Ray’s 2008 Movie Awards
The Best of 2008
- Wall E: So how much time to you have? Once again Pixar proves it’s the smartest, savviest and most creative creators of popular movies. This movie is gorgeous, funny, sad, innovative and unforgettable.
- Slumdog Millionaire: This magical film combines director Danny Boyle’s raw filmmaking sensibility with old-fashioned movie appeal.
- In Bruges: This very dark comedy from writer/director Martin McDonagh tells the story of two hit men (Brendon Gleeson and Colin Farrell) cooling their jets in a tiny Belgium tourist town after a job back home has gone very, very wrong. Ralph Fiennes is a scream as their impatient boss. The writing and acting is tremendously good.
- Gran Torino. The trailer made this movie look like a Death Wish clone, but nothing could be further from the truth. Clint Eastwood’s beautiful movie about a bigot who finds a connection with the Hmong immigrants in his neighborhood is a stunning piece of work.
- The Reader: I like movies about moral ambiguity, and The Reader has it in spades. It also has stunning acting by Kate Winslet and David Kross.
- Milk: Both director Gus Van Sant and star Sean Penn show remarkable taste and restraint in this biopic of the first openly gay person ever elected to office in the United States. The movie is full of wonderful performances, particularly from Emile Hirsch (never thought I’d say that, as he is not my cup of half-caf mochachino), James Franco and Josh Brolin.
- Frost/Nixon: Ron Howard returns to form with this superbly-made dramatization of the famous interviews.
- Doubt: John Patrick Shanley’s Broadway Pulitzer-Prize-winning play becomes a fascinating movie. Four acting powerhouses — Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis– tear up the screen
- The Dark Knight: A rich, complex, well made and beautifully acted movie.
- Priceless: A beautifully old-fashioned caper / romantic comedy starring the wonderful Audrey Tautou.
Honorable Mention: Cloverfield, Defiance, Sex and the City, Boy A, Frozen River, The Duchess, Last Chance Harry, Role Models, Young@Heart, Fear(s) of the Dark, Waltz With Bashir, Pineapple Express, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Bank Job, Flawless
Best Event Movie
Cloverfield: The premise – a murderous sea monster goes through a rampage through Manhattan and you’re only point of view is that of an amateur video camera wielded by a dazed twenty-something partygoer – worked remarkably well. Any movie that understands that the scariest thing is the unknown scores big points. The fact that you never know any more than the terrified kids who are filming the action ratchets the tension level up to a fever pitch. Technically the movie is also ingenious.
Brendon Gleeson, In Bruges
Andrew Garfield, Boy A
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon
*Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Sean Penn, Milk
Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harry
Audrey Tautou, Priceless
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
*Kate Winslet, The Reader
Keira Knightley, The Duchess
Judith Light, Save Me
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harry
Best Supporting Actor
Colin Farrell, In Bruges
Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges / The Duchess / The Reader
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
*Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Omar Benson Miller, Miracle at St. Anna
Michael Kelly, Changeling
Anil Kapoor, Slumdog Millionaire
David Kross, The Reader
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Best Supporting Actress
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Death-Defying Acts
Jane Lynch, Role Models
Amy Adams, Doubt
*Viola Davis, Doubt
Beyonce Knowles, Cadillac Records
Kathy Bates, Revolutionary Road
Lena Olin in The Reader
Well, the year’s ten best movies had the ten best screenplays, duh.
Best Documentary Feature
*Young@Heart. This stunning movie tells the story of a chorus of senior citizens who bring new meaning and insight to rock and punk standards. To see it is to have your heart lifted right through the rafters.
Constantine’s Sword: Tells the story of the Roman emperor who cynically made Christianity the official religion of the empire, thus damning Western Civilization to two centuries of superstition, intolerance and suppression of science. Thanks, Constantine!
Bigger, Stronger, Faster: A surprisingly insightful look at the world of performance enhancing drugs in our competitive American culture.
Man on Wire: A fascinating look at the journey of acrobat Philippe Petit and his six-year odyssey to create one of the best guerilla stunts of all time: Walking a tightrope between the tops of the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Religulous: Bill Maher travels the world to try to discover why grown-up people still believe in fairy tales
Saving Marriage: The inspiring story of the fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts
Best Production Design
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Best Foreign Language Film
Note: I promise I’m not pushing some creepy Gallic agenda here. It was just a really good year for movies from France, what can I say?
