Some more of my esteemed fellow Phoenix critics have offered their lists...
1. The Wrestler
The Wild Samoans meet the Dardenne Brothers in Darren
Aronofsky’s penetrating character study, starring an awesome Mickey Rourke.
2. Tropic Thunder
In a great year for comedy, Ben Stiller’s Hollywood
satire was the funniest and most audacious.
Ed Harris directed and played the sheriff in this
beautifully woven buddy Western, co-starring Viggo Mortensen as his protective,
4. The Visitor
Tom McCarthy, a sensational screenwriter and director of
actors, gave the great Richard Jenkins a well-deserved lead role.
5. Waltz with Bashir
unfolding of this animated memoir turned one young Israeli soldier’s story into
a symbol of the world’s silent complicity in a pivotal 1982 massacre.
6. Trouble the Water
An outspoken New
Orleans resident’s home movies of Katrina and its
aftermath were shaped into the year’s most powerful American documentary.
7. Iron Man
I used to consider Robert Downey Jr. the most annoying actor
out there—until last summer, when he gave weight to this movie’s anti-hero
turned superhero, and then fully committed to the fully committed white actor
playing a black GI in “Tropic Thunder.”
Mike Leigh’s experiment in cheerfulness, with Sally Hawkins
as standard-bearer, was an infectious success.
Martyrdom became just one aspect of the life of Harvey Milk
in Gus Van Sant’s vivid biopic not only of a man, but also of a time and a
Kimberly Peirce made one of the few good fiction films about
the Iraq War, starring a surprisingly convincing Ryan Phillippe.
These movies made me laugh a lot: Pineapple Express, Step
117: Cairo Nest of Spies, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, The Grand, Ghost Town,
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
1. The Love Guru
Mike Myers, come back to us, please!
2. The Tracey Fragments
This interminable split-screened navel-gaze directed by the
usually sane Bruce McDonald received a belated release after Ellen Page got
3. ValkyrieTinker-toy Nazi
history (take one American box-office star and attach British character
actors), it did no justice to its fascinating subject.
4. Hamlet 2This farce’s attempts
to shock reeked of desperation.
5. The Romance of Astrea and CeladonErich Rohmer’s
medieval cross-dressing love story was just too damn nutty.
Happy-Go-LuckyAn unusually real snapshot of a thirtysomething teacher and
her oddly peopled North London world.
The Edge of HeavenAn
family and revolutionary
politics in Germany and Turkey, loaded with precise, small touches.
would admire it.
My WinnipegEver go to Winnipeg? You won't need to after watching this
utterly unique "love letter"--part Beckett, part Tim Burton, totally weird.
4. The Class
5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Day
The ugly complications of abortion in the waning days of
Soviet-era Romania, brilliantly written
6. Wendy and Lucy
Makes other indies seem bloated by removing all the cinematic
MSG (rousing music, multiple storylines, montages) that lazy audiences have come
The first important character study about the real victims of
the financial meltdown? Maybe.
A expertly written, important film, unfortunately timed for
the PC award season sweepstakes.
A down-and-out wrestler in love with a stripper? Marisa
Tomei's nipples--again? To prove it's not a collection of cliches, see
10. Cadillac Records
A fun reminder that making it as a bluesman never meant
actually getting rich
Top Ten Films of 2008:
(in no particular order)
This film's chaotic color palette is an odd choice for Leigh,
and appropriate for this light-hearted but dark-souled character study.
a quietly devastating film set in Mongolia, which blends portraits of
two unstable cultures: the pastoral nomads and the decrepit manufacturing
towns, both beset by Chinese military thugs.)
Intimate, intense, Shanley's film debut is all sere colors
and Dutch angles; it doesn't feel like watching a movie somehow, but for Streep
and Hoffman's star quality performances.)
Riveting, inspiring, and about time, too. Sean Penn has
never been better, which is saying a lot.)
5. Iron Man
Jr. nails it, and for once, orgiastic special effects have been used for good
instead of evil.)
6. Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
I know the conceit was offensive to some; but I think not
many critics gave this a chance. The performances are flawless and the tone
7. Tropic Thunder
can't decide if the timing was extraordinarily god or bad,
but this was sheer comic genius.)
8. Under the Same Moon
Sentimental but suspenseful story of a Mexican=2 0boy who
travels alone to visit his mother in California--the
young lead has charisma dripping out of every orifice.)
9. The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger's creepy, over-the-top Joker is the stuff
post-screening nightmares are made from, and Christian Bale is the most (or
perhaps only) interesting Batman casting choice since Michael Keaton.)
I want to eat this with a spoon every night for dessert.
Frank Langella is enjoying a fine late-career renascence.)
Top Five Worst (and by that I mean Most Disappointing)
1. Nobel Son
2. The X-Files: I Want to Believe
3. Brideshead Revisited
4. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
5. The Happening