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Top Ten Films of 2008 18 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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Well it’s that time of year again, the awards season is in full swing and today I’ve decided to let you all in on the pick of the best films I saw released in 2008. There are a few guilty pleasures on there but overall I think it’s a pretty respectable list!

10. Cloverfield
A guilty pleasure this one. The film was over-hyped no ends but in my opinion actually managed to deliver on its promise. The hand held style is used brilliantly here again, as in [Rec.], and at a pretty lean hour and a quarter the film rarely lets up once the action gets going. The opening ‘getting to know the characters’ scenes are a little bit dull but necessary while the trick of holding off the reveal of the monster works brilliantly and surprisingly what they managed to come up with didn’t disappoint. The best scene is a tense and claustrophobic journey down an abandoned subway but the film has so many stand out moments it’s hard to pick one. Plus points must also go to the film for not revealing all the secrets about the creatures origins ([Rec.] I’m looking at you).

9. Changeling
The most recent release on this list and mentioned briefly in most second round up of reviews. It didn’t last long in the top ten and it looks unlikely now that Jolie is going to get that Oscar if Kate Winslet’s double Golden Globe win is any indication but the film is still remarkable and tells a tall you would refuse to believe if you didn’t know it to be based on real events.

8. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
This Romanian abortion drama certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it is an undeniably tense and powerful piece of cinema. Following two students as they embark on a clandestine abortion in a country where the act is illegal. The film shows the details of the entire day in almost monotonous detail in the first half but when the deed has been done so to speak and Otilia is forced to leave her friend Gabita while she waits for the foetus to literally fall out of her every footstep away from that hotel room feels like agony for the viewer. Not an easy watch but well worth the effort.

7. Gone Baby Gone
Who’d have though Ben Affleck would finally find his calling in film? The actor with the most annoying smile in Hollywood finally found his place behind the camera with this tense and intelligent thriller based on a novel from the author of Mystic River. Little Brother Casey goes from strength to strength after his marvellous performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the rest of the cast offer suitable support (though Morgan Freeman is a little wasted). The plot is remarkable and asks some pretty tough moral questions but the biggest surprise of all is that Affleck managed to keep it all under control so well, I find myself in the odd position of actually looking forward to the next Ben Affleck picture.

6. [Rec.]
Spanish horror film shot Blair Witch style following a TV news reporter as she spends the night following a team of fire fighters as they are called to an apartment building which it turns out is overrun with infected kill crazy residents. One of the few truly scary films I have seen in a very long time. It uses the handheld technique in a much better way than George A. Romero’s disappointing Diary of the Dead and has another ending to die for. Very creepy and unexpected it’s just a shame they feel a need to shoe horn in an explanation for it all in the final five minutes. I haven’t seen the US re-make Quarantine yet but my hopes are not high.

5. There Will Be Blood
I almost forgot Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece was released in 2008, it seems like so long ago doesn’t it? Day Lewis’ performance is a tour-de-force in a career of tour-de-force’s a frighteningly authentic portrayal of a truly despicable man and up there with Anton Chigurh and The Joker as the best villains of the year. The film defies any straight forward narrative structure, the soundtrack was easily the best of the year (but was criminally robbed of an Oscar, being ineligible because certain elements of it weren’t entirely original) and the ending is so bizarre and brilliant it completely reshapes your view on everything before it.

4. Hunger
I already reviewed Hunger upon its theatrical release earlier in the year and needless to say I still have an extremely high opinion of Steve McQueen’s directorial debut. My overriding memory of the film is of Sands’ horrific deterioration after committing to his hunger strike and the wonderful 10 minute plus dialogue scene between Sands and a priest. Still not sure if I’ll ever have the stomach to watch it again though (sorry, horrible pun!)

3. Wall-E
Are Pixar ever going to put a foot wrong? Every time a new Pixar production comes out I expect it to be the one where they finally slip up but with Wall-E I think Pixar have managed to create their best film since Toy Story 2. Wall-E himself is one of the best realised CGI characters of all time despite the fact he doesn’t utter a single word for the duration. The relationship between Wall-E and EVE (particularly in the first half) is heart warming and entirely believable. While the film does go a little down hill once the action moves into space (a little too much kid friendly slapstick for my liking) the film as a whole is so remarkable its hard to fault this logical progression in narrative.

2. The Mist
Criminally ignored by most The Mist is the best US horror film in an age and has one of the greatest endings in cinema history. Tom Jane and the inhabitants of a mid-western town hole up in a supermarket as a mysterious mist descends around them. It’s revealed pretty early on that there’s something not of this world residing in the mist but the real horror comes from the religious extremists in the store, getting stronger and stronger as their situation gets bleaker and bleaker. The creature attacks when they do come are genuinely horrific, the creatures themselves are brilliantly designed and that ending, absolutely unforgettable. Seeing this late one night in Manchester with just a group of lads in the row behind me just as responsive to the film as I was was probably the best cinema going experience of my life.

1. The Dark Knight
With Batman Begins Christopher Nolan created the first comic book movie I ever thought was more intelligent than I was. While on reflection I don’t think this sequel is quite as good as the near flawless original Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance means this film will have a permanent place in film history (along with the fact it is currently the second highest grossing film of all time). I can’t remember the last time I got so excited about the release of a film (Episode 3 probably), and for my money it was one of only two good trailers this year (along with Max Payne thanks to its brilliant Marilyn Manson song). I do have some niggles with the film mainly the throwaway inclusion of the scarecrow at the beginning, the slightly dodgy two-face CGI and the ridiculous mobile phone/radar technology but these are easy to overlook in a film of such undeniably high quality.

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