In Contention

Runnin’ on empty: the best films of 2008

Posted by · 9:25 am · December 15th, 2008

Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall in Vicky Cristina BarcelonaJust to say it once more, because I’ve certainly brought it up enough, 2008 was not a good year for film-goers.

That’s an incredibly subjective quip, of course, but I certainly found myself struggling with the level of quality on display with each and every screening, the oasis of the Oscar season ultimately proving to be a trickster mirage on the horizon as contenders ultimately fell flat or disappointed in various ways. And suddenly, we’re two weeks away from 2009.

Who let the goods out?

But a year lacking broad quality can be a fun “Where’s Waldo” for the impassioned film lover, and so it is that I found some truly wonderful, praise-worthy work from a number of driven and creative filmmakers this year. But a peculiarity began to arise as I sifted through the year’s offerings: What a load of downer cinema.

I first noticed it in the documentary offerings, heavier on morose subject matter than any other year I can remember. Depictions of the horrors of Katrina, the passionate life and tragic death of a Neil Diamond impersonator, the work of a journalist obsessed with his own inevitable suicide, the nation’s stance on the death penalty, the life and times of a child molester, a heart-breaking family drama in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a national economy on life support, despicable soldier etiquette at our global detention facilities -– it is hardly surprising that the most well-received documentary of the year is a celebration of an “artistic crime” in James Marsh’s “Man on Wire.” But how odd that the genre’s resident cynic, Werner Herzog, was responsible for one of the few other positive doc titles that made the rounds this year?

Moving into the realm of fiction, even the usually jubilant folks at Pixar couldn’t help but crank out their most sobering film to date, a cautionary tale wrapped in the guise of a love story that conveyed a creepy sense of inevitability despite a hopeful denouement.

I bring these observations up for a reason, and that is to add some perspective to the list you’ll find below. 2008 was a bellwether for me personally as I began to let the idea of “best” as a definitive slip away and become something more akin to a solid if flexible representation of the times, and how those times affect the viewer.

That’s really all it can be. Even the greats go back on what they think is “best” this year or that. Just take a look at Roger Ebert, who once considered “Raging Bull” his #2 film of 1980, just below Carol Ballard’s “The Black Stallion,” only to later consider Martin Scorsese’s film the best of the decade, while Ballard’s film was nowhere to be found.

And really, we should both allow and account for that kind of give and take, because that is what makes all this silliness so engaging, so wonderful and so meaningful.

I found myself drawn to films this year that could make powerful statements without losing sight of the medium’s tendency to captivate, inspire awe and outright entertain. But I also couldn’t ignore a great number of those expertly crafted efforts that pop up year in and year out like well-oiled machines. And when I finally settled on the 21 films below, I found a way to ignore the year’s shortcomings and revel in the delights these efforts, and those responsible for bringing them to the screen, came to afford.

So with that, my list of the year’s best, starting with the 11 films that fell just short of the top 10:

The easy anticipation is that Chris Bell’s consideration of steroid abuse in America (and the nation’s insistence on being all three superlatives of the title) would be a by-the-numbers cross section of all the data we already know. But cleverly combining the numbers with the priceless power of a family drama, Bell taps into a different level of showmanship and brings a rather compelling documentary into the fold. Let it be said that personality and personal perspective go a long way in the realm of non-fiction (more on that later).

In perhaps his greatest success since “The Bridges of Madison County” 13 years ago, director Clint Eastwood conjured a 1920s Los Angeles enveloped by a thrilling narrative and sporting a fine central portrayal. Angelina Jolie’s performance as a woman left childless, and eventually, helpless (as a result of an incompetent Los Angeles Police Department), never boils over when it threatens to do so. The effort stays on track and becomes one of the more fully realized films of Eastwood’s career.

One of the most exciting movie-going experiences of the year, for those able to stomach the dizzying camerawork, of course, had to be this bit of sci-horror-comedy fun from producer J.J. Abrams. Using the medium in creative ways despite a paradoxical sense of derivation, Abrams and his director Matt Reeves constructed a thrilling piece of cinema at once engaging as a piece of pulp and arguably brilliant as an exercise in the manipulation of the senses.

Probably the closest thing to a #11 on my list of the year’s best, David Fincher’s vision of a beautiful Eric Roth script lingers in the bones long after a first viewing. It takes multiple looks to fully appreciate the delicate balance of the bizarre and sentimentality going on within the frames, but even the blind can recognize the massive leap forward for digital effects the film represents. In danger of being lost in the shuffle, Cate Blanchett gives one of the year’s most engaging portrayals.

Despite working from a by-the-numbers screenplay from Dustin Lance Black, director Gus Van Sant brought a refreshing sense of creativity to the life story of Harvey Milk. Giving his career-best work as the slain San Francisco politician, Sean Penn embodies his role, emotes his spirit and truly captures the heart. Josh Brolin may have given his own best-yet performance, creeping under the skin of what could have been just a simple villain character and adding subtlety and layers that resonate.

Louis Leterrier’s re-boot of the mean, green machine was one of the biggest, most exhausting (in all the good ways) film-going experiences of the year. But despite consciously pushing the action peddle to the metal in this effort, and therefore breeding suspicion that the filmmakers might overdo it, each set piece is more dazzling than the last. The film holds the second turtledove of a young studio’s seizure of what promises to be one of the greatest cinematic roll outs the comic subgenre has seen.

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in Marvel’s first in-house operation fits like a glove; the actor fires on all cylinders, more a machine of dramatic purpose and performing genius than a thespian simpy playing the part. For comic fanatics (to avoid the pejorative “geeks”), hair-raising joy is found in many a minor crevice of the film, but the amplified fun factors of the effort keep the concentration off of hackneyed characterizations and over-the-top villainy.

Sam Mendes’ sublime adaptation of a Richard Yates classic takes time to establish a sense of relationship breakdown, but it becomes something special because of the various perspectives a viewer can have on it, depending on age and sex, among other things. For this viewer, the film became an important analysis of two absolute cowards that understandably hasn’t found its footing with many in the film-going community, but being a chamber piece of a sort, it is perhaps the most cinematic play, of a kind, we’ve seen in some time.

Perhaps overshadowed this year by a 2007 Oscar-winning awards run and director/studio controversy surrounding its January release date and box office intake, Alex Gibney’s study of the United States’ torture practices is nevertheless a sobering piece of work deserving of year-end recognition in 2008. The film’s most cerebral moments come in an extended sequence detailing the various manners of psychological torture imposed (in our name) on numerous detainees since, and perhaps before, the events of 9/11.

An effective and delightfully self-aware comedy about the struggles of an artist and the search for inspiration, Woody Allen’s latest is, in many ways, reflective of own wanderings through the maze of irrelevance these many years. In the characters of Scarlett Johansson’s Cristina and Penélope Cruz’s Maria Elena, he tapped into an intriguing dichotomy, the back-and-forth of vision and lack thereof. Though Cruz’s work has been the most lauded, Rebecca Hall, as the title’s Vicky, deserves best-in-show honors.

