January 26, 2009

Best of 2008: Part 1

It's time. I still haven't seen all the 2008 movies I've been waiting for, but soon enough I'm going to be too far into the new year to look back on the last. I saw more than 130 new releases in the theater this year, which could be considered incredibly high or incredibly low, depending on who you ask. So I guess it's a meaningless number, though if I had to guess I'd say it was just a handful above average for me.

So after all the time and money spent watching these movies, and all the time spent writing and reading about them...I might as well spend a little more time and look at them as a whole. I'm not going to link to all of my reviews because it would be an entire page of hyperlinks, and that's just unnecessary with my review index in working order.

The Most Overlooked Performances of 2008

...why these received so little attention is a mystery...

Andrew Garfield, Boy A
Charlie McDermott, Frozen River
Kevin Bacon, Frost/Nixon
Entire cast, Ballast
Gad Elmelah, Priceless
Michael Ealy, Miracle at St. Anna
David Strathairn, My Blueberry Nights
Vera Farmiga, Quid Pro Quo
Franka Potente, Che
Danny McBride, The Foot Fist Way
Sarah Adler, Jellyfish
Patrick Wilson, Lakeview Terrace
Jeff Daniels, Traitor
Nurgül Yesilçay, The Edge of Heaven
Colin Farrell, Cassandra's Dream
Anders Danielsen Lie, Reprise
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky
Samantha Morton, Synecdoche, New York
Dennis Hopper, Elegy
Thandie Newton, W.
Woody Harrelson, Transsiberian
Kristin Scott Thomas, Tell No One
Jean Dujardin, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

The Worst Movie Titles of 2008:

Bangkok Dangerous

Definitely, Maybe
Filth and Wisdom
Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts

Happy-Go-Lucky (why the hyphens?)
The Hottie and the Nottie

How She Move
I've Loved You So Long

Made of Honor
Meet the Spartans

Quantum of Solace
Rachel Getting Married
Run Fatboy Run
Step Up 2: The Streets
Synecdoche, New York

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Wackness
Zack and Miri Make a Porno

The Best Movie Titles of 2008:
The Betrayal
In Bruges
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
Man on Wire
My Brother Is An Only Child
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
Son of Rambow
Standard Operating Procedure
Synecdoche, New York
Taxi to the Dark Side
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

The Most Annoying Movie Characters of 2008:
...you just couldn't wait for them to get off the screen...

Carlos, Transsiberian
Nullah, Australia
Bo Barrett, Bottle Shock
Entire cast, Smart People
Professor Micky Rosa, 21
Abbie Hoffman, Chicago 10
Fiona, Quid Pro Quo
Megan, American Teen
Entire cast, Nobel Son
Kym, Rachel Getting Married
Saul Silver, Pineapple Express
Jack Lira, Milk
King of Ward Three (Gael Garcia Bernal), Blindness
Werner Herzog, Encounters at the End of the World

The Most Pleasant Surprises of 2008:
...what I thought on the way out was a lot better than on the way in...

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
The Grocer's Son
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Kung Fu Panda
Let the Right One In
My Blueberry Nights
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
The Pool
Slumdog Millionaire
Tropic Thunder

The Most Disappointing Movies of 2008:
...what I thought on the way in was a lot better than on the way out...

Be Kind Rewind
Body of Lies
Gonzo: The Life and Times of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Pineapple Express
Quantum of Solace
The Reader
Seven Pounds
Stranded: I've Come From a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

Favorite Places Traveled in 2008:
...few people appreciate their cinematic journeys like I do, and my passport got stamped this year...

Mumbai, Slumdog Millionaire
Romania, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
São Paulo, Blindness and The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
Greece, Mamma Mia!
Lower Manhattan, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Outer space, WALL*E
Yangtze River banks, Up the Yangtze
Monaco, Priceless
Northern Mexico, Silent Light
Oslo, Reprise
Cuba, Che
Iceland, Jar City
Hawaii, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Provence, France, The Grocer's Son
Bruges, Belgium, In Bruges
Rio de Janeiro, City of Men
Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World
Nepal, Blindsight
Mississippi Delta, Ballast

...to be continued...


  1. Man, Daniel, you're the blogger I wish I was. Love this post. There are way too many movies I haven't seen to even try to do this. With Sundance taking up every spare second of my last two weeks, I still haven't seen 90% of the Oscar nominated films.

    I still want to see Frozen River, St. Anna, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog, THE WRESTLER, The Wackness, Synecdoche, New York, and a hundred others. I saw Doubt though. I should get some credit for that.

    Sorry to hear Defiance and Be Kind Rewind disappointed (at least compared to your expectations). I need to see the first one but love the latter. It took a couple of viewings to really love it though.

  2. Well, you beat me to it. Or I procrastinated longer. Or something like that.

    Either way, this was a fun post. Assorted thoughts:

    * You know I'm with you on Marsan, as previously discussed. He was probably the biggest snub, imo.

    * I haven't read much of anything about Che yet, so I'm thrilled to see my girl Franka is in it. :D

    * Happy-go-lucky - Learn it. Know it. Love it.

    * I like how Synecdoche made both title lists. I completely agree (and it's kind of apt considering the film, too).

    * How can you hate Nullah? He's my perfect little Oz-singing boy and I'm going to adopt him!!!!! Sorry - I was channeling Kidman there.

    * I'd like to add Ben Button to the Disappointing list.

    * 130 movies AND you have a social life. Flabbergasting. Puts my 80 movies to shame...though I do have 5 pets...

    * Looking forward to part 2.

