Movies Released in 2008 that I Enjoyed at a Somewhat Above Average Level

What a boring year for movies. Seriously. Where were the life-changers? I saw some seriously great films, but none of them really stuck with me over night. On a few occasions, I left the theater feeling like I just witnessed a fantastic piece of filmmaking; however, the next day I completely forgot how that felt. So, this year, I’m going to forgo my usual Top 5, and just list the movies I enjoyed the most, in no particular order. With no standout number one, it just doesn’t seem right to pick one over the other. This leaves me kind of sad, like someone took away my right to party. I forgot to fight for it, apparently.

BURN AFTER READING

Malkovich shows Jenkins the proper way to cut balding hair

Malkovich shows Jenkins the proper way to trim balding hair

Too many people left the theater after this one thinking, “That was pointless.” This made me kind of angry, like Ang Lee after The Hulk got lambasted: “They just don’t understand its genius!” Except, this time, there wasn’t a giant green monster with “feelings.” What we have here is a good old fashioned piece of silly slapstick, which some people thought should have been more dignified. These people missed the pontoon on this one. And not just by a few minutes. They were a good 3 years late to the marina. There were two characters in the film (played by Empty Nest’s own David Rasche and the immortal J.K. Simmons) who were only there to let us, the audience, know that this movie served no purpose:

” What did we learn, Palmer?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“I don’t fucking know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.”
“Yes, sir.”
“I’m fucked if I know what we did.”
“Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say.”
“Jesus Fucking Christ.”

What is there to misunderstand here? For 90 minutes, we were witnesses to several different types of stupidity, whether it was Brad Pitt’s cluelessly sweet personal trainer, or Frances McDormand’s body-obsessed romantic doormat. There was no point to any of it, other than to make us laugh. And laugh I did, constantly. It felt kind of odd, being the loudest person in the theater, but whatever, I enjoyed the film. Sit on it, you uptight jagggggoffs.

THE WRESTLER

Rourke takes a moment to question the importance of the Harlem Renaissance

Rourke takes a moment to ponder the importance of the Harlem Renaissance

I should mention upfront that I am a closet wrestling fan. This is not something I am proud of, it’s just always been a fact. I’ve tried to break away from the bright lights and bright tights, and for a few months I’m successful, but then I’ll catch it on one Monday night, and I’m hooked again. It’s a constant cycle. I should also state that I don’t watch it because I like the violence, or the goofy story lines. No, sirs and madams, I watch because it’s just all so fascinating. I genuinely enjoy how it’s all put together, the technicality of it all, the little things these guys do to entertain a crowd of 40 or 40,000. I know, I know, send your jeers my way. It’s not like I don’t understand your spite.

With that said, you can understand why I was a little underwhelmed by The Wrestler. I think I watched it too much like an academic (which sounds super nerdy, but oh well). But I could point out the intricacies of the wrestling world, all the backstage stuff, or how over the hill performers are treated. If this information was all new, I may have been more appalled or captivated. I spent most the time going, “Yup, that’s how that works,” instead of “Good god, that poor guy.”

Even so, I couldn’t ignore the job Mickey Rourke did. It’s one thing to understand the wrestling world, it’s another to be able to capture it completely, as he did. He nailed it, in every way. His is a perfect example of the forgotten entertainer. Some of you will certainly remember guys like Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude, Big Boss Man, etc. These guys did a lot for your childhoods, mine included. All are now dead, as are a lot of wrestlers from that era. Thanks to Rourke, their stories have been told. Not all were left nearly penniless, but lots certainly were, with medical bills and drug problems. He’s done them a great service with this film. If he doesn’t win every major award, I’ll be shocked. I imagine he won’t for silly reasons, like he’s Mickey Rourke, or that professional wrestling shouldn’t be rewarded in any capacity. We’ll just have to wait and see. Go see it if you want a fine character piece. But be warned, it’s pretty gruesome, in a violent and heartbreaking way.

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

I bought those earrings first, you betch

I bought those earrings first, you betch

Part two of our “Cry Yourself to Sleep” Double Feature. If you thought our last movie was a bummer, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Good lord was this depressing. Jonathan Demme shot it with a handheld camera, giving an intimate look to the film. It felt like we were watching home movies, and that maybe we shouldn’t be eavesdropping on everything. It’s none of our business when two sisters bicker over why one wasn’t chosen as the other’s maid of honor, but we were privy to every word. Everything felt real, a little too real. You can credit this to both Demme and the actors involved. This was the first time I can remember Anne Hathaway disappearing into a role. This was also the first time I can remember hating Anne Hathaway. This is a compliment, because her character is awful, just awful. Awkwardly following her around from familial argument to random fuck up to bohemian dance-filled wedding reception was not easy, but it was a fantastic cinematic journey.

Kudos also go out to Bill Irwin, who played the patriarch of the family. He has mostly been known as “that other guy who wasn’t Robin Williams” in the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” video, usually playing goofy, clown-like roles. But here, he was a combination of unbridled joy and conflicted pain. He has two daughters he loves very much, but one gives him joy, the other gives him pain. You can see how this back and forth affects him in his expressions, and I have to admit that I didn’t know Irwin had it in him. Good show, sir.

