Naturally the year will get better from here. "It will, won't it?" he asked in a panicky sweat. These are the ten best of 2008 from January to June (from what I've seen). The most serious omission on my part is In Bruges which won fine reviews. I'll get to it soon. [UPDATE: Have now seen it and would place it at #3 on this list and make the double feature must see, a triple feature] I expect only two of these to make my year-end top ten list. I'm discounting stuff that didn't or won't be getting proper theatrical releases though some (Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Russia's Cargo 200 and miniscule indie True Love) are better than those that did.
10 Iron Man
The year's most popular picture is a fun ride. It lags a little at times, that final action sequence sure was drab (The Incredible Hulk's is much stronger for what it's worth) and I'm less impressed than most about that teaser coda but I'm totally ready for the sequel so it must have done
09 Savage Grace
Remember when Julianne Moore used to say the word "cock" all the time in movies. Yeah. They had me at 'Julianne Moore has a dirty mouth again' (review)
08 Roman de Gare
A French thriller with two very fine performances (Dominique Pinon and César nominated Audrey Dana) saving the movie from its structural red herrings and plotholes (review)
07 Stop-Loss (review)
06 Under the Same Moon (review)
05 Sex & The City: The Movie
I realize this ranking overstates its case. It's not without sizeable problems (chief among them time spent with Jennifer Hudson in an embarrassing role when the movie was already so long) but with 80% of the critical population trying desperately to undermine it any ludicrous way they can, I'm just here for a little balance. Consider the reviews for Wanted versus the reviews for Sex & The City and be alarmed that so many critics think the former was all in good fun and yet called the second for shallow and morally questionable. Hmmmm.
Anyway, my point is this: It was fun. The clothes were a hoot. The familiar friendships were lovingly put on display for one last nostalgic round. Best of all, with Samantha's plotline they corrected the biggest stumble of the series finale. Despite a fine last season on air, the finale had a weird need to pair everyone up. The series was always about the trial and error of the romantic journey --and the friends with whom you walked that road --rather than the 'happily ever after' part. I hope they don't make a sequel but I'm glad they made this.
04 Young @ Heart
I resisted. Like the film at #6, I went in with a not entirely open mind. I'm allergic to excessive sentiment in movies so if a film has that in its very DNA, I'm always wary. (It's why I don't trust Steven Spielberg the way everyone else does) But by the time an old grieving man with oxygen sits down to croak out a lived-in cover of Coldplay's "Fix You" I was a goner. The movie got to me. [sniffle]
okay I'm just going to tear up again
03 Kung Fu Panda
A total surprise. Who knew that Dreamworks Animation, so previously reliant on instantly stale pop-culture humor (think Shrek) and bad anthropomorphics (think Shark Tale) had this gorgeously animated comedy in them? Panda's got a sophisticated color palette plus action sequences that are more inventive than anything in The Incredible Hulk or Iron Man... and a pathetic-schlub-becomes-an-incredible-force-of-nature plot that isn't quite as mainstream pandering or morally repugnant as the office dweeb turned super assassin plot of Wanted. I don't want to overstate its quality but I thoroughly enjoyed.
Double Feature Must-See ~What are you waiting for?
Post-acolyptic fare with heart? Oh my. Pixar recovered easily from their one stumble (that'd be Cars) with Ratatouille and the follow up is just as rewarding. This tale of a lonely trash collector might even be right up there with The Incredibles (i.e. better than most live-action films) as its vivid with invention, smart but accessible humor and sweet humanity... even though it's about robots.
<-- 01 Reprise
Yes, clearly I'm on a mission to get you to this film about two young novelists in Oslo, Norway. But it's not just me who wants you to go. Consider Manohla Dargis's rave, smartly trumpeted in the trailer.
...one of the most passionately and intellectually uninhibited works from a young director I've seen in ages...What she said. Smart girl. We both insist that you go.
Reprise has a lightness of touch to match its seriousness of mind, and it may move you to laughter as well as tears.
Later this week: 2008's best performances thus far
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