  3. Again, you and your awesome ideas :) Awesome post Danny, I too cannot wait for part 2.

  4. Nice post!!! Looking forward to Part 2, and hoping there will be a Part 3 and a Part 4 as well. :)

  5. Hey Daniel-

    Yay! Lots of good stuff here, but let me start with the first category of overlooked performances...

    Totally agree with you on Gad Elmelah (great pick of a movie that kinda went forgotten in the year-end hoopla), David Strathairn, Danny McBride, Eddie Marsan, and ESPECIALLY Colin Farrell.

    I want to buy The Foot Fist Way simply so I can watch McBride whenever I want. That movie made me laugh the first time I saw it, but the second time it had me dying. The movie IS his performance. And guess what? It's actually a sweet film too!

    Your Thandie Newton pick is interesting. I can't argue with you on it b/c we just disagree, but her perfromance kept making me laugh. Maybe it was supposed too??

    now off to read more of the list!...

  6. Oh, and this is superficial, but Sarah Adler is absolutely gorgeous. It's only a matter of time before Hollywood grabs that lovely face.

  7. Glad people enjoy this trip back in time. For all the complaints about movies in 2008, I guess I found a lot to like.

    Gringo, a.) You went to Sundance.; b.) You went to Sundance.; c.) There's plenty of time to catch up on the Oscar nominees. I would recommend all of the ones you mention for different reasons, but there's just no way we can all see everything, unfortunately. I think Be Kind Rewind just wasn't Gondryish enough for me, save for a couple of scenes. I felt like it skated the line between bland Jack Black vehicle and typically trippy Gondry movie, and didn't do either well enough. But I'd probably watch it if it came on TV.

    Fletch, if it wasn't for you I'd still be calling Marsan that other mistaken name! And I stand fully corrected about happy-go-lucky. Apparently it's a phrase I just don't see written enough, but I accept the correction. And Ben Button, well either your expectations were higher than mine or my viewing reaction was higher than yours - probably both, though I'll admit I think it could have been a better movie in a couple ways.

    Nick and Shubhajit, I hope to get all the way to Part 5 by the end of the week, but it might be kind of crammed!

    Fox - wow! Love for Farrell in Cassandra's Dream? Yay-yuhhhh! Thought I was the only one. Had I not seen him in In Bruges two weeks later, I would have considered it far and away his best performance ever.

    And if you look up my review of Foot Fist, well...you'll see that I didn't actually find too much to like about it based on the one viewing. But after seeing McBride later in the summer in PE and TT, I've started to think I'm probably really wrong about FF. There were some great scenes, I do remember.

    I figured Thandie could be a questionable choice, but I loved it. Everybody complained about W. not being a silly enough movie, and then they turned around and complained that Newton was playing Condi like too much of a silly caricature. So which is it?

    And Sarah Adler, well I haven't seen her in anything else but her face is definitely memorable. What a weird movie Jellyfish was. I still hardly understand it.

  8. Holy hell...

    This is exceptionally COMPREHENSIVER. I'm very impressed, Danny.

    I just have acting awards left to distribute over at the ol plantation.

    But this is awesomely wild.

    Just a few brief things and then I'll slide on over into Part II...


    Yeah, RIGHT.ON.THE.MONEY. That goes double for the actor who plays her. Nothing like blatantly undeserving OSCAR nominations. But they happen all the time...



    TOTALLY. Even though I did end up seeing QOS 3 times. But that's another story...



    Mr. Strathairn made my long list.

    KST did twice - for her lead role in I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG and her supporting turn in THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. But she was outstanding in TNO as well.

    Fluent French and she got to play a mischievous, laid back - albeit VERY glamourous - character instead of those haughty cool as ice types that they always stick her with.




    Wonderful, astute choices, honey.

  9. Hah.

    That should be COMPREHENSIVE.


  10. Why thank you. For as much as we disagreed on movies here and there throughout the year, we sure saw eye to eye on a lot of these.

    I remember seeing Rachel Weisz on your list, but her picture must have distracted me from Strathairn (gosh, could that guys name be any harder to spell?). How My Blueberry Nights escaped with so little notice this year is a mystery. On star power alone it had a lot going for it. I guess WKW purists set the critical tone? I don't know.

  11. Danny, I strongly suspect the WKW purists had a lot to do with it.

    But elitists don't impress me.

    F em if they can't take a joke. That's what I always say.

    Life is supposed to be enjoyable, after all. Can't be incredibly serious and complicated ALL THE TIME.

  12. "Life is supposed to be enjoyable, after all. Can't be incredibly serious and complicated ALL THE TIME."

    That's the best reminder of the week...

  13. Daniel, nicely done. This is WAY more interesting than Top 10 list.

    I think my favorite part is the places you traveled. It highlights one of the wonderful things about movies: taking us places we've never been, geographically and mentally.

  14. Thanks, Craig. Though there's nothing wrong with regular Top 10 Lists, since mine is on the way!

    And I can't say anything better than you just did about the traveling, so I won't.

  15. Nullah? Really? He was the best part of that movie?

    I agree about Kym. If you hated her, then Hathaway succeeded in her wonderful, delicately shaded performance. A well deserved Oscar nomination there.

  16. Thanks, Matt. Indeed it's true - Hathaway succeeded in annoying me quite well. I haven't said her nomination is unwarranted, but I've privately expressed surprise that her dramatic chops have come as such a surprise to all the people who saw Brokeback Mountain.

    And Nullah...cute kid, annoying character. And that he's shown up in a terrible travel advertisement for Australia has only soured the good memories I had of him.


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