Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Films of 2008

I don't know about you, but whenever I go to the movie theatre, I keep my ticket stub; have for years now. I'm not entirely sure why I do this, I guess I just want to remember what I've seen. I put them in a disorganized pile in my top drawer whenever I come home. There's quite a few of them; they span a few years and I usually try to see a movie every week. Out of curiosity, I dug out a large stack of them and sorted through them, and found that they're more or less in chronological order; the older ones are on the bottom of the pile. I pulled out all of the ones from 2008 and organized them.
I saw 37 movies in a theatre last year.
Knowing there are 52 weeks in a year, this means I missed quite a few weeks, but I still think that's an incredible number and proves once and for all that I really do have no life. If anyone else keeps their stubs, I'd like to hear your number to compare.
Just for fun, I went through them and picked out my 10 favorites and my 5 least favorites. (Half as many least-favorites because I tend to avoid films I think I won't like.) This isn't necessarily a top-10 list because I didn't see every movie that came out; consider it a top-10 list of the movies that an ordinary college kid thinks is worth spending ten bucks to see. Again, this is just my opinion based on the films that I saw.

"Top 10"

10. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
This film received almost no advertising because of the title and the fact that the film is so full of explitives, crude humor and sexual situations that it is almost completely unsellable as a product. But, look past that, and you will find one of Kevin Smith's best films, and further reason why Seth Rogen should be a bona fide movie star. It delivers probably the most belly laughs of any film this year, more than the hilarious Tropic Thunder and definitely more than the dull Pineapple Express, also with Rogen.
9. Wanted
One of the surprise action films of the summer, a big hit, and proof that James McAvoy needs to be in a lot more movies. Angelina Jolie is sizzling as the hot sidekick, and Morgan Freeman is simply one of the best actors alive, and brings his usual best to the table. With Matrix-like slow-mo and tons of brilliant, bloody fight scenes, this was one of the best action films of the year.
8. Burn After Reading
An insane plotline and hilarious characters mark the Coen brothers' followup to their dismal, Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men. George Clooney, John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand are all perfect and hilarious in their respective roles, but Brad Pitt is the highlight as the inept gym worker who tries to blackmail Malkovich's character out of useless CIA information. If only he had a larger part in the movie; if he had, he could be up for an Oscar.
7. Get Smart
This was a great summer for movies, as hit after hit was released. This opened opposite The Love Guru with Mike Myers, and this creamed it, and rightfully so. An update from the '60s sitcom, Steve Carell steps outside of his Office role to deliver something different yet still very funny that only he could really pull off. An uproarious comedy that also manages to have exciting action sequences, a rare feat.
6. Iron Man
This movie started off the summer with a bang and rebooted Robert Downey, Jr.'s dead career. Ironically, a comic-book superhero that few people know of and no one cares about made one of the biggest hits of the summer, and will spawn not only a sequel, but an entire franchise based on the Avengers superheroes. It's one of the most entertaining superhero movies ever, if not one of the most unique.
5. Quantum of Solace
Shut up, naysayers. I'm convinced that Daniel Craig is the best James Bond ever because he makes his character so real: he has brains but also acts irrationally, he has emotions but chooses to hide them. This was a very worthy sequel to the amazing reboot Casino Royale, and sets up the conflict for the next few Bond films. Bringing on Marc Forster as director was a risky move but ultimately paid off. Can't wait to see where this franchise goes next.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
A hit, but mostly among kids. This seems to be largely ignored by the older kids and adults. Well, it shouldn't be. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was one of the greatest fantasy films I've ever seen, and is on its way to being a classic. This one was even better, despite the fact that the book was a very simple (and boring) story. Adding on complex elements and new action scenes, Andrew Adamson breathes this tale into life with startling clarity, humor, and excitement. If you haven't seen these movies, see them. The poor performance of this film compared to the first film caused Disney to dump the franchise. If it continues down this path, they may not make any more Narnia films.
Two years ago, I saw Cars, and while I liked the film, it failed to really impress me the way the earlier Pixar films had done. Last year, Ratatouille was a huge disappointment and a bore to sit through. With WALL-E, Pixar had something to prove, and they did all that and so much more. Returning to the spirit that made Toy Story and Finding Nemo such huge successes, this film is one of the greatest animated films ever made because it is unique in its execution, has a strong environmental message, an exciting and believable storyline, and oh yeah, those cute little robots. An amazing achievement from any standpoint.
2. Slumdog Millionaire
This is a relatively new release, but it makes it on my list by sheer giddiness. If this film doesn't make you smile at some point in time, you have no soul. Who would have thought that a small indie film with an entirely unknown, and foreign cast, could have such a large impact on American audiences? This is exactly the kind of films we need in these hard times: films that give us hope and show us that even in the face of brutality, love and happiness can be found.
1. The Dark Knight
Absolutely, without a doubt, the best superhero movie ever made, and by far the best film of the year. Nothing else even comes close. The follow-up to Batman Begins, which made a splash but didn't really turn heads, exceeded all expectations, in quality of film and quantity of audience...and ticket sales. The second-highest grossing film of all time actually gave Titanic a run for its money, and has another shot to break the record-it's being rereleased this month after the Oscar nominations are announced. Heath Ledger's incredible turn as the Joker is only the beginning. The script is brimming with sometimes almost unbearable tension, amazing action sequences and visual effects (like Harvey Dent's Two-Face), and stellar performances all around. (Ledger is getting all the attention, but don't forget the dark knight himself, Christian Bale; Maggie Gyllenhall, who is so much better than Katie Holmes; the magnificent Gary Oldman; the tragic hero-turned-villain Aaron Eckhart; the always-brilliant Michael Caine; and the aforementioned best actor alive, Morgan Freeman.) The biggest film of the decade is one of the few films of the decade that can truly be described as epic.

