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The Best Movies of 2008 (…so far)

Well, it’s that time of year, when every critic released their top 10 list for the year.   Problem is, most of those lists reek of elitism and critic’s privilege.   3 of the movies on Roger Ebert’s list won’t even be in theaters until January; apparently they’re on his list because he saw them in 2008, at a festival or special critics’ screening or something.   Most critics are more careful, but their lists can be just as frustrating.   A lot of the best movies of the year are released in December (so they’ll be considered for Oscars) and they’re often on limited release, which means unless you live in a big city (I don’t, do you?) you can’t see them until they come out on DVD, which is 4-5 months from now, at which time you’ll have forgotten which movies were on the top 10 list, anyway.     It all leads me to think that critics make their top 10 lists primarily for other critics — and for hardcore movie buffs living in big cities.   But what about the rest of us?

Well, it’s not perfect, but here’s my solution.   I’m going to do two top 10 lists this year.   Right now, I’m going to give you the top 10 movies I’ve seen this year, movies that are out on DVD and therefore available to anyone with a Netflix account.   (Most are available about Blockbuster, but I know better than to guarantee anything will be available at Blockbuster.)   Then, probably sometime around June or July, I’ll release another top 10 list – the real “Best Movies of 2008” list, once they’ve all become widely available to anybody who wants to see them.   There’s bound to be some overlap; we’ll see how it goes.   

So here you go.   Here are the Best Movies of 2008 that have already been released on DVD.

1. The Dark Knight

I’ve watched this a couple of times since I first reviewed it, and every time I’m more impressed.  I wrote for StudentSoul.org that it was a battle for the soul of a city; on further viewing, I’m amazed at how small a role Batman actually plays in this battle.   It’s really Dent and Gordon vs. the Joker; a vision of hope and decency vs. one of chaos and darkness.    Chaos and darkness always seem to have more energy and imagination; maybe that’s because hope itself is a fragile, otherworldly thing.  

2. Wall-E

Another movie that improved on a second viewing.  When I first saw it, I thought the first half was great, the second half mean-spirited.   When I saw it again, I found more to like in the second half; it felt softer than I remembered, poking fun and people, but poking gently.  

3. The Visitor

I love and relish the quiet humor of Thomas McCarthy’s films, and this one adds a social edge, but doesn’t overplay itself.   An underseen, understated gem, much like last year’s “Lars and the Real Girl.”  

4.  Tropic Thunder

So, there’s the offensibility issue, which will probably keep this from making many critic’s lists.  Whatever.   Roger Ebert says you can’t fake a laugh, and it’s a critic’s duty to report laughter.   And at Tropic Thunder, I laughed.  Hard.  Repeatedly.   More than I’d laughed in a long time, at any movie.   

5.  Iron Man

It was a pretty good year for comic book movies (though there were as many horribly bad ones as surprisingly good ones.)   And while “The Dark Knight” really transcended the genre, “Iron Man” showed that a really great, really fun, really lovable movie could be made inside the confines of the genre.   Casting Robert Downey Jr. was a genius movie, and the rest just flows.  

6. Transsiberian

A great little thriller, starring Emily Mortimer and set on the railroad from Beijing to Moscow.   That’s a setup that would make Hitchcock salivate.   

7.  The Band’s Visit

Cross-cultural kindness, and misunderstanding, and the universality of loneliness.  A quiet, incredibly composed little film.  A joy to behold.  

8.  Kabluey

Painfully funny drama about a brother-in-law just trying to help out.   Some of the best absurdist comedy seen in years.   And I’m not just saying that because I got to interview the director.  

9.  The Fall

Visually stunning storybook/real life tale.   Want to see “Bedtime Stories?”   Save a buck and rent this instead.   You won’t regret it, I promise.  

10. The Duchess

Keira Knightley in a corset.  What could be more natural than that?   Seriously though, Ralph Fiennes and a great supporting cast lift this story of women’s oppression above its peers.   

 

So there you go.  Enough to get you started.   I’ll be back in the summer with another list.   Happy viewing.

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Posted in All Reviews.

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  1. Michelle said

    THanks for giving me viewing ideas.

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