilarious yet poignant.

4. Harvey Milk(Sean Penn) in Milk
- A moving and hopeful portrayal of a man with a lust for life.

3. Will Proudfoot(Bill Milner) in Son Of Rambow
-Endearing and charming.

2. Saul Silver(James Franco) in Pineapple Express
- No matter what you think about the rest of the film, this is a wonderful cinematic character.

1. WALL-E
-Easily chosen.


Top 5 Villains

5. Ourselves in WALL-E
- Yeah, that's right. Watch yourself because yourself is gonna get you.

4. U.S. Immigration System in The Visitor
-If you aren't careful, they'll deport you.

3. Dan White(Josh Brolin) in Milk
- A sympathetic and sad man who just couldn't find hope anywhere, even when it was right in front of him.

2. Death in Synecdoche, New York
- It's inevitable. The only killer who hasn't lost a victim.

1. Joker(Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight
- Wanna see a magic trick?


top 5 moments in film(2008):

5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall-Nude Scene
-Jason Segal's full frontal scene in his latest film was at once hilarious and artful. His reasoning for being naked, as the films underlying theme, really helped the film transcend the usual slacker comedy fare.

4. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button- Baby Realization.
-SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
OK, so the moment where, as a baby, Benjamin Button is looking at Cate Blanchett's character right before he dies was so incredible in it's sheer simplicity that I would rewatch the film just for that brief moment.

3. The Visitor- The Ending
-SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
As Tarek is sent back to Syria, Walter finds himself saddened by what has happened but also forever changed by the experience he has been through. He goes down to the subway, where Tarek was first taken away and plays his drum, faster and faster and faster as the train continuously passes by.

2. WALL-E- Spark Kiss
- My jaw dropped when WALL-E and EVE went to kiss and do so by causing sparks between their faces. It isn't something revolutionary just an absolutely brilliant idea that kept me smiling for weeks.

1. Man On Wire- Walking between the towers.
- As Ty Burr of the Boston Globe stated, "The sight is magical and heartbreaking in equal measure. Look, the movie says: Where so many would fall, a man walks on air."

.............

Finally now, my Top 12 films of the year.

12. Young@Heart
-Such an elegant and overlooked film. A film as much about death as Synecdoche, New York, but as much about life and love as WALL-E.

11. Milk
-Harvey Milk's message is needed so badly today it's not even funny. Van Sant allows for us to see the message crystal clear.

10. Transsiberian
-Hitchcockian in it's use of trains and suspense. The film's mcguffin, drug smuggling, allows for an excellent thriller that doesn't tell the audience a thing. We must simply figure things out on our own.

9. Slumdog Millionaire
- I shouldn't like this film, I just shouldn't, but I cannot help it at all. It's charm is rarely outmatched.

8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Apatow isn't rolling on all cylinders as he was in 2007 but this film is so unlike his usual films that it's hard not to like, although I enjoy many of his better ones. Nick Stoller directs this film where we see a man naked, not just for the fun of it though, but for a purpose.

7. The Visitor
-Thomas McCarthy's follow up to The Station Agent, carries that films sense of truth and honesty. The characters are so endearing and real that you can't not feel for them, not matter if you agree or disagree with their ultimate decision's.

6. My Winnipeg
-A man goes back to his hometown and hires people to play himself and his family while he films them in the home he grew up in reenacting moments from his life. Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg is a film unlike any other. The real life Synecdoche, New York.

5. Paranoid Park
-Gus Van Sant had a wonderful year with two excellent films, but the one garnering less attention is the one that I found the most gut wrenchingly painful and beautiful.

4. Man On Wire
- If there ever were a fairytale story to pass on to your kids, this is it. Oh wait, this really happened? Wow.

3. Snow Angels
-Talk about underrated, David Gordon Green's film from earlier this year that follows three couples at different stages in their relationship is so incredibly thought provoking with a sad but hopeful touch that I would recommend it to anyone.

2. Synecdoche, New York
- Charlie Kaufman may well be the best screenwriter working today. While many leave this film bewildered and left asking more questions than find answers, what they don't realize is that is the point. Kaufman isn't moralizing to us, but simply allowing us to find our own conclusion in this life.

