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Best films of 2008

Huzzah! Verily, I did find ten movies I could recommend. It's easier to recommend movies than books, anyway, since they're so much less of a time commitment. (For the viewer, I mean. Actually making a movie looks a hundred times harder and more complicated than writing a book; otherwise I'd be in the film industry.)

[Edit: Yes, these are films I saw in 2008. Not films from 2008, necessarily.]

10. and 9. (They're interchangeable, really.) Northanger Abbey (2007, Felicity Jones) and Emma (1996, Kate Beckinsale). I don't recall the books' details well enough to know how much they condensed and changed when turning them into films. I'm sure Austen purists hate these concise little pieces. But if you just want some amusing Regency fluff with that veneer of classic lit, then they're quite enjoyable.

8. Atonement. This is one of those movies, like Magnolia, that I admired and found captivating, but wouldn't want to watch more than once--at least, not all the way through. Too depressing by the end. Still, the method of storytelling appealed to my writer's heart, the cinematography was gorgeous, and James McAvoy, just in case you wondered, totally jumped onto my crush list this year. (Also adored him in Becoming Jane.)

7. Imagine Me & You. A mainstream lesbian love story, as sweet and natural as any hetero chick flick. As such, also pretty predictable, but lovely to watch. Those gals made me want to do my hair nicer. And really this movie made the list because Anthony Stewart Head is in it.

6. The Jane Austen Book Club. I'm ashamed that something so Oprah's-book-pick is on my list. But for whatever reason, I found it lots of fun. I assume this has a lot to do with Hugh Dancy's performance, a totally different turn from his usual Masterpiece Theatre costume roles: he played a geeky American software developer who rides his bike everywhere (decked out in all types of safety gear) and prefers science fiction but is willing to give this Jane Austen a try. Too cute.

5. Paris, Je T'Aime. A collection of five-minute films, all from different directors and in all kinds of styles and languages, with nothing in common except being set in Paris. (Plus a few clever overlaps between stories here and there.) Like a box of chocolate bonbons with surprise fillings. Relatively star-studded, too. Elijah Wood fans, take note: this is your chance to see vampire-Lij!

4. Waitress. Mmm, pie. Seriously, the pies make this movie. But everyone turns in a great performance, too, from Nathan Fillion as a creepy/cute/awkward OB-GYN to Keri Russell as the main pie-making pregnant waitress, to the tragically now deceased Adrienne Shelly (who also directed it) as a nerdy coworker, to Andy Griffith as a crochety old guy.

3. Notes on a Scandal. Cate Blanchett always rocks, even when her character is doing morally not-so-wonderful things. For instance, when she plays a high school teacher romancing one of her 15-year-old students. As you might imagine, scandal ensues. Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, who also always rock, round out the film with their portrayals of the rather viperish fellow teacher and the cuckolded husband.

2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. You know I love perfume, and even if this film has its heroes and villains turned upside-down, they get their perfurmery right. The passion for scent, and where it leads one disturbed young man with the world's best nose, is painted beautifully. I wish a film could be scratch-and-sniff. Well, except for those nasty 1700s-fishmonger-district scenes...

1. My Neighbor Totoro. On those days when you can't stand Disney because it seems too damn saccharine and dumbed-down, thank God we've got Hayao Miyazaki. I've loved his films in the past; Spirited Away was probably my favorite. This one is similar to Spirited Away, and to Alice in Wonderland for that matter, but less wild; gentler and more pastoral. And somehow this studio shows little kids exactly right--not over-cute, not over-obnoxious, just the way they are in real life in every country. Loved it.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Correct. I've added an edit to clarify that.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
I need to track them all down eventually. It's kind of nice to take my time about it, and have some to look forward to...
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
I love Northanger Abbey! :-)
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
It was fun to see "Sally Sparrow" in a different role. :)
Jan. 11th, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
Wow -- this makes me feel out of touch. I've only seen one of these films (My Neighbor Totoro). But I've seen it at least 300 times... My movie watching is entirely child-directed these days. Well, except that I did watch almost all of Buffy -- not a movie, but DVD, anyway. And some other Joss Whedon stuff on Hulu.

My wife and I don't go to the movies without the kids any more, though, b/c it's so often a disappointment. (Years ago, when we still took that kind of chance, we were among the twelve or so people on Earth who paid money to see The Avengers. *And* The Island of Dr. Moreau. Yet somehow our relationship survived.)

Anyway, Miyazaki is worshipped in this household -- my personal favorite is Castle in the Sky, but they're all wonderful.
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
I remember Castle in the Sky being great as well, though I'm starting to conflate it in my mind with Howl's Moving Castle. Must buy the whole Miyazaki set and sort it out.

I did end up watching a lot of TV on DVD this past year too--that would be another list entirely. (Just finished Twin Peaks...recommended highly, until the middle of the second season, when it all goes off the rails.)

And we almost never get to theatres either, and similarly have to choose stuff we can watch with a toddler playing on the floor. Luckily some stuff can be grown-up fare but harmless for him, since it mostly goes over his head. (Tonight we watched some of Secretary...it's actually pretty subtle if you're, you know, three.)
Jan. 15th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Alas, that wouldn't work for us... Though there's a two-year-old, there are also a nine-year-old and an eleven-year-old. We had to switch to watching Buffy late at night. (Not b/c of the violence, although I copied this rather comical excerpt from a list on someone's website. It covers the way characters get killed in just a couple of episodes; just glancing at the summaries might give the mistaken impression that this is a rather violent show:

Set on fire by Spike
Head ripped off by Razor
Drawn and quartered by the Hellions
Shot with crossbow by Willow
Axe to the head from Xander
Knifed by Buffy
Neck broken by Buffy
Impaled on a pipe by Buffy
Axe in the back from Tara
Decapitated by Buffy
Beaten to death with a pipe by Buffy
Shovel in the chest from Buffy
Neck broken by Buffy
Head crushed by Buffy
Killed by the vampire Justin
Impaled on a tree branch by Giles
Shot with crossbow by Spike
Decapitated with a car door by Buffy
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)
Too funny! Well, it is a violent show, but it's nearly cartoon violence most of the time. They sure did get creative with ways to kill creatures/people. I remember thinking that several times.

Did you guys get into the same habit we did, where every time you were out somewhere and saw a sharp piece of wood sticking up from something, you'd remark to the other person, "If this were a Buffy episode, someone would totally get thrown on top of that"? Yeah, we ended up saying that a lot for a while there.
Jan. 18th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
I will now... Oh, speaking of movies & kids: Wall-E.
Jan. 21st, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
Meaning to see that... *Netflix-queues it*
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
I love Miyazaki. Along with Dir en grey he makes life wonderful and spiffy.
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:58 am (UTC)
He does create the warm fuzzy feeling. I'll have to look up Dir en grey too!
Jan. 15th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
Well, Dir en grey isn't always warm and fuzzy. Though, Ware Yami Tote comes close.
Most of the time they are pretty headbangingly making the walls bleed and scream AWESOME in their spectacular musicality.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )