Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Favorite Films of 2008

The past few years I’ve listed my favorite films of the year. Here’s my third edition, having watched most of the best acclaimed movies of the year. The key ones that I’ve missed are Bolt, Defiance, Gran Torino, Happy-Go-Lucky, Role Models and Waltz with Bashir. With that said, here’s my top 10.

10. Frost/Nixon. Great acting, and a very interesting movie on the duel between Frost and Nixon.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This is my second favorite of Judd Apatow’s string of hit comedies, behind only Knocked Up. Very funny movie with a soft heart underneath.

8. Kung Fu Panda. I’m in general a much bigger fan of Pixar animation than DreamWorks, but I think DreamWorks really scored with this one. Rather than rely on pop culture references, it relies on classic storytelling and it works great.

7. Milk. I went in kind of expecting to dislike it, both because I’ve hated Gus Van Sant’s pretentious series of recent movies and because I’m not a big fan of biopics. But this is a great one, that manages to tell the story as well through characters as you could through a documentary.

6. Iron Man. Great summer blockbuster with exciting action and likeable characters. Iron Man at least to me kind of seems like a “B” superhero, but they’ve got an “A” franchise with this one.

5. The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke deserves all the credit he has received for this one, with a tremendous performance and a really memorable character. And I think I might have liked it even better if I weren’t a wrestling fan.

4. Wall-E. Another awesome film by Pixar. It’s more of a “prestige” or “art house” CGI film than most of Pixar’s other crowd pleasers, but technically it’s breathtaking.

3. Slumdog Millionaire. I think of this as more of a fairy tale with fantastic elements than a gritty depiction of third world reality that some see it as, but either way it’s a touching story that stands out as one of the year’s best.

2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Yes, it’s a lot like Forrest Gump. But it’s still an incredibly memorable film with lots of great characters and emotional moments. I really liked it and look forward to seeing it again when it comes out on DVD.

1. Dark Knight. This was one of my favorite movies in years. It had so much hype going in and it absolutely delivered. Heath Ledger was fantastic and the story had great depth and intrigue. I think it deserved the Best Picture Oscar, and I’m not typically a big complainer about the types of films that get best picture nominations.

Also, a few honorable mentions: In Bruges (well made comedy/drama), Horton Hears a Who (fun kids’ movie), The Visitor (nice little story with great performances; first half better than second), Hamlet 2 (extremely funny under the radar comedy), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (unfairly criticized popcorn movie), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (sweet teen romance), Doubt (very well acted play on the big screen)

And finally, Oscar picks. These are my picks for the most deserving choices among the selected nominees. They aren’t meant as predictions and they don’t include films that weren’t nominated.

Best Picture – Curious Case of Benjamin Button narrowly wins over Slumdog Millionaire for me. I liked both a lot but the former moved me more. Milk finishes third.

Best Leading Actor – Frank Langella. When I first started watching this movie, I had my typical biopic problem where I couldn’t get into the movie because there’s this actor trying to be Richard Nixon. By the end, I was struggling to picture what the real Nixon looked like because Langella had so transformed himself into this character. I thought it was such a tremendous performance, although I certainly will have no problem with either of the other excellent frontrunners, Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke, winning.

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger. His performance was every bit as good as the advanced hype. I also thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was excellent. I don’t get Michael Shannon’s inclusion, though. I thought his unbelievable over-the-top performance did significantly more to detract from Revolutionary Road than to enhance it.

Best Leading Actress – Kate Winslet. I’m not blown away with the choices, to be perfectly honest. Great actresses, not necessarily their best performances. I thought Winslet controlled her movie in a positive way, so she takes it.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams. Doubt was a movie for actors, and Amy Adams to me stole the show from two phenomenal co-stars. Her performance was the emotional heart of the movie. Marisa Tomei to me is the best runner-up.

Best Director – David Fincher. This usually goes to the winner of the best picture, and given I’m a big fan of Fincher I have no problem with him winning whatsoever. I also like Danny Boyle a lot so he’s a fine second choice in my book.


Anonymous Steve Khan said...

You should definitely watch Gran Torino, for Eastwood alone.

You should also check out 'Man on Wire' if you haven't. It's up for Best Documentary, and it's one of my favourite films overall on the year.

I agree with you on The Wrestler. People in the theatre were in disbelief at some of the wrestling/backstage scenes, but I wasn't. Rourke was great.

And The Dark Knight was also my favourite of the year.

12:33 PM  
Blogger AKFooFighter said...

Indeed Todd, it's worth going out of your way to catch Eastwood in "Gran Torino." His performance and the film are both excellent.

I also agree with you on "The Wrestler." Rourke is beyond tremendous, but the film really made me think about my fascination with the business from all directions.

I had an interesting time explaining hardcore matches to my older sister after she watched the film. She simply couldn't believe they really happened.

- Matt in Anchorage

2:09 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Gran Torino is probably at the top of my list of films I haven't seen because it has gotten raves from a lot of my friends. Just haven't had the chance yet.

I liked Man on Wire a lot. I'm a big fan of documentaries in general, but I have trouble comparing them to fictional films so I left them off.

The hardcore match between Necro and Rourke was actually one of the few criticisms I had of the Wrestler, because while that style of hardcore match does happen, it's not like there are a bunch of big 80s stars who would engage in such things. The closest one was probably Terry Funk, and he never did the glass tube/staple gun/mouse trap stuff. I just found it hard to believe that character would need to do one of those for a pay day.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was about to ask about Gran Torino but I see others beat me to the punch...a definite must see.

12:15 AM  

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