Best of 2008 Part I: Movies

Yes, this is pretty early.  But I’ve been considering it for some time now, and I’ve also looked at the release schedule for each of these mediums and have seen to it that all that I’m really looking forward to has come and gone. It’d have to be something truly monumental to change my mind at this point.

If you missed my similar post from last year, I’ll reiterate.  Contrary to the title of this post, these picks that I’m making below don’t necessarily mean that these are the best of the year.  Just that they are my favorites.  The floor of comments is totally open to suggestions for things that I may have missed.  Last year pointed me towards a couple of great suggestions, and I’d love to have those again.  

So even though it’s around a month and a half early, here we go.  I’ll start with movies and will work my way through video games, music, and books in the weeks to come.

Movie of the Year: Wall-E

wall_e_teaser_posterIf you know me personally, it is probably no surprise that I’d pick a Pixar movie as my favorite of the year.  I just know that it might be a shock to those who speak in hushed tones in reverence of The Dark Knight.  But make no mistake about it, Wall-E is the finest work that has ever been produced out of Emeryville.  And as such, it is just leaps and bounds above everything else released this year.

Watching Wall-E is like watching someone like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods at the absolute top of their game.  Pixar is absolutely firing on all cylinders.  The animation is beyond superb, the score will bring a tear to your eye, and the story will basically claim your very soul.  And in correlation with all of this, it’s fresh and more than relevant.  For my money, the narrative in this is just as poignant as other examinations of humanity in movies such as Blade Runner.  Yet ironically, it does it with a stand in for R2-D2.  Out of many other flavor of the month movies of this past decade, I guarantee this is one that time and history will be the most kind to.

Runner Up: The Dark Knight

heath-ledger-as-the-joker-dark-knight-poster-picture3

I’m sure the merits of this will be discussed in full in many other “best of” lists before too long, so I won’t steal their thunder.  Much of what needs to be said about this already has been.  But if you take nothing else out of those editorials, remember this.  While there have been many popular comic movies in the past ten years, Dark Knight is the first true comic film.  Stuff like Spider-man and such has been fun and all, but they are nerfed versions of sentimentalities represented in their source material, often source material that is decades behind what is in current comic storylines.  The Dark Knight is a culmination of modern comics, almost to the point that it’s like watching a true adaptation of stories like The Long Halloween.

It’s not just a great movie, but a great stepping stone that hopefully is the first in the way of respectable comic film.

Underrated / Dark Horse Movie of the Year: Son of Rambow

son-of-rambow-a-home-movie-poster-0I must admit that I actually considered making this the runner up.  A theme in film that I always fall for is that of kids having real heart and imagination.  It’s a big reason that E.T. is one of my favorite all time movies, and why I’m such a fan of Spielberg as he’s prone to use this kind of theme prominently.

Son of Rambow utilizes that kind of theme to have a kind of charisma that I haven’t seen in such a fresh movie in a really long time.  If you’ve not heard of it, it follows two British boys in the 80’s as they befriend each other and try to enter a film competition with their own version of First Blood.  That basically sums up the entire movie, but there’s lots of subplots and complexities along the way that make you really involved into the narrative.  It also manages to strike a perfect balance of comedy and heart that hasn’t really been seen since the era it is set in.

Discussing it too much would really give away the surprise of what a great, great movie this really is.  The premise sounds simple and silly enough, but give it a watch sometime and you’ll realize that you’re missing out if you’ve not seen it or heard of it.

Also Ran: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It’s difficult to really elaborate upon about how I feel about this movie.  Unlike many, I didn’t hate it.  But I didn’t really absolutely love it either.  Unlike many other films throughout the years that had me coming out of the theater doors in glee, I simply came out of the latest Indiana Jones commenting that “that was pretty cool”.  I still hold that it wasn’t a bad movie, it’s still a fun ride that I feel holds up to a film like Temple of Doom.  But it was held back by a number of generally well despised stupid scenes and an inability to really bring the franchise into new territory that held true to the original trilogy.  Although I was happy to return to the Indy universe, this film simply feels like an epilogue as opposed to a real continuation.

Also Notable:

Last year, I gave notice to Transformers for being the “Event Movie” of the year.  It wasn’t really all that great of a movie on it’s own, but it was a really fun time at the theater with a bunch of friends.  This time around, I can’t really decide between Cloverfield and Iron Man for that category.  Iron Man is admittedly a little silly and dated, but still a heck of a lot of fun.  Cloverfield on the other hand is an amazingly fun time at the theater, and is an experience that can only be fully enjoyed at the theater itself.  That said, it’s a little lame the second time around at home on your own TV.

Also, while I’d really like to see Heath Ledger win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, the hands down best performance for me this past year was Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder.

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