Mess-o-Films from 2008
Lists are so passé. Lists are to the blogging internet what bleak endings are to Kubrick films, what innuendo is to Mae West, what neurosis is to Woody Allen, what self-consciousness is to French New Wave. Lists have been done to death, and Donnybrook has an established history of setting trends, not reinforcing them; so the following is in no way a list of any sort, just a free flowing mess of films that made up 2008’s cinematic offerings.
Most Meta Film of the Year:
Michael Haneke’s remake of his own Funny Games changed languages, but remained a film that taped the viewer’s eyes open and forced them to examine why we love violence in film. The film played it straight until there was a possible end to the violence, and then the film it cleared up any confusion that this was set in a violent cinematic world. Also, Jonathan Demme’s family examination Rachel Getting Married is full of shots where the camera crew can be seen dancing and enjoying filmmaking just as much as the wedding guests being filmed.
Best Film Not Coming to a Theater Near You (Yet):
The toast of the Denver International Film Festival, The Eternal City, is criminally undistributed. It explores relationships with a pinch of bitterness, two tablespoons of honesty and an entire stick of enthusiasm (or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Enthusiasm). The Eternal City is an original heartfelt journey through the post-college coming-of-age landscape. In the immortal words of myself, its like a Fellini film with more t-shirts. (Note: If you missed this film at the festival, the only chance you may have to see is if you call up your rich film executive uncle and tell him to break out the checkbook.)
Speaking of terrible distribution. . .
Best Film with the Worst Distribution:
Usually, films without theatrical releases have a thousand, very independent film orientated reasons why it wasn’t released, and they’re not all limited to some innovative and provocative places for self-distribution. However, David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels had no far-reaching plan and a questionable desire for the film to ever be seen, despite being distributed by the “independent” arm of the studio with the year’s highest grossing film. Snow Angels shows once again that Green is the leader of his generation. While most of his peers wallow in comedy-heavy Cassavetes knock-offs, Green meshes the natural comedy with tragic events flawlessly.
Best Adolescent Angst Vampire Movie:
If The Decalogue was about vampires, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In would fit in seamlessly. Was there another film that would fit in this category?
Best Television Star Movie:
When we sit down and look at it, isn’t every Judd Apatow production a Television Star movie? Forgetting Sarah Marshall doubles up on television stars with Kristen Bell & Jason Segel; Tina Fey showed she belonged on the little screen when she nabbed/happened to look just like Sarah Palin, but didn’t have much critical love in the underrated Baby Mama. However, Adam Corolla nailed his film The Hammer, proving that if it looks like you can’t act your way out of a paper bag, it just means you haven’t found the right project yet. The Hammer was one of the few romantic comedies of the year that was both romantic and funny by relying on story, albeit one simple in structure, instead of dick and fart jokes.
The Film Equivalent to Getting the Hundredth Rejection Letter:
Artists have fragile psyches so to spare the filmmakers’ delicate feelings, I’m going to address all three films that provide the gut sinking feeling at once. Reprise, the Norwegian film, follows a pair of best friend writers and their struggle to live in the gap between expectations and reality. Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, was admittedly flawed, but I’d take a thousand flawed films with a challenging examination of a character and beautiful imagery for one sap-heavy conflict-light Oscar-disgracing Benny Buttons. And lastly, Gyorgy Palfi’s Taxidermia only screened one night – thanks, Starz Film Center, for putting it on the program and making sure Denver’s film life is a little more vivid. The film addresses the tolls that beginning a creative career can take on a person; also there is an erection shooting flames. (This is another film you should tell your Uncle about)
Best Subtle Use of Sledge Hammer:
Clint Eastwood never really embraced ambiguity, so the stark contrast between good and evil in The Changling came as little surprise. The film had some chilling moments, moments that may go down as some of the best in the Eastwood canon, but the film ultimately falls into preachy category. Honorable mention: War, Inc. I’m not morally opposed to an Iraq War comedy, but I am morally opposed to poorly-crafted unfunny films in general, sorry Johnny C.
The Intolerable Cruelty or Who Remade Psycho? Award:
Cinematically, 2008 was no 2007, but there were a pair of films that had the pedigree to qualify yet failed miserably. George Clooney’s Leatherheads was so misdirected that Clooney should feel lucky the WGA didn’t award him writing credit for the film. When Simon Pegg and Michael Ian Black team up on a screenplay expectations will be pretty high, but instead we got a sappy feel-good comedy exploring nothing new about the family with Run, Fat Boy Run. Shameful.
Best Film of ’08 That Comes Out in ’09 Because We Live in Denver:
Waltz With Bashir. Sorry, that is all I can muster on the subject, I’m still suffering from missing the Che roadshow. Thanks a lot, mid-market sports town.
Best Film Unfairly Never Given a Chance:
Ricky Gervais has never let me down; his projects always fly to the top of my favorites list after viewing. He has yet to be majorly involved in anything bad. Yet, when Ghost Town opened, everyone decided they’d rather stay home and watch re-runs of The Office than check out the film. The film is like every other man-can-see-ghosts movie, but with a whole lot more genuinely funny lines. As far as Office bosses go, this film is much closer to Dan in Real Life than Evan Almighty. Also in the running: Wong Kar Wai’s first English film My Blueberry Nights. If the film wasn’t in English, it would garner a lot more respect. It’s vintage Wong Kar, just in English.
The Film Your Parents Will Take the Most Pride in Seeing
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire has been referenced by my parents more than Tarantino references the seventies. It must be that the glamorization of such poverty quiets the guilt they have about cutting my trustfund. That’s ok mom, just got the food stamp application today.
Film Most Offensive to the Donnybrook Servants:
Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler has taken the simple joys of watching two grown men fake fight from the unheated servant’s quarters on the Donnybrook estate, and moved it to the prestigious art house theatres. This film has given me a much less of an ironic and much more frank appreciation for Mankind (the wrestler, that is, not the species – there’s no hope for them).
Film Most Offensive to the Donnybrook Writing Academy:
Smart People. This was a film about smart people. Or rather this film was about what dumb people think smart people are like. Take it from me: in reality we are twice as arrogant, and a thousand times less likely to find Sarah Jessica Parker attractive.
Film of the Year:
James Marsh’s exploration of Philippe Petit in the documentary Man on Wire. I dragged my feet to see this film all year because it sounded awful: A man wants to walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers. I pictured heavy-handed allusions to 9/11 and the boredom that usually accompanies my ideas of tightrope walking. When I finally saw it, WOW, what a surprise. This film is magical. That is all I can say. Magical.
If there are some films I’ve missed or you want to share your bourgeoisie top ten lists, please, let’s get a little comment-based dialogue rolling here.