Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Repost: Top Five Films of the Year: 2008

This was published in the notes section of my facebook profile a year ago.

Is this truly the best thing since sliced bread?
This being the first full year I had my cineworld unlimited card meant I saw pretty much every film I wanted to see, and some more. So I think I can accurately reflect on this year in cinema knowing that I'm unlikely to miss anything out.
Having said that I've not seen the following films which may have made the list:
Mama Mia; Man on Wire; 4 Months, 3 weeks & 2 Days; & Australia.

I challenge anyone to suggest a movie deserving of at least an 'honourable mention' as I go through this year in film

Quick Review of the Year: As is always the case in the UK, the year started very strongly, with all the oscar contenders being let out to play here in the weeks leading up to the actual ceremony. Not only did we have Charlie Wilson's War, No Country for Old Men, & In the Valley of Elah. Released on the same DAY we had: Juno, There Will be Blood and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: all 3 of which could easily make my top 20 films of all time. So my second challenge to you is to do a bit of research and find another week with 3 just-as-strong films released simultaneously.

Last year we had the "Summer of the Threes" (Spiderman, Pirates, Shrek, Rush Hour, Bourne). Where all bar the latter were major disappointments. Thankfully, this summer fared a whole lot better, with the big blockbusters coming up trumps: Wall-E, Dark Knight, Iron Man, Hellboy 2, Prince Caspian and even Mama Mia (so I hear) did exactly what they set out to do. Even Indy 4 was an enjoyable affair, and has since been unfairly ripped apart by fans who take a franchise which is supposed to be a barrel-load of fun far too seriously.

Finally, post-September proved a big disappointment, with studios moving back big releases because the Writer's Strike (remember that?) left a hole in their release schedules. As such Twilight and Quantum of Solace were the only major films released this side of Christmas. And both were a big pile of ...meh.

So before arriving at our final destination, it's worth noting the films that made the shortlist, but were Credit-Crunched out of the top 5. (Damn it, I swore I wouldn't fall into the trap of mentioning the Credit Crunch in a review of the year: somehow it slipped in. Although a fun drinking game is to see how many imbeciles shoe-horn the financial crisis into the most extraneous categories when reviewing 2008).

So here we go with Honourable Mentions, feel free to add your own theme music as you read what is merely a list:
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, No Country for Old Men, Cloverfield, Gone Baby Gone, In Bruges, Spiderwick Chronicles, Sweeney Todd, Charlie Wilson's War, Speed Racer, Hunger, Juno, Son of Rambow & The Orphanage.

And finally, having endured the endless trailers, we arrive at today's main feature:The Top 5:

EDIT: The formatting isn't working on my computer, can someone confirm is also the case with them for films 3 & 4? Then hopefully I'll change it/inform facebook.

There's a lot of jumping in this movie
5. High School Musical 3
Now before I get berated and rebuked for this choice, I'd like to point out a few things:
1. Mark Kermode has put this in his top 5, and he's a real, respected, heterosexual critic!
2. Kenny Ortega, the director, is one of the best choreographers in the biz (he choreographed Dirty Dancing). Whatever else you can criticize the movie for, you can't say the dancing doesn't rock your socks.
3. This film is what it is: a feel-good Disney family movie. It's not The Godfather or Citizen Kane, but neither is it trying to be.
Now hopefully, once you get past all your preconceptions about this movie, you'll see a fantastic musical full of great songs, great dancing and some very funny moments. Yes it's over-the-top, and yes it's cheesier than the Cheddar Cheese factory who've recently been working overtime to make up for the fact their brilliantly mature cheddar is now in demand since their rivals had to stop production because of the credit crunch (damn it, not again!). But it's still damn good. And it's a crying shame if you're too 'principled'(i.e. stuck-up) to give this movie a chance! [/KermodianRant]

This poster depicts the part of the movie where the joker tries to kill batman by dropping a flaming bat on his head.
4. The Dark Knight
A much less controversial choice than the one above. I love Christopher Nolan. I love Christian Bale. I love Gary Oldman. I also love Maggie Gyllenhaal. I love Batman. I love dark Batman. I love watching the Joker be crazy. I love Batman trying to understand him. I love stories of people slowly turning crazy/evil. I love the idea that we need a hero, and the idea that you don't have to be loved to be good. There's lots of reasons I love this movie, and given the amount of stuff packed into this movie, there's probably at least 3 more you can think of (feel free to list them below).

Funny story: I went to buy the DVD for my Mum (as well as my flatmate), but accidentally bought the paperback book instead, which both have the cover above. So I now have the book. Best accident ever?
3. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
Is it a movie? Is it art? Is it a beautifully told story about a surprisingly unlikeable character who's easy to sympathise with? Yes to all three. For those of you who don't know it's about a guy who has 'locked in syndrome' and can only move one muscle in his body: his eyelid. Despite this, he manages to communicate with those around him, and express himself in an extraordinary manner. There's few movies that should be required viewing for every adult in the world, but I think this is one of them. It's about communication, guilt, life, what's important. And yet it's just about a guy who can only move his eyelid. Go see it.

The eyes that can melt a million hearts
2. Wall-E
The only movie in the top 5 that almost brought me to tears. I'm not really sure why, but the scene where Wall-E and Eve fly about outside the spaceship is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Wall-E is definitely a movie where less is more. I still find it strange how easy it is to fall in love with a robot, and to identify with him more than Spiderman/Bond/Bourne/most movie characters of the last 90 years. I think the best thing about this movie, is the fact that rather than relying on talented actors, or amazing special effects, this movie relies on its storytelling. A movie about an earth filled with nothing but trash and a dustbin-robot should never work. Yet it does. Go figure.

There will be blood...and milkshakes.
1. There Will Be Blood
Oil and Religion: Nice to see the world's changed in the last hundred years. People turn to lots of things when they need money, food, and are without hope. And inevitably there are people who crave the power that comes from controlling these things. Ultimately that's what this movie's about. Yet, it is so well shot, acted, soundtracked and directed that any description I give it will pale in comparison to the experience of watching this movie. This is the only movie I saw in the cinema twice, and at 2.5 hours, that's no mean feat. A definite challenger (along with Wall-E) for favourite movie of all time. If you haven't seen this yet, watch it now. If you've already seen it, watch it again, since I'm sure you'll have missed something.

Agree/Disagree? Feel free to put your own top 5 below or maybe even write a note/blog entry and link to it...