Screen Editor Aaron Mesh’s top 5 movies of 2008 can be found here, but he’s not the only WW movie critic playing favorites.
Top 5 movies I got to see between screenings of films in which people either aggressively dance at each other or talk about the Dalai Lama:
Let the Right One In
Forget the sparkly vampires of Twilight. The pre-teen vamps of this Swedish import hit the jugular in a macabre tale of childhood innocence, vengeance, love and fear. Director Tomas Alfredson brings a genre back to life with a gorgeous tale so innocent, tragic and unsettling that it at once breaks and warms the heart—while making it race.
Boasting a stellar performance by Colin Farrell(!), Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is a tragic fairytale riddled with bullets. The story of two hit men hiding in Belgium—Ferrell’s fuckup and the excellent Brendan Gleeson’s fatherly sage—excels as a comedy, drama, thriller and existential meditation. Factor in a karate-chopped dwarf and Ralph Fiennes’ f-bombastic gangster and you’ve a perfect reason to go to “fuckin’ Bruges.”
The Dark Knight brought the brooding prestige. Hellboy 2 brought the monsters. But Iron Man brought the fun, anchored by Robert Downey Jr.’s charismatic rebirth in the mainstream consciousness. With impeccably integrated special effects and tongue firmly in cheek, Iron Man was the most delicious kind of popcorn, and this summer’s most pleasant surprise.
Another critic, another Wall-E humping… The cutest movie involving Earth as a post-apocalyptic wasteland is Pixar’s deepest to date, and its most simply stated. Wall-E wooing the shiny Eve by showing her the cool junk he’s found cleaning up the Earth is the sweetest moment in the movie year. The film is bliss.
Tell No One
Take a little Hitchcock, a dash of The Third Man and sprinkle in Bourne-style foot chases and bizarre villains. No fun disclosing the details of French director Guillaume Canet’s terrific innocent-on-the-run pulse-pounder that made the art-house rounds in PDX for nearly a year. It was here that long for a reason. Strap in.
In order to whittle my list of favorites down to five, here are the ones that gave me the most pleasure throughout, with basically no missteps. Important, affecting and exciting work, such as Ballast, La France, and Silent Light, all of which faltered just so slightly at the end, were for instance disqualified. In no order:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody hits the high mark of his recent uptick.
Not the Tim Robbins movie, but the Australian flick about a cop with tinnitus hanging out in a trailer set up to interview any witnesses to a grisly slaying who might come forward. A perfectly assembled minor study of disorientation in its various permutations.
A delightful trifle; what can I say? Nice to see Audrey Tautou lose the cutesiness.
Ulrich Seidl, who loves to traffic in the grim, ugly, and unpleasant, sends one character from Ukraine to Austria to seek a better life, and another vice versa. Their lives still suck. It’s awesome.
Imperfect, and slow going at first, but I’m making an exception as it’s the most devastating, richly rendered portrait of life I saw this year—despite the fact that I disliked the characters for the first half. One death registers brutally just from the look on someone’s face, long after it’s happened. Another goes on onscreen for so long that it’s just annoying, despite your affection for the character. That’s not an accident—this is life straight up, with all the thinking that it provokes.
The simplicity of director Azazel Jacobs’ screenplay—a man visits his parents in New York and decides to stay—belies an emotionally rich portrait of depressive longing. Jacobs gets the messiness of melancholy—the crushing, darkly funny and oddly solacing confusion of it—just right. Momma’s Man is a definitive snapshot of sadsackery.
Synecdoche, New York
So after my head stopped spinning and I remembered how to get home, I realized what Charlie Kaufman had done: He’d somehow made a movie that not only mimicked the nervous breakdown I call life, but he’d done it with wit and sorrow and fuck-you formalism. RIP D.F. Wallace. Kaufman has it covered from here.
Otto; or Up with Dead People
Seemingly every review—mine included—mentioned the wound-fucking. Look, I’m mentioning it again. What can you do? It’s wound-fucking. But Bruce LaBruce doesn’t merely up the ante on gross-out zombie sex. He also orchestrates one of the smartest and sweetest collisions of horror, comedy, porn and academic rambling I’ve ever seen.
The only movie of 2008 that I saw twice on the big screen. The first time so I could be scared. The second time so I wouldn’t be scared anymore. There is a dagger-thin line between crowd-pleasing and crowd-torturing, and Cloverfield manages to balance on it for 90 terrifying minutes.
Let the Right One In
Really, there just aren’t enough movies like this. Director Tomas Alfredson juggles Grand Guignol gushing and coming-of-age tenderness (and feral CGI cats and combustible vampires!) with remarkable dexterity. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream, you’ll marvel at the fact that there are child actors in this world who don’t make you want to sterilize yourself.