Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Best films of 2008"

Looks like I have seen some of the films I wanted to in the past couple of weeks to jot down the best films of 2008. I have also mentioned the films which were good but did not make the cut for the best films after the listing. 2008 was a terrible year for distribution. Not all the films got released and that pushed me to edge. But anyways most of it managed to sneak in slowly in the year of 2009 and I am fine by it. I can only hope 2009 is better but with the economy that might be another sector which would get hit too. Who knows. Alright, enough with cribbing and let me get down to the list (In Alphabetical Order (of course eliminating “the”).

“Appaloosa” - This film gone under the radar for many. A western from Ed Harris who directs the man suited rightly for the role of Everett Hitch the buddy of Virgil Cole played by Harris himself. It is a careful presentation of a friendship between these two enforcers. In between as expected comes a woman Allison French and she brings an unusualness to the character which becomes interesting for rest of the story. RenĂ©e Zellweger plays Allison with a woman wanting attention and to be protected always. This becomes a problem both for the men and advantage for the man they are hunting for, Randall Bragg played by Jeremy Irons. Many complained that it is a good film but not perfect. I saw it as the exact amount what the film needed and the brilliant performances of Harris and Mortensen is more than enough for this film to be perfect.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” - Many could not stand Benjamin Button because it is a shined piece of useless penny. They see it as an expensive production glossed up with nothing but confusion and ambiguity. I was moved by the film because it has deeper sense of its material in a great hold of its characters. Brad Pitt impresses me with great choices to do his films. He works through Button and works real hard. He brings out a child eyes in a centenarian looking man and then carries a maturity in his teenage looking Button when he meets his eternal love Daisy done by Cate Blanchett in her middle age. David Fincher does not hesitate to move away from his regular territory of storytelling into this Eric Roth’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzegerald’s short story. Sometimes nothing needs to be said for a great film, all it requires is an experience to enjoy immensely. Words becomes unnecessary in those times.

“The Dark Knight” - Perhaps the most anticipated film of the 2008 and the most successful of the year too, this is personally a film I was craving for when the year started. Being a true admirer of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale with their other separate works and of course with their “Batman Begins”, it is as serious a super hero film can ever get as I said in the review. And Heath Ledger bringing Joker into this villain I have never seen with a purpose and ideology that in the opposite spectrum, his character in an ironic way is very honest about his principles. Too bad we lost a great actor but his final film will be remembered forever. “The Dark Knight” is a complete film with its performances, screenplay, dialogues, stunts, editing, music and every other thing that went along with it.

“Gran Torino” - If Clint Eastwood’s Walk Kowalski comes up to me and pats friendly on my back, I would terrified. But he can also change that fear into a deep respect instantly even if he is going sputter racial slurs towards me. That is the power of Eastwood and he directs one another terrific film. This man is more than inspiration. Here his Walt is bitter and represents the traditional American grudging on the rest of the world occupying his country. The film which gets R-rated purely for language becomes a comedy, action and drama with Eastwood’s way of building things in leisure and pleasure. This is a film which would give a kick out of the hard men with male ego but at the same time make them shed tears too.

“Happy-Go-Lucky” - Thanks to Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that I was introduced to Mike Leigh through their TV reviews. Here he brings out the best in Sally Hawkins who is bubbling with happiness which slowly begins to reek us out of jealousy. In a crude sense of our mind is Eddie Marsan as Scott, the driving instructor for Hawkins’ Poppy. No one can stand his egomaniacal arrogance and Poppy deflects, reflects and strips away those harsh comments with chuckles, smiles and laughs. Soon what one might expect does happen but in a rather horrifying revelation for Poppy. “Happy-Go-Lucky” encourages optimism beyond sky high but also warns the consequences of it.

“In Bruges” - A guilty young man and an history loving middle aged man come to the town of Bruges. Oh and they are hit men. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this on the looks of being that Guy Ritchie stylish smirky film turns completely different and artsy. And with Carter Burwell’s sympathetic and thrilling score, this becomes into a rather tour de force for McDonagh. It has the architecture nostalgia of the place with characters deeply drenched in conscience and judgements. An adulated script this film has three major entertaining performances from Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes foul mouthing all the way to give a surreal, corky, aesthetic and in the end poignant emotional film.

