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2008 Film Year In Review

dir: Buxbaum or Bixby Ali Van Allen O’Shea


Very late in the game, very late in the year, I have decided to close the lid, as in the coffin lid, on the previous year’s festivities by summarising all of my highly valuable yet worthless thoughts on how I thought the year went movie-wise. You might wonder “why?” whereas I just wonder “why not?”
Another great year. Not of movies, because it’s been a somewhat mediocre year for movies. But with so many recent deaths of people close to me, I’m just glad to still be around and breathing, and able to see, which therefore means even more films can be watched. Which has got to be the best thing about still being alive, yeah?

The trials and tribulations of being a Family Man hasn’t made it any easier to get to the flicks on even a semi-regular basis, but thanks to moral laxity on my part, and the generous download limits of friends, I’ve managed to see many flicks that otherwise would go unwatched, unsighted, unlamented. My thanks extended to both those fine people produced by the great nation of Canada, and to the inventors of p2p and torrenting. Kudos to you all, good sirs and ma’ams, kudos.

As I have said many times before, there is no pretence to objectivity or some sort of authoritative stance on my part. My opinion is no more accurate or verifiably 'correct' than anyone else's, including and especially yours, and I don't claim to be a film expert in any way possessed of superior faculties or aesthetic sense than any of you. So everything comes with the healthy proviso of being in my not quite so humble opinion.
So enjoy, agree, disagree or not, it's entirely up to you.

Best Action/ Men Acting like Men film: I think Iron Man just edges out the competition here. There might have been (and were) some tenser action set pieces in Dark Knight, but I wouldn’t call the latter an action film at this stage: Dark Knight acts like it’s embarrassed that it originates from comics, and has to raise everything to Shakespearean fever pitches in order to compensate, whereas Iron Man revels in its pulpy origins and is all the more enjoyable for it. Robert Downey Jnr nails the part as only a reformed wastrel could, cheekily wriggling his way back into the public’s hearts. And some stuff did blow up real good.

Remake That Didn’t Need To Be Remade: The Incredible Hulk. It’s only been a few year’s since Hulk came out, and I do recognise that it is widely reviled. But “remaking” a franchise less than five years since the last installment either speaks to a tremendous desire to get things right, or the desperate lack of original idea hamstringing the attempts of anyone doing anything that doesn’t reference something else. If Ed Norton took this role on for any other reason apart from money, the reason is not obvious onscreen.

Guilty Action Pleasure of the Year: Probably Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I have problems with the flick, and the way Big Red is realised on screen, but plenty of the action sequences, and the pure visual gorgeousness on display more than makes up for its shortcomings.

The “Me, I Likes Me Some Righteous Ultra Violence” Award goes to Taken, with Liam Neeson viciously taking on the French and the Albanian crime worlds, and winning, barely breaking a sweat. Of course, in truth, the most violent flick of last year, or any year for that matter, was Rambo, which was so goddamn violent that I can barely believe I actually watched it, and that it wasn’t some hideous war-drenched nightmare.

The War, What is it Good For, Absolutely Everything Award goes to Valkyrie. I know, it’s not really a war film per se, since it’s a thriller that occurs during the heady and thrilling days of the Third Reich. But I thought it was a really well made film, with all the timing and beats of the best flicks. If Tom Cruise hadn’t been in it, people would have been falling over themselves to call it Bryan Singer’s best flick since Usual Suspects. Instead, a resounding meh was heard to echo around the world…

Best Horror Flick of 2008: I have to admit I didn’t see a lot of flicks falling into this category, and the one I enjoyed the most probably wasn’t a ‘straight’ horror flick in the first place. However, it does have a vampire in it and have a few people dying painfully horrible deaths, so Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire flick about a twelve year old boy and a bloodthirsty creature that looks like a twelve year old girl, was probably the best of a thin bunch.

Lamest horror shemozzles: Doomsday, Pathology, The Happening, whatever iteration of the Saw franchise came out this year, Untraceable

The "A Comedy that’s Actually Funny?" Award for Best Comedy goes to Tropic Thunder. I actually laughed several times, and the laughs were intended, I would think, so that makes it funnier than 90 per cent of the other comedies I can think of. Honourable Mention: Hancock, The Promotion, and perhaps even In Bruges; films that weren’t really comedies per se (being a superhero flick, a drama and a crime thriller respectively), but were still quite funny. There’s something about a racist coked-up midget ranting about a race war, and an incredulous Colin Farrell, that’s almost too funny for words.

