The Best Movies I Saw in 2008….

(that weren’t made in 2008).

I am way, way behind on new movies. I have absolutely no idea what the best films of 2008 were. But I do love a list, and so instead I give you the top ten most awesomest movies I saw last year, that weren’t made last year.

10. Ace in the Hole (1951)

A dark, noirish, almost-satire from my favorite director of all time, Billy Wilder. A brilliant Kirk Douglas is a scarily self-serving newspaper reporter who’ll take any measures to twist a situation into the most sensational story. When a miner is trapped in a cave-in, his manipulations of local officials turn what should be a simple day-long rescue operation into a week-long media event, with everyone benefiting except the man dying in the cave. Perfect social commentary that barely feels dated today.

9. The Savages (2007)

Movies about the relationship between adult siblings can be torturous exercises in whining, but this one is a smart and well-acted gem. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are pretty much perfect (shocker), and the supporting cast shines too, especially Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow! Lord I love cast members of The Wire) in a small but important role. Solid drama about characters who could be real people.

8. Eyes Without a Face (1960)

It’s French, it’s weird, and it’s creeeeptastic. Well before those nifty face transplants we’re hearing about now, a surgeon tries desperately to replace the ravaged features of his daughter, who wears a mask after being in a horrible car accident. Too bad his efforts involve an awful lot of kidnapping and murder of pretty young ladies.

7. The Gold Rush (1925)

I’m slowly working my way through the Charlie Chaplin canon, and though City Lights remains my favorite so far, The Gold Rush almost matches it for sheer zany humor and romantic pathos. Features the famous shoe-eating and dancing-dinner-rolls scenes, which do not disappoint.

6. White (1994)

The second of the Trois Coleurs trilogy, and much more my style than the uber-depressing first film, Blue. Featuring the lovely Julie Delpy and Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski, who I now really want to see in something else, this is a story alternately about an obsessive relationship, the decision to commit suicide, and twisted, cruel revenge. It’s also really funny! Ah, black humor. Love it.

5. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Based on a play by Agatha Christie, this is another Billy Wilder film, in which he directs Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, and Charles Laughton (hell of a cast, hell of a cast) in a wild murder trial, where of course nothing is as it seems at first. Legitimately thrilling, and the insane ending scene takes a place among my favorites.

4. The King of Kong (2007)

Like a great sports film, but about video games! A truly fun documentary that also has a lot to say about the spirit of competition, the culture of obsession, and the way people define themselves through sometimes arbitrary achievements. This is one of those movies I wish I could go back and watch again for the first time.

3. Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Mad-cap, zany action combined with Pre-Code-era saucy, double entendre-filled dialogue, starring the captivating Kay Francis and directed by the fantastic Ernst Lubitsch. This movie is funny and sexy in that exquisite way that early 1930s films could be, before that pesky set of “morality” guidelines adopted by Hollywood in 1930 actually began being enforced in 1934. Jewel thieves escaping punishment! Implications that single people have sex! Lines like “I would give you a good spanking, in a business way, of course”. Great stuff, those Pre-Code Hollywood comedies.

2. Get Carter (1971)

Michael Caine was such a badass!! As a gangster trying to solve the mysterious death of his brother, he gets mixed up with some people who are even badder than him, and pretty soon it’s not too clear who’s chasing who. Gritty and stylish and bleak and awesome, this is one of the best gangster movies I’ve ever seen.

1. Diva (1981)

Oh geez. This is easily the weirdest movie on this list, but also by far the coolest. The plot somehow involves an opera star, a teenager who’s obsessed with her, some Parisian hitmen, and a corrupt police officer, who come together because of a strange mix-up between two audio tapes: one that’s an illegal bootleg of the singer, who won’t let herself be recorded, and one that implicates the officer in his crimes. The movie is all color and music and odd philosophical statements and chase scenes….nothing like anything I’ve seen before, and wonderful.

Now to catch up on 2008 before the Oscars….


1 Response to “The Best Movies I Saw in 2008….”

  1. 1 Tom January 6, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Yes! The King of Kong is amazing.

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Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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