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The Best Films of the Decade: 2008

Fireworks2008.jpgThe penultimate year in the decade is 2008, just one more year and I'll be gathering together your votes for the Best Films of the Decade and then we'll have one big vote on Filmstalker for the single Best Film of the Decade. Hold up though, we have two years to cover before we get there, and next up is 2008.

2008 was the year of Slumdog Millionaire which won eight Oscars, something of a surprise in my eyes, it was good, but eight? There were quite a few controversial moments in a number of awards ceremonies this year, not just the Oscars, but will there be any when you look back at 2008?

Here's your chance to vote on the Best Film of 2008 and be part of the vote for the Best Film of the Decade.

Remember you can visit all the previous years and still vote on them.

The Baader Meinhof Complex
A film about The Red Army Faction, a terrorist group that rose in 1970's Germany and, to a degree, changed terrorist activities to something much bloodier and on a larger scale than the world had seen to this point, with bombings and plane hijackings becoming their goal. However there was much more to this group, and originally their aims and goals seemed much more intelligent and human focused, however their methods made them something very different and through their actions resulted in the loss of their own humanity. Some great cinematography in Uli Edel's film that is led by Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck and carries a number of strong names in European cinema.

Part of me was severely disappointed when, very early on in the production, it turned out that Clint Eastwood wasn't remaking the George C. Scott classic horror, but then another part of me was excited, a new original Eastwood film and as news emerged the anticipation grew even more. J. Michael Straczynski wrote the script, Eastwood directed, Angelina Jolie starred along with names such as John Malkovich, Colm Feore, Jeffrey Donovan and Amy Ryan. However for me it was the three big names that drew people to the film and created such a tremendous movie, Eastwood, Straczynski and Jolie. A powerful and emotional thriller which should have received much more recognition than it did.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
A beautifully filmed and written story that carries a superb performances from Cate Blanchett. Yes, I didn't say Brad Pitt, he was great in the role but his character doesn't really have a great range of emotion, whereas Blanchett's character felt much more real and believable. There were some calls of it being a lot like Forrest Gump, however to me it felt darker and more realistic than the slightly contrived story of Gump. It was moving and touching on a much more personal level. Perhaps this could be the best film of 2008.

The Dark Knight (Filmstalker review)
What a film, however for me this is perhaps the most misunderstood film when it comes to the media and the awards, for it was overshadowed by the death of Heath Ledger, and despite the fact that this was not his last performance, everyone began treating it as such and lavished praise on the actor and performance. For me the performance was made by a number of things, and the performance would have passed unmentioned at the awards ceremonies had it not been for his death, the film score, and the superbly crafted thriller. The award ceremonies should have looked to the film and lavished their praise on it as a whole, for it was a fantastic thriller first and superhero film second, something that the other superhero films were missing. As for the character of the Joker, watch the film again and note how the performance is heightened by the score and the story around it. Should this have been the film of the year in 2008?

Elegy (Filmstalker review) I think I say it best in the Overall section of my original review, which features a Q&A with the director after the screening:

"This is a stunning film with superb performances that are both subtle and emotionally charged, and an amazing script filled with realistic and heartfelt dialogue that will strike a chord and move even the hardened of audience members. A beautiful and moving film that captures some amazing moments in the human condition, especially of men. For those who love cinema to touch them on some way, this is a definite must see."

Frost/Nixon (Filmstalker review)
Who would have thought that there would have been such a dramatic and tense film in the story of David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon and obtaining the confession of guilt and apology over the Watergate affair. Certainly it was a powerful and memorable moment in history, but could a full length film be made of it and it remain engaging and thrilling throughout? The answer is most definitely yes, in the hands of Ron Howard and Peter Morgan. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella deliver amazing performances in a wonderfully scripted story. Definitely another top contender.

Gran Torino (Filmstalker review)
Let's get the negatives out of the way, the amateur performances and some moments where the editing and camera work seem a little off from Clint Eastwood's normally superb directing. Now that's done, Eastwood does an amazing job of capturing the Clint Eastwood film persona, pulling in aspects of some of his greatest performances and characters into one role and one film, and delivering another powerful and emotionally strong story. Plus, there's a fantastic muscle car here too.

Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (Filmstalker review)
A truly new take on the vampire legend, and not one where we see neutered creatures, but one that takes it on a very personal and dark journey and hints at some very dark places in human psyche. It's a very subtle and wonderful film that leaves a lot of things unsaid, and all the right things too, giving just the right level of darkness and warmth to deliver a fascinating and wonderfully shot film.

Man on Wire
Some say that this was the documentary of the year, although I think it's up against some strong competition from others such as Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure. However the fact that it featured the Twin Towers so strongly and the amazing and seemingly insane feat of Philippe Petit who literally walked a tightrope between the two towers illegally, and no wonder it was illegal. The film looks back at the man and the event, building up to it through his previous seemingly insane and unbeatable tightrope walks. Some stunning and unbelievable images and moments.

A Matter of Loaf and Death
Okay, so it's a short film and made for television, but then it is a Wallace and Gromit film that captures so much detail and fun into one film that many full length features can't achieve in their entire running time. Nick Park is a genius, and his imagination and love for these two characters comes through in every screen appearance. In A Matter of Loaf and Death they are almost at their best, and that's streets ahead of a lot of their competition. Hilarious, warming and loving.

