23 December 2009

Best of the 00s, 2008 Films Edition

Another year, another year's worth of films to consider

2008 Films

A lot of almost films that year, Cadillac Records is almost great, but too much Adrien Brody. The Spirit almost has something, but lacks some a compelling center to drive the wild visuals. Burn After Reading is almost a solid farce, but the tone veers too much to be good. Hellboy II almost is a solid sequel, but is generally unsatisfying. Hancock is almost a strong superhero pic while also being a superhero parody, but instead gets muddled at the end. Wall-E has one of the greatest opening thirty minutes of any picture, but really doesn't hold together once it gets to the spaceship. The fine pictures, but not fine enough to top the list are, Dark Knight, which is solid, but over praised in my opinion. The Visitor which contains great performances, but is bogged down by the usual liberal preachiness on immigration matters. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is smart, funny, painful, and has both puppets and penises (though no puppetry of the penis). The Fall is one of the most beautiful travelogues you'll ever see, but there's no there there (still worth seeing). Kung Fu Panda is one of the best non-PIXAR computer animated kid flicks. You Don't Mess with the Zohan is good silly fun, one of the few Sandler pics that I actually like. Pineapple Express is a great stoner comedy, it's not such a great action picture, and it relies a bit too much on the action and not enough on the comedy. Tropic Thunder is another extremely funny film that spends a bit too much time rehashing action picture tropes rather than exploring and expanding on the funny. Slumdog Millionaire was what it was, entertaining, engrossing even, but ultimately a slight and melodramatic film that nevertheless has a great energy to it.

The Bank Job
A period (the period being 1971) crime drama/heist film that hits all the right notes. A genre that's often screwed up, this has the right pacing, cast, and direction to make it one of the best examples of this kind of picture made. Really surprising given that the director (Roger Donaldson) is bit of a hack.

Iron Man
Comic book/superhero action done right. Robert Downey, Jr. turns in a perfect performance as the boozy, talented, arrogant, yet charming Tony Stark. No preaching, no angst, no sturm, no drang, just a straightforward good guys battle bad guys while blowing a bunch of crap up picture. Just enough dramatic details to give you a reason to care, but not to the point where anybody involved takes it all too seriously. Could have tripped up in a dozen different places, but manages to avoid all the pitfalls these kind of films often find themselves trapped(both from being too heavy, and being too cartoonish). Light, without being insubstantial, kinetic without being frenetic, and manages to spin the creation myth organically from the story, rather than halting the action with endless exposition as is often in the case when Hollywood tries to launch a superhero franchise.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
A perfect and sweet little couple meets cute but hate each other at first while they endure an adventure together picture. It also serves as a nice little love letter to NYC night life in the 00s (think of this version of NYC as the fluffy bunny cousin of the terrifying rat version found in After Hours). Kat Dennings and Michael Cera hold this together, while the rest of the cast brings plenty of the funny. These kind of films usually have a false ring to them, and while the situations are exaggerated, and the plot feels slight to non-existent at times, the leads give this film a weight that keeps this floating into nothingness.

There were plenty of solid films released in 2008, and one horrible, childhood raping excuse of a film (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull of Nightmarishly Bad Script Choices), but the films I think most worthy of remember are genre pictures that manage to transcend the genres that birthed them, while maintaining a fidelity to the form. It's easy to make a serious film with genre tropes (like Dark Knight), it's harder to make a genre picture and keep it light while at the same time taking it seriously (as in Iron Man).

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