My Best & Worst Movies Of The Year

I have been very remiss of late in posting, leading GT to despair of me and rightfully so. Anyway, to make amends I thought I would do a little round up of some of the good, the dreadful and the mostly meh movies I have had the pleasure and misfortune to see over the past year.

A look back through my diary and an online calendar of 2008 releases tells me I have seen 44 films out of a possible 90+ throughout the year, so this is not a comprehensive reckoning. I have not, for instance, seen either TWILIGHT or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 and have absolutely no plans to do so. This probably means I have automatically discounted most of the teen and tween's 'bestest movie of 2008' in one fell swoop. Likelihood of them reading this blog being virtually nil, that clearly isn't a problem. I should also point out that at least two the films (my favourites in fact) aren't released in the UK til early 2009. Which is actually a good thing because now you'll be all keen as mustard and race to the cinema when they do open...

So, starting backwards with the mostly so-what films that failed to leave any kind of impression once the credits rolled. INDIANA JONES IV, THE INCREDIBLE HULK and QUANTUM OF SOLACE were the main contenders in this category, although I would also add SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE to that list. What's noticeable here is that all of these were big budget movies with big names attached - brands in their own right. And all failed to either live up to the promise of what went before or, in the case of HULK, improve on what many see as Ang Lee's flawed first attempt (I think Lee's version is thoughtful and interesting, but many disagree - google if you want to see what I mean).

I found INDIANA overblown and ludicrous - why the sudden recourse to alien artefacts in a story which has always delighted in historical archeological finds? HULK failed to move me by all but wasting the acting chops of its lead, Edward Norton and QUANTUM was the biggest disappointment of the lot since CASINO ROYALE had proved so thrilling. Poor old Daniel Craig was reduced to fighting, running and jumping on/ through/ over things - no time for the patended Bond badinage and charm here. Hopefully the third and final instalment in the purported trilogy will realise the importance of a decent story and proper characterization over non-stop action sequences. Not only was there very little sex in the big screen outing for SATC, there was also little in the way of a good story or the witty banter which made the TV series so beloved. Frankly, it was little more than a fashion show - very pretty but ultimately superficial and unsatisfying.

Miscalculated as they were, I have no real hard feelings towards the above quartet. I save my vitriol for the clutch of films so dreadful that not only do I resent having parted with hard earned cash to see them (OK, only in one case since I went to two as work related screenings) but more importantly, precious hours of my life being so joylessly squandered. The absolute worst culprit was FOUR CHRISTMASES. Damn you Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon - two actors normally signifying enjoyable if not groundbreaking entertainment. I also blame New York in December for being festive enough to persuade me that a 'holiday comedy' would be a good idea. I cannot stress enough how freaking awful this film was - the comedy set pieces were simply unfunny, the various relatives were wholly cliched, the performances tired (no chemistry between the two leads who I hope were suitably embarrassed to be participating in this dreadful charade) and - as pointed out by my fellow sufferer - shoddy production values. See at your peril. Obviously, it's number 1 at the US box office...

Two runners up for shitest flick of the year also fall into the comedy/ rom-com genre - WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS and MADE OF HONOR. The former saw Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher getting drunkenly hitched in Las Vegas before hitting the jackpot and then having to try to make their marriage work because of the money. The latter was a gender reversal take on My Best Friend's Wedding with Patrick Dempsey assuming the titular role in order to stop his newly realised soulmate marrying a Scottish laird. Both films were painfully lacking in both romance and comedy. They don't make 'em like they used to (although I thought last year's Knocked Up was a great modern take on the rom-com).

Finally, in amongst the amusing enough/ interesting enough/ affecting enough pile of others - including the likes of CLOVERFIELD, GARAGE, CHOKE, ROLE MODELS, ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, THE CHANGELING, THE WRESTLER and WALTZ WITH BASHIR, all of which are worth a look, particularly the last three which really are very good indeed - two jewels shone out. Neither are art house movies, or in any way inaccessible, although they won't be as ubiquitous as Quantum of Solace. However, they are gems you should seek out which will hopefully send shivers down your spine and truly make you feel.

My joint best movies of 2008 are Danny Boyle's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. Groan if you must, but both share an uplifting belief in love and friendship, although they couldn't be set in worlds further apart. SLUMDOG, based on a bestselling novel, tells the tale of a young boy from Mumbai (Dev Patel from C4's Skins) who ends up one question away from becoming a millionaire on a TV gameshow and must prove how his poverty stricken upbringing has taught him all he needs to know to answer the questions, rediscoving his childhood sweetheart in the process.

NICK AND NORAH is set in New York and is about a boy and a girl who, over the course of one night, meet and fall for each other. Straightforward and sweet, what makes this movie so appealing is not just the great use of real Manhattan locations and cool music, but utterly endearing and believable performances from Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) and Kat Dennings as they eponymous Nick and Norah, and who could more than teach Vince n Reese a thing or two about on-screen chemistry. A movie to make you wistful and hopeful at the same time (the balance between the two probably depending on how many years you have on the clock).

Slumdog is out Jan 9th 2009 and Nick and Norah comes out Jan 30th 2009 in UK cinemas so there is no excuse not to make a beeline for these. Merry Christmas and Happy Viewing!


Geeky Tom said...

I've seen the Wrestler, it's a wicked film.

Well worth a watch for all you WWE fans.

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