All signs going into Oliver Stone’s portrait of our exiting Commander-in-Chief seemed to indicate a train wreck fast approaching. A screenplay far too on-the-nose in its depiction of a bumbling simpleton who ascends to the highest power in the land seemed rife with cliché, but somehow Stone made the pieces fit in one of the more controlled pieces of his career. Kudos to Josh Brolin for filling in the gaps with a performance that could have taken a hard left into unnecessary showmanship.

And now, the top 10 films of 2008:


Lina Leandersson in Let the Right On In

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Nothing can really prepare a viewer for the subtle, peculiar cerebral assault that is Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In,” or “that Swedish vampire movie” to those who might have heard this or that about it. Using incredibly creative in-camera effects and more than a fair share of eerie sound elements, Alfredson brought a refreshing take to an increasingly tedious subgenre of horror filmmaking. Unconcerned with teenage angst and young love, it became a welcome diversion from the likes of “Twilight” or HBO’s “True Blood.”

But that would be damning Alfredson’s achievement with faint praise. Here is a filmmaker cognizant of the power of what you don’t show an audience, but equally aware of how sporadic visual cues can resonate in that vacuum. But he is working with a pair of young actors who can pull their weight and then some. Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson work beautifully off of one another in this peculiar love story, adapted with refreshingly Spartan emotional notes by novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist.


IFC Films' Gomorrah

Directed by Matteo Garrone

When Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone sat down to construct a film out of Roberto Saviano’s detailed and controversial non-fictional account of the Neapolitan Camorra crime organization, he couldn’t have known the universal acclaim it would receive. But such recognition was certainly a part of his (and Saviano’s) hopes as they lifted the veil of an organization that has infiltrated unknown levels of infrastructure the world over. Bringing the truth to bear was significant and righteous, necessary even.

With a healthy troupe of adapting screenwriters on board, Garrone and Saviano found the right balance. Their patchwork narrative might seem trite and even trendy at first mention, but the menagerie works because it isn’t pretentious. There is no sense of contrivance or expressed intent to make its five separate narratives comment toward one another or intersect in a nifty manner. The assemblage is borderline slap-dash and more compelling as a result, all roads leading to nowhere but a list of sobering facts over black by film’s end.


Oscilloscope Pictures' Dear Zachary

Directed by Kurt Kuenne

Going into Kurt Kuenne’s penetrating if (rightly) biased documentary knowing next to nothing of the particulars is the best way to go. The end result, if you have an ounce of hemoglobin pumping through your veins, is a parade of tears and recognition that Kuenne knows how to unfold a story. Perhaps the ultimate “family film” of all time, “Dear Zachary” disorients the viewer with an erratic editorial style punctuated by Kuenne’s own personality and emotions. But it is in the reveal, and the film’s final act, that the effort truly rewards.

Part of a one-two punch from Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s Oscilloscope Pictures (with Kelly Reichardt’s “Wendy and Lucy,”) “Dear Zachary” is a firm announcement of a new player on the indie scene this year. But it left this viewer anxious to see what Kuenne might do next, though painfully aware of the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the narrative and, as a result, the passion that went into conveying it. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: shame on the Academy for snubbing the film early on.


Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

When director Darren Aronofsky wasn’t able to make the epic journey he perhaps would have preferred with 2006’s “The Fountain,” he surely did his share of artistic soul-searching before coming upon a modest, intriguing and certainly “indie” screenplay in Robert Siegel’s “The Wrestler.” Reaching back to his own maverick cinematic roots, those planted in 1998’s “Pi,” he has found his second wind with this incredibly moving and effortlessly poignant study of a man and his passion, and the loss that comes with it.

In casting disgraced actor Mickey Rourke in the lead roll of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Aronofsky found himself in the midst of a massive gamble, but he knew it. And Rourke loved him for it, cranking out, far and away, his finest performance to date, and perhaps one of the greatest screen portrayals of all time. Building on the mystique of his own battered career and tapping into the pains of his life, his fault or otherwise, the actor created a startling character. But supporting performances from Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood should not go unrecognized either. It’s a tight ensemble all around.


(from left) Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham in Hunger

Directed by Steve McQueen

Filmmaker Steve McQueen announced himself loud and clear as a talent to watch with “Hunger,” a visual masterpiece in many ways and a vehicle for one of the year’s most underrated performances. A cinematic account of the “no-wash” and hunger protests of I.R.A. prisoners in the 1970s and 1980s, the film’s sparse screenplay really sings, a document that must have been woefully lacking in white space with wall-to-wall action, all of which comments quite thoughtfully to the plight of the characters.

Michael Fassbender’s performance as Bobby Sands is difficult to watch yet impossible to ignore as his body withers away in the film’s second half. With little in the way of dialogue, beyond an invigorating 20-minute take between Sands and a priest friend, the film quickly becomes Fassbender’s stage. But it is also McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt’s canvas as they capture mundane and intimate moments with an epic craftsman’s touch.


Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher Nolan

What more can be written about Christopher Nolan’s billion-dollar blockbuster? Every step of the way, this re-imagined franchise has taken the road less traveled. Risky decisions from the top on down, starting with Nolan being tapped as director, unconventional casting choices and the sheer bravery of rebooting the series less than a decade after it crashed and burned in the late 1990s -– these particulars never put the franchise in sure-thing territory.

But the film transcended the genre, no matter how cliché that kind of praise has become. Despite consistent indications from the filmmakers that their intentions were otherwise, the film captured the zeitgeist in the most wonderfully unexpected ways, drawing clear parallels to the political environment and a national sense of battered hopes. Heath Ledger’s performance will live on in infamy as not only one of the greatest screen villains of all time, but one of the most complete and spookily complete and lived-in characterizations ever.


(from left) James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express

Directed by David Gordon Green

Filmmaker David Gordon Green’s early career has been marked by an expressed interest in the mundane. The intimate intricacies of “George Washington” gave way to the slightly more complicated ides of “All the Real Girls.” He tried his hand at some genre play with “Undertow” and more intricate drama in “Snow Angels,” but “Pineapple Express” brought him back to his film school roots, much more reflective of the work he cranked out in the foothills of North Carolina in the late 1990s and a surprisingly secure fit.

What makes the film work as a confident thoroughbred of entertainment is how well-suited Green’s attraction to the mundane is to the x’s and o’s of the stoner comedy genre. Moments of hilarity are highlighted by surprising strokes of realism. Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen’s handle on comedy is given fuller layers of immediacy beyond the surface antics of the actor and even the thoughtful humor of the producer, while an ensemble of talent knows where the mark is and how to hit it square.


Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York

Directed by Charlie Kaufman

I typically describe Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” as “his least accessible film to date.” It’s generally in the way of warning, but for some intrepid film-goers, it’s a big, bright green light. I walked away knowing I either hated it or loved it, but whatever the case, I knew I had no choice but to respect it. And the further I spun away from this wonderfully tangled web of ambition, I grew to understand it as a definitive mark of artistry and yet another example of Kaufman’s ability to give perspective to his inner demons.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is sensational as the embodiment of how Kaufman sees himself today, just like John Cusack, Nicolas Cage and Jim Carrey before him. But enough couldn’t be said of the ensemble performance around him, a who’s who of character acting talent embossed by some of the most captivating actresses ever assembled in one place. Samantha Morton is the true standout, but praise for Michelle Williams, Emily Watson and Catherine Keener would not be misplaced.


Walt Disney Pictures' Bolt

Directed by Byron Howard, Chris Williams

Do not adjust your monitors. I went there. And unapologetically, because much like David Gordon Green’s “Pineapple Express,” Brian Howard and Chris Williams’s “Bolt” made for one of the most rewarding and enjoyable film-going experiences of 2008. Much as I respect the work being done at Pixar, the ambition of “WALL-E,” the mark it aimed for, that film never lived up to its potential and became an exercise in beautiful but circular storytelling as far as I was concerned.

“Bolt,” on the other hand, strayed from the formula in its own way, certainly less of a risk, but with a dose of creativity that I’m sure Pixar would have been proud to call its own. An energized road-trip film of a sort, the film captures both the vibrancy of near-delusional childhood wonderment and the possibilities inherent in marrying those concepts to an action extravaganza. In that way, the film has much in common with Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” but it is its own experience, a delightful surprise and a reminder of just how much fun the cinema can be.


Madhur Mittal in Slumdog Millionaire

Directed by Danny Boyle

Director Danny Boyle has been working steadily toward this moment his entire career. A sunburst of promise after the genre antics of “Shallow Grave” and the riveting ingenuity of “Trainspotting” in the mid-1990s, his has been a unique vision with each and every effort. After working brazenly in studio territory with “A Life Less Ordinary” and “The Beach,” he began stretching the limits of new cinematic technology with “28 Days Later.” He delighted in the modesty of “Millions” and the ambition of “Sunshine” in recent years, but in 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire” presented the perfect storm for Boyle, a project that would simultaneously nurture his excited filmmaking vernacular and his penchant for conveying the contradictions of youth, love and, in a nutshell, life itself.

It would be unfair to the film to harp on the low-key nature of the year’s cinematic output, but “Slumdog Millionaire” might not have secured this brand of classification in another, more competitive environment. In some way, that might be just as well. A year is a year is a year, and Boyle and company stood out in 2008. No other effort had the same vigor, the same immediacy, the same artistic blend of everything that makes the cinema so unique. Working with a variety of skilled craftsmen, not the least of which being cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and film editor Chris Dickens, Boyle constructed a menagerie that couldn’t have been better described than in those five words from film critic Richard Corliss decorating the film’s publicity materials: “a buoyant hymn to life.”

And…that about wraps it up. Check back Wednesday for my annual “if I had a ballot” post, and finally Friday for a list of the year’s winners in a variety of categories.

To recap, the top 10 films of the year:

1. “Slumdog Millionaire”
2. “Bolt”
3. “Synecdoche, New York”
4. “Pineapple Express”
5. “The Dark Knight”
6. “Hunger”
7. “The Wrestler”
8. “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”
9. “Gomorrah”
10. “Let the Right One In”

Have your say in the comments below! What are your favorite films of the year?

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112 responses so far

  • 1 12-15-2008 at 9:43 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Love your bold and personal choices sure to stir some debate and lots oc coleagues not taking you seriously.
    So is Bolt just a choice to stir up the debate or what? Anyhow, I haven’t seen enough films yet, so I won’t post a proper top 10 until the day before the Oscars. I can however say it will be the most multilangual list I’ve ever compiled.

  • 2 12-15-2008 at 9:45 am

    leocdc said...

    are you crazy????
    bolt number 2???

    well it’s your opinion.

  • 3 12-15-2008 at 9:48 am

    Diego said...

    Wall-E is better than Bolt…

  • 4 12-15-2008 at 9:53 am

    nick said...

    Great piece, Kris. Seeing Pineapple in your top 10 made me smile. I haven’t seen Bolt so I can’t comment on its inclusion in your top 10.

    I agree that ’08 hasn’t been amazingly strong, but I still think that there were some fantastic pieces of work from this year. But following 2007 was always going to be a tough challenge, as I consider last year to be one of the best (if not the best) movie years in the last 10-12 years (of course, many of the films from 1999 still stand as landmarks).

    I still haven’t seen a few key releases (Button, Revolutionary Road, The Wrestler, Let the Right One In, Gomorrah, Hunger, Defiance, Valkeyrie, Doubt, The Reader, Gran Torino), but here’s my top 20, in case other readers start to chime in with their own lists:

    Tarsem’s THE FALL
    Charlie Kaufman’s SYNECDOCHE, NY
    Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT
    James Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE
    Andrew Stanton’s WALL*E
    David Gordon Green’s SNOW ANGELS
    Mike Leigh’s HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

    Clint Eastwood’s CHANGELING
    Gus Van Sant’s MILK
    Ben Stiller’s TROPIC THUNDER
    Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES
    David Gordon Green’s PINEAPPLE EXPRESS
    Joel & Ethan Coen’s BURN AFTER READING
    Marc Forster’s QUANTUM OF SOLACE
    Matt Reeves’ CLOVERFIELD
    Martin Scorsese’s SHINE A LIGHT
    Roger Donaldson’s THE BANK JOB

  • 5 12-15-2008 at 9:54 am

    N8 said...

    I was pleasantly surprised by Bolt as well, but #2? Hardly.

    WALL-E and The Dark Knight reign supreme on my list.

  • 6 12-15-2008 at 9:56 am

    Ivan said...

    Good choices (Hunger especially!!!), at least you go in a very different direction from most of the top ten lists i have read.

    I missed “Man on Wire” . You don´t consider this even in your honorable mentions.

  • 7 12-15-2008 at 10:06 am

    Jorge said...

    1) Slumdog Millionaire
    2) The Dark Knight
    3) Rachel Getting Married
    4) Ballast
    5) The Wrestler
    6) Hapopy-Go-Lucky
    7) Frozen River
    8) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    9) Wndy and Lucy
    10) Hunger

  • 8 12-15-2008 at 10:20 am

    Jorge said...

    even though, I agree with you…Bolt was a very rewarding and pleasent experience for me too…

  • 9 12-15-2008 at 10:24 am

    Adam G. said...

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Slumdog Millionaire
    3. The Dark Knight
    4. Wall-E
    5. Let The Right One In
    6. Man On Wire
    7. Che
    8. Doubt
    9. JCVD
    10. Frost/Nixon

    There are still a couple of movies I haven’t seen yet- Benjamin Button being the one most likely to crack the list, but I think I’ve got it nailed down pretty solidly.

