Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Top Ten Movie List for 2008

Top Ten Movie Lists (and more) by Tom Graves

It’s a sad year indeed (2008) when the best cinema offerings are either cartoons or film versions of comic books over a half-century old. And what has happened to cinema’s great auteurs – the Kubricks, the Bergmans, the Fellinis, or the Terrence Malicks? David Gordon Green, who did encourage some hope with his outstanding debut, George Washington, this year released the lackluster Snow Angels and the talented John Sayles gave us the yawner Honeydripper. My ten best list pretty much parrots the one by John Beifuss, critic for The Commercial Appeal, and most other critics – there wasn’t much to seriously choose from. However, the worst list, which I had to pare down from about 30 titles, illustrates just how bad the year really was. I also add a few of my own categories for the cinephiles out there.

My 10 Best List

1. Persepolis (animated film) – Marjane Sartrapi’s harrowing and eye-opening adolescent’s take on the Iranian Islamic Revolution. However, the graphic novels the film is based on are even better.
2. Slumdog Millionaire – sentimental, but wonderfully entertaining.
3. There Will Be Blood—sure, it’s good, and well-acted, but doesn’t it get a bit preachy? My favorite P.T. Anderson film by far is his debut, Hard Eight.
4. No Country For Old Men – great film all the way up to the unforgivably lame ending that is purposely meant to confound audiences.
5. Iron Man – perfect casting for the lead.
6. Dark Knight – Heath Ledger is an inspiration as the Joker, but that growling voice of the Batman is borderline ridiculous.
7. Wall-E – underneath the cute images is a wicked satire of Earth’s destruction.
8. Mongol – Genghis Khan never looked so good.
9. W. – I never thought I’d give Oliver Stone (or George Bush) a thumb’s up. However, this film manages to give us insight into a character more complex than many may have thought.
10. City of Men – Clive Owen is made for the big screen.

Honorable Mentions

1. Sicko – I wonder how this film may have shaped the nation’s obvious disgust with our health care system.
2. Vantage Point
3. The Visitor
4. Appaloosa
5. Transsiberian
6. RocknRolla – finally Guy Ritchie gets back to what he does best. (Note: I recently viewed this film on Pay Per View again and my enthusiasm has waned.)
7. Quantum of Solace – let’s face it, Daniel Craig has reenergized the Bond franchise like no one since Sean Connery.

Guilty Pleasures

1. Cloverfield
2. The Ruins – evil vines, now that’s cool.
3. Rambo and The Punisher: War Zone – the two bloodiest films of the year. High-budget grindhouse masterpieces.
4. The Hulk – Edward Norton makes a great Bruce Banner.
5. In Bruges – okay thriller
6. The Bank Job – ditto
7. 21 – ditto
8. Tropic Thunder – a hoot.
9. Australia – sprawling, old-fashioned epic that works as an entertainment.

My Worst Cinema Experience of 2008

Sitting through Lakeview Terrace with a crowd rabidly anti-interracial that roared its approval every time the unhinged character played by Samuel L. Jackson committed an atrocity against the interracial couple next door.

Too Precious and Arty

1. The Savages
2. Snow Angels
3. Honeydripper
4. My Blueberry Nights – my wife and I actually watched scenes from this movie being filmed in Downtown Memphis. We were disappointed with the results as were the three other people who saw the movie.

The Worst of the Worst

1. The Spirit – abuses every innovation it rips off from Sin City.
2. Diary of the Dead – come on George Romero, it’s time to close the book.
3. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – admittedly I couldn’t hear a lot of the dialogue because of the mass snoring in the theater.
4. Funny Games – nothing funny about this teeth-grinder.
5. Day the Earth Stood Still – Like, why? They couldn’t even make the robot cool.
6. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 – which is worse, these gawdawful chick flicks that can’t rub two brain cells together or the dreck being churned out for African-American audiences by Tyler Perry (or like the equally atrocious This Christmas) that can’t even find a second brain cell?
7. Brideshead Revisited – ditto.
8. Step Up 2 the Streets – ditto.
9. 27 Dresses – ditto.
10. Fool’s Gold – ditto.