Capone unleashes his Best and Worst of 2008 lists!!!
Published at: Dec. 31, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Happy New Year and all that crap.
First of all, I'm inviting that guy from Philadelphia who shot those noisy fuckers to every screening I host. Clearly he has good taste in films (see my Best of 2008 list below to see why I think this), but really I'd like him to come because he personifies the frustration my fellow film lovers and I have felt over the years as we try desperately to enjoy films without the distraction of human voices, cell phones, and all manner of devices that emit light. If you read this column regularly, or don't but profess to being a film lover, let's make a New Year's Resolution Pact: turn everything off when you enter a movie theater. Don't put it on vibrate, don't dim the light; just turn it off. You can go two hours, give or take, without communication with the outside world. And if you can't, a) you have a problem bordering on addiction, and b) you don't belong in a movie theater. With the economy in a perpetual state of turmoil, people are clearly getting a lot pickier about how they spend their entertainment dollar. If they choose to spend it at a movie, they don't want a frickin' circus going on around them.
I'll tell you why I especially feel for this guy in Philadelphia--the shooter not the "victim"--because in recent months, I've been pretty forward about telling me to shut up or turn things off. Let's face it, most theater management won't do shit about disruptive patrons. I remember one foreign film I went to see a couple years back with an especially chatty bunch. I complained to the manager, and his response (no lie) was "Well, the movie has subtitles; you don't need to hear it." Please feel free to count the number of wrongs that statement is. As terrifying a prospect as it is to confront talkative moviegoers, nine times out of ten, asking them to be quiet one time gets the job done. I realize when you're at a movie that attracts a younger crowd (I'm talking BOLT young), that a noise source you can't really do anything about. But there's no damn excuse for talking through BENJMAIN BUTTON or anything else for that matter. Let the (non-violent) revolution begin in Chicago; it seems like the sensible place. We've already seen at least one push for change out of our little corner of the Midwest. This call to action seems like small potatoes, and a lot easier for everyone to get on board with. Vote 'Yes' for shutting the fuck up and letting me watch my movies in peace.
And now for the moment at least three or four of you have been waiting for…
30 BEST FILMS OF 2008
With the exception of my BENJAMIN BUTTON and THE WRESTLER write ups here (after all, I did just review them both last week), I've actually gone back and excerpted bits from my original reviews of the films in my Top 10. I am actually finding that my first thoughts on these films are more honest and immediate than what I could come up with in hindsight. If you think picking a Top 30 list is a bit overindulgent, please feel free to stop reading at 10. If you think separating documentaries from the rest of pack is somehow unfair, sorry. I know there are more than a few of us out there that treasure the documentary format and don't mind having a separate list of 20 to select from. And as for the Worst Of... list, I couldn't be bothered to rank them (with one exception), and I'm sure there are more out there, but these are the titles that really made me wish I owned the legendary Alamo Drafthouse film projector that seems to know when a crappy movie is moving through its mechanisms and immediately melts the offending film.
Anyway, here are the 30 best of 2008:
1. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
My stand-alone review last week says it all. Even if you ignore the flawless special effects (which "At the Movies" douche nozzle Ben Lyons can't seem to ignore; and, yes, it chaps my ass that he also thinks this is the best film of 2008) the films timeless stories, interesting characters, and emotional pull remind me why I fell in love with movies in the first place. I also love the director David Fincher keeps things from getting overly sentimental with a cool, slightly distanced approach to the material. He never forces us to care about these people; each one must earn our respect and emotional investment. The Hurricane Katrina framing device of the film pushed it right to the top for me. Anyone with any connection to the city or people of New Orleans will find it impossible not to be moved by this.
[After seeing WALL-E,] why could I not remember any other film I'd seen all summer? All year so far? Could this be the best film I see all year? With half the year gone at this point, this is my favorite movie so far. Prepare yourself for something deceptively simple, thought provoking and devastatingly marvelous. I've run out of great things to say about WALL-E; just go see it.
3. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN isn't about excessive gore or standard-issue scare tactics. The film builds and earns its tension-filled moments with a careful mix of measured performances and a sparse, quiet sense of drama and fear. The film is not just unlike any other vampire movie you've ever seen; it's unlike any horror film I can think of, at least in the last 20 years. You need to seek this one out and see it. It's not overly violent or flashy, but it is a fiercely scary and perfectly realized work.
4. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
You've trusted [director Danny] Boyle to tell great stories about heroin addicts, raging viral maniacs, and the possible end of the world thanks to the sun burning out. You absolutely must have faith in his abilities to tell the most human story he's ever embraced. This is a marvelous achievement, filled with life, danger and thrills, all of which combine to produce one of the most uplifting films of 2008. You're going to cherish SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.
5. THE WRESTLER
I think this review says it all.
6. THE DARK KNIGHT
In the end, I don't know if it's good or bad that we'll never get to see The Joker and Batman go head to head again in the current franchise. Of course it's terrible that [Heath] Ledger is gone, but in a sentiment I'm sure The Joker could appreciate, he has left us wanting more. Even if Ledger were still alive, I'm not sure I'd want him to reprise this character. That would almost be too much of a good thing. What he gave us is more than we deserve or could have anticipated, and for that I'm overwhelmingly grateful. I'll say it one more time, and then I won't have to ever say it again about this film or Ledger's work: you have no idea what's in store for you when you sit down to watch THE DARK KIGHT.