    Some other movies that didn’t quite make my top 10, but are still worth mentioning:

    – A Christmas Tale
    – Rachel Getting Married
    – The Reader
    – Nothing But The Truth

  • 10 12-15-2008 at 10:26 am

    D. said...

    I was happy to see Synechdoche and Pineapple Express there, and am now very eager to see Bolt.

  • 11 12-15-2008 at 10:40 am

    red_wine said...

    BOLT??? Should I seriously consider watching the film?

  • 12 12-15-2008 at 10:53 am

    G said...

    Slumdog is the unquestionable Best Picture of the Year.

  • 13 12-15-2008 at 10:54 am

    Chris said...

    Wow. Synecdoche, Bolt, and Pineapple Express in front of The Dark Knight. Not saying it’s bad or anything, it’s your opinion, this is just the first list I’ve seen where that’s happened.

    I don’t think I even have 10 favorite films I have seen this year, but ones that have been my favorites are The Dark Knight, Milk, Let The Right One In, and Slumdog Millionaire.

  • 14 12-15-2008 at 11:08 am

    Roger said...

    I’ve the most enourmous respect for your work and i’ve been watching and reading your colums since the first day i saw then, and as should be i respect your choices and they reflect your opinion, but i cannot avoid saying that i’me a little disapointed… not because of Bolt which i think it’s amazing, a really great cinematic experience (not nº 2 on my list neither better than wall.e), but because of the inclusion of Pinapple express as nº4. It is a good movie, but, in my humble opinion, i cannot understand how it is better than The Dark Knight, Benjamin Button or movies like Defiance,Wall.E,Milk or The Wrestler. If you find the time, i would like to understand it better!

  • 15 12-15-2008 at 11:09 am

    Chad said...

    I don’t understand how anybody who sees and appreciates films like Hunger and Dear Zachary can like Slumdog Millionaire. But, as always, your list is interesting and well presented.

  • 16 12-15-2008 at 11:24 am

    John said...

    I think BOLT is more kid-friendly than WALL-E(honest to God).

    But I think WALL-E is the far superior animated picture.

  • 17 12-15-2008 at 11:42 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    We can always rely on you to go your own way, which is what hooked me onto the site in the first place — this list is no exception. Great stuff.

    I still need to see a couple of titles before I can comfortably post my own list on the site, but needless to say, it’ll look very different — though I’m sure we’ll overlap on Synecdoche and Gomorrah, at least.

    Finally, I wanted to join you on the pro-Changeling train (not least because the snarkiness from other critics has become very tiresome indeed) but I’m afraid I found the film pedestrian and Jolie’s performance ghastly. Oh well.

  • 18 12-15-2008 at 11:43 am

    jp said...

    So far:

    1) Rachel Getting Married
    2) Synecdoche, New York
    3) Slumdog Millionaire
    4) Milk
    5) Frost/Nixon
    6) The Visitor
    7) Burn After Reading
    8) Vicky Christina Barcelona
    9) The Dark Knight
    10) In Bruges

  • 19 12-15-2008 at 11:43 am

    JAB said...

    i still have a lot to see, but at this point:
    1. The Dark Knight
    2. Milk
    3. Slumdog Millionaire
    4. Wall-E
    5. Doubt
    6. Happy-Go-Lucky
    7. The Visitor
    8. In Bruges
    9. Changeling
    10. Australia

    i think at this point though that nothing else is breaking into my top 3

  • 20 12-15-2008 at 11:43 am

    Ash said...

    Chad, that has got to be one of the most ridiculous comments ever. Since when has a person’s like or appreciation for a certain film made it impossible for them to like another? Just because I think Slumdog is absolutely fantastic, means I can’t also think Dear Zachary was special? Ridiculous. And if you really believe that way, I don’t understand how you can even watch movies and enjoy them.

  • 21 12-15-2008 at 12:03 pm

    Diego(uruguay) said...

    SouthEastern Film Critics Association Awards

    BEST PICTURE( In orden)
    1. Milk
    2. Slumdog Millionaire
    3. WALL-E
    4. The Dark Knight
    5. The Wrestler
    6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    7. The Reader
    8. The Visitor
    9. Frost/Nixon
    10. Revolutionary Road

    BEST ACTOR: Sean Penn “Milk”
    Runner-up: Mickey Rourke “The Wrestler”

    BEST ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway “Rachel Getting Married”
    Runner-up: Kate Winslet “The Reader”

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger “The Dark Knight”
    Runner-up: Robert Downey, Jr. “Tropic Thunder”

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
    Runner-up: Viola Davis “Doubt”

    BEST DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle “Slumdog Millionaire”
    Runner-up: Gus Van Sant “Milk”

    ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Dustin Lance Black “Milk”
    Runner-up: Robert D. Siegel “The Wrestler”

    ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Simon Beaufoy “Slumdog Millionaire”
    Runner-up: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

    FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Let the Right One In” (Sweden)
    Runner-up: “I’ve Loved You So Long” (France)

    DOCUMENTARY: “Man on Wire”
    Runner-up: “Young@Heart”

    Runner-up: “Kung Fu Panda”

  • 22 12-15-2008 at 12:20 pm

    Bing147 said...

    Some interesting picks, though I can’t agree with much of it… I enjoyed Bolt but it was insanely forgettable for me, one of those movies you have a good time at but it doesn’t stay with you in the least.

    Surprised to see Cloverfield miss the top 10. When you saw it, I believe you said you’d be shocked if it wasn’t in your top 10, and as weak as this year was, I expected to see it there.

    Bravo on your inclusion of Dear Zachary, truly brilliant piece of work. The best movies left off completely? For me, Ghost Town and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This was a GREAT year for comedy, between Vicky Christina Barcelona/Ghost Town/Pineapple Express/Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Burn After Reading/In Bruges/Hamlet 2, I’ve laughed a lot this year. My top 10 will likely reflect that, though there’s still plenty I haven’t gotten to see because it hasn’t come here, including Benjamin Button/Revolutionary Road/The Reader/Let the Right One In (maybe seeing tonight)/I’ve loved You So Long/Gomorrah/The Wrestler/Synechdoche/Hunger/Ballast. I don’t really get Taxi to the Dark Side as an 08 film… though it made my top 20 in a VERY strong year last year.

  • 23 12-15-2008 at 12:22 pm

    Chad said...


    You’re right. I don’t enjoy at least 80% of the movies I watch.

  • 24 12-15-2008 at 12:26 pm

    Heidi said...

    Interesting list, I love that you included “Hunger”, which is in my opinion criminally underrated, as is Michael Fassbender. So here’s mine, for your consideration :)

    11. W
    10. Happy-Go-Lucky
    9. Synecdoche, New York
    8. The Dark Knight
    7. A Christmas Tale
    6. Frozen River
    5. Slumdog Millionaire
    4. Gomorrah
    3. Hunger
    2. The Wrestler
    1. Shotgun Stories

    *To me, Michael Shannon is bigger than Jesus Yeah, I went there :)

    To me, Button was a huge disappointment. I usually love Fincher’s work, especially the vastly underrated “Zodiac”. I think Pitt’s performance was a turn-off for me, especially since there’s no mystery about him anymore. Blanchett was divine as always, though. Changeling was equally disappointing, as Angelina’s performances just make me tired. But I agree with you in that Eastwood set the stage for a beautiful film.

    I think it was a great year for movies, it’s just disappointing that some of the best films are those that most people haven’t heard of, and probably will never see.

  • 25 12-15-2008 at 12:27 pm

    D. said...

    For the love of God, could everyone please stop reffering to In Bruges as a comedy?

  • 26 12-15-2008 at 12:41 pm

    Rob said...

    As ever Tappers you’re picks are always interesting. I like ’em.

    Are you updating the predictions today please ?

  • 27 12-15-2008 at 12:42 pm

    Rob said...

    D. Did you not laugh ? I practically wet myself.

  • 28 12-15-2008 at 12:44 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Played like a black comedy to me, D.

    Genre is a fluid and wide-spanning thing, after all — “Happy-Go-Lucky” wasn’t really a comedy to me, though I understand why some people believe it is.

  • 29 12-15-2008 at 12:49 pm

    Diego(uruguay) said...

    Yes, update please!

  • 30 12-15-2008 at 12:51 pm

    D. said...

    Yeah, I felt that both In Bruges and Happy-go-Lucky were tip-toeing the line between extremely serious and lightly comedic, but that the former took a deep plunge (no pun intended, honestly) into the dark drama territorry with its last act.

  • 31 12-15-2008 at 1:01 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    This is the most our top 10s have lined up ever I think, although some of your big guns are absent from mine…

  • 32 12-15-2008 at 1:05 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I appreciate the list, and the beautifully clean way in wich you presented it, but I find it so hard to believe you couldn’t find space for “Milk” (the best film of the year, by far) on there, or “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” or “Revolutionary Road,” which it appeared you loved after you had first seen it.

    Nevertheless, I admire your boldness (BOLT) and your willingness to conform (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) ;)

  • 33 12-15-2008 at 1:29 pm

    Dan said...

    Wow… Bolt.. quite the shocker.

    Anyway, I like the mention of Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Pineapple Express as well. Though I am one of the few who hated Slumdog.. the painfully cliche film nearly had me in laughter. I still can’t believe that death in money in a bathtub scene.. what is this, Scarface? What a joke.

    My top 10

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Wall-E
    3. Let the Right One In
    4. Bigger, Stronger, Faster
    5. Happy-Go-Lucky
    6. Milk
    7. Snow Angels
    8. Pineapple Express
    9. Synecdoche New York
    10. Ballast

  • 34 12-15-2008 at 1:45 pm

    McGuff said...

    I won’t be so lame as to blame you for the Bolt pick, Kris … seems like people have a hard time grasping the idea of subjectivity … I’m just shocked it ended up above Pineapple Express. I didn’t guess your order yesterday — I did guess 7 of the 10, however — but if I had, I surely would have put Slumdog at #1 and Pineapple at #2.

    My only other surprise was that VCB didn’t make your top 10, but I’m probably remembering your love for Rebecca Hall’s performance more than I am your feelings on the actual film.

    I am 40 movies into this year, but I still have an embarrassing number to see to call it a complete year. At least 15-20, I’d say. Here’s what I have on the ever-evolving list:

    1. WALL-E
    2. The Dark Knight
    3. Slumdog Millionaire
    4. Tropic Thunder
    5. The Visitor
    6. W.
    7. Milk
    8. Vicky Christina Barcelona
    9. Role Models
    10. Iron Man

    And because this kind of a list always deserves a bottom. Here’s my razzies so far:

    40. Smart People
    39. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom…
    38. Leatherheads
    37. 21
    36. 27 Dresses

  • 35 12-15-2008 at 1:52 pm

    John Travolta said...

    I’m ashamed to say i have yet to see many of the oscar powerhouses out there but from the movies that i have seen this year

    1. Milk
    2. WALL-E
    3. In Bruges
    4. The Dark Knight
    5. Tropic Thunder

    Sean Penn should take best actor!
    and i would love to see Robert Downey Jr. get best supporting actor

    I must see:
    The Wrestler
    Revolutionary Road
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Gran Torino
    Vicky Christna Barcelona
    Rachel Getting Married
    …and much more

  • 36 12-15-2008 at 1:57 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    I’m spending a week in Chicago at Christmas, in part to see the movies that never make it to my sad little town. I’ll for sure see “the Swedish vampire movie” now that you have put it on your list. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • 37 12-15-2008 at 2:06 pm

    JAB said...

    …john travolta? really?

  • 38 12-15-2008 at 2:20 pm

    Diego(uruguay) said...


    St. Louis Film Critics
    2008 Awards:

    The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

    Sean Penn (Milk)

    Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)

    Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

    Viola Davis (Doubt)

    Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

    Slumdog Millionaire – U.K./U.S.A/India

    Man On Wire

    Burn After Reading


    The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

    Mandy Walker (Australia)

    Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon)

    The Visitor

    The Dark Knight

  • 39 12-15-2008 at 2:22 pm

    JAB said...

    yeah there were a few more critics announced today, St Louis, Southeastern, and EDA

  • 40 12-15-2008 at 2:26 pm

    JAB said...

    and Chicago Critics nominees, and NY online critics were last night

  • 41 12-15-2008 at 2:46 pm

    McAllister said...

    I think Redbelt may end up being a surprise entry in my top 10.

  • 42 12-15-2008 at 2:51 pm

    Kokushi said...

    I literally said WTF at Bolt at #2 loud that people ask me in my house, lol, its a very good list, i cant wait to see a lot from runner up and top 10, but imo movies better than i would replace Bolt (i didnt care to see it but i think will give it a chance):

    In Bruges
    Hellboy II: The Golden Army
    not #2 but other place Wanted (Yes it wasnt bad)
    Tropic Thunder
    The Bank Job

  • 43 12-15-2008 at 2:54 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    McGuff: It really pained me to move it from the list, but I’d say that and “Button” are hovering very close to the top 10. Once I saw “Let the Right One In” and “Dear Zachary” at the tail end of the season, my list started to shift and slide and it had to go. Ask me in a month, it might even be on the top 10. That’s the nature of these things, I suppose, the fluidity.

    McAllister: “Redbelt” is one of a few films I was sorry to miss this year. I’m a Mamet fan and should have done the diligence, but I’ve heard good and bad. I need to get around to it eventually.

    Glad to see the conversation so wonderfully stirred here.

