Eight (Films) Is Enough

MY BEST FILMS LIST OF 2008 (I only saw 22 films this year, so it seemed like choosing ten of them was skewing the odds a bit—here are eight for 2008:
1. Wall-E…likely, there is no explanation needed here & you’ve probably seen it and thought it was pretty amazing yourself. (There is hope for us tubs of lard!)
2. The Dark Knight…same as above (except for the tubs of lard part). I will say that I wasn’t that blown away for the first 20 minutes, but then…something changed, and it became unbelievably captivating for the next two hours. Except for the part where he drives the “Bat-pod” up a wall—a sell out moment in an otherwise powerfully engaging, intense and haunting film. Christopher Nolan is pure gold (pretending Insomnia never existed).
3. Son of Rambow…now this may require a bit of explanation. A British film which some list as being released in 2007—but since it had it’s limited release here in May 2008 & because I’d love to sing its praises, we’ll include it in this year’s list! When I originally heard the pitch (two English kids remake “First Blood” using home video cameras) I was uninterested. Somehow, I ended up seeing it and deeply enjoyed every single moment. It transported me back to the transitional years between my childhood and adolescence with it’s 80’s setting & soundtrack, had me laughing loudly at the stunts the kids do in their film (obviously effects of some sort) and hit some deep places with its depiction of one of the young boys who is part of a Plymouth Brethren church (which places a high value on separation from secular culture), yet who feels drawn to creative expression, particularly as a way of dealing with his father’s death. Don’t make the same mistake I did—see this soon!

This movie is bloody good.

This movie is bloody good.

4. In Bruges…another example of a film I had no desire to see—I couldn’t quite tell what it was even about from the preview. But someone (perhaps YOU?) recommended that I see it & I’m so glad I did—the acting, cinematography, script are all excellent. It is dark humor on a pitch black scale, but there is also tremendous beauty and some glimmer of hope and redemption in this story of two hitmen running from the aftermath of a job gone very wrong. If you need a happy ending, don’t watch this. If you can deal with a morally complex dark comedy, this should be mandatory viewing. It’s sad that marketing almost killed this for me (the same thing happened a few years back with Moulin Rouge!).

The advertisements may suck, but the film does not.

The advertisements may suck, but the film does not.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…I almost jumped out of my seat when the screen FILLED with buttons in the first minute of this film (for some psychologically undiagnosed reason, I can’t stand buttons), but it really is an incredibly engrossing & lovely film. I deeply enjoyed all 3 hours of it and was actually holding in HUGE SOBS at the end. After I left the theater, I started thinking maybe there were some problems with the plot, a bit of sentimentality glazing the characterizations (the old folks home in the movie seemed pretty idealized) and that on a subconscious level, the whole last third of the film may have been an apologetic for irresponsible parenting (I won’t give away exactly how this works), but on the whole, it was just incredible viewing. David Fincher is one of the great cinematic geniuses of our time.
6. The Fall…my friend Katherine, whose taste I implicitly trust, recommended this & as I was watching it, I became seriously bummed that this film seemed to fall under the “buzz” radar (it took a few years to even GET a release, but was “presented” this year by none other than David Fincher!), however it does make sense that something as odd as this would miss a big audience (as a film, it’s kind of a blue rose). Roger Ebert put it on his year’s best list and I’ll just point you to his review for further details. The visuals (set design, cinematography, etc.) are simply unparalleled in my mind.

Criminally underrated.

Criminally underrated.

7. Prince Caspian…this is a bit of a surprise to me as well. But I thought this was an excellent piece of fantasy—I found myself lost in the world of the film in a way I had not since the final Lord of the Rings trilogy (certainly not in the first Narnia movie). I’m not a C.S. Lewis purist, so perhaps that helped!
8. Iron Man…you saw it (over 500 million served!)—superb superhero film of a comic that I frankly knew nothing about. Robert Downey is the freaking phoenix.

Films I Wish I Could Have Seen that Might Have Made It On the List, But Which I Will Probably Not See in the Next 3 Days:
Transsiberian, Pineapple Express, Blindness, Slumdog Millionaire (update: saw it, loved it–it would probably fall somewhere between 4-5 on this list), The Brothers Bloom, Revolutionary Road, Synecdoche, New York, Waltz with Bashir, Defiance.

Any additions from your viewing of 2008 films? Anyone else remember the 70’s show “Eight Is Enough”?

Bibleman Begins!

Bibleman Begins!

