The Best Films of 2008: Part Two -- Great Films

Sheesh. I shoulda posted this days ago.

In my defense, I'm an excellent procrastinator. Like, a black belt. And I'd TOTALLY take pictures of the belt to prove it to you, if only I had the energy to put it on.

But, I swear, I've been really busy!

For instance -- instead of working on the NEW NOVEL -- I've been watching season one of The Tudors (costumes to die for), the last episodes of True Blood (How wicked-great is that snuff film intro?), and re-reading Forever Princess. (Thank you, Lexi, for the heads up that it was released early! I got it last weekend and inhaled it in one giddy, glorious sitting. And then cried when it was over. But in a good way.)

See? See how busy I am? I mean, these are all Very Important Things.

Because someday my dream of being a contestant on a pop culture trivia game show might come true, and the hundred-thousand dollar question will be something like, "On HBO'S True Blood, what is the name of the restaurant that Sookie Stackhouse works at?"

And I'll be so thankful when I know the answer.

Anyway, I'll post more about the NEW NOVEL -- and the avoidance of the NEW NOVEL -- later. Because right now, it's time to present last year's . . .


In 2008, there were six films that stood above the others. Six films that I'd happily watch again. Six films that made me feel wow.

#6: Iron Man

Me thinks it's a shame how since The Dark Knight, so many people have forgotten how AWESOME Iron Man is. It's more solid as a whole than Knight -- it doesn't fall apart when you pick at the plot -- and it was by far and away my favorite comics movie of the year.

This, by the way, came as a Big Fat Surprise. I'd heard good things, of course, but I just kept picturing some over-the-top blow-em-up robot thing (my comics knowledge is above average but sadly waaaaaay below true nerd status).

And then I saw it and realized what a gross misunderstanding that was.

Because Iron Man ROCKS. It's intelligent and funny -- but not in the cheesy way so many comics adaptations fall prey to -- and enormously well-acted. I'd spend the next few paragraphs raving about Robert Downey Jr., but it's not necessary. EVERYONE knows how amazing he is now.

Plus . . . the love story. You had to know this was coming, right? I mean, this is me, and I require love stories like drag queens require glittery eyelashes. And compared to the dooooomed love of every other comics movie this year (and last year's Spider-Man 3, which I'm still mad about), how cute were Tony Stark and Pepper Potts?

SO cute.

#5: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

This was my most recent addition to the list. All year long, Miss Pettigrew hovered on the good/great edge, but what finally tipped it into the winning balance was this: I couldn't stop thinking about it. Nearly a year later, and it STILL made me smile. So a few weeks ago, I watched it again to see how it held up. The result?

Just as great.

It's certainly one of the year's most overlooked films. What could have been a generic romantic comedy was elevated to something much more, thanks to the clever script (with depth) and the fantastic cast (Amy Adams! Frances McDormand! Shirley Henderson! And . . . well, I'll get to him).

I really love this movie, and its old-fashioned sensibility. And it's beautiful. The costumes, the setting, the cinematography -- any ONE of these would make it worth viewing.

And . . . yes. This was my introduction to Lee Pace. Who is so dream dream dreamy that every time he appeared on screen, my friend and I held our armrests just a little tighter. Who is so dream dream dreamy, I am breaking my own rule of One-Picture-Per-Movie to post this:

Happy sigh. The chemistry between him and Amy Adams (so cute! love her!) was the best all year.

#4: Let the Right One In

Twilight may have been fun, but Let the Right One In was the year's BEST vampire movie. Actually, I can't recall a better one.


This Swedish film is chilling and gorgeous and perfect. It's a deliciously creepy, well-paced horror story that works on subtlety rather than gore or torture-porn. In the true vampire tradition, it's about loneliness and isolation, and the overall tone is icy. (Everyone I know leaves the theater feeling COLD.)

The cinematography is stunning. Not only is every camera shot worthy of being a still, it does one of my favorite things -- it sticks to a color palate. Everything is white and ice blue and chocolate brown and orange.

It kinda made me want to knit a hat.

(But that could have been just because of the COLD!)

#3: Milk

Milk was last year's most important film.

Now, usually this title carries with it a sense of weariness. Important Films often equal Boring, right? But Jarrod and I were curious, and since we're both passionate supporters of gay rights, we wanted to see it in the theater.

Boy, am I glad we did.

Milk is NOT boring. Not by a long shot. In fact, I don't remember being so riveted all year. The pacing is perfect, the blending of new film and original footage is seamless, and the message -- yes, it isn't shy about its message -- is the kind that makes you want to jump to your feet and cheer at the top of your lungs.

And the acting? Yeah, just when I was wondering if Sean Penn wasn't a weensy bit overrated. Snort.

He was phenomenal. It wasn't Sean Penn onscreen. Really. I believed he was Harvey Milk. He was completely transformed, and if there's any justice in the world, that Best Actor Academy Award is HIS.

And it wasn't just Penn. James Franco! Emile Hirsch! Diego Luna! Josh Brolin! Everyone was mesmerizing.

But the MOST amazing thing was how despite the inevitable sad ending, I left the film with an incredible sense of hope. It's impossible not to see the connection between the Milk-era Prop 6 and the current Prop 8 (indeed, the film definitely wants you to see the connection), and it left me knowing that despite its passing last November, it has NO LONG-TERM CHANCE of remaining.


And thank goodness for that.

#2: Priceless

Another fantastic overlooked film. Audrey Tautou -- love her! -- plays a very bad girl in this French throwback to 1930s romantic comedies. Compared to most modern romances, this one positively seethes with cynicism, but oddly enough, it's this breath of fresh air that makes it actually MORE romantic than a Hollywood production.

Go figure.

If you haven't heard of it, it's (basically) about a gold digger and the man who falls for her. But the script has so many twists and turns -- there were several places where it COULD have taken a traditional route and instead shot off in the completely opposite direction -- that I don't want to spoil them for you here.

Plus, it's funny. Really funny.

And romantic.

And just generally excellent the whole way through.

#1: Slumdog Millionaire

Of course this was my top choice! I've raved about Danny Boyle (aka, Director Supreme of My Universe, my all-time number one most favoritest A++ director everrrrr) enough here that you all saw this coming. And this marks the second year in a row he's topped my favorite films list.

He's pretty awesome, no?

If you haven't seen Slumdog yet, PLEASE run to your closest indie theater and bask in its glory. It's the kind of film that has everything -- drama, humor, action, romance -- and it's all backed by an incredible energy. It's a MOVIE, for goodness sake, the kind of movie that LOVES being a movie and tap dances its way all the way through to the credits.

(Actually, it literally dances through the credits. And when it arrives there, you'll be dancing too. When I saw this at the Asheville Film Festival last November, the audience gave it not one but two thunderous rounds of applause.)

And it could have been such a depressing film. I mean, the slums of India trigger all kinds of alarms. But Boyle balances the bad with the good, the hopeless with the hopeful, and comes out gloriously on top of cinema. The soundtrack throbs and the screen pulses and my heart raced.

I LOVE this movie.

I LOVE Danny Boyle.

And I can't WAIT to see what he does next.


  1. I haven't seen Milk or Priceless but I agree on all the rest. I'd forgotten about Miss Pettigrew! The one I would add to this list is, of course, The Fall. When are you going to see that? Or have you, and just didn't love it? I feel like you will love it. But. . . it's possible you won't. No, it's not possible. Never mind.

    On what Danny Boyle will do next, so curious. This is funny:
    Will he still do Irving Welsh's "Trainspotting" sequel "Porno"? "Just waiting for the original actors to age. Help them if you can. Take them out drinking – get them away from the spas and those moisturisers."


  2. Some great reviews! I've now got Miss Pettigrew and Priceless on my to see list.

    I loved Iron Man too. It wasn't at all what I expected. I thought it would be cheesy and hokey, but it was so not. RDJ continually amazes me with his acting depth.