Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
This is the time of year that most film critics offer up their Top Ten Movies of 2008 and – bowing to that tradition – I will do the same.
But such a list imposes some problems, because many of last year’s favorites that I saw at Key West theaters were not in fact 2008 releases.
For example, the very best film I saw at the Tropic Cinema was “The Band’s Visit,” a jewel of a story about an Egyptian band stranded overnight in a small Israeli town. The storyline was simple, but the nuances of the actors, the lessons in tolerance so well (and subtly) delivered, you’ll be surprised it didn’t win Best Foreign Language Film in 2007 (the year it was actually released). Only the high preponderance of English spoken in the film kept it from being nominated in that category.
Another Top Movie for me was “Roman de Gare,” a 2007-released cat-and-mouse thriller by French director Claude Lelouch. Also I’d add the other 2006 French thriller “Tell No One,” based on a book by American author Harlan Coben. Plus “The Kite Runner” offered me a touching look at boyhood in the Middle East. And I’ll admit that I enjoyed the surreal visuals of “The Fall,” a 2006 fantasy film by Tarsem Singh.
For you calendar purists, here are my personal choices for the Top Ten Movies of 2008 (not in any order):
• “Slumdog Millionaire” A surprise hit about a street kid in Mumbai who wins the 20-million-rupee grand prize in the Indian television version of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” But this is not really about the quiz show; it’s a dazzling array of flashbacks that tell a tale of lifelong love … and the events that destine the couple will be together.
• “Iron Man” – My old alma mater Marvel Comics really got this one right, Robert Downey Jr. as a besotted industrialist who decides to do good while wearing his high-tech iron suit.
• “Hellboy II” – The second of three great comic-book movies this year, this one from the director who gave us “Pam’s Labyrinth.” Guillermo del Toro brings the same masterful storytelling techniques to this latest adventure of a devil who solves paranormal crimes.
• “The Dark Knight” – Christian Bale’s second turn as Batman, a retelling that echoes Frank Miller’s grim-and-grittier presentation of the Caped Crusader as a psychotic vigilante. And Heath Ledger’s final performance as The Joker proves the rule that a superhero is only as good as the villain he faces.
• “Happy-Go-Lucky” – Perhaps a little on the sappy side, this “Amelie” wannabe is the story of an eternally blissful young woman. Its Pollyanna theme is an audience-pleaser.
• “Secret Life of Bees” – Forgive me for adding this Southern soap opera, but this parable about the queen bee of a hive (uh, I mean a black matriarch who watches over her family – both black and white) is a truly heartwarming story. And Dakota Fanning proves she’s an amazing actress either as a child or a grown-up.
• “Seven Pounds” – You’ll shed a tear at the goodness of man (and the need for redemption) in this end-of-the-year Will Smith drama. This was my wife’s favorite.
• “Twilight” – You might think this simply a silly teen drama, or after it gets rolling realize that it’s a scary vampire tale … and it is. But adults as well as teenage girls will enjoy this modern-day reinvention of those bloodsucker myths wrapped in a Romeo and Juliet storyline.
• “Trouble the Water” – An amateur video of the flooding of New Orleans’ Ninth District, with some archive newsreel footage thrown in, turning it into a first-class documentary about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
• “Frost/Nixon” – The only film on my list that hasn’t played Key West … yet. But don’t miss this one when it comes. This docudrama about the televised debates between British talk show host David Frost and dethroned US President Richard M. Nixon is mesmerizing. You’ll follow Nixon’s final downfall as a foppish Brit nails him in an edge-of-the-chair interview that demonstrates how pride cometh before the fall.
That’s ten. But I’ll add a guilty pleasure, “Wanted.” Not a great film but one that was entertaining in its comic-book premise about secret assassins and the hero lurking inside even the most unlikely dweeb. Plus it had sexy Angelina Jolie.
And I’d probably add Frank Miller’s comic-book-inspired “The Spirit” if I’d seen it yet. The buzz is that if you liked “Sin City” you’ll like this one too.
Okay, there you have it – my imperfect list.
Which ones did I forget? “Body of Lies”? “Charlie Wilson’s War”? “Tropic Thunder”? “Wall-E”? “Man on Wire”? “A Christmas Tale”?
You’ll find my email address below. Let me know which of your Top Ten Movies I left off the list … and why you liked it!
[from Solares Hill]
[from Solares Hill]