I'm on a roll summing up lists for the past year, but movies do not fit this blog. But I'm a lover of films, and most of my friends know that. 2008 was a drought for me for movie watching. There just wasn't any time for me to watch. Recently, I bought DVDs and downloaded movies that were shortlisted to be the best of the year. I search for them as well in the Internet, and I try to find these movies for me to watch come awards season. And it is awards season already, and I have watched a lot of the contenders already. Here are the top 10 films of the year for me:
10. Doubt (directed by John Patrick Shanley)
Starting off the list is the disturbing drama about a charismatic Catholic priest caught up in a pedophile controversy and battle with the religious and traditional sisters of St. Nicholas in the Bronx. With performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, who can go wrong?
9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (directed by Woody Allen)
Set against the luscious Mediterranean sensuality of Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s funny and open-minded celebration of love in all its configurations. It is wicked, wild and has the appeal of Y Tu Mama Tabien (maybe because of the Spanish). But a story of love expressed in all freedom is something that is quite refreshing, and thought provoking as well. And it was genuinely entertaining, like an adult film that teases till the very end.
8. Happy-Go-Lucky (directed by Mike Leigh)
The most charming movie of the year, Happy-Go-Lucky is a tale of a young woman, Poppy, who is unmistakably optimistic and well, happy about her life. Of course, there's got to be conflict, and it comes when she crosses the paths of individuals who are not happy. Happy-Go-Lucky is a feel good film, very simple and clean. It's just a pleasure to watch Poppy go about her whimsical routine everyday, giving us a introspection about that elusive human quality: happiness.
7. The Class (directed bu Laurent Cantet)
Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, my choice for Foreign film of the year goes to The Class. French films are difficult to love, but director Laurent Cantet takes us to an absorbing journey into a multicultural high school in Paris over the course of a school year with such realism and sincerity. Shot on HD and working with a cast of young non-actors, Cantet gives us a moving fictional drama that has the spirit and energy of a documentary.
6. Milk (directed by Gus Van Sant)
MIlk is about the life of the first openly gay public official elected in the United States, Harvey Milk. Initially, I wasn't interested in a political film that had a gay theme. But Gus Van Sant, known for his realistic approach to movies, brings the characters of this unforgettable era to life that you will be able to relate to them, whatever your sexual preference is. And that is what the movie fights for, gay rights, which eventually means human rights. The ending will draw you to tears and move you to appreciate the history of liberalization in our society. Sean Penn also gives the best performance of the year.
5. The Dark Knight (directed by Christopher Nolan)
No doubt the best superhero movie ever made. I watched it in IMAX and I was literally blown away. Breaking all box office records in the US, The Dark Knight is deemed to be the hope of ailing Hollywood in this recession. The Dark Knight is indeed a milestone and a classic, with stunning performances especially by Heath Ledger. Truly, its darkness elevated the superhero genre and the way we look at blockbuster films as well.
4. Frost/Nixon (directed by Ron Howard)
All I know about the Watergate Scandal is that Richard Nixon, then president of the the US was involved in a corrupt political cover-up. As we are used to corruption, Frost/Nixon will instantly connect with Filipino viewers. The story about the a momentous interview between Nixon and a British talk show host, David Frost, where the resigned US president Nixon confesses and apologizes for his wrongdoings during the Watergate scandal. Frank Langhella plays a brilliant performance as Nixon, who surprisingly resembled Erap in the movie. Frost/Nixon is a film full of tension like a boxing match, but gradually progresses in subtle strides.
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (directed by David Fincher)
A visual and cinematic series of unfortunate events that led to the conglomeration of two lives, The Curios Case of Benjamin Button will keep you up for almost 3 hours anticipating how Brad Pitt will grow younger. His performance with Cate Blanchet is truly a match made in heaven, as you just seem to forget that this movie is indeed a fantasy. It is a story of seemingly impossible things happening. It has its similarities with Forrest Gump, as the screenwriter is Eric Roth. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will sweep you off your feet from beginning to end.
2. The Revolutionary Road (directed by Sam Mendes)
I am a fan of movies about relationships that are real. These are not your fairy tale romances, or even those of epic love stories. The Revolutionary Road is one such movie that depicts a real, hard biting relationship. The reunion movie of Leonardo de Caprio and Kate Winslet has the tones of last year's Little Children (which also starred Winslet), but now set in the 1950s in a Connecticut suburb. The nostalgic feel of the movie enhanced the drama, passion and relentless screaming arguments of a "normal" American couple under stress. For me, Kate Winslet is the Best Actress for the year for her powerful performance in this movie.
1. Slumdog Millionaire (directed by Danny Boyle)
It was the last movie I watched after a long line. It was also one of the hardest for me to acquire, and as soon as I was able to get it, I was glued with great expectations. And it didn't disappoint. Danny Boyle is one of the my favorite directors for being so innovative and spontaneous. He is a genius for me, because he can work across genres and still come out with great results. The Beach has become one of my philosophy films (even if it is shallow in a way). Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most uplifting, feel good movies I've ever watched. Set in India, the movie is also one of the most beautifully shot I think as it paints wonderful colors in the most depressing and horrid sceneries of slums of Mumbai. I'm so tempted to tell the story, but again, this is a list. Slumdog Millionaire is definitely the movie of the year for me, fresh, entertaining, moving, uplifting, mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. I jumped at the end of the film, and wanted to celebrate my life afterwards.
There you go, my best movies of 2008. Watch out for these movies for the first quarter of the year. Benjamin is showing so see it! I am placing my bets on Slumdog Millionaire or Benjamin Button to win Best Picture at the coming Oscars. It was indeed a year of great movies, and I was glad I caught up. Better late than never.