2008 round-up

February 22, 2009

comparing this year to the past 3 years, i have to say that i am fairly underwhelmed by the quantity (and quality) of great films this year. especially all the films getting the praise (slumdog millionaire, frost/nixon, milk). i liked all those films, but found them for the most part to be fairly pedestrian.  there were however some films that i really liked.  so let’s talk about those.

be kind rewind – for my money, one of the most underrated films of the year.  what gondry does is make a movie about loving movies.  and it’s not cynical.  there’s no irony.  it’s just about the pure unadulterated joy of creating art, of embracing life, of remaking robocop.  i’m an unapologetic jack black fan, and his earnestness is what makes the humor in the film.  to stand there with utter conviction believing that you’re singing the ghostbuster’s theme song the right way, when you’re completely butchering it.  but that naivety (and i almsot hate to call it that) is what fills the characters of the film.  they believe that through the power of art, of creation, of film, that they can save their business.  what they find is that it not only saves their business, but gives more purpose and meaning to their lives.

ballast – a film that most people have not seen, or even heard of (i always hate when people say, you’ve probably never even heard of this film because i always thought that sounded very pompous and elitist.  you’ve probably never heard of this film — but i have and let me tell you why it’s better than everything you have heard of.  i didn’t mean it that way).  i believe it was independently distributed so it made it’s way around independent theaters, and actually played at our art museum.  it’s the story of a boy, his mom, and his uncle, living and coping with the suicide of their father/husband/twin brother.  it’s slow, it’s subtle, it’s got very little dialogue, it’s intense, it’s heartbreaking, it’s gorgeous, it’s amazing.  if you don’t like films that really take their time in setting up the story and use a slow methodical pace throughout, then i wouldn’t tell you to rush out and see it.  but that’s something that i really love in movies.  and for my money it’s the best film of 2008.

man on wire – you might have already heard a lot of praise for this documentary about philippe petit’s crossing between the two world trade center towers on nothing but a small wire, but i just have to give it some love.  i found it hard to imagine how they would fill the 90 minutes with material that wasn’t just about the event at the world trade center.  but the film builds so much suspense to that moment, using gorgeous black & white recreations, lots of philippe’s homemade film (which looks like it was professionally shot), and the standard interviews.  but because philippe is so enigmatic the standard sit-down interview becomes exciting.  seeing him walk across the massive space between the two towers is one of the most thrilling experiences i had all year.  it literally took my breath away to see some of the shots.  philippe is one of the most interesting characters of the year, and watching him cross the wire is one of the most suspenseful moments i have ever witnessed.  and the crazy bastard went back and forth eight times!

shotgun stories – the next two films have already been featured on 4films, but they’re just so good we have to do them again.  shotgun stories was jeff nichols directorial debut, and features a slew of great performances from the cast, but most notably that of michael shannon.  the man got an oscar nom for his turn in revolutionary road, and is now getting some pub.  but do yourself a favor and quickly go see this film (if you haven’t already) so when people say “wow. did you see michael shannon in revolutionary road?” you can be like “yeah.  i also saw him in a starring role in a much better film.  have you seen that?  face!”.

4films earlier write-up on shotgun stories

chop shop – if i had to pick a director whom i most looking forward to seeing his next project from this group it might be ramin bahrani the director of chop shop.  while watching the film i could just see his potential coming through every shot and every moment.  i knew i was watching the budding of a great filmmaker (coincidentally his next film goodbye solo looks horribly generic).  chop shop is challenging, deliberately paced, subtly directed and acted, and a beautiful meditation on life, our dreams and aspirations, and the crap that gets in the way.  and alejandro polanco gives one of the most honest and heartfelt performances of the year (probably only second to the man a few inches down on the screen).

4films earlier write-up on chop shop

the wrestler – ah mickey.  you’ve heard all the praise for his performance already, but if you needed to hear it some more — mickey rourke is amazing.  absolutely perfect.  so perfect that his performance has to go down as one of the greatest on-screen performances ever.  and i have this feeling that the more you watch it the better it gets (i have only seen it once so it’s just a hunch).  arronfosky trades in his hyper active visual style for more or less a documentary style.  the screenplay is more or less good-to-better than good, but mickey is really where the movie is at.  he makes it, he brings it, he delivers.


i’ve just now realized how much work is going to have to be put in school (mostly the short film that i’m directing this semester – if you want to finance some of it hit me up with an email :) ).  so i’m not sure if i’ll be around the blog too much for a while.  keep checking in reguarly (if you’re still here at all) and i’ll do my best to put something up (maybe updates on the film i’m working on? no?).


4 Responses to “2008 round-up”

  1. magnus3000 Says:

    The best american thing I have seen last year was HBO’s “Generation Kill” (but I guess that does not count as a movie). Other than that I really liked: Il y a longtemps que je t’aime, Il Divo, La Mujer sin cabeza, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, Redbelt, Vals Im Bashir, The Chaser, Sparrow and Shotgun Stories. Looking forward to catching up with “Ballast” once it comes around here… whenever that might be.

    Oh, and do let us know what you’re working on.

  2. johnheberle Says:

    generation kill was from the mind of television genius david simon. i’ve definitely wanted to check it out, sadly i live sans hbo.

    i’ve only seen redbelt and shotgun stories on your list. i don’t know if i saw any non-english language film last year…that’s sad. i was pretty underwhelmed by redbelt, but chiwetel ejiofor is always fun.

    and waltz with bashir just opened in cleveland last week so i can’t really be blamed for not seeing that one yet.

  3. Dusty Says:

    Don’t hate on ‘Goodbye Solo’ just yet. It is an amazing film that won the Critics Prize in Venice and that The New York Times says has “an uncanny ability to enlarge your perception of the world.” It opens in theaters on March 27th. You can check out the trailer and theater listings at http://www.goodbyesolomovie.com.

  4. johnheberle Says:

    hmmm. that comment started out legit, but sort of took a spammy twist at the end.

    did you work on the film? i’m not hating on it, the trailer just makes it seem very unoriginal. i’m still very excited to see it, and it’s playing at the cleveland international film festival this year (along with man push cart and chop shop!) so i might be seeing it soon. bahrani is definitely working his way into my “best directors working today” list.

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