Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the 43 best movies of 2008!

I saw 43 new movies this year. New record! Some of them actually came out last year. Some of them came out this year, but I saw them on DVD just a little while ago. Anyway, I haven't really hammered down the rules I use for measuring my end of year list. My brother does it in February to correspond with The Academy Awards. That seems like a good idea. I should do that maybe.

I think this was a really good year for movies. I hardly disliked any, actually.

Anyway, I did catch some movies from last year that I had listed as wanting to see on DVD: Zodiac, Hot Fuzz, Sunshine, Rescue Dawn and Into the Wild. They were all pretty good.

This years list of unseen movies that I meant to see includes: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Spirit; The Wrestler (certainly I will see this one when it finally comes to Salt Lake); Frost/Nixon; Bolt; Synecdoche, New York; Happy-Go-Lucky; W.; Rachel Getting Married; The House Bunny; Hamlet 2; The Rocker; Swing Vote; Baghead; Hancock; Mongol; Kung-Fu Panda; Speed Racer; The Fall; Baby Mama; The Visitor; In Bruges; Jumper.

I'm not at home right now, so my image of a year's worth of ticket stubs will have to wait for a little bit.

Here's the big list:

43. Wanted
Most of the people who saw this movie with me really enjoyed it. I couldn't digest the thing. The ridiculousness of it all wasn't played for camp at all, but more for sadistic bloodlust. This surprisingly came from the Russian director who brought us the vampire film Nightwatch. I think he tried to Americanize this one too much. I'm not the biggest Angelina Jolie fan, but the girl can actually act. Unfortunately they didn't give her anything of the sort to do. The fact that the main character is obviously working the wrong side through the whole movie made him that much more annoying when he actually addresses the audience at the end and berates them for not doing something with their lives while he's some badass assassin. Ridiculous. Insulting.

42. Mamma Mia
I love ABBA. More than most. The musical version of their songs is simply an atrocity. The shoe-horned story is too forced and the characters are too annoying. If it were up to me, half of the story would need to be told in flashback. That's just me, though.

41. Four Christmases
I guess it wasn't really that bad. It's tradition, however, that I don't like Christmas comedies.

40. The Foot Fist Way
This movie was actually made in 2006, but wasn't released wide until this past year. Caught it on video. It's got Danny McBride, but isn't as funny as it needed to be. The funniest part is actually in the alternate scenes, which is weird.

39. 21
Maybe I would have liked this one a little more, but I saw it with Rhett and he told me all the stuff in the book that they didn't put in. After that I was like, so why did they make it suck so bad?

38. You Don't Mess With the Zohan

37. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Okay, let's get this straight. I don't mind the whole aliens thing. I feel that since Indiana Jones is based on pulp novels and Saturday matinees that the natural course for such things after 20 years would go from jungle artifacts to UFOs. That said, though... this will forever be considered one of the biggest disappointment sequels since Rocky V.

36. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Better than I thought, actually. Sure wish they bought their own rights to their own music, though. Like the music, and the Ewok television specials from the '80s, this movie just didn't fit in with everything else Star Wars for me.

35. X-Files: I Want To Believe
This is the X-Files I actually like. I hate all the alien stuff (even though I said otherwise about a different movie). The self-contained stories are way better. Too bad this movie was quickly phoned-in.

34. Burn After Reading
Sort of okay. The Coens usually do way better. I guess they had to even things out after No Country for Old Men.

33. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
It was pretty boring. Good thing it had Amy Adams in it.

32. American Teen
The thing about documentaries is that there is manipulation. We need to accept that and perhaps I need to accept that more than I actually do. With most documentaries, however, the manipulation simply comes with the presentation of the facts. Sometimes though, like with American Teen, the manipulation actually changes the events that are being documented. This presentation of everyday high-schoolers had some awesome scenes in it, but much of it seemed like a dressed-down episode of The Hills, but with uglier people.

31. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
This look at young life in the Depression could have been a lot more fun if Joan Cusack wasn't such a spaz.

30. Step Up 2 the Streets
How hilarious is it that the big street gang in this movie is a gang that choreographs intense dance sequences to totally perform guerrilla on the subway? *Snicker* Good soundtrack.

29. Tropic Thunder
The unfortunate thing about this movie is that, by far, the funniest parts were the first ten minutes. It had some moments after that. I mostly remember lots of loudness and baby throwing.

28. Michael Clayton
Came out last year. Saw it this year. I liked the chick who played the White Witch in Narnia. Her villainous character played like someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown was quite welcome.

27. Forever Strong
I think this may have been the only low-budget local movie I saw this year. Looks like the big local scene is fading. This was pretty fun, but I would have liked more legit rugby action. Heck, I would've liked to have been more illuminated on the game itself. Awesomest thing about this one though? The good guy in Gossip Girl playing the bad guy.