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9 responses to “Eight (Films) Is Enough”

  1. Victor Orlando says :

    Thanks for the list Greg. I will watch your recommendations. Particularly The Fall; I hadn’t heard about this film.
    About Transsiberian, if you want to watch some pictures of Russia and some of its people, you might like it. The main plot can be watched in approx. 25 minutes. I did, by fast forwarding tons of boring parts. I recommend folks to watch it when they can afford wasting sometime or with a teenage daughter so she learns a lesson.
    I remember “Eight Is Enough”! I was in love with one of the daughters! (I was a kid; don’t expect me to remember her name.)

  2. Mark says :

    I’ve been wanting to see The Fall since Fincher and Jonze announced it… plus it has Ned from Pushing Daisies in it.
    -Also, I liked Insomnia.

  3. Sgt. Grumbles says :

    The thing with Insomnia is that it is a re-make of a 1997 Norwegian film and Nolan’s version is the lesser of the two (see http://www.reelviews.net/movies/i/insomnia2002.html for some points on this). It is hard seeing an American remake of a foreign film as they tend to soften edges and endings (while everyone else was raving about Scorsese’s “The Departed”, I just kept feeling a sense of deja vu and diminishing returns comparing it to the original “Infernal Affairs”–the example Berardinelli points to in “The Vanishing” is the MOST ABSURD example of an American re-make of a foreign ending). TO BOOT, I’m not a huge fan of either Al Pacino or Robin Williams, so there wasn’t much here for me…but of course you’re still welcome to like away!

    I do think Nolan is Midas on every other project he’s touched. Ever seen his first film, “Following”? If not, MOVIE NIGHT at my place!

  4. Sgt. Grumbles says :

    Oh, I just ordered “The Fall” with some Christmas money. MOVIE NIGHT at my place! (If only I could have showed you it on Blu Ray!)

  5. andy barron says :

    i’m just going to add slumdog millionaire to your list for you. it was such a great great movie. i know you said you didn’t have time to see it, but if you’re going to see any of these movies, do that one.

    • Sgt. Grumbles says :

      I’m going to see it tonight Andy.
      THAT is the kind of pull you have. For the man who introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, the Doves and innumerable other band, when you say “Toke” I say, “How high?”.

  6. Pete says :

    Count me in as another Christopher Nolan fan. Like Mark, I also loved Insomnia, but I never saw the original, so I might echo Greg’s sentiment if I had. On it’s own two legs, I thought it was a great flick (though definetely no Memento). As for the Following, I have seen it, and it’s pretty cool. You can see where more money and experience would have contributed to a superior movie, but it sets the groundwork for the genius to come. If you’re having a movie night Greg I’m inviting myself over!

    I have not seen most of the other movies you mentioned, but I do have Wall-E at home, waiting for viewing when I get back from vacation, and I will add Son of Rambow to the netflix que immediately!

    Greg, I love the fact that you know exactly how many movies you saw this year. Your meticulous catalouging and listing is a joy to read. And, while I’m here, thanks a million for the mixed CD. I love the first song and I think I will be buying “In Ear Park” because of it. I’m waiting for the rest of it to grow on me, though Jana digs a lot of it. You the man!

  7. Katherine says :

    The Greg Stump “best of” lists have become part of what I look forward to at the end of every year, so thanks for that. I second the Slumdog kudos and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I also loved Son of Rambow, which I finally got around to seeing about a month ago. I have to admit that it freaked me out just the slightest bit since I grew up in an off-shoot of the Brethren church. I think some mild hyperventilation was involved. The Euro-trash exchange student from France was awesome, though, as was the older brother’s brick-like mobile phone. While I don’t know that I would give it a “best” label, I’d like to give Frost/Nixon a shout-out as a film worth seeing. Hopefully, though, you won’t get stuck with the same Old Lady Obvious that was in my theater, who felt the need to loudly and frequently contribute such gems as “oh, he’s mad now!” and “look, he got him loafers!” Apparently, I am Old Lady Grumpy when it comes to people talking in theaters…perhaps I should resolve to work on that.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Sgt. Grumbles says :

    Katherine–
    First of all, thanks for the encouragement. I hope you saw your shout out on The Fall. Definitely needed to give credit there.

    In terms of the obnoxious talking, I was kind of hoping that the incident in Philadelphia where a man shot a person who was talking loudly during a film would discourage this sort of thing. When I went to see Fellowship of the Ring in the theater, I had a woman next to me translating the dialogue into Indonesian while she was slurping down some spicy noodles. Luckily, I was not armed.

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