Welcome to my film critic's blog! A lifetime of loving movies has enabled me to do this. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My top films of 2008 (subject to change)

 Yes, most best film lists are highly subjective or bandwagon influenced and even highly controversial. However, having seen as many films as I could and being an ardent Hollywood enthusiast, I've picked the favourites from the ones Ive seen - this will keep changing because there aren't enough days and logistical opportunities in a year to see all of the films Ive wanted to see. 
  As I experience more, I will share my experience with you - the blogosphere. Without further ado, here they are:

(in no particular order)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: There are very few filmmakers who, just by virtue of having their name on a film, act as a guarantee of singular vision and a level of outstanding quality that most others struggle to find. I always thought David Fincher ought to be on that list - and with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the proof is there for all to see. If 'Seven', 'Fight Club' and 'Zodiac' did not convince you, this movie definitely will. Based on the strangest of premises - the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences - this film manages to stay compelling throughout its nearly three-hour runtime. This is Brad Pitt's finest performance to date and he is matched note for note by one of the finest actresses working today, Cate Blanchett. I never expected to like this film but I found myself getting drawn in more and more with every scene. That is truly the mark of an outstanding film! It is thought-provoking, epic, surreal and dramatic while always managing to draw empathy as the narrative unfolds - this is the type of film that excites, inspires and showcases why it is so important for filmmakers to stay off the beaten track.

Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle outdoes all of his earlier efforts including '28 Days Later', 'Sunshine' and 'Trainspotting' for this unique offering that is a rare glimpse at India as it exists or more particularly Mumbai. The dramatics and suspension of disbelief kick in for the story of Dev Patel but the film doesn't lose its pacing. It loses some points for some unnatural dialogues and delivery of those lines along with muddled accents here and there from the protagonists but I guess maintaining as much English as possible was necessary for mainstream appeal. The battle to maintain authenticity but run with English whenever possible is a tightrope walk and it is here that the movie loses ground. The love story also gets a tad boring and disloyalty to the Vikas Swarup novel may worry fans. However, it captures the soul of that work and this is without doubt a top movie on my list because no Hollywood film has been able to do anything remotely close to what this one has done. The emotions and the feel of the movie are gripping and the camera work is exemplary. A story that hits home and makes you remember it - an A+ effort! 

The Dark Knight: For a detailed review, click here Without doubt it is one of the movies that defined 2008 and redefined the superhero genre. I actually liked it more the second time I watched it. Heath Ledger gives a mind-blowing performance that will live on in whispers in LA for years to come. Oscar talk for a comic book movie - egad, what has the world come to? The Dark Knight stands tall in the genre as one of the best comic book films ever made. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal make it a wonderful and thoughtprovoking must-see flick. Quite simply, it is impossible to talk about 2008 without mentioning this very special movie.

Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood has still got it... not that the man ever lost it! He has a wonderful flair for direction and has produced some of the most memorable films of recent times. Gran Torino is another fantastic addition to his repertoire. He is in front and behind the camera on this one - the story of a disgruntled Korean war vet who befriends and acts as mentor to a young Hmong teenager in a changing neighbourhood. Eastwood chose to go with actual Hmong teenagers as opposed to professional Asian actors and the difference is stark. Even though there are some cliches in the script, the naturalistic feel of the narration makes it real and gritty. Eastwood's acting is amazing yet again - he is able to make you empathise with a very unlikable character and that is not easy to do. Ability to tell a great story time and time again - yup, that's Clint all right!

Iron Man: A left field choice no doubt and a controversial one as well given that it means having two comic book films in a top film list. This one however deserves it. Iron Man is the perfect yin to The Dark Knight's yang. A new A-list star is born and his name is Robert Downey Jr. Comic book cinema has rarely been as fun to watch or as intelligently written as this one. Loyalty to comic roots is an amazing bonus as well. The spirit of the character has found the best portrayal possible and director Jon Favreau is one of the main reasons for it. A supporting cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard is just the icing on the cake. Yea, comic book flicks are here to stay!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Many say that a filmmaker as prodigious as Woody Allen is incapable of continuously producing films of enduring quality and that he is not the man he once was. And yes, like people his filmmaking has evolved with the times. However, the joy of the Woody school of cinema still exists and Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a great example. I was entranced and touched by the storytelling in a manner singular to an Allen film. Like the title suggests, the three biggest characters are Vicky (Rebecca Hall), Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) and Barcelona. And each of them brings something unique to the table over the course of one extraordinary summer. Every performance and dialogue is so wonderfully nuanced that you are lost within the narrative - aided by a wonderful setting and great work from the cast, especially Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. It was one of my top films the second I finished viewing it.

Milk : After experiencing the wonderful storytelling of Milk  I simply had to include it in this list. Gus Van Sant's true story of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece that should not be missed. Sean Penn received a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Milk. On receiving the honor for the biopic, Penn said: "As actors, we don't play gay/straight ... we play human beings. This is a story about equal rights for all human beings." And he could not be more right - this film touches on a subject that cinema has not tackled enough. Poignantly narrated, Milk's tale is every bit as moving as so many better known shapers of human history. If you are able to keep an open mind and enjoy embracing different types of movies, don't miss Milk !

Frost/Nixon is a dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. Featuring an outstanding turn as Nixon by Frank Langella and supported by Michael Sheen as Frost, this film from Ron Howard has everything going for it. The back and forth between the actors is stunning to watch and Langella channels Nixon in an convincing manner.  Definitely destined to be another classic piece of cinema!

WALL·E: Okay, i admit it, I find it extremely difficult to create a top flick list in a Pixar release year and not include their offering. But 2008 was different because of WALL·E - it would make the top film choices of any single year in which it was released. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton, the man who created 'Finding Nemo', this is a new classic that transcends its genre and provides insightful commentary on the world we live in and the future of mankind. Pixar is batting a thousand and is showing no signs of slowing down. And the fact that they created this classic using the least amount of dialogue possible means that this is truly a unique piece of cinema. Thank God for Pixar!

Revolutionary Road: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite after a long time for Revolutionary Road, a film that impressed me much more than the one they are most famous for. Based on the novel by Richard Yates, the movie manages to capture the spirit of that work using powerful acting and a well-crafted screenplay to analyse the terminal angst that is able to pervade the soul of a 1950s couple. In spite of its period setting, the flick is an extremely relevant work and one is able to empathise to a great degree with the narrative. Both DiCaprio and Winslet show their evolution as actors by delivering Oscar-calibre performances. Director Sam Mendes has created a very important offering for modern cinema!

We are in the middle of economic recession and there is an increasing division of interests among so many forms of entertainment and yet I believe, despite what many may say, that this has been a great year for film. Those of us who have a deep passion for the medium should feel lucky to experience such times.


Vivek said...

Great post. Would love to see more reviews

Premila said...

What about the top worst films of the year and the reasons for it. Should be interesting. Looking forward to a great blogging year with the reviewer. Good luck and may the tribe increase!!

Thomas Chacko Vineeth said...

Am on it!