Sunday, February 15, 2009

More top films: #15 -11

Yesterday I began posting my top 20 films of 2008 to this blog. Now, the countdown continues:

15. Hancock
Totally entertaining. In a year bloated with superhero movies this one poked fun at them while also providing a popcorn fun flick. It was fun to see these actors (Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman) in such a fun movie, but under the surface throughout are some questions about personal responsibility and relationships. The first (only?) summer movie I enjoyed.

14. Milk
So it was a little tiny bit predictable, not because one knows how the story of Harvey Milk ended in real life, but predictable in the sense that you know what the filmmaker is going to do next to elicit the next required emotion. OK, dramatic struggle, check. Galvanizing moment, check. Time for an interpersonal relationship upheaval, good, next? That sort of thing. But, Sean Penn and many others were fantastic in their performances. Let me just say (and this won't be the first time you hear it!) that Josh Brolin is one of the best things we've got going on in cinema right now. If you were a teacher and this film were a student's assignment, you'd just have to give it an A, because it did everything just right, very well. But you couldn't quite give it an A+; it just misses that something special to make it spectacular. That said, I'm pretty sure that many people who have given zero thought in their lives to political struggle, being galvanized, and interpersonal upheaval, let alone the gay rights movement, just might be blown away by all it teaches them. Note to all newcomers to enlightenment: welcome, we've been waiting for you.

13. Rachel Getting Married
Ahh, my favorite number, lucky 13, for a very unlucky anti-heroine played by Anne Hathaway, sprung from rehab to be at her sister's wedding. I rather enjoyed this whole thing, and I like how Jonathan Demme put it together. I'm not gonna lie: I had to find out what he's actually done between The Silence of the Lambs and now. Turns out, a few things! Guess I didn't quite realize he directed Philadelphia -- sorry, buddy, caught up in the mesmerizing Tom Hanks hullabaloo that year! Anyway, this film couldn't be more different plotwise from ol' Hannibal the Cannibal, but there is all kinds of good stuff going on here, too: fragile family ties stretched to their snapping points, realistic portrayal of the aftermath of addiction, and a pile of characters who drift in and out and you don't necessarily know why they are there or how important they are going to be, just like in life. I love films with great scripts and performances that let you sort of luxuriate in the visuals while still making you think. When quirky or dark dramas try to do that they tend to be either really good or horrid. This was really good!

12. Man on Wire
If you missed this gem about the tightrope walker who managed to dance on the air between the World Trade Center twin towers back in the 1970s when they still existed, you have missed an exhilarating couple of hours, and a whole mess of things to ponder about life and the way we pursue our dreams. Makes you laugh, makes you think, makes you wonder of what other unimaginable feats we are capable.

11. Che
Soderbergh. Benicio. Che! Cuba! Any one of those things could draw me to a film, but all together in one giant four-hour-plus epic? I was so there. The Cuba parts thrilled me, of course, but the whole thing was a grand cinematic construction and Benico del Toro honestly becomes Che so thoroughly. It was politically profound and gorgeous. I could have watched four more hours of this, easily.

Tomorrow, it's onto the top 10!

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