  • 44 12-15-2008 at 3:06 pm

    BobMcBob said...

    this list lost it’s credibility when you placed “Bolt” and “Pineapple Express” ahead of “The Dark Knight”, and completely ignored “Wall-E”

  • 45 12-15-2008 at 3:14 pm

    Marvin said...

    I’ve seen nothing this year:

    1. Cloverfield
    2. Encounters at the End of the World
    3. WALL-E
    4. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
    5. Australia
    6. The Dark Knight
    7. Be Kind Rewind
    8. Shine a Light
    9. Manuela y Manuel
    10. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

  • 46 12-15-2008 at 3:21 pm

    Chad said...

    BobMcBob lost all credibility when he chose his username.

  • 47 12-15-2008 at 3:22 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    I haven’t seen most of these films because of where I live so I can’t comment on the list as a whole, but Kris, you didn’t find the premise of Tropic Thunder and the way it was executed to be better than Pineapple Express’s? I thought Thunder’s stereotypes were spot on hilarious, while I personally felt that Express was just another conventional Hollywood comedy.

  • 48 12-15-2008 at 3:40 pm

    Josh said...

    I haven’t seen Benjamin Button, Defiance, Doubt, Gran Torino, Rachel Getting Married, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Synecdoche, New York, or The Wrestler yet, but here’s my top ten so far:

    1. The Dark Knight
    2. In Bruges
    3. Frost/Nixon
    4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    5. Quantum of Solace
    6. The Duchess
    7. Milk
    8. The Visitor
    9. Changeling
    10. Australia

  • 49 12-15-2008 at 3:49 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Scott: No. I liked Tropic Thunder, but there was something to the way Green handled the mundane (as I mention here and in my review) that was really fetching and seemed fresher to me.

  • 50 12-15-2008 at 4:07 pm

    McGuff said...

    Josh, I don’t hate your picks, and I actually quite like some of them. We agree on quite a few fronts, but Quantum of Solace isn’t one of them. If you check back in on this thread, I’d be very curious to hear a defense … any defense … on the film. Seemed to me that Forster was the wrong man, that a sequel was the wrong idea, and that outside of Daniel Craig, just nothing really worked.

  • 51 12-15-2008 at 4:41 pm

    Matt said...

    Diego ahs summed it up:

    “Wall-E is better than Bolt…”

    Yep, pretty much. I agree with another poster who said he thinks this list may be just to stir up debate. I could see Bolt being the #2 film of the year…if WALL-E were the #1. Otherwise, nope, not really. It was good, great even, it just wasn’t WALL-E, which is so absent from this list I’m 100% that this list is just begging for the film’s followers to come out and bash it so you’ll get more hits. Guess it worked, but still quite lame.


    “this list lost it’s credibility when you placed “Bolt” and “Pineapple Express” ahead of “The Dark Knight”, and completely ignored “Wall-E””

    Yep, ditto.

  • 52 12-15-2008 at 4:42 pm

    Harmonica said...

    Top 10 so far (no particular order):

    And the best of the year so far (or at least, the most interesting):

  • 53 12-15-2008 at 4:51 pm

    Zan said...

    1- Slumdog Millionaire
    2- Redbelt
    3- The Dark Knight
    4- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    5- Rachel Getting Married
    6- Iron Man
    7- Milk
    8- Bolt
    9- In Bruges
    10- Pineapple Express

    We seem to share a lot of the same movies in one context or another, Kris. My list is severely lacking the foreign heavyweights right now though.

  • 54 12-15-2008 at 4:54 pm

    Josh said...

    McGuff, here’s my defense: Quantum of Solace just blew me away. I went into it with my thoughts filled with the negative reviews. The film was a disappointment. That was the word. Though Casino Royale was my #1 film of 2006, my expectations were somewhat lowered by the news. But from the moment Bond said “It’s time to get out” and the theme song played, I was hooked. (Okay, I will admit to cringing at some of Olga Kurylenko’s early scenes and the editing could have been better.)

    I like the direction they took with the film: Bond, Bourne-style. This is a Bond film we haven’t seen before. For example, the opera scene: magnificent. Forster has made a Bond film uniquely his, and it’s all the better for it. There’s not a lot of humor and there doesn’t need to be. It’s a serious film. Nay-sayers can jump all over me, but I think it’s the best Bond film to date and one of the best films of the year.

  • 55 12-15-2008 at 5:02 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Matt (and other poster cited): I don’t put up a list “just to stir debate.” And I consider it an insult if anyone would think otherwise. Don’t search for meaning, this is my list of the year’s 10 best. You’ll wake up tomorrow.

  • 56 12-15-2008 at 6:30 pm

    SueS said...

    Pleasantly surprised to see Bolt so high on your list. I go to the movies a lot. I go to be entertained and to take a time out from the hum drum realities of life. Bolt fit the bill quite splendidly. In fact, I went twice!

  • 57 12-15-2008 at 6:45 pm

    McGuff said...

    Josh, that’s fair. I also loved Casino Royale — particularly, I thought the new energy Daniel Craig brought to the role was fabulous. I’m surprised — you said “CR” was your top movie of 2006, but you think “Quantum” is the best Bond movie yet? High praise, certainly. I certainly thought Casino Royale was in the top three or so, and I could make an argument for the top spot, but ‘Quantum’ fell short for me (25th out of 40).

    For me, maybe it’s the Bourne comparison that hurts it. With Jason Bourne, the thirst for vengeance makes sense to us — here was a man betrayed by an entire government. With Bond, seeking vengeance for a killed lover makes sense in a vacuum, but not in terms of the character that has been built for 40 years. For me, James Bond has too much Don Juan to be Jason Bourne. I’m okay if that makes me imagine-less, but character consistency (and I think I blame Haggis for this) is important to me.

    To Matt: I imagine I’ll spend the next two months pleading with WALL-E detractors to dampen the vitriol and enjoy a light-hearted (if ambitious) movie for what it is. Hey, that’s my top movie of the year they’re calling overrated. What I hoped was that it wouldn’t go the other way — that Wall-e supporters would start spitting fire. Relax, and don’t make accusations that sound so baseless.

  • 58 12-15-2008 at 8:08 pm

    JC said...

    I still need to see The Wrestler, Benjamin Button, and possibly Doubt and Revolutionary Road. And some of those docs, though I find that most documentaries don’t have much replay value, regardless of how good they are. Replay value is key. The twenty-two 2008 films I’ve seen this year, and the order in which I enjoyed them (calling something “the best” is arbitrary and meaningless):

    1) The Dark Knight
    2) WALL*E
    3) Milk
    4) Synecdoche, New York
    5) Tell No One (French film/2008 North American release)
    6) Frost/Nixon
    7) Slumdog Millionaire
    8) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
    9) Rachel Getting Married
    10) Let The Right One In
    11) In Bruges
    12) Iron Man
    13) Happy-Go-Lucky
    14) Burn After Reading
    15) Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
    16) Quantum of Solace
    17) Hellboy II: The Golden Army
    18) Wanted
    19) Tropic Thunder
    20) The Incredible Hulk
    21) Cloverfield
    22) Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

  • 59 12-15-2008 at 9:08 pm

    JAB said...

    i just need to say somewhere…
    -I went to see Doubt on Saturday and the tremendous performances from Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Davis save an otherwise average film.
    – I watched In Bruges last night and loved it. It works in so many ways on so many levels, and if they’d have waited til october-november to release it, it might be a real oscar contender, but i think it’s gonna settle for GG love.
    – I saw I’ve Loved You So Long tonight, and was fairly underwhelmed. I won’t be shocked if Kristen Scott Thomas gets an Oscar nod, but i didn’t think her work was all too groundbreaking.

