Tuesday, 5 January 2010

An Appetizer - Part 2: Top Ten Films Of 2008


So, a few days later than planned comes the retrospective jam reaped from the fruits of my year's film-viewing. The following represents the top ten of the year, gathered from 367 films seen over 366 days.

Firstly, I suppose it's worth making mention of the flexibility of the self-imposed selection criteria for what constitutes a 'Film Of 2008'. After much humming-and-hawing, I've pretty much decided to go with films I've actually seen in 2008. This does come with a limiting proviso (again self-induced) which adds the 'within reason' coda. In other words, I can't include 'The Innocents' or 'The Third Man' (which I only saw for the first time in '08) as the timeframe clearly isn't due to regional wrangling. So that allows the inclusion of films shown selectively, or in other parts of the world, which I've seen in advance at film festivals and the like while also allowing films which were released elsewhere in 2007, but the UK in 2008. Essentially, I'm making this up as I go along to include the stuff I want rather than wait until this time next year, or have them fall between the cracks of this year and last.

So, with the housekeeping out of the way, here’s what constitutes a top ten from what I thought was actually a pretty decent year in terms of great films.

10) The Mist – Much has been made of the bleakness of this and, as a result, I went in expecting it not to live up to expectations in this department. It more than delivered. A pretty chilling indictment.

9) The Fall – This came from straight outta leftfield. Who would have thought the director of The Cell could return at all let alone let rip with such a disarmingly charming, vibrant yarn? Tugs on the right strings of recognition from films like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Princess Bride and Tideland, all the while steadfastly refusing to surrender to CGI.

8) In Bruges – Delightfully un-PC with a solidly blue script tailored to the Gaelic potty mouth of Colin Farrell and the usually stoic, playing-against-type Ralph Fiennes.

7) The Wave (Die Welle) – A few minor niggles in terms of compressing of timescales and the speed events played out but I thought this was fascinating and thought-provoking, straying slightly towards exaggeration but never to the real detriment of the message.

6) Cloverfield – Don’t believe the naysayers. This delivered on almost every front; its ‘found footage’ aesthetic, slow-burn build-up, decent monster, genuine pulse-racing shocks. A few grating characters but, hey, mostly they don’t last very long.

5) Choke – Chuck Palahniuk fandom notwithstanding, this was all I could have hoped for from an adaptation of one of my favourite novels. Maintained the sentiment but changed just enough to make it play.

4) Let The Right One In (Låt Den Rätte Komma In) – One of the aforementioned film festival screenings which sneaks into this year’s list. Easily the best horror film of the year. Innovative kiddie-vampire drama in a nostalgic (albeit Swedish) setting with a woolly, wintry ambience, low key scenes of violence and an evocation of the kind of horror film you remember being creeped-out by as a nipper.

3) Somers Town – A 180° about-turn from the ominous presence of This Is England. Very funny, liberating culture clash comedy-drama deftly proving why Shane Meadows is the most exciting force in British cinema. Could so easily have been mishandled by lesser talents but all concerned make this the feelgood film of the year.

2) The Dark Knight – Perfect? No. A few trims here and there and a bit more genuine menace from Two Face wouldn’t have gone amiss but definitely sets a high watermark against which all future comic book films will be measured. Proving that just because someone’s gallivanting around in cape and cowl or smudged facepaint, a summer blockbuster can have an intellect and aim for loftier standards than the lowest common denominator ethics that have blighted the biggies of the last few years.

1) There Will Be Blood – So, technically released in 2007, it didn’t come out here until February and I’ll be damned if this is getting waylaid between years’ lists. A bonafide classic from opening sonic soundscape to “I’m finished”. This’ll be up there with the greats some day, I tells ya. To crowbar in a laboured finish, if this film were a dairy beverage I’d drink it up. I’d. Drink. It. Up.

Honourable Mentions: The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters, Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Iron Man, Wall●E, Man On Wire, Burn After Reading, Waltz With Bashir, Changeling, Son Of Rambow, The Orphanage

Worst Films Of The Year: Donkey Punch, The Happening, The Cottage, 10,000 BC, Pathology, Fool's Gold, The Love Guru, 88 Minutes, Mirrors, Max Payne, The Children, My Best Friend's Girl, AVPR: Aliens Vs Predator - Requiem

Finally, a new category, Biggest Disappointments. Not so bad as to feature in the worst films list but certainly a waste of the talent involved and, in the final example, a spirit-crushing, shattering, deflating footnote in the legacy of a once-great series: Be Kind Rewind, The X-Files: I Want To Believe, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Quantum Of Solace, Tropic Thunder, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

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