I’d say that I loved this movie, but I can’t. While it was fantastic in many ways, I was still put off by how unique and diverse it tried to be. Some of it came off as forced, and it just seemed incredibly unnecessary. Did we really need the lead singer from TV on the Radio as the fiance? No, we did not. And don’t get me started on the Brazilian dancers at the Indian wedding. God dam…I mean, Shiva damn it.

THE DARK KNIGHT

Me before I've had my Monday morning coffeee.......oh, I'm bad!

Me before I've had my Monday morning coffeee.......oh, I'm bad!

I’m not sure if I really need to say anything about this one; you’ve all seen it. I’m yet to meet anyone that didn’t at least like it. Not necessarily love it, but just like it. As for me, I was part of the “love it” group. I saw it twice in about 18 hours when it first came out, and it seems to get only better with multiple viewings. Sure, you can nitpick here and there about some things (lack of Bruce Wayne, not enough development for Two-Face, Joker not having his own movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s face, etc), but those are easily overlooked by the awesomeness of it all. Come over and watch it with me. I’ve got nothing better to do.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

I had no idea Brad Pitt was only a torso. Seemed taller in other films.

I had no idea Brad Pitt was only a torso. Seemed taller in other films

This movie caught me at the right moment when something kind of sappy and romantic would actually win me over. This is not to say it’s a longer version of The Notebook, not even close. It does have romance, but it’s also full of beautiful visuals and above average storytelling. David Fincher never lets me down. The man can really do anything at this point. From Seven and Fight Club, to Zodiac and The Game, he has never made a bad movie. Sure, Alien³ was kind of a piece of crap, but it looked awesome, and it was his first movie. That has to count for something, right? Right!

At nearly three hours, I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people that it ran a good 45 minutes too long. I don’t necessarily agree. I was never bored, and I legitimately think that if anything was cut out, the story would have been damaged. I was hooked from the beginning and probably could have enjoyed another 30 minutes or so. What this film completely solidified for me was my infatuation with Cate Blanchett. Before Babel, I never noticed her. For whatever reason, I found her to be quite striking in that film. You could call this The Pitt Effect. Anytime she’s matched up with Bradley William, she’s infinitely more attractive. Put that in your craw and let it stew, ya’lls.

I’m wondering if this is going to be rewatchable at all. At that length, it’s really a toss-up. The story’s already been told, nothing comes as a surprise. I don’t know. I feel like I’ll still enjoy it on AMC in ten years. Maybe that’s just me.

The One Movie Whose Hype I’m Not Buying:

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Let's strike a more cliche pose next time, or is that not possible?

Let's strike a more cliche pose next time, or is that not possible?

Look, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this movie. I thought it was visually striking, and that the first half was very strong. The tale of the two brothers living on their own and finding ways to survive, mixed with the modern day questioning at the police station, was very well done. Captivating, even. But once the boys grew up, and the whole “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” thing got all hokey and tiresome, it lost all steam, and thus, lost me completely. All originality was tossed out the window. I also didn’t buy the love story. At all. The two star-crossed lovers found each other too easily, and they had no chemistry. It played more like Mumbai 90210. And don’t get me started on the plot devices they created to get him to know the trivia questions. Complete, total, undeniable, 100%, grade A bullshit. Okay, okay, it’s starting to sound like I hated this movie. I didn’t, I swear. It’s a solid B. But is it worthy of major awards? Not even close. I’d pair it up with Crash as the most overrated Best Picture winner if it goes that far.

UPDATE!!!!!

After viewing this film on a quick plane ride to Seattle, I realized quickly that it deserved a spot on this list. Big love goes out to……….

WALL-E

OMG SO CUTE

OMG SO CUTE

I have this unwritten rule that will not allow me to see animated movies in the theater. I don’t go all that often, and I just feel like I’m not going to waste that opportunity on something that is mostly designed for children. But after Wall-E, or A.W., I might have to slash this rule from the record. For the love of Vishnu, did I enjoy this movie. Hands down the best romance of the year, and it’s about robots!! That just goes to show what kind of pap is coming out the pipeline these days. The first 30 minutes or so are nearly silent, scratch the robot noises and what not. It’s a Charlie Chaplin romance for the 28th century. It’s Modern Times for the modern times. Et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, it’s up there with The Dark Knight as my favorite.

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3 Comments

Filed under anne hathaway, brad pitt, burn after reading, cate blanchett, christopher nolan, Coen Brothers, david fincher, jonathan demme, mickey rourke, movies, rachel getting married, slumdog millionaire, the curious case of benjamin button, the dark knight, the wrestler

3 responses to “Movies Released in 2008 that I Enjoyed at a Somewhat Above Average Level

  1. Wow…I agree with you on many points here about the overall quality of films in 2008 and the inexplicable buzz around SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

    Check out my year-end wrap-up:

    http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/the-3rd-annual-davies-awards-in-film/

  2. Pingback: In Defense of Slumdog Millionaire « What We Talk About When We Talk About Blogging

  3. Pingback: ‘A Visual Salad of Glowing Rotten Fruit, Constantly Tossed’ « What We Talk About When We Talk About Blogging

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