Eight Movies You Should Have Seen in 2008

January 13, 2009

Not technically a “best of” list, but here are some movies that I enjoyed this year that you might enjoy as well. As a disclaimer, most of them were made in 2008, but there are a few that were made earlier and didn’t receive a release until 2008 (or late 2007). Also as a disclaimer, there is one (major) spoiler for Burn After Reading.

8. Burn After Reading (2008)
7. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
6. Speed Racer (2008)
5. The Fall (2006)

4. WALL·E (2008)
3. The Orphanage (2007)
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
1. Let the Right One In (2008)

8. Burn After Reading (2008) I never watched No Country for Old Men, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and never made it through all of The Big Lebowski (not because I didn’t want to…the parts that I did see I enjoyed), so Burn After Reading was my first dose of the Coen brothers. So the plot is mildly ridiculous (read: bad) but serves as a decent enough background for the even more ridiculous (read: good) character development to take place. Except for Frances McDormand’s character, whom I absolutely could not stand throughout the whole thing. Seriously, how she was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress for this role is beyond me. Otherwise the movie is well-paced, has no significant plot holes, and the comments that argue that it was an entirely stupid film…Well, it’s not trying to take itself seriously, nor does it purport to be that intelligent. Come on, how can you not laugh at Brad Pitt getting shot in the face in one of his most awesome performances ever? Seriously, I haven’t seen Benjamin Button but I wonder if he does as well in it as he does in Burn After Reading. Watch this movie if you want to laugh at stupidity.

7. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) The year’s Best Picture – Musical or Comedy according to the Golden Globes. Need I say more? Other than that Penélope Cruz is very gorgeous and very brilliant? Actually I’m too lazy to, so moving on…

6. Speed Racer (2008) Wow, yes, surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s fun, mindless, and very pretty. It is very, very pretty. Even if everything starts looking the same after the first ten minutes, it’s still awesome. How can you go wrong with your basic good guy vs. bad guy story told in overloading color shine sparkles flash glitter? It doesn’t try to be better than what it is, which in all honesty is a film that an eight-year-old might love. It really shouldn’t be a film you sit and try to analyze and tear apart. Plus watching 비 (Rain) trying to speak English is just funny. Sorry.

5. The Fall (2006) Yeah, 2006. In my defense, it didn’t get its limited release in the US until May of 2008. I actually blogged about it after I watched it, and I still completely agree with the things I said in the post. It is visually stunning. The story is captivating. Catinca Untaru is one of those child actors that is just perfect in her role. If you like movies where it’s hard to tell between what’s real and what’s just in someone’s head (or is what’s in his head what’s actually real? *gasp*), you’ll probably enjoy this one. Then again, Hiemann liked it, and no one likes Hiemann’s taste in movies, so…

4. WALL·E (2008) Waaaaaaall-eeee. Eeeeevaaaaa. How beyooooooond adorable. Okay, to be honest, WALL·E did not even make this list until two weeks ago when I rewatched it with Joy. The first time I watched it, I wasn’t completely blown away. But then I realized I went in with pretty high expectations, and so I was underwhelmed by the time the end came around because I was just expecting more. But as I was watching it for the second time, I was actually able to just relax and enjoy it more since I already knew what was going to happen. I could just sit back and shriek “He’s sooooo cuuuute!” every ten minutes and have fun watching it. Which is what everyone should do. Yeah, even the shrieking. WALL·E, or E-wall, as PB likes to call him, is just a perfect combination of fun and cute.

3. The Orphanage (2007) Also known as El Orfanato, this Spanish horror film was produced by none other than Guillermo del Toro (among others). Like, Pan’s Labyrinth, ZOMG, one of my favorite movies ever. His name’s what caught my interest, and I almost went in expecting a horror version of Pan’s, and while that’s not exactly what it was, it was still really, really good. And really, really sad. Also really, really creepy (in an awesome way), but hey, I scare easily. The plot revolves around a woman named Laura and her search for her son, Simón, who claims to have met, in their new home, a boy named Tomás. And wow Tomás! You’re not creepy! So not creepy that Film School Rejects named you one of the top ten creepiest children in film! So anyway, after an argument with Laura, Simón goes missing. Strange events continue to ensue in the old house which is actually the orphanage in which Laura grew up. The clues and answers are revealed brilliantly, slowly, teasingly, and everything falls together all so nicely and so heartbreakingly. Seriously, watch this.