1. WALL-E
- My love for this film is due wholly to how exceedingly amazing WALL-E truly is. Yes, all the critics are saying that now, but honestly, why shouldn't they. This is the best film of this year, last year and maybe even the decade.

.....................

Those are my favorites of 2008. I feel these lists are very personal and deeply subjective so I want to here some feedback on where you think I was wrong or right. Thanks.

19 comments:

the editor., said...

Hi! DP,
I will return shortly to read and comment on your review.
Btw, Do you have an email address?
and I just subscribed to your blog.

DCD ;-)
Here's hoping that you have a good one in 09'

Dead Pan said...

You can email me at braleysl@uc.edu .

I will be patiently waiting for your thoughts on my list. Thanks for subscribing and you also have a great one in 09.

NoirishCity.... said...

Hi! D.P.,
I have returned to comment on your
review?!? Thoughts?!? on your Best of 2008 list. I must admit I like to read blogs sometimes late at night when half the "world" is asleep!...After reading your review...It's amazing that I haven't watched any of these films yet! "unbelievable"
I really must "balance" out my "classic" movie watching with more "contemporary" films!
But, after reading your review I most definitely, know what films to place on my Netflix list of film that I must watch!... When I take the "plunge" and become a Netflix member sometime this month.

Thank-you! D.P.,

Fletch said...

Terrific recap. It's amazing how similar our tastes are, from the best to the worst, though that makes me sad, as I missed a number of your top 12 films (Snow Angels, Young@Heart, Transsiberian, My Winnipeg). Nevertheless, I love your top choice and that you're another lover of Man on Wire, which blew me away as well.

Dead Pan said...

Hey fletch--I'm glad that we have similar tastes and am eagerly awaiting your year end list. All the films you have yet to have seen are currently on DVD so check them out sometime soon and let me know what you think. I really wanted to see The Wrestler before I did the list but was to excited to finally post my lists before it opens in Cincinnati around January 16th.

Marcy said...

Great write-up. It's a shame I haven't seen many films from 2008.

My guess is that people thought Hardwicke was right for the job because she directed several female-centric films in the past and since Twilight was a book aimed at girls with a female protagonist, Hardwicke came to mind.

I thought the first Narnia film was a pretty good family movie, probably all because of Tilda Swinton's performance...

Sigh. I need to see Wall-E. At first, it didn't look too appealing but now that everyone is placing the "masterpiece" label on it, I have to see it to believe it.

NoirishCity.... said...

Hi! D.P.,
I am posting on your blog with a large hat on, sunglasses and a trenchcoat with my collar turned up!...after my last "embarrassing" post!...I must admit I have taken a couple of steps to rectify my lack of film viewing.
With the "help" very very soon... of Nexflix and ReelZ Channel (Maybe?!?)...I must
admit I received Wall-E for Christmas and just placed it to the side!...What was I thinking?...Paintbrushes, I am an "artist" you know, but I plan to rectify that "slight" oversight this week-end, and watch Wall-E, in order to find out if I will agree with you and share your opinion about this film.

dcd ;-)

Dead Pan said...

Marcy and Noirish City---SEE WALL E IMMEDIATELY. heh, I'm kidding but really see it soon and let me know what you think. Don't let the hype ruin it for you either, just enjoy it for what it is.

By the way, Marcy, your knowledge as to why they would choose Hardwicke makes perfect sense.

Dean Treadway said...

Great list. I loved those supporting perfs in THE VISITOR. I gotta remember to add that movie to my runners-up list. And you're right--wonderful final moment in that movie.

Samantha Morton was a wonder in SYNECDOCHE, NY. She's always good in whatever she's in (especially IN AMERICA and SWEET AND LOWDOWN). She derserves an nom this year, though it'll be a miracle if SYNECDOCHE even gets one, sad to say.

I didn't like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS as a comedy, but I did find Franco's performance to be the very best thing about it. I still need to see SNOW ANGELS...I love David Gordon Green, as you might know if you read the interview the Dame did with me on it.

All in all, a very enjoyable read, with a lot more things I agree with. But you DO need to see THE FALL. I'll be interested to read your impressions of it. I think you'll love it, but then again, that could be me simply projecting there.

BTW, thanks for not gushing over THE DARK KNIGHT. Save for Ledger, an abhorant mess of a movie!