"Worst 5"

5. Australia
Arguably one of the biggest disappointments of the year, this was supposed to be the 21st-century version of Gone With the Wind. Instead, we got a silly love story that's structured all wrong, featured weird fantasy elements, too many unncesessary references to The Wizard of Oz, and a terrible performance from Nicole Kidman. This film simply should have been better.
4. The Golden Compass
Why did people like this movie? A confusing and bogus story follows a little girl who doesn't act at all like a little girl through various adventures in a fantasy world. I can't even remember half the movie; it made no sense. I remember Christopher Lee showed up in one scene, Daniel Craig showed up in two scenes, and all of the good actors were only voices for talking animals. Should have been dumbed down for kids or left on the bookshelf.
3. 10,000 B.C.
Roland Emmerich proves once again that he makes the stupidest movies in Hollywood. This film features creatures that are a few million years misplaced and a script that is a few writers misplaced. An obvious knock-off of other cheesy films, this belonged in the dollar cinemas.
2. Vantage Point
A relatively good idea for a film and a really good cast is ruined by a muddled script and way too much repitition. The structure of the film has it start over from the beginning five times, and often right as something exciting is about to happen, so there's an exciting event at the beginning, and then nothing happens until the end, when all hell breaks loose and nothing that happened in the rest of the film makes any sense.
1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
A psychopathic serial killer in London at the turn of the century, who brings people into his barber shop and then slits their throats and uses their meat for pies in the pie shop downstairs. Given that it's directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp, this film should have had just the right amount of weird and been on just this side of a good movie. But, they made it a musical. Absolutely awful adaptation that is Depp's worst excuse for a Jack Sparrow rip-off.


  1. Sweeney Todd IS a musical-which is why it was a musical, lol. I can see why it's not in your taste, but I do not think it deserves worst 5 when movies like Made of Honor came out in 2008.

    Anyway, Chris, nice blog. Well thought out and intelligent.

    -Allie PS, don't go to my livejournal. Go to my public blog:

  2. I actually realized that I was missing a ticket stub, and therefore forgot a movie that would have been on my Worst list. The Happening was M. Night Shyamalan's worst film to date, and he's made some stinkers. This poor excuse for a thriller managed to make bad actors out of everybody in its cast, including the usually-excellent Mark Wahlberg. There was actually a scene that involved the characters running from the wind. Not at all scary or interesting.