When the credits started to roll, did you jump to your feet and applaud or storm the box office and demand your money back- In 2008 we had our hearts stolen by a robot and broken by a wrestler; they beat faster when a bat and a madman fought, and our sides ached with laughter when Hollywood stars got lost in the jungle. If you missed these best films of 2008, it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution to get caught up. If you saw these worst films of 2008, I feel your pain.
Who wants to be an millionaire: Patel with host
- Slumdog Millionaire — Director Danny Boyle creates pure movie-magic. From the streets of India to the stage of a game show, Slumdog Millionaire follows the heartbreaking and inspiring story of an orphan who won’t be defeated. Newcomer Dev Patel is outstanding as Jamal, and he’s only the start of a brilliant cast. Best film of the year. Final answer.
- WALL∙E — Pixar has done it again, delivering a pure cinematic masterpiece. The little robot will capture your heart (if you have one). Even without dialogue for the first third of the film, only the most impatient will want to rush through the visual treat of WALL∙E rummaging through trash left on Earth and falling in love. With swipes at big corporations and the current administration, WALL∙E was out of this world.
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona — Woody Allen’s latest film – and most recent project with Scarlett Johansson – was a wonderful tour of love and romance in Spain. The trials and tribulation of two Americans (Johansson and Rebecca Hall) and their affairs with sexy artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) will have you swooning. PenÃ©lope Cruz is a wonderfully spicy addition to the mix, ensuring a hot time in Barcelona.
- The Wrestler — When a movie about a wrestler and a female stripper is so enthralling, you know director Darren Aronofsky has embedded something wonderful at the heart of his film. Mickey Rourke’s performance as over-the-hill (or would it be ropes-) wrestler Randy ”The Ram” Robinson is heartbreaking, raw, gritty. A film worth jumping in the ring for.
- Milk — For a previous job, I invoked Harvey Milk’s name as the first openly gay man elected to major office countless times. But it took Gus Van Sant’s film – and Sean Penn’s wonderful performance – for the story and its importance to truly come alive. It may not have the hype and appeal of Brokeback Mountain, but Milk truly deserves an honored place in the gay film canon.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) grows younger every day and grows on you every minute. Written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), the film takes on epic proportions as Benjamin lives his life in reverse, a spellbinding tale that is beautifully shot and beautifully told by director David Fincher. Cate Blanchett and Pitt are both fantastic as lovers who know they’re headed in opposite directions. The only direction you should head is into the theater.
Heath Ledger as The Joker in ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’
- The Dark Knight — Between Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight, films based on comics were incredibly strong this year. But The Dark Knight surpassed all others by a mile. Heath Ledger’s Joker is wonderfully creepy and helps to offset the gravelly rumblings of Christian Bale’s Batman. The no-holds-barred script and explosive direction by Christopher Nolan takes the Batman franchise to a whole new level.
- Let the Right One In — It might be easy to overlook this Swedish vampire film, but young KÃ¥re Hedebrant’s portrayal of a 12-year-old bullied boy who befriends a young vampire girl (Lina Leandersson) is truly inspired. Take out the vampire theme and you have a touching story of finding self-esteem; keep in the blood sucking and you have a creepy supernatural thriller that works on both the mortal and immortal plane.
- Man on Wire — This documentary is a thrilling retelling of Philippe Petit’s walk on a wire strung between the World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974. Filmmaker James Marsh ably captures the fear and excitement that fueled the death-defying feat. Given the ultimate fate of WTC, it’s a needed reminder that something wonderful once took place there.
- Tropic Thunder — One has to appreciate when Hollywood can look at itself and laugh. One of the main reasons that Tropic Thunder is so frickin’ hysterical is because it takes itself seriously only in the pursuit of making fun of itself. Buoyed by outstanding performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder is pee-yourself funny.
- Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! — Todd Stephens’ miserable comedy almost made me straight, because there is nothing in this film that I want to be associated with. As the four friends from Another Gay Movie head to the beach for spring break, all you can do is hope they get caught in a riptide so there isn’t a third installment.
- Twilight — The highly hyped vampire flick deserves special recognition as the only film I walked out of in 2008. Nothing – repeat nothing – could have redeemed the film in the second half that was worth suffering through. Bad acting, hideous pancake make-up, and a laughable script ensure that this vampire tale leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
- The Happening — If you take a drink every time a character in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening does something utterly stupid, you’ll end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. It’s a film about killer tree allergies for crying out loud – and the characters run into the forest. Idiots.
- The Love Guru — After creating wonderful characters like Wayne Campbell and Austin Powers, Mike Myers’ Guru Pitka is an abomination. The film just isn’t funny and you have to wonder if Myers gave up or if he actually thinks it’s entertainment. Cleaning up the dung from Guru Pitka’s elephants would be preferable to sitting through this stinker.
- The X-Files: I Want to Believe — Too little, too late, and way too weird. The second film based on the popular television series was supposed to garner new fans and be a stand-alone from the series, but they didn’t need to leave behind everything that made the TV show good. From bizarre storylines to a lack of energy throughout, why someone thought this was a good idea is a mystery without an answer.
- Over Her Dead Body — Paul Rudd has proven himself to be hysterically funny, but he thrives in irreverent comedies much more than in romantic ones. As his dead but not gone girlfriend, Eva Longoria Parker makes a nuisance of herself in the film as she tries to thwart his plans to move on. Well, she makes the jump through the screen and annoys the audience as well.
- Passengers — When a film starring Anne Hathaway and Patrick Wilson is given so little publicity, it’s clear that even the studio knows it’s bad. The plot about survivors of a plane crash tries to mimic The Sixth Sense, but it fails miserably and the makers were correct in trying to hide it from the public.
- Sex and the City — There is a big distinction between a fun movie and a good movie. Sex and the City gave many people exactly what they were hoping for in the big screen followup to the show, but as a movie it doesn’t pass the test for justifying a transition to the big screen. I know you probably disagree, so please stop throwing your Manolo Blahniks at me.
- Vantage Point — Star-packed Vantage Point has an interesting premise — a presidential assassination attempt as witnessed and retold by multiple people – but director Pete Travis doesn’t properly assemble the pieces together in a way that creates a solid whole. It’s not a story worth seeing once – let alone again and again and again.
- A Jihad for Love — One wants a documentary about gay Muslims to be wonderful and to shine a light into worlds that need exposure, but director Parvez Sharma never creates any momentum in his storytelling and his blurred subjects keep us at an arm’s length. It’s a start, but something better is needed to really do this subject justice.