The “That Jokes Not Fucking Funny Anymore” Award goes to Owen Wilson personally and Drillbit Taylor generally. Suicide is terrible, and leaves far more scarring on the people left behind than on the person who opted out of life’s rich pageant, but sometimes suicide can prevent terrible performances.

The “Dramas Aren’t Just For Old People” Award goes to, hmm, it’s a full and contentious field. Out of the flicks I liked in 2008, most of them were dramas. And the following were pretty damn strong: The Wrestler, Changeling, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Visitor, and Doubt. Frost/Nixon was remarkably well acted, with a stunning performance by Frank Langella as evil deposed tyrant Nixon, but The Wrestler really touched and broke my heart.

The "Goddamn, Human Relationships Really Do Suck" Award for Most Depressing Drama goes to, I dunno, Revolutionary Road, probably. This depressing tale of delusional suburbanites who think life and France owe them happiness and a living was just gutting. On the simplest level it’s about what happens over time when two people get together and stay together, with one loving the other far more than the other is capable of reciprocating. And then look what happens…

The "OMFG, Australia Still Has a Film Industry?" Award goes to everyone who acted in or worked on the film Australia. Australia is one of the worst films ever made, so it’s great both that you all got work and that your efforts and this flick will live in infamy for ever more. Baz Luhrman should never be given money he hasn’t begged for on a city street to ever make a movie ever again.

Best All Singing All Dancing CGI extravaganza: WALL-E. I could go on and on about how and why I love this flick so much, but on the simplest level, nothing looked as amazing as this did. But WALL-E’s real virtue beyond its technical achievements is its story about a robot, a very sweet and expressive robot, who earns a soul through 700 years of effort. A keeper.

The "I'm an Intemallectual Because I've Watched a" Documentary of the Year Award goes to: Waltz with Bashir, which is probably the only animated documentary I’ll ever see. It tells a quite remarkable story in a way that enhances, rather than detracts, from its themes of genocide, selective memory loss and the malleable nature of the truth.

Stinkers or major let-downs of the year for me were, amongst many others: Stop Loss, The Happening, Pineapple Express, Babylon AD, and Untraceable, which was almost comically inept and unforgivably bad.

The 3rd worst flick for me over the course of the last year was, without doubt, without anything (bar two others) else coming close to its sheer level of depressing horribleness, was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It probably wasn’t the actual worst flick, since there are flicks that manage to not have even seconds of tolerability in their entire durations, but the fact is that this monstrosity molested my childhood. And yours too.

I tell a lie. There was at least one worse flick in 2008, and it was also one of the most successful, being the monstrous Twilight. It is the filmic equivalent of a mindless celebrity obsessed chick magazine given cinematic form, with every lame aspect, from its blank and passive protagonist to its empty and toothless rendering of the vampire mythos emphasising minute by minute just how terrible some audiences are.

These people need to be isolated and experimented upon.

In the end, in the wash up, only one other flick represented the absolute nadir of human endeavour and the pointlessness of our continued existence. Australia will eternally remain the worst fiasco and stain on this nation’s character since the Indonesian Government with the Whitlam Government’s approval invaded East Timor in the 1970s. This film finally convinced Australian audiences that we perhaps shouldn’t actually have a film industry after all.

I can’t, like every year, really pick a single film (if I did it would probably be Wall-E) as defining the best that this year had to offer, but I will say that the best of the flicks released here in 2008 for me were:

Iron Man, Tropic Thunder, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Cloverfield, Wall-E, Sparrow and The Vistor.

It’s impossible, however, to ignore the fact that it was the year utterly dominated by the juggernaut that was The Dark Knight, for which Heath Ledger won an Oscar despite the obvious handicap of being dead, and which more people saw than all the arthouse flicks put together. A rip-roaring dark adventure edited to within an inch of its life, with one of the greatest beginnings filmed and put together to this day.

If nothing else, this year’s offerings reminded me that I still love movies, and I still love watching and reviewing them. Every year people will say everything sucks and it’s nowhere near as good as whatever random year you might choose, and every year it proves wrong. There are always gems surrounded by crap, but those gems still shine.

Thank you and good night. Opinions, agreements and disagreements are not merely sought, but prized, treasured and honoured. Feel free to add your 0.0001 cents' worth.

3rd annual etc etc
“Some men just want to watch the world burn” – The Dark Knight.