Previously posted on myspace - back when people were reading myspace.
1. PARANOID PARK: The films of Gus Van Sant should be included on any high school film curriculum. Now well into his fifties, the American film director manages to capture the malaise and anxiety of adolescence more truthfully than filmmakers less separated from that stage of life. His Paranoid Park tells the tale of a teenage skateboarder’s involvement in an accidental homicide in a manner that is both lyrical and restrained and is simply put, the best movie of 2008.
2. GRAN TORINO: On the surface, Gran Torino is a classic Clint Eastwood picture along the same vein as Dirty Harry. However, while hard edged, the irritated war vet he plays here (Walt Kowalski) has more in common with the many-sided Will Munny brought to life in Unforgiven. While the supporting players prove to be little fore than cannon fodder for Walt’s racist jabs, Eastwood’s delivery is nothing short of brilliant.
3. MARTYRS: A revenge tale of sorts that keeps you guessing to the bitter, bloody end. A French production, Martyrs did not receive US distribution till early '09. Still, I thought it one of the best horror pics of the decade and felt it deserved inclusion on this list.
4. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN: While audiences flocked to Twilight to the tune of $190 million, this Swedish vampire love story was thrust aside by distributors eager to Americanize it in the form of a 2010 remake. The simple story witnesses a browbeaten boy (Oskar) finding companionship in the town newbie (Eli), a girl who quickly proves to be a lot different than the other 11-year-olds in his school. Beautifully photographed and skillfully acted, LTROI is one of the more poignant horror movies in recent history.
5. THE WRESTLER: The Wrestler illustrates the emotional boundaries of humanity and resurrects the career of Mickey Rourke all while compelling remembrances of wrestling’s heyday. Its success can be attributed to Rourke’s heroic performance, Bruce Springsteen’s melancholy song and the ability of director Darren Aronofsky to remain reserved with a story that could have slid into the absurd. A prime example is in a scene utilized by the film’s trailer – as The Ram rehearses using tin trays as potential weapons on a convenience store clerk, the movie quickly transitions to more somber material.
6. WENDY AND LUCY: Director Kelly Reichardt retreats to the oft-used city of Portland to film Wendy and Lucy, a thin story in which Michelle Williams plays Wendy, a down-on-her-luck woman en route to Alaska to find work. Along the way, her car breaks down and she loses her only companion, a golden-haired mutt named Lucy. Magnificent in its meekness and inherent beauty, the elliptical story is undeniably intriguing. Williams's ability to sell despondency surpasses in splendor any performance by a female actor this year.
7. BAGHEAD: Four struggling actors retreat to a cabin in the woods where they set out to write the movie that will mark their big break. Their farcical story of a killer whose calling sign is wearing a bag over his head becomes all-too-real when a man wearing a bag over his head appears outside their window. A funny, sometimes scary send-up of independent filmmaking, the picture utilizes a free-moving camera and improvisational dialogue to fashion an experience that is both gritty and innocent.
8. MAN ON WIRE: This year’s Oscar winner for best documentary, Man on Wire examines tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring high wire routine carried out between the newly built twin towers. Its mere 90 minute running time flies by and the fact that there is no existing footage of the crime doesn’t detract at all from Petit’s remarkable feat. A more amazing documentary you aren’t likely to find.
9. AMERICAN TEEN: Dubbed the real life Breakfast Club, American teen chronicles the adventures of five Indiana youths throughout their senior year of high school. Despite the picture being a documentary, I found myself repeatedly praising the accuracy of the movie’s protagonists. Both mesmerizing and distressing, the movie should be witnessed by anybody working with adolescents.
10. PINAPPLE EXPRESS: In a year that saw a surplus of quality comedies, this classic stoner funny from team Apatow stands above all others. Seth Rogen stars as a pothead entangled in a murder mystery in a story that gets funnier with each viewing. Best exchange:
Red: Look at this. [He shows Denton his shaved armpits]
Red: You see this? You see that? There's no hair under here, bro.
Denton: What's the significance of that?
Red: It makes me aerodynamic when I fight. I can take danger.