best film: 2008 is the year of The Dark Knight. As much as I like Wall-E, Wendy & Lucy and some others the best film, performance, and work by a director from the year easily come from this film. I actually think Nolan has improved dramatically as a director since 2008 but there are segments in this film that as good as the action genre has produced. Also, much like Day-Lewis the year prior in There Will Be Blood—the virtuoso performance here by Ledger carries this film beyond films that would otherwise be formally or stylistically superior.
most underrated: Rachel Getting Married is the most underrated film of 2008. Demme’s last archiveable film may be his best since Silence of the Lambs in 1991 and there’s no way there are 25 better 2008 films (currently this sits at #26). It’s a difficult film—makes for a good pairing with Vinterberg’s the celebration or Von Trier’s Meloncholia (yikes what a depressing night) but it’s potent filmmaking from the man who helped invent (or at least adopt) the close-up.
most overrated: I recently watched a few Martel films (2nd time through) and was more impressed with a second watch so perhaps this will jump again after a 2nd visit but currently I have The Headless Woman closer to #14 of the year. The consensus TSPDT list has it as #4. I know Ebert thought Charlie Kaufman’s Synechdoche, New York was the best film of the decade but I have it outside my top 10 for 2008 let alone the decade. I do look forward to seeing that one again as well.
gem I want to spotlight: There are very enjoyable films like Iron Man, Slumdog and Tropic Thunder that didn’t make my top 10 but are great to watch and rewatch but I have to pick out McQueen’s sobering debut, Hunger. It’s my choice because it’s the announcement of two major talents: both Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender who would go on to be two of the best the coming decade.
trends and notables: It’s an questionably down year after 2007 and leading up to 2010. There at least 2 films from 2007 that would be the best one here and probably 3 from 2010. As much as I adore The Dark Knight, and I do, I have it as Nolan’s 3rd best film. Either way, 2008 is the announcement of Nolan as a major director after the early promise of Memento in 2000. It’s the beginning of a ramped up super hero and marvel world with both this and Iron Man being smashing successes. Sadly, it almost marks the last archiveable performance from the great Health Ledger who died tragically way too soon. Right now I only have 4 archiveable films for Ledger but this one will live on forever (honestly so will his work in brokeback). 2008 with Wall-E marks peak-Pixar (though the toy story trilogy in total may be greater). As I mention in the “gem” section it marks the first appearance in the archives for frequent collaborators Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender. 2008 also marks the archiveable debut for Sorrentino with Il Divo.
best performance male: Heath Ledger is the choice here. He stands on his head in easily the best film of the year. It’s a daring choice and it certainly pays off. It may actually hurt the film in some respects because, by (awesome) comparison, the scenes without him tend to suffer for his lack of presence. Mickey Rourke, in comeback form, is superb in the wrestler. Renner’s been around for years and is sneaky old (38 here) but this is his breakout film and role. He’s magnificent in the hurt locker. Behind him I have to give Phoenix in for his work in Two Lovers. It’s an odd performance, and it’s borderline on getting into this category- but I figured I owed him for leaving him out the year prior with his work in We Own the Night. Clearly I’m a big admirer of his work with James Gray. Lastly, I don’t think either performance on their own would be enough to register here but if you combine them I have to tip the cap to Downey for his work in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder.
best performance female: There’s a lot of competition in this category for 2008. In most years I think Anne Hathaway’s work in Rachel Getting Married would be the runaway winner but I have to give the ever-so-slight edge to Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy. Both actresses are essential to their respective films’ success.
Closely behind them are Juliet Binoche in Summer Hours and Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. My last spot, kind of like my RDJ spot on the male side for 2008 is for combo work—I’m giving a mention to Gwyneth Paltrow for her duel work in Two Lovers and Iron Man with a heavier accent on the former.
- The Dark Knight
- The Hurt Locker
- Summer Hours
- Rachel Getting Married
- Wendy and Lucy
- Two Lovers
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Wrestler
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|35 Shots of Rum- Denis||R|
|A Christmas Tale||HR|
|Burn After Reading- Coen||HR|
|Frost Nixon- R. Howard||R|
|Gran Torino- Eastwood||R|
|Happy Go Lucky- M. Leigh||R|
|Hellboy 2: The Golden Army- del Toro||R|
|Il Divo- Sorrentino||R|
|John Adams- Hooper||R|
|Let the Right One In||HR|
|Lorna’s Silence- Dardenne||R|
|Me and Orson Welles- Linklater||R|
|Milk- Van Sant||R|
|Rachel Getting Married- Demme||MS|
|Red Cliff I- Woo||R|
|Revolutionary Road- Mendes||R|
|Slumdog Millionaire- D. Boyle||R/HR|
|Summer Hours- Assayas||MS|
|Synechdoche, New York||HR|
|The Bank Job||R|
|The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Fincher||R|
|The Dark Knight- Nolan||MP|
|The Headless Woman- Martel||R|
|The Hurt Locker- Bigelow||MS|
|The Reader- Daldry||R|
|The Wrestler- Aronofsky||R|
|Two Lovers- Gray||R|
|Vicky Christina Barcelona- W. Allen||R|
|Wendy and Lucy- Reichardt||MS/HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives