Top 10 films of 2008

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As we counted down to the New Year I decided to reflect on what I’d acheived in 2008… Very little. I’d found myself a job, got out of debt and bought myself a ‘fuck-off’ home cinema system. Other than this I did watch a lot of films, which is why I decided to be proactive and start this film review blog for each new release that I see in 2009.

What better way to start the blog than my list of ‘Top 10 films of 2008’? I will try to keep each review succinct and please be aware that there are many films from 2008 that I was unable to see. Nonetheless I am proud of my list and will be happy to hear your thoughts on it.

10. Gone Baby Gone

Ben Affleck’s directorial debut shows that he belongs behind the camera rather than in front of it. He provides an intriguing perspective of morality which will leave you split as to which characters are the good guys. Affleck paints a picture of Boston in which, aside from our heroes, all of the inhabitants are the bearers of some gross deformity or disability; it takes some getting used to and distracted me from the plot. Ed Harris provides an excellent performance as the cop Remy Bressant whilst noone else from the cast really stands out. The film is not perfect but it was enough to raise eyebrows and is, in my opinion, a stellar debut for Affleck.

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9. Lars and the Real Girl

One of the underated films of 2008, Lars and the Real Girl is a sweet and engaging coming of age story of a chronically shy man in a small American town. I think that this film was misunderstood by many with Empire stating that it was “a shame that there wasnt a sex scene with Lars and the doll.” Yeah, they really missed the point. It runs along at an enjoyable rate with stellar performances from the cast and a solid and humourous script. While there is nothing spectacular about Lars and the Real Girl, it has a lot of heart and its originality makes it worthy of the 9 spot.

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8. Of Time and the City

Terence Davies’ love song and eulogy to the city of Liverpool. Putting aside the incredible accomplishment to get the funding for this, I really must give credit to Davies for creating something truly unique. IMDb class this film as a documentary, which is really the closest category that fits it; but it is so much more. Davies’ rasping voice is played over shots of Liverpool ranging from the 40’s to the modern day and truly captures the essence of Liverpool… I think. To be honest, I have never been to Liverpool and was born in the late 80’s and felt that I was missing something; most probably the experience of living in Liverpool in the 40’s. Although I feel that this film is perfect for someone that matches the above description, it is an educator for those who do not. I challenge you to watch this movie and not be moved by it.

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7. The Boss of it All

Run down actor plays a Danish companies CEO in order to help the business get sold to a cranky Icelander. We have the director – Lars von Trier leading us through the plot with the occasional voice-over and the ending says “fuck you” to conventional cinema. Oh, and the camera angles were selected by a computer. Its a fun film, trust me.

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6. Hunger

Is the story of a group of Irish prisoners who, led by Bobby Sands, participated in a hunger strike and a no wash protest. The heavy subject material was handled professionally by Steve McQueen. He never lets us know of the crimes that these men have commited (we see a man sentenced to 4 years, so they must have been serious), we only see the conditions that they are living in. The prisoners bodies are the last resort for protesting and they use everything theyve got – think shit on the walls and you’re getting there. McQueen uses creative cinematography – a 15 minute conversation between Bobby and a preist is taken in one shot; although the film see-saws between masterful and ridiculous during this shot. There are other interesting shots and one very unusual one which looks totally out of place and throws you right out of the film. Overall a good job by McQueen working with volatile subject material.

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5. The Bands Visit

The term “Less is more” has never been more relevant than when observing this little known masterpiece. A truly unforgetable performance by Sasson Gabai as Lietenant-colonel Tawfiq Zacharya, that, despite only having about 4 lines, should have nailed him an oscar. If there is one film that I will urge you to watch from 2008 – it is this one.

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4. Man On Wire

James Marsh’s documentary about Phillipe Petit and his crew plotting and carrying out the artistic crime of the century is the Heist movie of 2008. Petit explodes with as much energy and dynamism as is possible in front of a camera and the reconstructed scenes of them carrying out the crime will have you on the edge of your seat, yearning for the team to succeed. Marsh has done an incredible job with an incredible story and cast.

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3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This film follows Mathieu Amalric (better known as the villain in the latest Bond movie) as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a charismatic French fashion magazine editor, who suffers a massive stroke which paralyzes all but his eyes. With the help of a nurse he painstakingly communicates as she reels off the alphabet and waits for him to blink.

The instant that you see the POV shot of  Jean-Do waking in his hospital bed, as the eyelid flutters and various unusual colours and shapes form on the lens, you know these guys have done their homework and are making sure that this, mostly POV, movie will get the cinematography it deserves. The film concerns the stages of Jean-Do coming to terms with his disability and his relationships with the staff and his family. The first sentence that he gets the nurse to spell out is “I want death” (or something along those lines) but comes to accept it and eventually writes a book with the help of an assistant. Amalric plays the part brilliantly with a lot of voice-overs as he reacts to certain events, such as an electrician taking the piss out him, in ways that you would not expect, whilst the other characters assume what he is thinking. To help us understand his character further we get flashbacks and eventually see the the accident, which is worryingly natural and sudden. The children that play Jean-Do’s son and daughter give a great performance – the look on the sons face when he sees the state that his father is in is heartbreaking. An emotional and triumphant film that shows us the ressiliance of man and also his vunerability.

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2. No Country For Old Men

For those who havent seen this film the plot is split into two halves, each running along side each other and interacting with each other, whilst still being seperate. One half is concerned with what the title suggests and also with other matters such as greed. Two sherrifs share a conversation in which they question the younger generation.

“Its all god damn money, Ed Tom; money and the drugs. Its just god damn beyond everything. What’s it mean? What’s it leadin’ to? If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d see children walking the streets of our Texas towns with green hair… and bones in their noses… I just flat out would’nt of believed ya.”

They attempt to answer it.

“I think once you quit hearing sir and ma’am; the rest is soon to foller”

“Oh its the tide. Its the dismal tide.”

This conversation epitomises this half of the film for me, considering the change that the older men cannot keep up with. There are many other fabulous conversations throughout this half of the film as the script is generally dynamite.

The other half of the film is the more action packed, as our old sheriff Ed Tom Bell is always one step behind the other two main characters: Anton Chigurh and Llewelyn Moss. I won’t spoil the film but the highlights are a man vs dog swimming race and an explosive shotgun dual scene, in which there is no victor. Stellar performances all round – we expect no less.

The Coens do their thing, with a twist late in the film; this time the majority were not in favour of it, with most either not getting it or saying “it’s rubbish”. It’s not.

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1. There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis steals the show in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic drama based on the book ‘Oil’. His mesmorising performance as Daniel Plainview, which was a no-brainer for the Best Actor Academy Award, almost distracts from PTA’s brilliant screenplay and direction. Stylised, breathtaking shots including Plainview falling down a well and huge fireballs from the oil rig. The score is incredible, as always with PTA, and the supporting actors, despite having the task of stepping up with/against DDL, give stand-up performances. Although my words do not do this film justice it truly is a must watch; will withstand the test of time and will go down as one of the greatest films of all time.

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I hope you have enjoyed my first post and continue to tune in. Also I trust you will note that I cannot spell; my punctuation sucks and I have no idea/experience with writing film reviews. Bear with.

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4 Responses to “Top 10 films of 2008”

  1. Lloyd Says:

    WordPress is darn useful, but also try ‘Drupal’ for a content Management System, much more expandable. bikechannel.com uses drupal.

  2. Luke Says:

    Good start Guy, I like the short reviews but the post could do with a few pictures.. and write more for The Diving Bell!!!! Its the one I was most looking forward to reading your review of.

  3. Snizzle left in Brizzle Says:

    i thought the score in TWBB was irratating. plus i think its so different to normal orchastrated work you should mention it! other than that… nice start. oh, and be more guy and less totalfilm!

  4. flo Says:

    i enjoyed everything you wrote – and pretty much agree with your top 2008 films! woop woop

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