Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best Films of 2008

The best of films of 2008 that you most likely have heard of, and some that you might not:

1. Australia:
The most underrated film of the year. It upsets me so much that critics would tear this film apart, just because it had "too many endings" and "the director was trying too hard" and "It was just another Gone With The Wind". Of course Baz Luhrmann was trying too hard; he attempted to make a film that was so epic and melodramatic in order to reconnect us with the golden age of Hollywood filmmaking. In a time when films are trying to be faster with quicker takes and lazy photography, you have to give him credit for that at least. That point aside, I thought this film had tons of breathtaking cinematography. One of my favorite aspects of Baz Lurhmann's directing is that he works so well with his music supervisors in order to create a whole atmosphere between the music, sound, and visuals. This film is no exception. At many points throughout the film, I felt as though I was in a dream-like state, apart of the shot. Luhrmann and his photographic/art team do a wonderful job of capturing the awe and beauty of Australia's landscape.

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
One of the best made films I have ever seen. A cinematic masterpiece that will never be forgotten. I had been waiting to see this film for a long time, and it surpassed all of my hopes and the hype given to it by the media. With most films I see, there are usually a few shots where my reaction is "Oh, wow, thats a very nice shot". However, with this film, every single shot of the film my reaction was "Oh, my god. This is an amazing shot", and shivers would run down my spine. It was as though every single shot of the film were a beautiful painting. I had never seen that before from a film. Maybe it was a mixture of the genius cinematographer, the director David Fincher's perfectionism and his choice of using an all digital photography and editing process. Fincher is bound to win Best Director at the oscars for this film. His extremely strong direction with the film can easily be seen throughout the film. For example, there's a point in the film when Benjamin Button's love interest played by Cate Blanchett returns to see Button after he is grown (backwards) quite a bit from the last time they saw each other as children (and old man). Blanchett arrives at the house and sees Button, not recognizing him at first. Once she gets a better look at him, Blanchett's reaction change of recognition was so life-like and beautiful that it could only have been achieved by countless takes during shooting and a genius choice of a buy take by Fincher.

3. Let The Right One In:
A Swedish vampire horror film. One of the creepiest and most elegantly shot films I have ever seen. Based on a book, this film centers around a 12 year old boy who falls in love with a vampire who looks around the age of 12, but it turns out, is actually an elderly man who is a eunuch and has seemed to have gone through a sex-change to look like a 12 year old girl. Wooops, gave away too much. And the boy still falls in love with him/her/it by the end of the film. Yeah, its a messed up story. But that aside, there is some amazing photography with tons of genius uses of visual framing from tunnels, windows, and anything square. The director definitely knows how to shoot an amazingly shot creepy vampire film.

4. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist:
Stop calling it this years Juno! Just because its a love story with Michael Cera and the plot directly involves music, doesn't mean that this film can't stand on its own as a refreshingly original love story that is so much fun to watch. The director, Peter Sollett, creates such a true portrait of New York City teenager nightlife that it never feels fake for a second. Like Baz Lurhmann, Sollett works really well with his music editors to chose not only great alternative rock music, but music that fits so perfectly well with the great cinematography of a fast speed night in New York City.

5. Zach and Miri Make A Porno:
Yes, this film is all about the low-brow humor. But at least this film actually has great acting, and some great cinematography and art direction, unlike the low-brow humor film The Pineapple Express. Zach and Miri turns out to be a touching love story that is absolutely hilarious at the same time. Not to mention that I need to rep this film because I have a friend who worked on the art department for this film.

6. Cloverfield:
An absolute genius film. Just the whole idea of it was so original: a monster film shot from the point of view of a group of characters with a camera filmming the event as bystanders. Not to mention the genius marketing scheme with internet secrets and fake websites. I loved this film. So entertaining.

7. Be Kind Rewind:
Hilarious film that is just a gold mine for film enthusiasts. The whole movie is about people who start a business where they make their own versions of films sold in a movie store. Interesting commentary on the film and video business as well as on cinema as a media source. The end of the movie shows the power that film has on its viewers and its surrounding communities. Interesting side note, the film was shot in Passaic, New Jersey, where I lived for two months in the fall.

8. The Dark Knight:
Everyone agrees: This film was just amazing. Amazing cinematography, amazing acting performance by Heath Ledger (not so much Christian Bale or Maggie Gyllenhaal) and amazingly complex plot line and themes for a Batman film. One scene that really sticks out in my mind is when Gordon figures out that the Joker is going to kill three people that evening and then arrives at Bruce Wayne's fundraiser for Harvey Dent. Amazing use of music and increasingly fast editing as the scene progresses to create a perfect sense of suspense that literally ends with a bang. Just a great film from a great director.

9. Slumdog Millionaire:
Such a refreshingly original film. Incorporates some history lessons, a love story, a thriller, and a comedy, all in the context of a non-linear plot line involving flashbacks during an episode of the Hindi version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire", where every question is a reference to some past experience by the main character Jamal. Besides a great plot, there is some great photography, with probably the largest amount of canted shots I have ever seen in a film. Finally, the ending before the credits provided a great ode to Bollywood films including a whole song and dance number.

More to come....?

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