Saturday, 10 January 2009

Top Ten for 2008 - "The Year of Vindication"

I thought I'd beat you to a top ten list, Vic. If I don't do it soon, it will keep changing because there are several key films for the year that I haven't seen yet. But that's life in St. Stephen, and that's why a few of these should probably have been on last year's list. So here goes:

10. The Bank Job. This was a surprise for me. I don't remember it all that well anymore, but I seem to recall that it was entertaining and intelligent - had all the kind of ingredients that one would want in a heist movie, which is pretty good for one based on a true story.

9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. One of the leftovers from last year. What really impressed me about this one was not the realistic and grim appraisal of abortion in Eastern Europe, but the fact that the friend was the protagonist. It was a good, if minimalist, story about the friend's battle within herself to help someone who was both desperate and frustratingly, continually irresponsible (not an uncommon combination for someone who often needs the help of a responsible, caring friend).

8. The Dark Knight. As I've said earlier, not perfect, but a very solid follow-up to Batman Begins. Plenty enough has been said about this.

7. Happy-Go-Lucky. Very unique kind of movie based on a very unique kind of character (Poppy). Thought-provoking and impressive right to the end. I appreciated how I would almost get annoyed with Poppy, but then that feeling would get sidelined by some solid respect for her.

6. The Band's Visit. It helped my impression of this movie that I saw it soon after watching Offside, which I found a little difficult to make it through. I loved the tone of this movie and the way it was acted and directed - the timing of many scenes worked perfectly for me.

5. No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. I expected something more made-for-TV out of this film, but for some reason watching this just made me very happy. I've always found reading McCall Smith reminded me a little of listening to Bach - something about the ordered contentment of Precious' thinking, I guess. The movie did the same with the significant added bonus of beautiful cinematography and amazing music.

4. Welcome to the Sticks. Not since The Castle have I appreciated the warm-hearted depiction of the backwards life this much. This one caught me totally off guard on a plane trip and it reminded me a little of newcomers warming up to life in St. Stephen. I suspect this is why I am ranking it higher than it probably deserves based on its quality alone.

3. Slumdog Millionaire. Just saw this last night and I felt it was deserving of the critical attention it has been getting. Great story, strong themes, strong visuals, life-affirming - the only problem was that there were a few too many music video-like moments where I suspect you have to be under 30 to follow what is going on.

2. The Visitor. Now we're approaching the reason for this being called the Year of Vindication. It has long been a pet peeve of mine that movies do a great disservice to the name of Walter. As a name that was apparently outlawed for new children a few years after I was born, moviemakers seemed to think it was fair game to use this name for such purposes as the boring guy who loses the girl or the overweight security guard who is duped. In The Visitor, it's true that Walter starts off in somewhat typical Walter fashion, but he is such an excellently portrayed character that I want to play djembe like him. Beautiful film.

1. Wall-E.
And continuing on the theme of vindication (I was often called Wally in high school), here is a name that seemed almost too easy to make fun of that is given to the most wonderful little droid around. Lots, again, has been said, but probably the best film of the year.

My honourable mentions for the year include: Lions for Lambs, War, Inc., Chaos Theory, Iron Man and The Valley of Elah.


  1. I have seen all but four and six. Two and Seven have similar spots on my top ten but that's the only overlap. Nine was in my top ten last year. One, Three, Eight and Ten were all good films (all got ***+ from me) so worthy of being on your list. I'm still trying to make sense of Slumdog, as you know. I believe I have seen Five (it WAS made for TV, no?) and enjoyed it very much. All in all, nothing challenging to say, so I look forward to checking out the four and six films of your order.

    However, your honorable mentions deserve some comment. WAR, INC.? WAR, INC.? WOW! WAR, INC.? Hey, just between you and me, I kinda loved this rificulous little film, but you don't want to admit it in public or your reputation could suffer. Lions and Lambs has a similar problem. Chaos Theory I haven't seen.

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  3. Yes I think #5 was made for TV, but that was my point - it was unusually good quality based on that expectation.

    War, Inc and Lions for Lambs were both disappointments, I admit. One has to remember two things: 1) I don't see all that many movies so by the time I get to honourable mentions, I'm starting to reach a little. 2) A movie's quality as a film is only one of my criteria, and not necessarily a primary one. There are many inferior movies that one can greatly enjoy. (And I don't mind saying this in public.)

    Now having said this, both of these movies did retain some of what I had been hoping for from them. Can you imagine how great each of them could have been?

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