28 December, 2008

Best movies I've watched this year

I'm too tired tonight to do anything resembling productive, and it seems appropriate to write this near the end of the year.

I recently made the mistake of watching two of the most buzzed-about films of last year: There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men. Talk about a mistake: the films were tedious, pointless bores.

Looking at a few top ten lists of 2008 film here and there I'm getting depressed. For example, some people are listing Batman: the Dark Knight; I've already sniffed at it so you can imagine my alarm. Most of these jokers didn't list one of the films I saw this year that was head and shoulders above either of the two films named above—Roger Ebert excepted—so I'll foist my own list on an unsuspecting public: top recent films that I watched this year, that were head-and-shoulders above any of the baloney that won awards last year, or is likely to win an award this year. No particular order.

  1. Eastern Promises, which I described here.
  2. The Kite Runner, based on a book by an Afghan. In any just world, this would have won best picture last year.
  3. Mongol, which I didn't like that much but is still a beautifully made film. (My wife will read this and tell me, You did like it! Her memory is better than mine.)
  4. Baby Mama: Tina Fey has the Midas Touch of Comedy.
  5. Persepolis:Not quite as good as the graphic novels, one of which I described here, its animation and its spirit was a delight nevertheless. Marjane Satrapi's sendup of sensitive, artistic, Marxist European males is gloriously delicious until you remember that this is her autobiography. In addition, it gives a much neglected and sympathetic view of the genuine religious piety and faith of many Muslims, while savaging the hypocrisy of others.
  6. Bella, which I don't know how to describe except as beautiful.
  7. Sweet Land, about a German-speaking mail-order bride's struggles to fit into a community of Norwegian-American farmers. I mentioned it here.
  8. Miss Potter, an amazingly sweet story about Beatrix Potter. Ewan McGregor and Rene Zellweger at their best.
  9. The Island: no, not the Michael Bay fun fest (which was also quite good) but the Russian film about a holy fool. I described it here in 2007 but Netflix indicates that I rented it this year, so it counts.
Looking over the list, I see that I have only nine. Any suggestions for #10? It has to be a recent film (last two or three years) and can't be either a tedious, pointless bore or a pretentious comic book adaptation.

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