“I’ve Loved you So Long” - Philippe Claudel’s French film is of course shows the love of the French artistic appreciation. Out here though it is Kristin Scott Thomas in an extremely tough role to enact. She comes out of prison to her sister’s place. The dark past when comes out puts us in imbalance. We do not want to believe but more and more her detachment and stale face advices other wise. But the film is about how one’s improbable resistance to goodness surrounding them. Thomas’ Juliette begins to embrace and essentially the family too but there is more to it and when it comes out, it shatters us.

“Man on Wire” - Philippe Petit is a man who talks like been high on sugar. He is high on something else. A single line of connection and a suspension into a world unlike any other. A world wherein people like Petit are the only can reside in. They become the words in a poetry. Petit writes his poetry on the wire he rides. In this documentary, Petit and his friends narrate with a great reenactment sequence by director James Marsh which makes us to sit curiously on waiting for that picture to come out. We see his madness but are thrilled by his passion. We see his insanity but are overwhelmed by the beauty of it. Petit’s attitude tells how he looks death in the event of this stunt. Death becomes a proud signature of that effort and he is completely fine about it. He is not suicidal but lives in between alive and dead. That is thin and narrow but damn poetical.

“Milk” - What can you say about Sean Penn? That man can sink to the bottom of a character and come out with such a relentless passion. Here he portrays a great bold and more importantly flamboyantly flawed human in his own ways, Harvey Milk. His migration from the shadows of nowhere in his forties rises towards height of a revolutionary inspiration to many. With strong supporting cast of Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Diego Luna, “Milk” is Gus Van Sant’s solid compilation and also a honorable letting of the great actor into his niche talent.

“Rachel Getting Married” - If you are afraid of social awkwardness and when uncomfortable is a least word to describe your position of placed in between a family’s traumatic problems, “Rachel Getting Married” would be a crash test for it. Anna Hathaway’s Kym makes look the drunken man in a wedding reception as a peacemaker in this film. But when the story begins to unfold with her sister Rachel played by Rosemarie DeWitt and their father done spectacularly by Bill Irwin, we see the mess in a family. Jonathan Demme’s film has painful emotions and when the fight breaks out between the three when guests are walking by, we envy them because they can ease out of this awkwardness but we are stuck. But it is more irking of its closeness in its problem with our own family.

“Recount” - While it did not get released in the theatres, this HBO film gives the dramedy which happened in the 2000 elections. Making films about true story distorts certain facts and I learned from my friend that they indeed went far ahead in butchering Katharine Harris (played by Laura Dern) a little too much. Nevertheless with the historic election, this film is a tightly packed tension drama played by actors which adds so much authenticity of their own. Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern and the spectacular Tom Wilkinson give a film on how it all turned out. How the actual pursuit for the truth became a display of contradiction in both the parties. “Recount” even knowing the result is an excellent thriller and completely unpredictable.

“Revolutionary Road” - I guess I have shouted enough about this film on being the best film for me in the year of 2008 with another splendid score from Thomas Newman. When you smile uncontrollably on how much beautiful, artistic and brutally emotional a film is, it becomes something more than a film. A social commentary from the direction of Sam Mendes and performances from actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, it would scare any couple and bring second thoughts of their existence. A film which happens in the 50s is clearly an apt application to the current society and now more than ever with the security of every family been threatened opening us how vulnerable we are. But Winslet’s April and DiCaprio’s Frank spits words with eloquent insults. The one hope of clutching away from the chains begins to dismantle right in front of April’s eyes. We see Frank’s inability to come out of that gravity pull of safety, security and importantly comfort space. A life which you hate is also easy and cozy when looking the uncertainty ahead. “Revolutionary Road” many say that they cannot see it again. I beg to differ because it has more than the tragedy which is deeper art and reflection of life to it. Quite frankly 2008 is not a spectacle of great films we saw during 2007 (despite that I have not seen many other critically acclaimed films of 2008). The reason I would say that is that we never had a slice of real life and art merged as we had in 2007 in “There will be Blood”, “Into the Wild” and even not much of a favourite of mine, “No Country for Old Men” had. This film is rare under those circumstances for this year but one of the best films of recent times.