Priceless (France): Audrey Tautou once again proves she’s a movie force to be reckoned with in this charming, retro comedy.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (France)
The Class (France)
*Tell No One (France)
Best Animated Movies That Weren’t Wall E
Madagascar 2: Back to Africa
*Waltz With Bashir
Fear(s) of the Dark
*“Gran Torino” from . . . Gran Torino
“You’re As Gay as the Day is Long” from Hamlet 2
“Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” from Hamlet 2
“Raped in the Face” from Hamlet 2
One of the Most Beautiful Movies I’ve Ever Seen
Visionary director Tarsem’s The Fall. Rent the Blue-Ray of this, play it on your widescreen HDTV and prepare to be blown away by the imagery.
I’m Really Sick of Superhero Movies . . .
But Ironman and The Dark Knight were both very good, considering.
Australia: I don’t get why audiences stayed away from this gaudy birthday present of a movie. I was sure it would be Hugh Jackman’s first big non-“X Men” film success, but the movie got tepid reviews and never took off at the box office. Very odd.
A Good Year for Heist Movies
The Bank Job: Jason Statham and Saffron Burroughs starred in this terrific, based-on-a-true story of a complicated robbery.
Flawless: Director Michael Radford’s surprisingly affecting caper movie starring Michael Caine and, in a terrific performance, Demi Moore.
Not Saying it Was a Good Movie, But He Can Wear That Suit
Keanu Reeves as Klaatu in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still
Proof that Ryan Reynolds is Definitely (Not Maybe) Ready For a Bigger Career
Proof That James Franco is Getting Better and Better
Milk and Pineapple Express
Just Put Them in Your Movie. They’ll Make Your Movie Better
The dependable and wonderful J.K. Simmons
The intense and riveting Viola Davis
The luminous and perpetually underrated Lena Olin
Best New Word From a Movie
“Bromosexual” from Pineapple Express
Please Let’s See More of . .
. . . the hilarious Danny R. McBride, who was so good in Tropic Thunder and so hilarious in Pineapple Express
. . . the beautiful and versatile Sophie Okonedo from The Secret Life of Bees
. . . Omar Benson Miller, who gave a beautifully tender performance in Spike Lee’s underseen Miracle at St. Anna
. . . Melissa Leo, who tore up the screen in Frozen River
. . . the intense Dominic Cooper from The Duchess and Mamma Mia!
. . . the talented Michael Kelly, who was so good in Changeling
. . . the talented David Kross of The Reader
Best Gay Couple in a Movie
Justin Long and Brandon Routh in Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Tough, Entertaining Little Independent Movies
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Best Comeback of 2008
Forget Mickey Rourke. The true Comeback Kid of last year was, without a doubt, World War II. In one year you could revisit the war in The Miracle in St. Anna, The Reader, Valkyrie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Good and Defiance. And that’s just the ones I can remember.
Really Hardworking Actor
Mark Strong: This handsome Brit appeared in no less than six films released in 2008, including Rocknrolla, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and Good.
He’s Rilly Rilly Talented and Should Be a Bigger Star
Lee Pace, who gave memorable performances in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and The Fall.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For a day. At a party in 1939 London, after watching a group of drunken young people whoop and cheer at the sight of a group of British warplanes flying overhead, Frances McDormand’s Miss Pettigrew sighs and murmurs, “They don’t remember the last one. . . “
In Bruges: “Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”
In Bruges: “Why in the world would anyone have to go to Belgium?!
Doubt: “Where’s your compassion?” “Nowhere YOU can get at it!”
In Bruges: “They’re filmin’ midgets!!”
Frost/Nixon: “When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
Role Models: “No, venti is twenty. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn’t mean large. It’s also the only one that’s Italian. Congratulations, you’re stupid in three languages.”
Tropic Thunder: “Everybody knows you never go full retard.”
I Wonder How Many Phantom Of the Opera Fans Realized . . .
. . . that they were listening to the legendary Michael Crawford all through the movie Wall E. The clips from 1969’s Hello, Dolly! largely featured Crawford singing the role of Cornelius, 19 years before he created his most famous role as The Opera Ghost in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway juggernaut.
Big, Splashy Popcorn Movies That I Heartily Recommend
Only Good Horror Film This Year
The Strangers: Despite its nihilistic ending (which, admittedly, isn’t uncommon in this genre), this home invasion story is creepy and effective.
