Dec 31, 2008

Favourite Films of 2008

First rule of film reviewing. Any Paul Thomas Anderson film is destined to be considered above all others. Well, that is my rule anyway, as I do believe this wondrous director hits heights that no other current film maker currently does. Put simply, the man is a marvel. So, even though, his latest film was released overseas in 2007, it only saw the light of day in Australia in early 2008 and from the very first frame this pure cinematic experience was destined to be my favourite film of the last 12 months. Without doubt. Although there were also some very fine films released early in the calendar year that impressed me greatly as well. Having said that, the second half of the year seemed to dry up for the viewing of quality film. Plus, buying a house and then moving into it did put a dent into my movie going. Anyway, here are my favourite 10 film experiences of 2008. Please enjoy.

1. There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
A masterpiece on every level possible. Pure cinematic gold. Dynamic, astounding, relevant and revealing. This meditation on greed and power resonates strongly in today's age. Shot with breathtaking beauty and featuring a unique score, I was blown away by the sheer originality. To top it off, it featured the Academy Award winning performance of Daniel Day Lewis. Lewis is simply magnetic on screen. It was very hard to take your eyes off him at any stage. This powerful film is evidence again that Anderson has no peer.

2. No Country For Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Even though the above film should have won Best Picture, I had no complaints with this incredible film taking the honours. Every frame of this film is close to perfect. Not a single shot is wasted. Could be the Coens' finest work yet. Filled with dark humour and sometimes unbearable suspense, the characters in this film were richly drawn and the acting was first class. Javier Bardem's character will remain long in the memory. Several times in this film I had to quickly look away, before returning my gaze to the magic on display.

3. The Savages, directed by Tamara Jenkins.
This film took an age to reach our screens. But it was certainly worth the wait. A beautiful and tender depiction of the responsibilities of family and the duty of care. Two of the best, Hoffman and Linney, combine perfectly with heartfelt and true performances. This movie is caring, moving and ultimately funny. Directed with tenderness and surety, it is joined by an intelligent script that is insightful and nuanced.

4. Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen.
An astounding debut. A breathtaking and heartbreaking film. The true story of hunger striker Bobby Sands is truly moving and a stark reminder of the injustice that exists on this planet. There is hardly any dialogue, but the images do the talking. What images they are too. Despite the subject matter this is quite a beautiful film. There are scenes in this film that are starkly poetic. Add this to remarkable performances and you have quite a film.

5. Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck.
Who knew the Affecks were this talented? Ben's directorial debut was one to reckoned with, whilst brother Casey is a revelation as the stoic young private detective looking for a missing child. This is old fashioned film making at its best. Solid story, intelligent narrative and gritty, realistic performances. The downside of Boston is shown with all its flaws and humanity. An extremely good example of what all Hollywood films should strive for.

6. Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle.
Only saw this two days ago, but the impression was huge. The scenes of Mumbai just pour off the screen into your lap. Brimming with life and humanity, this film is eternally vibrant and vital. A cleverly constructed story balances reality and fantasy with great effect. A superb and exciting film that hits hard and often. Well deserved of all the praise.

7. The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson.
A little under rated, but this latest Wes Anderson release is a true charmer. I just have a very strong affinity for the wry and dry humour of Anderson. His lines are delivered impeccably by the fine cast, especially by Owen Wilson. Like all Anderson films, beneath the humour beats a strong heart and the capability to deliver strongly moving scenes.

8. Burn After Reading, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
The Coens return quickly with a light hearted romp through the world of espionage. But this film to me was more about relationships then about spy games. The motives of relationships and the mistrusts between people. Deliciously funny and dark, features many great performances. But none better then George Clooney, who is hysterical.

9. I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes.
A film of magic and much mystery. An original and unique approach to the life of Bob Dylan. Not every scene works, but when it did it was special. Cate Blanchett is, as usual, outstanding as the Dylan in England. Of course, the music is great. None better then the appearance of Jim James, white faced, covering "Going to Acapulco".

10. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet.
Lumet, the legend, shows the younger crowd how its done. Of course, having the equally great Hoffman in the lead doesn't hurt. This is brutally frank drama, full of pain and anguish. A classic story of greed and desperation, bristling with great dialogue and brimming with well directed scenes. Totally engrossing and satisfying.

Some films I am looking forward to-
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Wrestler
Synecdoche, New York
Revolutionary Road
Gran Torino
Rachel Getting Married
The Reader
The International


  • At January 01, 2009 , Anonymous James said...

    I think I saw There Will Be Blood last year but if not, it would rank as my number one this year too.


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