Milk (Filmstalker review)
Milk was a film that really surprised me in 2008, although to be fair I was expecting strong things knowing the story material, current and ongoing events in America, and the fact that Sean Penn was playing the lead role of Harvey Milk. What we got was just that, a number of great performances, a powerful script and film that attempted to do much more than just tell the events of the man's life, his trials and his achievements, but also to educate and change the world, and that's an admirable and wonderful thing.

The Reader
Kate Winslet shines in this powerful story that also stars Ralph Fiennes, adapted from the Bernhard Schlink novel by David Hare and directed by Stephen Daldry, already a ton of talent behind it. However for all that the film didn't prove as popular as you might expect, although it took many awards and won Winslet an Oscar for her performance.

Red (Filmstalker review)
I think, yet again, I'll bow to my original review of Red, which again features a Q&A with the director and writer. Here's what I had to say in the Overall section:

"I loved this film, this is what cinema should be. Forgetting the current terrible conventions of ramming things in the audience's face for reinforcement, the film retains all the subtlety of a great script taken to the big screen with fantastic pacing.

Then there's the great direction and a wonderful performance from Brian Cox with plenty of strong supporting actors performances.

Red really does show that Hollywood hasn't destroyed great storytelling and directors who can compliment great scripts by not overpowering them with their own visions and ideals."

Seven Pounds (Filmstalker review)
Great performances from Will Smith and Rosario Dawson in a beautiful film. Of course you can see the ending coming, but it's a slow build and the film isn't reliant on the the twist, it's reliant on the emotional drive of the story and the great connection of the two leads. A wonderful film that will have you in tears, and for all the right reasons.

Slumdog Millionaire (Filmstalker review)
I liked the film at the time I saw it and was very forgiving of the second half of the film. While the first half was much more powerful and engaging, the second half was much more entertaining and showed less depth, it also carried some very contrived moments and never fully explored the relationship of the two brothers when they were older. Despite not believing it should have won eight Oscars, and that it was a bit cheeky to tack on the Indian dance number at the end to call it more of a joint production, I still enjoyed the film and think it was one of the best of the year, definitely not the best however.

Accents aside, because let's face it, if you want to slag off Valkyrie for it's accents then you'll have to slag off 99% of all Hollywood films and even more of all war films, so that aside, Valkyrie is a great war film that does something a lot of Hollywood war films don't do, it attempts to tell the truth, to honour an act in war that wasn't one made by America. Not only that but it picks a hero of Germany that is little known outside of Germany, although the act he and his co-conspirators attempted is. A great documenting of history that shouldn't be dismissed over such petty commentary.

The Visitor (Filmstalker review)
Another film this year that does more than entertain and engage, but tries to educate and change, and it does it in a touching story that captures your imagination and heart. Richard Jenkins gives a great performance in the lead role, and his character really does capture you and take you right into the character. A wonderfully crafted film.

The Wrestler
I have another guilty admission to make, I still haven't seen The Wrestler and yet I know I should. Since it's just me working on Filmstalker day after day, with a real job at the same time, I can only see so many films, still I can't even believe it myself that I've not made time to see The Wrestler and I have to rectify it. Not only has Mickey Rourke comeback, but he's added an actor's performance to that long list of successful comeback films, and surely after this he's answered all those questions - the comeback is over, he's back, and he can act more than most. It's not just him in this Darren Aronofsky film either, it's Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. A must see film...I'm told!

The Wave (Die Welle) (Filmstalker review)
There are problems with Die Wave, of that there's no doubt, but there's no denying the sheer power and relevance of the film, that manages to do to the audience exactly what the Californian experiment in a high school that prompted the original story did to the students of that school, you believe and you understand. However in this film it steps further than our understanding or the original events did, and with terrifying results. A powerful film that really does grab you and prompts some thoughtful discussion.

So get voting, for those are the Best Films of 2008, in my eyes anyway, and now it's up to you to vote for which you think is the best, and remember, if you don't agree with my choices you can easily add in yours in the "Other" section.

In the meantime, here are a few of the "almost made it" films for the Best of the Year:

Doubt, Iron Man (Filmstalker review), Recount, Revolutionary Road, Standard Operating Procedure (Filmstalker review), To See if I'm Smiling (Lirot Im Ani Mehayechet) - Made in 2007 but not released, I saw it in 2008, Vantage Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Filmstalker review), Wall-E (Filmstalker review).

Now get voting, and after you've done that you can always go see the other Stalker's Top Ten's and perhaps submit your own, there's plenty time.



Another strong year for movies. Let The Right One In was amazing, as was Wall-E, but for sheer experience, I went the way of the Dark Knight.

I saw it 3 times at the flicks, all on the imax in Manchester, and it just suited that. The third time, we went for my dads 60th. Bear in mind that the last film he saw at the pictures was ET (and he fell asleep), but he loved it.

I think its as good as event cinema can get really. Plus if you took Bats and The Joker out of it, and put human characters in their place, you'd still have a great movie.

Top stuff indeed.


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