This is not exactly the type of list you might think it is. Most people, when writing about their top films of a certain year, reasonably confine themselves to writing about films that actually premiered in that year. But I possess a noisy, squirmy toddler, which makes theater-going almost impossible on a regular basis, and limits my film watching to not-quite-new films. So, here's a random list of the best movies I managed to see in 2008.
I did see two brand-new, award-worthy films in the theater this past year, which is a record for me since my daughter's birth: Wall-E and The Dark Knight. In fact, thanks to said daughter, I've now seen Wall-E multiple times. It improves on every viewing. Any imperfections or frustrations critics saw in the latter section of the film seem to make much more sense after another couple of turns through it. Maybe the repetition just blinds me to the plot issues. In any case, the former part of the film is still absolutely exquisite.
As for The Dark Knight, there isn't much more to say about at this point, is there? It was great, although maybe not as great, I think, as it's popularly considered. I would have to say something pretentious like that, wouldn't I.
Others, in no particular order:
- Atonement - I'm only a year behind on this one. Lovingly directed and well-acted. After I finally watched (and enjoyed) Joe Wright's recent reboot of Pride and Prejudice, I became a fan and am interested in seeing what he does next.
- Offside - An Iranian film about a group of girls trying to sneak into a stadium to watch a World Cup game - in Iran, women are prohibited from stadiums. Rich, sympathetic characters, female and male. I loved this film so much. More info at the link.
- Gone Baby Gone - Another one with which I'm a mere 12 months late. I dig blue-collar dramas, and I liked Affleck's careful consideration of the setting and characters. Except for the transformation of Angie from the spitfire in the novel to a much more toned-down, typically squishy female sidekick.
- The Painted Veil - A throwback to the best of Merchant/Ivory, a lovely period piece with strong performances by Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. It's not overly unconventional, so I don't think it got a ton of critical attention when it came out, but it's worth seeing.
- Wordplay - There's been some allegedly great documentaries lately, but I haven't got to see many. I did see this lighthearted look at crossword puzzles and those who regularly, obsessively solve them.
- Dark City - Yes, I hadn't seen Dark City until this past year, which is ridiculous. A famous flop, now a cult hit, it's a strange sci-fi noir that plays with reality and perception. Now on my list of favorite films.
- Out of the Past - In the course of filling in some gaps in my films noir, I finally watched this great 1947 movie with hero Robert Mitchum trying to keep his dangerous past from destroying his new, idyllic life. It's a classic noir format, but this one is exceptionally profound and Mitchum is excellent.
2007 was a great year for film, and, in a way, I'm glad 2008 wasn't entirely up-to-snuff - it gives me extra time to catch up. Feel free to share recommendations, past or present, in the comments.