Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fareed's Top 10 Movies of 2008

With the Oscars upon us and "The Reader" set to pick up a Best Picture win (*kidding*), it seems appropriate to list my top 10 movies of 2008.

1. The Dark Knight

Grand filmmaking at its most ambitious and intelligent. For a longer defense of the fil’s merits check out my editorial:


For reasons I don't quite understand, the people at Domino's pizza presented the most riveting and thematically rich preview of the movie:

2. Waltz with Bashir

This stunning animated Israeli documentary beautifully captures the visceral chaos of history. Director Ari Folman smartly uses the innocuous side of the animated medium to completely immerse the audience within the mindsets of soldiers caught within a frightening and pointless war. The inclusion of live-action documentary footage at the end of the film makes for one the most emotionally devastating moments in cinema this year.

3. Gran Torino

Over the past decade, Clint Eastwood has been on an artistic role producing consistently taught and remarkably poignant work. "Gran Torino" serves as a moving tribute to both Eastwood's career and his transformation from brusque action hero to perceptive artist. That it received no Oscar nods cements this work as an underrated masterpiece.

4. Man on Wire

The story of the peculiar Phillip Petit's mission to walk on a tight rope between the two World Trade Center towers could have been nothing more than a 90 minute curiosity. Like Werner Herzog, documentarian James Marsh proves capable of capturing the inspiring beauty that lies at the core of his subject's eccentric quest. To quote from my original review," “Man on Wire” stands as a beautiful testament to an impossible dream and a quiet love letter to the majesty of New York City."

5. Let the Right One In

The Swedish gem was not only one of the best vampire film of 2008, it was also one of the finest examples of world cinema. Its story of a young boy meeting a girl-turned-vampire masterfully explored the horrors of childhood while delivering a truly haunting genre experience. See it now before it gets its planned American remake.

6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen's oh-so-charming "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is sexy without showing more than an ounce of skin, engaging without being intellectually pompous. A film of boundless energy and vigor.

7. Happy-go-lucky

Sally Hawkins delivers the finest female performance of the year in Mike Leigh's fantastic film that explores the dark side of ebullience.

8. In Bruges

A textbook example of how to effectively walk the line between film genres. This deftly scripted film about two hit men who find themselves holed up in Belgium is at once tragic, hilarious and oddly surreal.

9. A Christmas Tale

French director Arnaud Desplechin crafts a disquieting Kafkaesque tale of family dysfunction that is elevated by the electric chemistry between Catherine Deneuvre and Mathieu Amalric as a mother-son pair who despise each other. Rarely has hate been rendered so palpable on the screen.

10. The Wrestler

While Mickey Rourke deserves every bit of praise he's received for his stunning portrayal as a fallen professional wrestler, the film is a wonderful showcase for Darren Aronofsky. His appropriately brutal imagery boldly illuminates the art behind the spectacle. If that wasn’t enough, the film features the most moving endings in recent memory.

Most underrated movie of the year: Che

A difficult, often misunderstood epic about the guerrilla leader Che Guevara that eschews cheap emotional theatrics for real insight into the tragically misguided leader. Hopefully, it will be rediscovered in years to come.

A Cinematic Predecessor to "Slumdog" ?

To celebrate the Oscars, I wanted to present a possible precursor to "Slumdog Millionaire" that has been much lauded for the seemingly out-of-nowhere Bollywood dance at the end of the film. It reminded me of the samurai film “Zatoichi” made in 2004 by Japanese auteur Takeshi Kitano:

Keep in mind that this finale follows a relatively conventional though sharply directed samurai film. The result of this juxtaposition? A sublime and joyous scene.

Fareed Ben-Youssef '09


Anonymous said...

You clearly know nothing about film.

@1:02 PM said...

Dear Anonymous, if you're going to make a comment like that, it'd be nice if you could give some support. Otherwise you're just a negative tool.

Anonymous said...

As always, Fareed, you rock.

'09 said...

As always, Fareed, you rock.

Anonymous said...

well put fareed

Anonymous said...

Why isn't SDM on the list?