What a fascinating year in film. Although it is questionable whether or not this list will have any impact, here are my top ten movies of a very fruitful and rewarding year in film with a snippet or two about their greatness when necessary.
1. Synecdoche, New York – By far the most ambitious film of the year. Charlie Kaufman has come close to doing what Caden never managed to do. Most assuredly, it is not for everyone but delving into the despair at its heart yields immeasurable joy.
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – The best mainstream film of the year, rife with deep sadness. Fincher and Pitt continue to put out excellent work. An instantly classic American epic.
3. Milk – This movie oozes style and talent. Gus Van Sant seared the feel of the 70s into every frame. His impressionistic, empathetic camera combined with Sean Penn’s tour de force were a spectacular combination.
4. Rachel Getting Married – Jonathon’s Demme’s seemingly simple hand held cinematography and unaffected performances all around yielded a near flawless, naturalistic masterpiece.
5. Waltz With Bashir – completely redefines the documentary format with visuals that are near revolutionary.
6. The Wrestler – Aronofsky is much more subtle but just as great. Mickey Rourke brings out his demons and hits exactly the right note of bittersweet.
7. The Dark Knight – Imbued with far more depth than it had any right to have. The Dark Knight was an example of the greatness that can result when artists are allowed to tackle a mainstream film. Heath Ledger is simply stunning.
8. WALL-E – Animation is no longer for the kids. Although wrapped in a layer of sweetness, it is deeply affecting satire that is near perfectly crafted.
9. The Wackness – A perfect portrait of 90s New York City. Levine takes stylistic risks and they all pay off, creating the overlooked gem of 2008.
10. Burn After Reading – The best comedy of the year. The Coen Brothers berate their audience with darkness and constantly push boundaries, making you laugh and cringe simultaneously.
Honorable Mention (in order of Honor attained): Frost/Nixon, In Bruges, Hancock, Funny Games, Mongol, Australia, Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, W., Tropic Thunder, Religulous,