The Best Films of 2008: Part One -- Really Good Movies

Last year was rough for cinema. Sure, every film I saw was GOOD -- this is when I'm thankful I'm not a film critic, and therefore was never subjected to Meet the Spartans, Made of Honor, or Disaster Movie -- but, unlike last year, there were few that stood out as GREAT.

So this time, I'm dividing my "Best Of" list into two parts: Really Good Movies and Great Films.

(Because otherwise this post would be short and drain me of something I really enjoy doing -- droning endlessly about film. I'm a Cinema Geek. I can't help it.)

And a side note before I begin: I've heard fab things from multiple trustworthies about The Fall, RocknRolla, Doubt, WALL-E, and In Bruges. I hope to see these soon, but that's why they aren't on my lists!

Really Good Movies

Presented to you in alphabetical order. Because I am a librarian.

The Bank Job: My husband loves heist movies, and this overlooked film (How long was it in the theater, one week? Two?) was excellent. Smart, stylish . . . and a true story, too.

Be Kind Rewind: A quiet, cheerful celebration of cinema. Mos Def was great, and I always enjoy the wondrous, handmade sets and props built by director Michel Gondry.

The Duchess: Was this the ONLY costume drama this year? Hollywood, you're killing me. Anyway. A lovely, powerful film that made me thankful to be a woman living in this century. Stellar acting by Ralph Fiennes (as always) and Keira Knightley (she was the first to move me to tears this year). Plus, ya know, fabulous, drool-worthy costumes.

Ghost Town: Calling all Ricky Gervais fans! Did you know he was in a movie this year? Sadly, most people didn't. This was a funny, romantic film with an old-fashioned, Frank Capra feel.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Another good one not many people heard about. A British film about an optimistic teacher, played the bubbly-but-not-too-bubbly Sally Hawkins (known to Austen fans as Anne from the new Persuasion). Colorful plastic jewelry, a sweet romance, and a fantastic performance by Eddie Marsan as an absolutely mad driving instructor.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Does Guillermo del Toro have class or what? His films are gorgeous. My only concern is that they're starting to blend. His style is so distinctive -- the skinny monsters with webby hands, the golden scrollwork, the little ticking Cronos devices -- that I worry I might grow weary if he doesn't shake things up soon. But for now . . . love him.

Pineapple Express: Okay. I'll admit it. James Franco's stoner performance was my VERY favorite this year. I was shocked and thrilled when he got the Golden Globe nomination! Until this movie, I thought he was just the guy from Spider-man who overacted every time he played a scene against Tobey Maguire. Anyway, despite the fact that I'm not (nor have I ever been) a stoner, Pineapple -- and especially Franco -- made me laugh. Hard. Often.

Synecdoche, New York: This was soooo close to making my Great Films list. It's brilliant, but in the end it's missing one little thing to keep it from completely working (and I'd have to see it again to pinpoint exactly WHAT). Fantastic script and definitely worth seeing if you're up for a challenge.

Tropic Thunder: Worth the admission price for the "trailers" alone. Thank you, Jack Black, for giving Eddie Murphy such a deserving bitch-slap. Plus, ya know, Robert Downey Jr. He's so talented the mind BOGGLES.

Honorable Mention: The Dark Knight. Yes. It's very entertaining. And I don't want to step on anyone's toes here, because so many people are passionate about it, but the ultimate issue I had -- what's keeping it off my lists -- is best explained by local Film Critic Extraordinaire, Ken Hanke, in this article: “Heath Ledger’s Joker is so much more alive than the rest of the movie that the movie just kind of lies there and dies there whenever he’s offscreen.”


But do I hope Heath gets the Oscar. Very very deserved.


There are six, can you guess what they are? (Psst, I'll give you a hint. Twilight isn't one of them! It was super-fun, but you know, not great cinema.)


  1. well, I haven't seen them all, but the only one I have to disagree on is Tropic Thunder. My greatest mystification of the year is: why does everyone like that movie??? I did like the trailers at the beginning, but it was downhill from there!

    And I never got to see The Duchess, but I will cajole Jim into putting it on the queue. I know he'll be *thrilled* :-)

    Kind of a suck year for movies, all in all. Oh, my mom took my 13-year-old niece to see Twilight last night, and at the end, Izzy turned to her and said breathlessly, "Nonna, that was the best movie ever." Now she's madly in love with Robert Whatsisname, and has begun the book. A new fan is born!

    le sigh....

    But I did see Twilight. It made me laugh and laugh.

    Is one of the great films Slumdog Millionaire? I saw it on Christmas. It fills me with love.

  3. Yes! Slumdog is DEFINITELY on my list. I'm so glad you liked it!