“Tropic Thunder” - I have to say it did not impress initially but when Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman comes along it got better and when Robert Downey Jr. kicks in as this serious drama actor, this goes beyond. Ben Stiller provides a film about making a film only that it gets real without the awareness of its actors. Stiller takes a risk with so much stars but puts them rightly in places and very cleverly uses each of them pushing out of their normalcy. This film could be discarded as “comedy” but this is a very bold attempt in the genre and it is a spectacular success.

“The Visitor” - Tom McCarthy’s love for characters hiding inside the life they have lead is a known successful execution through “The Station Agent”. In this film though, McCarthy handles couple of stories. One being this professor who has lost all interest in his life and teachings which he was able to get by when his wife was around. He is played by Richard Jenkins in a command which the character would not exhibit. He changes his course of life for a while to assist the illegal immigrants in the process of separation. He begins to acknowledge his existence in the end despite losing his love to the distance and policies. “The Visitor” is a film which grows on you and never stops.

“WALL•E” - This animated feature from Andrew Stanton is not as impressive as 2007’s “Ratatouille” but it achieves something more than that. That is producing a film with very little dialogues. It works with Thomas Newman’s score and these two robot characters in action along with the sidekick electromechanical cockroach. It is moving, cute, moral and most of all fun. It is innovative and gets it going right away. For that I have to mention the animated feature which swooped every one and provided the ultimate entertainment for the whole family with an artistic involvement for its part.

“The Wrestler” - Mickey Rourke paints his body with skin care and maintenance in the morning and then brutalizes with unimaginable objects in the evening. His character Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” is some one who has lost everything and lives only through the sport he loves. He lives a life of a popularity in a kids posters and begins to see his age pulling him down. He begins to see a life outside of the ring and begins to reach out to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he has negated all his life. There is a parallel commentary of him and his profession through a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. They both depend on their body which is giving up in slow patches. A tale which promises some good hope only spirals down further and when disaster is expected, Aronofsky leaves us with a hollow content. Better than hopelessness.

“Young@Heart” - What a moving documentary this can be? As up close and tearing unhappiness along with wonderful songs and revelations, this is a film which is definitely for all ages. It deals with old age and the spirit to have fun while inches far away from death. Music is an ultimate outlet for everything and director Stephen Walker takes a beautiful trip amongst these funny, adorable and inspiring old rockers.

While I hate to conclude with this list, I still have many other films in 2008 to be watched. That includes “Let the right one in”, “Frozen River”, “Tell No One”, “A Christmas Tale”, “Wendy and Lucy”, “Che”, “Waltz with Bashir” and some others.

Here are some films which did not make the best films but surely good ones I liked for the year of 2008 - “Frost/Nixon”, “The Reader”, “Doubt”, “Valkyrie”, “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas”, “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Bolt”, “Standard Operating Procedure”, “Changeling”, “Role Models”, “RocknRolla”, “W.”, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”, “Religulous”, “Blindness”, “Ghost Town”, “Burn After Reading”, “Aamir”, “Get Smart”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Redbelt”, “Iron Man”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Smart People” and “The Bank Job”.


Karthik said...

I am taking the right to post this link in my blog ...hope u wouldnt mind.

Ashok said...

Sure thing Karthik :-) !

Aru said...

Isnt it strange that slumdogg didnt make it in your best ,but went on to bag the most in oscars. Are you going to use the cliched justification that they are just your views ???? :)

Aru said...

sorry i cudnt resist myself from commenting :)..
and i sincerely ask you to write a writeup on the oscars and wat u think about it in this blog. i think that kind of a writeup will be relevant to your blogspace tooo.. my 2 cents bro..