2008 in Movies
January 11, 2009
As someone who frequently goes about proclaiming movies ‘best’ and ‘worst’ of the year, decade, or century, I feel it’s an important public service to reveal exactly which movies I’ve actually seen in any given year. I saw all of these in the theater; though I see many movies at home, I tend not to rent recent films. My resolution for this year is to see more movies in the theater (nineteen or more) and to watch fewer movies that any reasonable person would know are going to be bad going in. This means, for instance, that I really need to not pay money for the new Star Trek movie. I’m not making promises on that one, though. The following movies are listed in order from worst to best.1
- Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Worst film of the year award goes to the soulless vacuum of a film that was spawned by George Lucas’s black hole of a heart.
- The Dark Knight
- Incoherent, morally repugnant, ugly, and brutal. Watching people work themselves into ecstasies over the theory that playing the Joker had something to do with Heath Ledger’s untimely death is like finding out that all your friends like to torture squirrels.
- You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
- Hard not to blame myself for even seeing this. Some of Sandler’s movies are fun, though, I swear!
- Charlie Kaufman loses himself in an endless spiral of pointless self-awareness.
- Burn After Reading
- Blunt, poorly acted, and cold.
- There was a good idea at the genesis of this movie that lost itself in years and years of tortured production.
- Be Kind Rewind
- Michel Gondry would be a better cinematographer or DP than he is a director. Started strong.
- Nothing’s worse for Baz Luhrman than a large budget.
- Miracle at St. Anna
- Spike Lee’s angry roar of a WWII movie. Bitter and haphazard, but with parts in it too important and genuine to ignore.
- X-Files: I Want to Believe
- Some great surprises in a movie that recaptures some of what made it an emotionally evocative show. Having rewatched seasons 1-7 of the show this year, I can say that it was of above-average quality in comparison to most episodes from season four or later.
- Iron Man
- Formulaic—successfully so.
- Ne le dis à personne
- Light thriller with a beautiful French actress. Can’t say that doesn’t help.
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Imperfect but frequently fantastic film by Danny Boyle. His manic camera work and the stories of the kids at their youngest make the movie worthwhile. Not to mention the game show host!
- Hardly an adaptation of an apparently beloved stage play. Amateurish directing, decent script, and fantastic acting.
- Perfectly executed story from Pixar with a wonderful, emotionally vibrant lead character. Overall moral is too insipid and, when paired with the merchandising of the movie’s characters, hypocritical, to stand tall with Pixar’s best.
- The Reader
- Despite some weak points in the middle where the film can’t get past single-line exchanges, Kate Winslett is amazing as a character I’ll never, ever forget, and even so is almost upstaged by the fantastic actor with whom she is paired. Reviewers who think the point of this movie is to pity a Nazi guard missed the whole damn point.
- Gran Torino
- Clint Eastwood makes a comedy. Eastwood’s few-takes philosophy plus unknown actors makes for a sometimes jarring experience, but the second time through much of the unevenness fades away. Tremendously entertaining.
- Just fantastic.
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Best film of the year. Woody Allen manages a subtle, fascinating emotional landscape of fully realized characters, each of whom changes in ways we don’t expect, leading to results that are wrenchingly familiar.
1 There are a lot of personal, subjective factors involved in the ranking, I should confess.