  • 60 12-15-2008 at 9:22 pm

    JC said...

    “-I went to see Doubt on Saturday and the tremendous performances from Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Davis save an otherwise average film.”

    That’s pretty much what’s been said about it in most circles. Well-acted, but the film, story-wise, doesn’t work nearly as well on screen as on the stage.

    “- I saw I’ve Loved You So Long tonight, and was fairly underwhelmed. I won’t be shocked if Kristen Scott Thomas gets an Oscar nod, but i didn’t think her work was all too groundbreaking.”

    That’s interesting….I usually hear that it’s a great performance in a so-so film.

    And In Bruges is a very enjoyable film. It’s like a more quiet, reflective variation on a Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie fim, with a lot of unexpected sideways humour.

  • 61 12-15-2008 at 10:05 pm

    JAB said...

    SO right on with the tarantino comparison.

  • 62 12-15-2008 at 10:33 pm

    BobMcBob said...

    CHAD, don’t make pointless criticisms about my username when you know very well that Tapley’s list is worse than Richard Roeper’s…that’s embarrassing

  • 63 12-15-2008 at 10:50 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    You’re being quite silly, Bob. Grow up or move on…preferably both.

  • 64 12-16-2008 at 2:14 am

    Zan said...

    I don’t get how a list can be “worse” than any other list. We all have a rough pool of the same 30 movies that everyone seems to like this year. Just because you didn’t like the list doesn’t mean that it’s a bad list. I liked how he wasn’t afraid to defy a little convention with “Bolt” but still kept it diverse with a plethora of foreign films. It’s not like “88 Minutes” and “Leatherheads” were his 1-2.

  • 65 12-16-2008 at 3:02 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    If Kris wanted to be controversial, surely he wouldn’t have had Slumdog Millionaire at number 1?

  • 66 12-16-2008 at 3:59 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kris has made it quite clear by now that he didn’t personally connect with “WALL-E.” Not everyone has to. Get over it.

    If you like your Top 10’s to look like they’ve been compiled by a committee (I’m not going to single out any high-profile names), then I guess Kris’ list would bother you. But human beings are quirky creatures. If people agreed with every entry on the list, something would be wrong with it.

  • 67 12-16-2008 at 4:01 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    *I say this as someone whose favourite film of 2005, I seem to recall, landed on Kris’ “10 Worst” list.

  • 68 12-16-2008 at 6:35 am

    Jeff said...

    It is refreshing to see someone make their own decisions without the help of “herd think”. I applaud Kris, and especially applaud his #2 choice. I think we get so mixed up in Pixar pedigree that we miss the great muts sitting casually before us.

  • 69 12-16-2008 at 7:11 am

    Chris said...

    So far I’ve seen 5 of the films on your list, and 3 of them also make my top 10 of the year out of the 40-something films I’ve seen so far (which I won’t post, because I don’t see why I should publish anything incomplete.) So I’m definitely not going to criticise you for your list. I think it’s refreshing and even though I may disagree with some of your picks in the end, I reckon it’s always more interesting to read opinions that diverge from one’s own than reading the same old shit all day long.

    Especially the”Bolt” pick is interesting, because I myself would rank “Kung Fu Panda” higher than “Wall-E” right now, and now I’d really like to see “Bolt” which otherwise I’d probably have given a pass. Stay true to what you really think – it’s the only way you can make a good and honest job.

  • 70 12-16-2008 at 10:04 am

    John Foote said...

    And may I add I am about to name Che one of the years best films, something I hartdly think Kris will agree with but he will forever respect my right to name it such — some folks on this site need to learn about opinion….we all have one — learn to respect the opinion of others — yopu never have to agree, that is your call, but to condemn??? Foolish.

  • 71 12-16-2008 at 3:31 pm

    Joel said...

    Mine, if anyone cares:

    1. The Dark Knight
    2. WALL-E
    3. Tropic Thunder
    4. Changeling
    5. Cloverfield
    6. Young@Heart
    7. Wanted (yeah, yeah, I know, get over it)
    8. Iron Man
    9. Penelope (did anyone actually see this?)
    10. Son of Rambow

  • 72 12-16-2008 at 4:18 pm

    Chad said...

    I love “worst” lists but since I deliberately avoid 90% of movies released, mine can never be accurate. I’m sure “Disaster Movie” is far and away the worst movie of the year but I didn’t see it. I can make a short list of films that I had heard were good or wanted to be good but were, in fact, terrible.

    Be Kind Rewind
    Son of Rambow
    Mister Lonely
    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    The Happening
    Step Brothers
    Tropic Thunder
    The Visitor

  • 73 12-16-2008 at 6:43 pm

    McGuff said...

    Chad, I love the ‘worst’ lists too, and I posted my five worst above. I’m assuming you didn’t see ‘Smart People’, because if you had, I’m pretty sure it would find a spot on your list.

    I do have a question for you, though…

    I can understand someone not liking ‘Tropic Thunder’ — hey, it’s crude and unapologetic of some vain humor … and I say that as a guy that loved it — but for whatever reason, disliking “The Visitor” just mystifies me. I think the movie works on almost every level — it’s a political movie that focuses more on pathos than politics. It has some great acting. The musical element gives it a fun touch.

    So what I’m asking is: why didn’t you like The Visitor?

  • 74 12-16-2008 at 7:04 pm

    Gareth said...

