The Writers Guild of America ends their strike after three months.I've been able to see 97 films released in 2008, and from those, I've compiled my own top ten list. As one can imagine, some great films had to be left off the final list. Here's a look at some of the movies (listed alphabetically) that just missed the cut:
A massive fire destroys portions of the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood, including some famous movie sets.
The Dark Knight becomes the year's highest-grossing film, earning just over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Slumdog Millionaire wins the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as seven other awards, including Best Director for Danny Boyle.
The world loses the likes of Brad Renfro, Heath Ledger, Roy Scheider, Charlton Heston, Sydney Pollack, Harvey Korman, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Don LaFontaine and Paul Newman.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kung Fu Panda
Young People F---ing
Kung Fu Panda
Young People F---ing
But enough about the runners-up; here's the list you've been waiting to see! Counting down from number ten to number one, I've listed each film and have given the principal cast list as well as if and how fared at the Academy Awards. Also, I've listed the film's rank on my "Best Films of All-Time" list, if applicable. So without any further delay, here's my top ten movies of 2008!
10. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jack McBrayer, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd
While I've been quite a fan of Judd Apatow's comedies in the past, I think that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was that gem that he had always been trying to make. Sure, some people thought The 40-Year-Old Virgin hit the mark, but I think this one was just so much better. Aided by a fantastic comedic cast chalk full of stellar cameos, the story of love lost and love found just finds a way to work. The fact that it's mostly set against the backdrop of Hawaii doesn't hurt, either.
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis
Academy Awards: 5 nominations
Doubt is one of those films that you're going to think is a very good movie until the very end, when it somehow manages to turn into something great. At least, that's the reaction I had to watching the film. It offers a great storyline and a slew of fantastic acting from the likes of Streep, Adams and Hoffman, and we even get a stellar cameo appearance from Davis. However, it's the film's climactic scenes that truly make this film one of the greats. It finds a way to circle back to where it started and show you just why the film is titled "Doubt."
8. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Rated: Not Rated
Directed by: Kurt Kuenne
I need to issue a word of caution about watching this particular documentary: it very well may tear you to pieces if you sit down and watch it. I had never heard of the film until I found it hidden on NetFlix's Instant Watch, but I can honestly tell you that I absolutely bawled during the course of this film. Director Kurt Kuenne set out to make a film about his best friend David, who was allegedly murdered by his ex-girlfriend, so that David's about-to-be-born son would be able to grow up and learn about the amazing man that should have been there to raise him. Through the course of filming, however, a series of dramatic events between David's ex-girlfriend and David's parents occur, creating more of a dramatic thriller atmosphere to this film. I have to give a lot of credit to the editing because at times it's so well-done that this movie feels more like a scripted thriller than a documentary. The story is simply devastating.
7. The Reader
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: David Kross, Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes
Academy Awards: 5 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 127
The Reader was one of those films that I didn't see until after it had been nominated for its Academy Awards, but I'm glad I found the time to actually give it a view. It's the film that finally won Winslet her first Oscar statuette, and she definitely deserved it for her role as an illiterate German woman in the SS who starts an affair with a teenage boy. Don't let that basic plot keep you from watching the film, however. The romance between Winslet and Cross (then Fiennes) is quite remarkable, and the film itself finds a way to soar.
6. Boy A
Directed by: John Crowley
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Katie Lyons
All-Time Ranking: 125
Boy A offers a rather original story when it comes to film. It tells the tale of a young boy who was put into juvenile detention as a child for aiding in the vicious murder of a young girl. This boy has grown into adulthood and can no longer be held by the government, so he is being released back into society. Society, however, manages to catch wind of the discharge, and sentiments against the young man rise in a flash. Andrew Garfield plays that young man perfectly. We see a man who's simply trying to forget the past and re-assimilate with the world he used to know, but the public around him wants nothing to do with him. Also be on the watch for Peter Mullan's great supporting role.
5. Burn After Reading
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons
All-Time Ranking: 106
Burn After Reading is a film that a director - or in this case, directors - can make after garnering a significant amount of success. This Coen brothers venture came out a year after they won Academy Awards for No Country for Old Men, so I suppose that's a fair amount of time. While I personally love this movie, I know a lot of people who absolutely hate it, citing the reason that "nothing happens." And all I have to say in response is that that's exactly the point. The entire point of the film is that we have a bunch of people taking an insignificant event and spinning it into a massive conspiracy. The rest of the story falls into place from there, causing mayhem for all those involved. It's bitingly hilarious if you can find a way into it.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill
Academy Awards: 8 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 105
I first heard about the story of Harvey Milk as a college freshman at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where one of the on-campus apartment housing complexes bears his namesake. As I learned his story, I started to understand his place in U.S. history and how much he meant to both politics and to the gay and lesbian community. So when a film was made about him, you can be sure I was excited to see it, especially after hearing that Sean Penn would be taking on the titular role. What we get is a fantastic portrayal of the man, and although the film itself fell a little short at the Academy Awards, Penn's performance was rightfully honored.
3. Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord
All-Time Ranking: 37
I've never been sure as to whether I should categorize this Swedish film as a drama or a horror flick because it could easily fall into either category. It's the story of a vampire in the body of a young girl who makes friends with a young loner of a boy who is constantly bullied by the other kids at school. As the two become closer, the boy learns that the girl is, indeed a vampire, and although being initially frightened, it ultimately leads to a deeper friendship between the two. We're getting two fantastic performances from our young leads in Hedebrant and Leandersson, and the atmosphere of the film is pitch-perfect. Fans of drama and romance will have just as much to love as will the horror fanatic, so this is probably a win-win for everyone.
2. The Dark Knight
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Academy Awards: 8 nominations, 2 wins
All-Time Ranking: 36
If anyone happened to leave The Dark Knight off their list of the best films of 2008, then they're at least going to concede that Heath Ledger was absolutely brilliant as the Joker. The second installment in Nolan's Batman trilogy completely ousted its predecessor as the best Batman film ever to be made, and a lot of its success can be assigned to Ledger's performance. The storyline also helps quite a bit, and it sets up a very interesting piece for the franchise's third and final installment, slated for release in July 2012. It'll be tough for that one to one-up The Dark Knight, however.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, MacInTalk, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Academy Awards: 6 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 21
In 2007, Pixar managed to take a rat and make it cute and endearing. In 2008, it upped the ante and created a futuristic robot that...collects garbage. On an abandoned planet Earth. And they made it cute and endearing as well. How, you ask? By giving said robot, named WALL-E, a feminine robot with which to fall in love. At the same time, the film offers a rather blatant but important eco-message, but at the end of the day, that falls to the wayside as the audience is really more interested in the relationship between WALL-E and EVE. While the film contains more than a handful of references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it offers a fantastic storyline as well as beautiful animation that's sure to please.