7. THE FALL
There will probably be many great films in 2008; we've already seen a couple of them. But I doubt one will come close to sending me into a deep splendor the way Tarsem's THE FALL does. It's a film I first saw more than a month ago, and I still reflect upon both its purely visual aspects and its great understand of what storytelling is. In his previous film, THE CELL, Tarsem managed to visualize insanity. Here, he somehow manages to capture and combine the realism of a man's desire to end his own life and the fantastical world that his words fuel inside the mind of a six-year-old girl. THE FALL never stops finding new ways to remove the breath from your body as it pulls you deeper into its world and its way of thinking.
8. SNOW ANGELS
The specific events of the movie aren't really the point; SNOW ANGELS is about how it makes you feel. You will fall for a couple of these characters, while growing to despise others. It's a desperate and steady process, leading up to a moment when everything in this small town changes. Saying much more than that would be criminal. Just go see this film and allow it to stroll through its desolate locales while you watch these glorious moments unfold. Everything about this movie works, although it never forces the issue or bashes you over the head with messages or emotions. [Director David Gordon] Green keeps things simple, clean and focused. And the few times he strays from that approach, you get nervous; that's his very clear intention.
By showing Harvey Milk as he dictates his biography (or perhaps he saw it as his obituary), [director Gus] Van Sant gives the film a subtle fatalistic atmosphere that transforms MILK's story into one of legend. I'm sure Milk wouldn't have wanted to be thought of as an icon during his lifetime, but I also believe that he's want his death to stand for something, and this film fulfills that. MILK is impressively fine filmmaking, telling a story that is both long overdue and perfectly in synch with the times. You may not consider this to be the ideal Thanksgiving choice, but you'd be wrong. There is nothing that speaks more strongly about this country's potential than MILK.
10. TROPIC THUNDER
I didn't know if I'd see a mainstream comedy like TROPIC THUNDER ever again, and I certainly didn't think that Ben Stiller or Tom Cruise would have anything to do with it. TROPIC THUNDER is a comedy with balls…heaving, sweaty balls swaying to and fro as if to say, "Hey you. I dare you to kick me, to challenge my scrotal power, my swampy fortitude." The film's observations about the way modern Hollywood works and the personalities that make it work the way it does are delivered like a poison dart right in the neck. And from the moment the film begins (whatever you do, do not walk into this movie even 30 seconds late), I started laughing and hardly stopped. I lost count of the number of times I found myself saying, "I can't believe what I'm seeing." But mostly I just thought, "Look at all of those huge balls on the screen." Just thinking about it makes me happy.
11. IN BRUGES
12. IRON MAN
13. THE VISITOR
14. RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
15. SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK
16. TELL NO ONE
17. SHOTGUN STORIES
18. A CHRISTMAS TALE
19. PARANOID PARK
20. WENDY & LUCY
22. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
23. VICKI CRISTINA BARCELONA
28. THE PROMOTION
29. FROZEN RIVER
30. THE BANK JOB
20 BEST DOCUMENTARIES OF 2008
A couple of things to note about this list: a handful of these titles have yet to be released and may never be released. For my first trip to the SXSW Film Festival this year, I set my sites on documentaries. Some of these docs did make it to theaters, but a couple still have not, and I hope titles like SECOND SKIN and SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED do make it to the big screen. If not, seek them out on DVD.
1. DEAR ZACHARY
2. MAN ON WIRE
3. BODY OF WAR
4. SECOND SKIN
5. SONG SUNG BLUE
6. AMERICAN TEEN
7. THEY KILLED SISTER DOROTHY
8. THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN
9. ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD
10. TROUBLE THE WATER
11. BOOGIE MAN: THE LEE ATWATER STORY
12. FULL BATTLE RATTLE
13. UP THE YANGTZE
14. BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER
15. ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED
18. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
20. MOVING MIDWAY
WORST FILM OF 2008
Here's what I said when I first saw it: "Something about the trailers and commercials for this film bothered me: the acting seemed stiff, and worse than that, the dialog was cookie-cutter awful. Still, the visuals were simply too glorious to care about such petty elements as the acting or the script. But when you expand those flaws for more than two hours, they become impossible to ignore. SPEED RACER is tedious beyond words, and when there wasn't racing happening, I was either ready to fall asleep or kill someone, more than likely myself…I don't make a habit trying to predict what demographics are going to love or hate about a particular movie, nor do I ever attempt to anticipate box office tallies for a given opening weekend. I'm sure SPEED RACER will do quite well for a while, but it's not the type of film you'll feel compelled to go back and watch over and over again. It physically hurts me to watch so many people try so hard to entertain me and come up with something so astonishingly mediocre. Here it is, people: the first turd of the summer has been hatched."
TIED FOR SECOND WORST FILM OF 2008
10,000 B.C.; 21; 88 MINUTES; AN AMERICAN CAROL; BEDTIME STORIES; COLLEGE; THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL; DISASTER MOVIE; FLY ME TO THE MOON; FOOL'S GOLD; FOUR CHRISTMASES; THE HAPPENING; IN THE NAME OF THE KING; JUMPER; THE LOVE GURU; MADE OF HONOR; MAX PAYNE; MEET DAVE; MEET THE SPARTANS; THE MUMMY: THE TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR; NOBEL SON; OVER HER DEAD BODY; RIGHTEOUS KILL; SAW V; SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2; STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS; TRANSPORTER 3; WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS; THE WOMEN; X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE