Wow. What a weak year for “great” films. I mean, on the commercial side, Hollywood produced some gems with “Iron Man,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Tropic Thunder,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Wanted” and “Baby Mama,” but the films that reached for more?
For comparison sake, check out my top ten of 2007.
8. “I’m Not There”
7. “Broken English”
6. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days”
5. “There Will Be Blood”
4. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
3. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
2. “No Country for Old Men”
To be honest, I’m guessing maybe four of the following would bump of any of those films this year. In any event, here’s a rundown of a disappointing and odd year for filmmaking overall.
10 “Boy A”
Andrew Garfield gives a stunning and heartbreaking performance in a flick that the Weinstein Company completely dumped over the summer (not that it was the only one).
9 “The Wackness”
In my opinion, the best period 90s flick released so far (for the subway dream sequence alone) and a compelling second film for talented director Jonathan Levine. Sigh, if only anyone but Sony Pictures Classics had released it.
8 “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Woody Allen”s best comedy since “Bullets Over Broadway” and an argument for him to keep making films overseas after the dreadful “Cassandra”s Dream” and “Scoop.” The affection for it grows as time rolls on.
7 “U2 3D”
Quite simply, the most visually arresting experience I had in a movie in 2008. Even if you”re not a fan of the band (and who isn’t?), it”s hard not to become enthralled with the hypnotic visual delight in front of you. Would be a midnight movie staple if the 3D machines were more affordable (are you listening Nuart?).
6 “The Wrestler”
Powerhouse performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei fuel this realistic tale of a former pro wrestler who can”t give it up. Aronofsky goes gritty and reminds everyone that he”s probably one of America”s top five filmmakers.
5 “Let the Right One In”
Besides “The Dark Knight,” there was no film more visually haunting than this moving tale of a young boy enthralled by his vampire neighbor. We could only dream the next “Twilight” films would aim for this level of artistic excellence, let alone achieve it.
One of the few films that completely transcends its stage beginnings (unlike, say, “Doubt”). The cast is pitch perfect and while it may seem like a backhanded compliment in some ways, it”s the best film Ron Howard has ever directed.
3 “Slumdog Millionaire”
A surprise that has lived up to the hype. Director Danny Boyle has infused this underdog Indian story with his signature kinetic style and in doing so created a universal wonder.
2 “The Reader”
On the island on this one, but it”s good to be alone sometimes. Kate Winslet has never been better in one of the most emotionally moving films in years.
1 “The Dark Knight”
Not a fluke. Not a joke. Not over-hyped geek love. “Knight” has moments and performances that will be studied at film schools, played on AFI TV specials and be engrained in the pop culture zeitgeist for decades for one reason and one reason only: it”s simply great.
All good films for sure, but here’s hoping 2009 provides more candidates to get enthusiastic about.