26. Valkyrie
The history lesson was pretty illuminating, but I expect more from Bryan Singer. Ever since he left X-Men, I haven't seen him really put his heart into anything.

25. The Incredible Hulk
Gets points for simply being set in the Marvel Universe. Of course Norton has really bugged me for the past few years.

24. Hellboy II
Del Toro went all out with this one, but it wasn't NEARLY as fun as the first. Pretty cool visuals, though.

23. Ghost Town
I found this to eventually be understandably touching, but I am kind of miffed that it wasn't funnier than it was. My brother totally told me it was really funny and it had a couple of funny parts, but for the most part I don't even think it was supposed to be a comedy. It could've been though. Gervais can carry entire productions.

22. Get Smart
I liked it.

21. Twilight
Yeah, this one's getting a pretty decent score from me, surprisingly. I guess it helps that it had the lamest set of trailers ever put on celluloid. Bringing expectations down doesn't hurt at all. I did really appreciate the humor in the movie that was seriously lacking from the book.

20. Definitely, Maybe
For a romantic comedy, this one didn't insult me. My favorite scene was when Rachel Weisz sings to him. Cute.

19. Quantum of Solace
This, of course, would have been way better if it didn't have to be measured alongside the excellent Casino Royale. Still, besides the comparison I'm really starting to miss the cheeky old 007. The chase scene in the theater with sound of the production playing over the action was fun to watch. Watch The Diving Bell and the Butterfly for a better use for the actor who plays the villain in Quantum.

18. Prince Caspian
I ranked this one well because I think there was a little direction taken away from the book that I really appreciated. Peter was more flawed, plus the appearance of the White Witch was a nice touch. Also, there was a lot more fighting -- hardly PG.

17. There Will Be Blood
Yeah! I know this came out in 2007! I didn't see it until 2008, okay?

16. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
This movie couldn't fail for me because it's got New York City, great music (although there wasn't nearly enough music or talk of music) and Michael Cera. Plus, I just love high school romance movies. It does have some serious flaws, though (like the obstacles to the relationship occuring after the relationship is cemented). The most surprising thing about this one is the revelation of Ari Graynor. Watch her like a hawk!

15. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Apatow was so hot in 2008! Not only were there many hilarious parts of this Hawaiian fun romp, but I discovered that Mila Kunis is actually very pretty and can totally act. Plus you got Veronica Mars doin' her thing too.

14. Pineapple Express
Surprisingly violent, this other Apatow movie has the twin comedy forces of Danny McBride and James Franco. Joe and I saw this one twice. Since it's a stoner comedy it's awesome to see late. I'm looking forward to seeing it on the couch at two in the morning, hepped up on pizza and candy (I don't hep myself up on much).

13. Cassandra's Dream
This is a Woody Allen movie that hardly anybody but me liked. It gets Woody points. Funny or serious I always relate to the anxiety of a Woody film.

12. Quarantine
See Cloverfield below.

11. Son of Rambow
These guys made an okay version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a few years ago. They get a better chance honing their charm in this great one about two young British movie makers. Weird quirk + whimsical imagery = movie going delight.

10. Cloverfield
I've gone on record so many times saying that I hate shaky-cam. It totally takes me out of the story because instead of bringing me into the action I actually think of the cameraman actually having a seizure. This is a notable exception. I think the concept TOTALLY WORKS when the camera is actually held by a character in the movie. When that's the case it really does bring me into the action. Tons of people were miffed by the lack of vision of the monster and a lack of clarity to what was actually going on. I get that, but what made Cloverfield great is that it wasn't a broad story from a news perspective, it's what the story would actually be from our perspective just in case a monster comes and kills us. Monster movies totally benefit from a fresh perspective.

9. Role Models
A lot of attention is paid to the Apatow-type comedies and how ground-breaking they are for the genre. Role Models may have the Apatow raunch, but it's a simple straightforward old school comedic story with an uplifting message. It did for comedic movies what How I Met Your Mother did for comedic television shows. Old school isn't necessarily a step in the wrong direction if you make it funny. And this one was funny. Hard. Plus, it gets wicked bonus points for making a character a total larper and taking a chance by reveling in high points of the activity instead of simply making a joke out of it.

