The Best Films of 2008 – Michael Polizzi

Written by Mike Lyon on January 18th, 2009

1. The Dark Knight: (Nolan)

2. Synecdoche, NY: (Kaufman) Shall I project a world? An uneven film from first time director Charlie Kaufman about creation, solipsism and empathy. Arbitrary bruises along with green poo and brown pee pee make this one of the few movies to really grab the strangeness of personal suffering. Arbitrary time signatures do the same with the loss of youth and its effect on love and obsession.

3. Mister Lonely: (Korine) I keep placing movies that premiered in 2007, but I promise I watched them in the theater in 2008. Where to start? Flying nuns doing BMX tricks or a man living as Abe LIncoln reciting the Gettysburg Address while spinning a basketball on his finger? Talking egg portraits or Buckwheat’s soliloquy about wanting a chicken with human breasts? Samantha Morton and Diego Luna both manage to deliver their lines without an ounce of agency. They talk around each other– the effect is really made my skin crawl.

4. I Served the King of England: (Jiri Menzel) Again this one came out in Czech Republic in 2007, NYC 2008. Ivan Barnev as Jan Díte made this movie. Terrific charisma and physical comedy. Worth it just to watch the Czech spa transform into a Nazi fertility clinic then into a hospital for amputees.

5. Be Kind, Rewind: (Gondry) The trailer for this had me cringing– yuck, yuck Jack Black is Robocop, yuck– but the trailer left out the strange heartfelt elegy to Paterson, NJ and Danny Glover’s franchise stalking. Mos Def and Jack Black have fantastic chemistry as life long buds. Again magnetic wee-wee= A+.

6. Water Lilies: (Seline Sciama) Technically this came out in Belgium in 2007 but I live in the US of A where girls magically move from pre-pubescent imps to ramped up sex vixens without all of the excruciating detail of having to watch themselves develop. I know, I’m a perv for even watching this movie, but cheers for having the courage and steady hand to tell the story of a girl who may or may not be a lesbian in love with synchronized swimming without leaving out all of the terrible hormones (and without Todd Solondz’s terrible dead-pan).

7. Tropic Thunder: (Stiller) “Fuck you, Hollywood,” signed Hollywood.

8. Burn After Reading: (Coens) Great assessment of the last eight years: empty, shallow, venal, cold incompetence.

9. In Bruges: (Dir. Martin McDonagh) This actually edged out the bald-headed, Daredevil era sex tape as my Colin Farrell favorite role (though he’s really good in the sex tape if you haven’t seen it– Breakfast, lunch and bloody dinner, love). Great dialogue and violence in a medieval Belgian town.

10. Iron Man: Fun.

Oh so close:
9/10ths of Milk (why do biopics piss me off so much? even ones that manage to subvert most of Hollywood’s standards and practices– everything always just seems far too convenient to the plot).
The first half of Slumdog Millionaire, even though I have the sneaking suspicion it was lifted from City of God.

Things I will rent/ see soon that will most likely make me want to redo this list:
Teeth, Chicago 10, The Visitor, My Winnipeg, Man on Wire, I Have Loved You For So Long, Cadillac Records, Frost/Nixon, Wendy and Lucy, Che, The Wrestler, Happy-Go-Lucky

Re-hashed reviewed for 2008:
1. Broadway Danny Rose: This movie caught me completely by surprise. Perhaps less universal than Manhattan and Annie Hall, but far more deft. Danny Rose’s Thanksgiving and Lou Canova’s singing face will be with me for a while.
2. The Purple Rose of Cairo: I know– where have I been? It took me this long to look at Woody Allen’s output from the 80’s. No better movie about the deranging power of the movies.
3. Lars and the Real Girl: Crushed me like a papercup. Oddly effecting story of a man/boy working through his lady issues.
4. Lifeboat: Rounding out my Hitchcock as well. The lighting for the funeral at sea and Tallulah Bankheads’ expression as she passes the camera before tearing a hole in the newspaper= A+
5. The Maltese Falcon: I shouldn’t be admitting this in public. Did anyone have any emotions left after WW II?
6. Naked: If anyone ever asks me for the filmic equivalent of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” — I will probably point them towards this. All the better for David Thewlis’s life at Hogwarts.
7. The Lives of Others: Surveillance in East Germany. Point for point a near perfect film.
8. The Marriage of Maria Braun: Fassbinder stands every last Romantic cliche from WWII on its head in this film.
9. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse: Lang made perfect movies. I don’t think a single director has ever constructed a movie that could compete shot for shot with Lang’s extraordinary composition.
10. Mr. Freedom: William Klein’s over-the-top comic book style semi-futuristic amazingness.

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