31 December 2008

Best of 2008: Film

Revisions since original publication indicated in bold.

The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan)
The ultimate sequel, comic book movie, crime epic, morality play, summer movie, et al. Any questions?

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father (dir. Kurt Kuenne)
The documentary of the year: part murder-mystery, part touching anecdote, all told with the emotional heft of the pain of losing a loved one. Bring the tissues.

Doubt (dir. John Patrick Shanley)
Can you name another movie recently this chock full of this many spectacular performances? Neither can I. But beyond the performances is another movie that causes you to wrestle with your preconceived notions, your perceptions, your faith.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (dir. Nicholas Stoller)
The year's best comedy, which out-Apatows Judd Apatow. Funny, smart, sweet, and extremely relevant to anyone who's gone through a breakup recently.

Iron Man (dir. Jon Favreau)
If Dark Knight was $100 steak, this is the burger from the joint around the corner. The former may be better overall, but the latter is so much more laid-back and enjoyable.

Milk (dir. Gus Van Sant)
So much more alive than most biopics of recent years, Milk adds context, visual flair, and timeliness to the generic life story, to give a riveting history lesson, made all the more relevant in light of recent political events. Sean Penn and Josh Brolin are riveting.

Slumdog Millionaire (dir. Danny Boyle)
In a world where every other release is a remake of something that wasn't that good to begin with, here's a truly original story that'll sweep you up with its unique storytelling device and genuinely uplifting message.

U2 3D (dirs. Mark Pellington and Catherine Owens)
Some of us may never get to see the great band in concert, but this truly is "Even Better than the Real Thing," with cameras taking you onstage, backstage, and front row center. The best moviegoing experience of the year.

WALL·E (dir. Andrew Stanton)
Not content to make an animated movie that merely reaches the heights of great cinema, Stanton (Finding Nemo) went into the great beyond to create a work of art that's part Chaplin homage, part vicious satire of lazy humanity.

The Wrestler (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Aronofsky's simplest yet most powerful film. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a pro big in the 80s and now clinging to his glory days, a shell of his former self.

Runners-Up: American Teen, Burn after Reading, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Ghost Town, Gran Torino, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Kung Fu Panda, Run Fat Boy Run, Tropic Thunder

Russell Brand as Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Riffing on his own bad-boy persona, Brand delivered one of the all-time great supporting comedic performances as the lead singer of rock band Infant Sorrow. He's a one man Spinal Tap.

Ben Burtt as WALL·E in WALL·E
What? A sound mixer can't land a spot on this list? Well, truly any human voice would have cheapened the beautiful emotions of the robot in Pixar's latest masterpiece.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder
A bravura performance from Downey, as self-serious Oscar hound Kirk Lazarus, who "never drops character 'til the DVD commentary." The best time anyone's played a "dude playing a dude disguised as another dude."

Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino
If this really is the legend's final onscreen performance, what a way to go. As the grizzled, racist, but ultimately heroic Korean War vet, Eastwood delivers his all-time greatest acting work.

Everyone in Doubt
It's just too hard to single out any one performance from this ensemble, with Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all in top form as people affected by weighty allegations.

Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon
Blowing all previous attempts to portray the disgraced President out of the water, veteran actor Langella gives the crown jewel in his lustrous career in Ron Howard's biopic, a role he previously owned (and won a Tony for) on Broadway.

Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight
Not only the best villain of all-time, but deserves a spot alongside the all-time great cinematic performances in history.

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in Milk
Going beyond mere imitation, this Oscar winning performance from notorious hot-head Sean Penn is truly inspiring, just like the man himself. Exuding charisma and hope, it's a wholly captivating performance.

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This award could also go to the F/X wizards who pasted Pitt's face on younger, smaller bodies as he ages in reverse, but it's really Pitt's career-topping performance that's the glue that holds the vast landscape of the film together.

Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler
The kind of role that comes along once in a lifetime. Sometimes actors can simply BE real people (Jamie Foxx and Helen Mirren come to mind), but so rare is the performance that makes you feel the actor truly IS this fictional character. The Best Actor trophy belongs to him.

American Teen
Hannah Bailey: "All we have to do is figure out who we are and where we're heading in life. Holy s***!"

The Dark Knight
The Joker (Heath Ledger): “I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."

Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman): "There are people who go after your humanity, that tell you that the light in your heart is a weakness. Don’t believe it."

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Rachel (Mila Kunis): "It's a metaphor for, you know, for society, for reliance, on technology."
Aldous Snow (Russell Brand): “It’s a metaphor for a crap movie.”

Kung Fu Panda
Po (Jack Black): “Skadoosh!”

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Thom (Aaron Yoo): "See, the Beatles had it all figured out."
Nick (Michael Cera): "What are you talking about?"
Thom: "I want to hold your hand..."

Role Models
Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson): “F*** you, Miss Daisy!”

Run, Fat Boy, Run
Gordon (Dylan Moran): "That's the second-most disgusting fluid I've ever gotten in my eye."

Tropic Thunder
Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.): "Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. Peter Sellers, Being There. Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, I Am Sam. Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed..."

The Wrestler
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: “The only place I get hurt is out there.”

12 Angry Men (50th Anniversary Edition)
One of the 10 greatest films ever made got the deluxe DVD treatment. If you haven't seen it yet, drop whatever you're doing and pick this up.

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
Stephen Colbert's hilarious send-up of Christmas specials should become a new tradition, and the DVDs interactive Advent calendar is a genius extra.

The Dark Knight (Blu-ray Limited Edition Gift Set)
Really, any edition will do, and Lord knows every retail outlet had their own spin on the disc (some with a collector's coin, some with a mask, and the Blu-ray set, complete with replica Batpod).

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration
A stellar update of an already essential box set. The films have never looked better.

Iron Man (Ultimate 2-Disc Edition)
The perfect movie to debut your new HDTV, Blu-ray player and Surround Sound system. I am Iron Man, indeed.

My Boys: The Complete First Season
The best sitcom on TV deserves to be treasured, and keep you caught up with its short seasons.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disc Collector's Edition)
Jack Skellington's rich, dark adventure has never looked better. Look here!

The Simpsons: The Eleventh Season
Despite the standard edition's hideously impractical packaging, and despite the eleventh season containing two of the worst episodes in the show's history ("Bart to the Future" and "Kill the Alligator and Run"), this is the last season worth owning. Nab it, and get the collectible Krusty packaging while you can.

Sleeping Beauty (50th Anniversary Platinum Edition)
Another of Uncle Walt's true treasures, the fairy tale looks simply stunning. Add it before Disney does something stupid like put it back in the vault.

Spaced: The Complete Series
Until this year, I had only heard of this BBC series, the precursor to Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, and Edgar Wright's brilliant films. Whip-smart and British to its core.


Satan's Alley

Bruce Springsteen - "The Wrestler"
From the film The Wrestler

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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