Ten Best (and Five
Worst) Films of 2008
Some of the year’s top films had poor or mediocre scripts but were elevated by great performances. By contrast, The Wrestler has it all: a great script, moving performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, and an appropriately gray ambiance. Director Darren Aronofsky specializes in getting inside his characters’ worlds. This time he’s done that using a spare script and making every scene count.
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio give us a gloomy glimpse of life in 1950s suburbia in this adaptation of Richard Yates’ 1961 novel. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men) brings the ‘50s to life with a beauty that provides a strong contrast to the emotional solemnity of this story.
Performances are this movie’s strength. Sean Penn brings to life Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official. The beauty of Penn’s performance is that he manages to embody the character to the extent that you forget he’s Sean Penn. He also illuminates the character’s humanity, accentuates what makes him like the rest of us. James Franco also does a great job as Scott Smith, Milk’s lover and campaign manager.
It’s amazing that a film with almost no dialogue and a robot as main character can so fully capture one’s attention and imagination. Wall-E does that with a character as loveable as E.T. and a storyline that is both intelligent and romantic. The soundtrack, which contains some numbers from famous musicals such as Hello Dolly! adds sophistication.
Man On Wire
In 1974, French tightrope walker Phillip Petit walked between the two towers of the World Trade Center. This film documents the act, examining the preparation required to achieve it and the changes it wrought in Petit’s life. Director James Marsh beautifully captures a world that few of us can comprehend.
The Five Worst of 2008
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
This made the top of my worst list because it could have been really good if only the director and actors could have transcended the mannerisms of the pre-World War II period. Instead this adaptation of Winifred Watson’s 1938 novel becomes an instant artifact.
How in the world do you make a dull movie that features a stellar cast of actresses (think Meg Ryan, Bette Midler, Annette Benning, Carrie Fisher, Candice Bergen)? You might want to ask Diane Lane, the director of this clichéd and uninspired remake of Claire Booth Luce’s stage play.
The Love Guru
Poop jokes and the basest sex jokes abound in this Mike Meyers flick about a popular guru who’s hired to help a depressed hockey player. We’ve seen it all before, and most of us wish we hadn’t.
Al Pacino has done terrific work (Scent of Woman and Frankie & Johnny included), so it’s too bad he winds up here as a manic psychiatrist trying to catch a murderer. The murderer calls Pacino’s character every few minutes and repeats the phrase “Tic Tock, Doc” ad nauseam, which is one of many reasons that this movie descends camp.
The marriage of silliness and violence that permeates this film results in a picture the many folks will probably consider unwatchable. The filmmakers seemed to be making a film not just about stoners but also for stoners.
Deborah Young can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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