8. Let the Right One In
This is that movie about teenage vampires. Seriously. It's not Twilight. This one has all the vampire rules in it: sunlight, blood-sucking, vampirism spreading to different people, etc. You even learn what happens when a vampire enters a home when she's not invited (wounds open up and she bleeds everywhere). Strangely, though, it feels less like a vampire movie than any other vampire movie I've ever seen. It's an extremely intimate story between two kids. This one would actually score higher, but there were just too many unnecessary establishing shots of the snow and dull sequences of characters walking in the snow. Okay, I get it. This was an independent film! I know! I'm sitting the most uncomfortable theater seat in Salt Lake Valley. Anyway, the vampire chick goes totally nuts at the end and it's awesome.

7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
This is another one that might not count. I'm fairly certain this one came out last year. This one has the bad guy from Quantum of Solace (Mathieu Amalric) in it, but he's a lot -- A LOT -- more interesting here. Half the movie is from his direct viewpoint in a hospital bed and the other half of the movie is fantastic imagery from the rest of his life. His nurse is one of the most beautiful women in the world, btw.

6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Another Woody Allen. This one was far more agreeable to most people. It's probably a good idea that Allen switched his filming city of choice from London to Barcelona. Every time he does that his films become far more fresh. This one is seriously bleak. It studies the different aspects of love and their faults (with few benefits). It comes from a guy whose probable definition of love is simply entropy. It's famous for Scarlett Johanssen and Penelope Cruz snogging, but it should be famous for Cruz's far out crazy performance and also the wonderful work of the other female role -- Rebecca Hall.

5. Slumdog Millionaire
If many Bollywood movies are of this quality, maybe I should get into that genre. Danny Boyle's movies always hold my interest. The storytelling device on its own is enough to be a really fascinating movie, but the movie used the device far beyond the pedestrian method.

4. Man on Wire
Only a select few of us were able to catch this movie. We were really lucky. It's a documentary about the guy in the '70s who walked a tightrope between the twin towers in New York. Documentaries automatically turn people off, but the way this thing was edited it was more like a heist movie waaaaay more intense than Ocean's 11.

3. Iron Man
We all saw it, so I don't need to praise it. It was a perfect preview of just how fun the superhero movies were this year. I've never liked Robert Downey Jr. more.

This was probably the most substantive movie I saw all year (and I saw eight movies at the film snobby Broadway Theatre). The guys over at Pixar never cease to amaze and never cease to experiment -- which is the real soul of good filmmaking. Actually, let me rephrase that. Experimentation that works is what really counts and they have some kind of scientific method over there that just works dynamite alongside their artistry. Great visuals, great science fiction, great love story, fantastic humor. Splendid! I've actually only seen it once, but haven't looked forward to seeing it again because of its weighty emotionalism.

1. The Dark Knight
You know what? WALL-E is probably a better movie, honestly. But I saw The Dark Knight three times in the theaters and it was awesome. I'm not going to bother explaining it too, because everyone else has already said it. I'll just say this: characters make great movies. Here is a Batman movie where Batman himself is the fourth most interesting character in the movie.


Blogger Rhett said...

I saw Twilight last night. Not bad. I agree that it added some humor the book was missing. Also I liked the scenes where they are talking but you can't hear the dialog. It made it seem like they actually fall in love. I know the XX gender would disagree, but in the book there is NO reason for Edward to like Bella (except that he can't hear what she's thinking) and there is NO reason for Bella to like Edward (except that he is an adonis). So those extra scenes helped out where they book didn't.

I also like the art work made of caps from graduation. Another point for the movie.

This leads me to an idea. What if for movies based on books we only focus on the areas where the movie is better? People are always like "the book is better". What if we argue with them and purposely look for areas where the movie is better? I would argue that Harry Potter movies are better than the books based on the music alone.

January 02, 2009 9:30 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I've added the following to Netflix:

Wire Man
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

January 02, 2009 9:45 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

Hooray for your #1 pick! It's my #1 pick too (probably for different reasons). I'm just mad I never caught it on IMAX.

January 02, 2009 1:36 PM  
Blogger John Edvalson said...

Hey Jon, I saw Wire Man based on your recommendation. It was pretty cool how someone would go to the lengths that he did and not blow up the building. Just goes to show passion comes in many forms. You should see Speed Racer, from a special effects and editing perspective alone it was pretty awesome. I didn't see any of the vampire movies. Let the Right One In looked like it would scare the willies out of me. I think it is interesting how that genre persists. You should do a top 20 list of Vampire movies. By the way, did you know that they are making a remake of Lost Boys featuring Corey Feldman?

January 13, 2009 11:39 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Just watched Man on Wire - that guy was crazy, but amazing. Really cool movie.

January 18, 2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Jon - fantastic list... and I love your top two films.

I also appreciated the shout-out in your Ghost Town review - however, I still think the film was hilarious (albeit with some great dramatic/sentimental scenes as well...) Did we watch the same film?

January 21, 2009 8:22 PM  

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