Dean Treadway said...

Oh, and I'm having les and less interest in seeing BUTTON. My shit flag is going up big time on that; I detected its resemblence to GUMP right when I read Eric Roth co-wrote the thing. Though that scene you describe does sound intriguing, and the effects need to be seen to discover the state of the art, I don't need three hours of cloying sentimentality that's largely unearned. I have better things I can use my time on...like seeing some of the other movies you reccommended, for instance.

Black Sheep said...

Hey Dead Pan ... great list. I sorta wanted to shoot myself during Paranoid Park but I have seen Wall-E so many times; I just can't get enough of that guy. That said, your list of missed films is very rich so you have a lot of wonderful films ahead of you. Enjoy and I look forward to seeing where 2009 takes you.

Dead Pan said...

Dean---I'm glad we agree on many of the years best perfomances and films.

I will be seeing the falling this week probably.

And I wouldn't exactly advise against seeing Button, I think there is enough there to sustain interest, if not just to have an opinion on the film. But at the same time, I would never urge anyone to see it either.

Black Sheep---I understand your displeasure with Paranoid Park, but it's use of cinematic techniques to tell the story rather than conventional ways really intrigued me. As far as WALL-E goes though, I am still in awe.

T.S. said...

Shawn - Hey man, you got the shoutout on my round-up, but I wanted to come on over and say again this is a very in-depth and interesting list. I can't comment too much on the films on your top ten, because I'm still seeing many of them (and waiting for DVD), but I'm glad to see Wall-E getting so much love. It'll be a shame if it's not nominated for best picture. Also, the missus and I just watched Pineapple Express last night, which I thought was okay as a whole. You're right on Franco, though – he steals the show. Can't wait to see Milk for his performance there, too.

Jose Sinclair said...

Wall-E, very good choice! My fave of 08 also, so far, but I haven't seen many...

RIGHT-O: Charles Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine) is the BEST screenwriter of this MILLENIUM... original, funny, complex, what's not to like?

PS - thanks for the tidbit on Button being a Fitzgerald story; I thought they ripped off SF author Fritz Leiber's "The Man Who Never Grew Young", and just reversed the plot... so did Leiber rip off Fitzgerald?? IF so, he's stealing from the best... Gatsby is amazing.

Good stuff...
check out my sites, start here:
http://worldsbestfilms.blogspot.com

Keep it going!! -- The Jman

Sam Juliano said...

Particularly loved seeing WALL-E as your #1 film of the year Deadpan! It was my Top film as well , and I have promoted it relentlessly. Excellent choices there too with SNY and THE VISITOR,both of which i admire greatly. SLUMDOG, MAN ON WIRE, SNOW ANGELS, MILK, PARANOID PARK, all excellent choices in an imprssive Top 12!

Dead Pan said...

Thanks Sam, I'm glad you love WALL-E so much and aren't choosing The Dark Knight as your favorite, that is such an overrated film it isn't even funny.

the editor., said...

Hi! D.P.,
I sended you an email, but it was returned to me.(braleysl@uc.edu.)Anyway, I will try to email you again.You know you can also email me, if you like at...
darkcitydame4e@gmail.com

Btw, I did watch the film "Man on the Wire"
and all I can say is...Wow!..I will watch this film (documentary again!)

Film Reviewer, Peter Danish said,” the end, what kind of man risks his life “dancing” on a cable one quarter of a mile above the earth? Crazy? Arrogant? Conceited? Foolish? You must draw your own conclusions, in that respect, Man on Wire leaves you hanging."

My own conclusion, Monsieur Petit, exhibited... such bravery, such dedication, and being a very highly intelligent man he had a very "strong" will and determination to "challenge" himself constantly, from childhood to adulthood.

P.S. I have to now go over to "Blog Cabin" and let Fletch, know my opinion about the film "The Man on the Wire"

Merci! Beaucoup!
D.P.
DCD ;-)

Dead Pan said...

Hey Dame---I'm so glad you saw and enjoyed Man On Wire, it truly is a wonderful piece of cinema. In regards to the email, not sure why it isn't working, but I will email you in due time.

thanks.

Kotto said...

i loved it too, but paranoid park was from 2007. do you have a replacement?