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) There’s no getting around it; also known as Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, this is a 2007 film. But it had a late 2007 US release and was one of the first movies I saw in 2008, so it is on this list. Four Oscar nominations, Palme d’Or nomination, and 98273 other wins and nominations. I don’t think anything I could say would do this movie justice. It has a wonderful atmosphere that’s thick and heavy with the realities of life but light and radiating with freaking hope and purpose. Also at the end of it you might sit there for a minute and think, What in the world have I done with my life? I mean, not that Vicky and I did, or anything. Based on his memoir of the same title, the movie is about Jean-Dominique Bauby and his life after he suffers a stroke that leaves his entire body paralyzed except his left eye. Imagine being fully capable of thinking all thoughts but being totally unable to move or speak. Jean-Dominique Bauby used to be the hotshot editor of Elle magazine, and out of nowhere he’s left completely bedridden and helpless. He actually wrote his entire memoir by blinking his eye as his speech therapist read out a list of letters; when she got to the right letter he would blink, and in this way he would spell out words. A lot of the movie is shown as if from his point of view, that is, what he sees and hears, immobile, from his hospital bed, and not only does it provide for some beautiful, unique shots, it’s pretty harrowing to actually think about. Imagine not being able to swat away a fly or turn off a TV that someone has left on a static channel while you’re trying to sleep. Yikes.

1. Let the Right One In (2008) The easiest way to describe this movie is to say “Swedish vampire film.” But Låt den rätte komma in is so much more than that. It blew my mind. It’s a heartbreaking, heartwarming love story between two kids, and it just so happens that one of them is a vampire. Oskar’s just this bullied little boy until Eli comes along, and the instant he meets her, he’s intrigued. She is a beautiful, smart, mysterious, 200-year-old child. There’s some backstory that the film doesn’t cover completely; you can read it all in the book upon which the movie is based (novel and screenplay are both by John Ajvide Lindqvist), but it’s not necessary for your total enjoyment of the film.

To be fair, I find the whole of idea of vampires fascinating for some reason (no, I have neither read nor seen Twilight), but all three people I saw it with loved it too, despite missing the 10 o’clock showing and not being able to watch it until midnight. I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s so good. Maybe it’s the gorgeous cinematography. Maybe it’s the contradiction of dark subject matter with kids who should be innocent. Maybe it’s the amalgam of genres it combines, or defies, depending on how you look at it: mystery, horror, suspense, thriller, romance. And the ending! Oh-so-disturbing, but oh-so-satisfying. If you have made it this far through my post, I sincerely commend and thank you and encourage you to watch Let the Right One In. No, really.

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6 Responses to “Eight Movies You Should Have Seen in 2008”

  1. Kim Fidler Says:

    The Orphanage looks pretty messed. Is that a potato sack mask? Those things should be banned from being in any movie for the rest of eternity – they scare the hell out of me.

    Also: Love how you put Speed Racer on there. Not a great movie but not nearly as bad as everyone thought it was.

  2. Steven Says:

    I love your reasoning that your ability to enjoy wall-e was proportionate to your ability to shriek “he’s so cuuuute!”

    Awesome.

  3. Vicky Says:

    seriously, penelope cruz IS vicky cristina barcelona. best spanish psychotic ex-gf EVER.

    as for the coens..i found fargo/lebowski/burn after reading to all be on a very similar level. i think you’d enjoy brother where art thou…and no country is a totally different genre, but still has insanely awesome characters…it’s creepy and fantastic.

    and let the right one in…def the best movie i saw this year!!! (although im gonna watch slumdog soon :D) lol i’m so glad you took us to c it. yeah you’re exactly right though, it isn’t really one thing that makes it so good…its just everything..the creepy story, the children, vampire child…so good.

    and i think you just convinced me to check out the orphanage…i heard it wasn’t as good as labyrinths (but how many movies are?) so i skipped out on it at first. and i MAY just download speed racer now, too. “overloading color shine sparkles flash glitter” is very enticing.

  4. foamsoap Says:

    Vicky:

    Yeah I’m ticked I still haven’t seen Slumdog!

    But yes you should definitely check out Orphanage. I think it’s kind of unfair that it’s compared so much to Pan’s…And you should watch Fall before Speed Racer lol (if you haven’t seen it).

  5. Halston Says:

    I looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooved Let the Right One In.

  6. jp Says:

    diving bell is already sitting on my counter but i added couple of these to the netflix queue. thanks!


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