Ryan's Favorite Movies of 2008
1. Mickey Rourke should win the Oscar for "The Wrestler," an incredibly emotional film with an ending that punches you in the gut. Although it easily could have succumbed to cliche, it doesn't, which is a minor miracle. The story of a washed-up wrestler, no one could have (or should have) played him other than Rourke. Evan Rachel Wood stands out in 3 scenes as Rourke's daughter. It's not a happy movie, but man is it a good one. So good in fact, that it's the best of the year.
2. A flick I'd barely heard of when it was released, "Slumdog Millionaire" was funny, suspenseful, somber, beautiful, and resonated with me more than anything else this year. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are excellent, the script is top-notch, and the direction is stunning. Originally to be direct to DVD, thankfully it wasn't, and now it's taking the world by storm. An incredible achievement.
3. Not just another comic-book movie, "The Dark Knight" was exceptional in all areas. You want great performances? Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and above all Heath Ledger will provide that. Giant explosions? Check. A layered, intelligent script? Absolutely. It has more in common with say, "Heat" or "The Godfather" than "The Incredible Hulk" or "Superman." The film that action movies will be judged by for the next 20 years.
4. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." An old-fashioned, technically astounding love story, the normally violent director David Fincher is surprisingly restrained here. Although he normally does more violent fare such as "Fight Club," he emulates say, David Lean here. The special effects, makeup, and Pitt's excellent performance come together seamlessly for an unforgettable movie.
5. When animation, science-fiction, romance, comedy, and an adorable title character come together seamlessly, you know you have a special movie. But "Wall-E" is Pixar's best movie, a huge feat considering they're the best, most consistent studio today. A young robot falling in love with a search probe is risky, original, and in the movie undoubtedly touching. Oh, and after the 20th time you see it, it still doesn't get old.
6. It's hard for a movie to inspire awe. For a documentary, it's almost impossible. But "Man on Wire," the story of Philipe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, does it at the drop of a hat. It maintains the suspense of a heist movie but entertains and enthralls, a huge feat for a documentary.
7. "Rachel Getting Married" has a great cast, an awesome script, and somehow pulls an Oscar-caliber performance out of Anne Hathaway, as a recovering addict going to her sister's wedding, and the fascinating results.
8. My No. 8 pick is actually two movies. 2008 was an awesome year for comedies, and I just couldn't leave these off. "Burn After Reading" and "Tropic Thunder" are radically different in content and pacing but have one thing in common: they are hilariously funny.
9. The script for "Doubt" needed work, but then again it has four of the best performances of 2008. Meryl Streep is fantastic, I forgive her for "Mamma Mia." Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent, both likable and shady enough to keep us on the edge until the end, which makes you question everything you've just seen. The breakout star is Viola Davis, who is devastating in 7 minutes as a mother whose boy may have been molested by a priest.
10. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" doesn't sound like a Woody Allen movie. Set in Barcelona, a deep meditation on love with beautiful locations and cinematography. However, the witty script and fantastic ensemble cast bring together Allen's best film since Manhattan. For the Oscar race watch out for Penelope Cruz as the main's protaganist's suicidal, crazy ex-wife.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Kung Fu Panda