I want my Top 10 to be of the movies released in 2008, although in general I think it is probably a better idea to probably just do a Top 10 of the movies that I saw in 2008 (that were released domestically that year). Anyway, (finally) here is my Top 10 movies for 2008:
Honorable Mentions: Iron Man, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Bolt.
10. Doubt / The Reader. Featuring the two best performances by female actresses in 2008, Doubt and The Reader were basically vehicles for sceneet-chewing turns by Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet, respectively. Only one of them could win, and I do believe the best woman took home the Oscar.
9. Sex and the City. Like a two-and-a-half hour long version of a Sex in the City episode. If you're a fan, this is a good thing. If you're not a fan, you won't enjoy this movie. Jennifer Hudson appears for no apparent reason, primarily as a Magic Negro. But Carrie looks fabulous throughout.
8. The Wrestler. .An absolutely shattering meditation on the unpredictability of life by former wunderkind director Darren Aronofsky (π, The Fountain) featuring an unforgettable physical transformation by Mickey Rourke who is plays a character whose life and unfortunate career arc uncomfortably mirror the actor's own life7. The Class. A fascinating, faux documentary look at the French school system, seen through the prisms of race, immigration and class. As a professor, this film was incredibly engrossing and engagin.
6. The Visitor. This was a surprising find. I'm a huge fan of the incredibly handsome Arabic actor Haaz Sleiman who I knew was appearing in this little film written and directed by Tom McCarthy and starring the actor who played the patriarch of the Six Feet Under family in his first leading role. What I found was a heart-warming tale about immigration animated by Sleiman's 1000-watt smile.
5. The Dark Knight. Director Christopher Nolan put all the pieces of his prodigious talent together he had previously hinted at with Memento and The Prestige in this mega-blockbuster sequel that blew away critics and box-office records while containing a performance-of-a-lifetime by Heath Ledger.
4. Milk. I saw this film on opening day with a friend the day before Thanksgiving in Atlanta, Georgia and there were very few dry eyes in that (sparsely attended) matinee showing. Sean Penn's widely celebrated portrayal of the gay community's modern-day Martin Luther King, Jr. was a relevation which powered the film. However, it was Dustin Lance Black's Oscar-winning original screenplay that was the surprise, since the story of Harvey Milk's life had previously been covered in an award-winning documentary and a well-regarded book by Randy Shilts called The Mayor of Castro Street. However, Black's screenplay and Gus Van Sant's direction combined to create a masterpiece that will be long treasured.
3. WALL-E. Another Pixar masterpiece. The first (nearly completely dialogue free) forty-five minutes is pure cinematic bliss. The story of WALL-E is universal, timeless, ageless and nearly perfect. The only flaws are the inclusion of humans into the story in the second half of the film. Still, the sheer joy of storytelling comes through loud and clear.
2. Slumdog Millionaire. The winner of the Best Picture Oscar and basically the consensus pick for the best film of the year. I have been a longtime fan of Danny Boyle's work and the director produced his best work to date with this brilliant amalgam of Bollywood and Hollywood. At its core Slumdog is a love story, but it is also an exciting, breathtaking rollercoaster ride set in India.
1. Tell No One (Ne Le Dis A Personne). The most enjoyable time I spent at the movies all year was watching this incredibly suspenseful, well-written French thriller based on the Harlan Coben novel. In fact, this was the only movie that I saw twice in theaters during the year. The script is incredibly intricate, but although the film is in French with English subtitles one is never lost and one's attention is grabbed almost instantly from the first surprising scene. Although the actors are generally unknown French actors (apart from an amusing cameo of Kristin Scott Thomas as a lesbian sister-in-law of the central character)