Way, Way, Way Better Than I Expected
Sex and the City: Who knew this series had such a terrifically entertaining feature film in it?
Deserved to Do More Business
Leatherheads: This was a fun movie about the birth of professional football. Now if you read that statement back, and you know me, you’ll agree that it’s as unlikely a statement as I’m liable to ever make. So rent this stylish period comedy.
Not As Bad As Everyone Said It Was
The Happening: Everyone gets pissed off when the new M. Night Shyamalan movie isn’t The Sixth Sense. I say just shut up and enjoy his twisted imagination.
Worst Movies I Saw in 2008
10,000 BC: Great title, great visual effects . . . still boring. Well, at least director Roland Emmerich remains consistent.
Burn After Reading: My Beloved Coen Brothers follow up their Best Picture winning No Country For Old Men with this unwatchable, arrogant mess.
Quantum of Solace: I loved Casino Royale, but this second outing for Daniel Craig as 007 is ugly, boring and stupid.
*The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A double winner for also being the most overrated borefest of the year. I liked this movie a lot better when it was called Forrest Gump.
Please Keep Directing and Please Stop Acting:
Performer Who Most Makes Me Long For Death
Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder and Hamlet 2
Not Nearly As Good As Everyone Said It Was
I think I’m the only person who enjoyed Ang Lee’s 2003 The Hulk, and it certainly was no worse than this new version starring Ed Norton.
Richard Roeper Lost His Mind . . .
. . . over Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s a perfectly fun and funny movie from the Judd Apatow factory, but it’s not the second coming of Christ.
And Speaking of Richard Roeper . . . Ben Lyons Must Be Killed
Shame on Buena Vista Television for replacing Roeper with the vacuous Ben Lyons on “At the Movies.” When reviewing Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie, rather than claiming the movie was actually good, he actually said, “Tom Cruise is one of the biggest celebrities on the planet! Just enjoy the movie!!” Like we should simply be grateful that a star of Cruise’s wattage deigned to take the trouble to stand in front of a camera for our benefit. That’s the kind of statement a fanboy should make, not a movie critic. Ben Lyons must be killed.
My Ex-Wordprocessing Cohort Chad McKnight Deservers Better Than . .
Such a Disappointment After Supersize Me
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? And what in the world was the talented and appealing filmmaker Morgan Spurlock thinking when he decided this paper-thin confection was a worthy follow-up to his super Supersize Me?
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. What a bore. What a letdown after the excellent The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: While not actually terrible, this was a disappointment in so many ways. Why bring back Marian (Karen Allen) and then make her act as if she’d been dropped on her head repeatedly since the first movie? Why have a plot that feels like it’s cobbled together from every movie cliché imaginable? Why have the title prop look like a big ugly piece of molded plastic?
Most Bullshit-Covered Documentary
Water. Did you know that water was MAGIC?
The Workout Rule
Tayler Garrette and I have worked out this important Hollywood rule. It goes as follows: If you are a young, nice looking actor who’s been hired to be in a movie because you’re a young, nice-looking actor (as opposed to because you’re, say, the next Ed Norton), and it’s at all possible that you will go shirtless at any point in said movie, Get Thee to a Gym.
If you’re Hayden Christensen and you bare your bod in a piece of crap movie like Jumper, you need to be in shape. Consider it an important part of what they’re paying you for.
Extra Points For Following the Workout Rule
When he was hired to play the lead in Stop-Loss, Ryan Phillipe was told that he’d have to get in the best shape of his life. And you know what? Mr. Phillipe is not only a good actor, but he understands The Workout Rule. Watch the movie – his commitment to The Rule makes the film better.
What in the World Were the Critics Smoking When They Gave This Boring Piece of Tripe Rapturous Reviews?
Reprise: Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier proves that boredom has no language barrier.
Worst Performance in a Musical Since Jack Nicholson in Tommy
Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! S.O.S. indeed.
Arthur C. Clarke
Bill Melendez (Peanuts animator)
Don LaFontaine (legendary movie trailer voice: “In a world . . . “)
John Phillip Law
Gary Gygax (inventor of Dungeons & Dragons)
Ann Savage (noir diva)
Robert Mulligan (directed To Kill a Mockingbird and The Other)
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