    Kris –
    Over the years, you and your site have become fixtures in my own personal oscar coverage year after year. Yours is an opinion I have come to respect and look forward to, even when I disagree. This past year I have grown fonder of your coverage and your site in learning that you, as I, are a Batfan in the strictest sense of the word. Nobody else in awards coverage shares my love of all things bat like you, and that has only cemented your place as my “go to guy” when it comes to the oscar race. So I come to you and ask this as a Batfan, and a fan of cinema: How is ‘The Dark Knight” not higher on your list? Now, I understand, 5th best film of the year is no position to shrug at, and if it were anybody else, I would cheer the ranking. But it is not just anybody else. It is you. Now, to clarify just what kind of fan I am, no Bat film has ever been my favorite film of the year. “Batman Begins” cracked my top 10 of the year, but not my top five. And before that, I don’t know. I’d have to go back and review the years. But “The Dark Knight” isn’t just any Bat Film. It is, in my opinion, THE Bat film. It has the perfect villain that Begins was lacking (not a fault, just a fact), it has jaw dropping action sequences that can stand up against any summer fare and most importantly, it has a dramatic, deep, rich and authentic script which treats these characters that I have loved since i was old enough to direct my imagination towards the figures I held in my little hands with the decency and respect they deserve. I totally understand how films like “Slumdog Millionaire” could top other peoples lists (it is my #2) but for a fan of the Batman, to receive a film as brilliant as “The Dark Knight” is, I guess I just don’t understand how it is not higher for you personally. Now i understand the distinction between “Best” and “Favorite” but this is a time where, for me personally at least, the two converge. Anwyay, not at all a judgement of your list (which is, as always, interesting and inspirational in terms of what films I need to catch up on) but more of an inquiry from one fan to another as to why “The Dark Knight” did not rank #1 for you.

  • 75 12-16-2008 at 8:28 pm

    red_wine said...

    All critics who don’t have TDK as No.1 on their top 10’s are receiving death threats from fanboys and those critics are loosing their credibility, there’s either something wrong with them or obviously TDK would be no.1 on their lists.

  • 76 12-16-2008 at 9:33 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gareth: I think a lot of those answers might be found in my enthusiastic but — keyword — measured review of the film from July. I lvoe the film very much. I think Ledger’s performance is the stuff of legend. But I couldn’t get carried away with the film as a true milestone because the fact remains, it has the scars of imperfection like any other. There are numerous examples, but to name a few:

    1) As much as I love the ferry sequence and the aim of the last act, it feels tacked on and not carefully blended into the narrative to combat the sense of stagnation.

    2) The plot is heavily contrived in a number of areas, many of the forgivable (given the genre), but most of them sore thumbs of a sort.

    3) Aaron Eckhart’s performance, though lauded by some as the unsung hero of the film, felt flat in many ways to me, like the actor was struggling to keep up with the talent surrounding him.


    But let it be known these are simply imperfections that needed to be verbalized to make my point here, and that none of them hurt the film so much as to damage it’s credibility in my eyes. They simply go toward the cumulative effect of knocking it down a few pegs, a humility the film certainly could have used throughout the year.

    I hope that helps. The film just didn’t come to the sweet spot of being inarguable like my #1s tend to do. It didn’t satisfy as wholly as the four films above it and, as a result, it settled toward the middle of the list.

    And as for “Batman Begins,” ask me some days, I’d call it a better film than “The Dark Knight.” And 2005 was such an awful year, it actually cracked my top 5 (landing at #3).

  • 77 12-17-2008 at 5:32 am

    AdamL said...

    I walked out of Pineapple Express. A brainless and unfunny script with the most irritating characters of the year does not do it for me. Well that’s my opinion at least.

  • 78 12-17-2008 at 1:34 pm

    Chad said...

    McGuff- The Visitor fails on every level to me. It’s just a screenwriting exercise, getting a character from point A to point B by painting a morally ambiguous issue in the broadest of black and white strokes. Jenkins is good with what he has to work with but no other performance was above college theater in my opinion.

  • 79 12-29-2008 at 1:37 pm

    Michel said...

    Happy to see (I wasn’t expecting them):

    “Synecdoche, New York” (at number 3, great choice)
    “Taxi to the Dark Side”
    “Pinneaple Express” and “Cloverfield” (I put these two at the same level)

    Surprised to see (I don’t think these are nearly good enough to deserve their spots on the list):

    “Iron Man” (Still can’t undersand what the fuzz is all about)
    “The Incredible Hulk” (!!!???)
    “Bolt” (at number TWO????!!! BETTER THAN SYNECDOCHE???!!!)

  • 80 12-29-2008 at 1:45 pm

    Michel said...

    And for the record: I consider Downey Jr. as one of the greatest thespian of this generation… but that was not seen in Iron Man. I believe Eckhart’s rendition of Harvey Dent and Two-Face is by far better than Downey Jr.’s Stark. The difference is that Downey was the lead star surrounded by completely lackluster performances, while Eckhart is surrounded by all kinds of great talents. And yet, he still does his job with passion and delivers a solid performance. And his character is supposed to be inferior, overwhelmed by the actions of everybody else around him. He’s supposed to be a loser, and an emotional one for that matter. I think his peformance was spot on.

    But Tony Stark was too conventional and lacked scope and ambition. Downey had charisma, but he was just going through the motions, in an “ambitionless” movie. Not enough of a performance to send Iron Man anywhere near the eleventh spot.

    And “Bolt”? “The Incredible Hulk”? What about “Che”? That is an unique piece of biopic in the history of cinema, why isn’t “Che” in the top 10?

    I’m not bashing anything, just trying to get around these strange picks.

  • 81 1-14-2009 at 2:30 pm

    Chad said...

    Tapley. Just finished my wrap up, complete with layout steal. Link is here if you’re interested (we have 3 overlaps in the top 10)

  • 82 8-05-2009 at 5:46 pm

    Rare Addict said...

    I heard that you’d marked Bolt as your #2 on The Movie Blog Podcast at the beginning of the year, and it really made my day to see that. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the likes of Wall-E and The Dark Knight. As a matter of fact, they’re two of only 15 films that I’ve given a 10/10.

    Bolt, however, connected with me on a much more personal level than, dare I say, any film. With every single viewing of the film, I’ve found myself laughing, crying (with tears of both sadness and joy), and at the end of it all, feeling like a million bucks. While this film does hold an 88% on RT, I still feel that it is severely underappreciated. As far as I’m concerned, Bolt is better than any of Pixar’s films (which, again, is saying a hell of a lot, considering that Wall-E, The Incredibles, and Up are in my all-time Top Ten list).

  • 83 5-25-2010 at 11:05 am

    MovieMan said...

    Top Ten of 2008:

    1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    2. Synecdoche, New York
    3. Cloverfield
    4. The Dark Knight
    5. The Wrestler
    6. Snow Angels
    7. Rachel Getting Married
    8. Changeling
    9. In Bruges
    10. Marley & Me

    Bottom Ten of 2008:

    1. Disaster Movie
    2. Meet the Spartans
    3. An American Carol
    4. The Forbidden Kingdom
    5. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
    6. The Spirit
    7. Righteous Kill
    8. Semi-Pro
    9. Diary of the Dead
    10. Space Chimps

    Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
    Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
    Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
    Best Supporting Actress: Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married

    Most Overrated Film of 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
    Most Underrated Film of 2008: Passengers

  • 84 6-25-2011 at 5:14 pm

    Depp said...

    I definitely think Bolt deserved the second place. It was a wonderful movie that might not strike critics as particularly original at the surface, being a slightly predictable story about a faithful dog trying to find his owner, but it actually packed some pretty interesting character development and deep messages.

    Great list btw!

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