Best movies of 2008
Superhero films came to the fore in 2008. In summer, it seemed each week brought another superpowered or comic book-based tale. Other of the year’s top films featured washed-up wrestlers, 1970s politicians and an optimistic trash compactor. The following are my list of the best 10 films of the year.
1. “The Dark Knight” – Director Christopher Nolan made a crime epic disguised as a comic-book caper. The Joker looms large over “The Dark Knight,” as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. The Joker’s lunacy has the town on edge. While the Joker ostensibly is working for the city’s criminal powers, his real goal is chaos. This creepy vision of the Joker is original and unsettling, with greasy hair and a painted-on smile covering scars.
Ultimately, Nolan’s Batman film asks viewers to consider when and why rules should be broken.
2. “Slumdog Millionaire” – Director Danny Boyle shows us the life of a young “slumdog” in Bombay, who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Alternately terrifying and uplifting, “Slumdog” is something of an Indian “It’s A Wonderful Life” as Jamal Malik attempts to explain his game-show success to police who suspect fraud.
3. “The Wrestler” – Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a former top pro wrestler who still lives for the adulation of the crowd while hanging on in the dregs of the business as he approaches middle age. He wants to re-establish a relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), but isn’t sure where to start. He asks for help from a friend, exotic dancer Cassidy (Marisa Tomei – she’s also holding on to her profession past the usual sell-by date. Each of them must determine the best way to end this phase of their lives in this drama directed by Darren Aronofsky.
4. “Frost/Nixon” – Director Ron Howard makes the cat-and-mouse game between interviewer David Frost (Michael Sheen) and the resigned President Nixon (Frank Langella) into compelling drama.
5. “Iron Man” – Robert Downey Jr. plays billionaire playboy Tony Stark, forced to invent a high-tech suit of armor to save his life in “Iron Man.” Toward the end, “Iron Man” descends into formula, but before it does, the highs are incredibly high.
6. “WALL-E” – The animated Pixar film features a robotic trash compactor on an abandoned Earth. When a probe from the surviving humans arrives, WALL-E finds love. “WALL-E” is a classic love story disguised as a science fiction tale, but it works as both.
7. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button in this epic film loosely adapted from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Benjamin is born old, then ages backwards. The sweep of the film reminds of “Forrest Gump” – Eric Roth wrote the screenplay for both.
8. “Milk” – Sean Penn stars as gay activist Harvey Milk in this 1970s biopic. Milk was the first openly gay man elected to office in California. Exceptional supporting performances abound, especially by Emile Hirsch as Milk protégé Cleve Jones. Also of note are Josh Brolin as Milk’s adversary and eventual assassin Dan White, and James Franco as Milk’s long-time companion Scott Smith. The film was directed by Gus Van Sant.
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