Monday, August 11, 2008

Ed's Top 10 of the Year (so far)

Okay, I know what you're thinking; why are you doing a top ten of the year when the year isn't even through, and why are you doing it two-thirds of the way through the year when halfway through would make so much more sense, isn't that kind of stupid? And to that I say, ouch, that hurts. Why would you think that, it's just a mean thing to think. You know what, I'm not going to bother. No, you can't get me to continue, you've hurt my feelings. Fuck you.

Okay, I'm back. Anyway, the reason I'm doing this because when I usually do top 10s for the end of the year I invariably leave out something I watched in the first half of the year and slap myself on the forehead when I see them on other top ten lists, so this is kind of a midway point so that, if the rest of the year is a bust, I'll at least have this list to fall back on to remind of how good the first 7 months of the year were. And I'm doing this now for two reasons; 1, I originally planned to do this at the end of June, but The Dark Knight and WALL-E would both be released in July and they were my two most anticipated films of the year, so I put it off until I'd seen both; and 2, I just got lazy and didn't get around to writing this up after I'd seen them.

So, without any further ado, here's the list and my reasons for them.

10. Iron Man - It's not the best comic book adaptation ever made, it's a bit too stupid for that and if you even begin to think about the morals of it then it starts to resemble something co-written by a 5-year old with a tenuous grasp of how the arms trade works and an indecisive 20-something having an argument and constantly backtracking. That aside, it's a fun piece of popcorn entertainment that is firmly anchored by a great performance by Robert Downey Jr. and manages to be interesting for a full hour before descending into Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots territory for the last half an hour, at which point it gets a bit tiresome.

9. Cloverfield - Say what you like about the direction, the unlikable characters and the sheer stupidity of their actions (who climbs a building that is about to fall down for no good reason? How can someone who has had a FUCKING GREAT BIG PIPE through them survive for another couple of hours?) it's still a visceral experience that had me gripped enough not to notice all the problems with it until after I'd left the cinema, and that first viewing alone is enough to warrant a place in my Top 10.

8. No Country For Old Men - Bleak, nihilistic brilliance played out over the vast expanse of Texas and New Mexico, it's a taut thriller and an interesting discussion about the nature of the world and humanity in general. Javier Bardem is brilliant but Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are his equals and the whole package is great.

7. Lars and the Real Girl - A funny, sweet film that makes the most of its own subject matter and manages to follow it through to its logical end, something that a lot of films with interesting ideas in them fail to do (Hello, Stranger Than Fiction). Ryan Gosling proves himself to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation and his Lars is one of most lovable misfits you'll see in any film this year.

6. The Mist - I'm a big admirer of Frank Darabont's work and this was no different. A relentlessly bleak film about the willingness with which people will tear each apart that also packs in plenty of B-movie thrills. The ending is a bit of kicker as well.

5. Enchanted - I grew up during the American Animation Renaissance, a period which saw Disney awaken from two decades of creative stupor after the death of Walt Disney to produce some of their best work and Enchanted is an affectionate, playful tribute to the films I grew up loving and those that preceded them. Amy Adams is beautiful and naive as the Disney princess transported to real-life New York, the songs are great and it's got Timothy Spall in it.

4. There Will Be Blood - For the longest time, this was at Number 1 on the list, but a couple of late entries and a rewatch of another candidate has shoved it down the list a few places, but that's not to take away from a visionary work from a great director. It's a masterpiece, for sure, and one of the most daring and unique filmic experiences that I've ever had. Sadly, it didn't quite worm its way into my heart and brain as much as...

3. WALL-E - I'm a Pixar fan boy, again, that stems on from my childhood love of Disney and animation in general, and it's rare that a year that sees a new release from them goes by without that film winding its way into my top ten, and this one really deserves. A funny, painfully sad and sweet film with more heart than its robotic stars would lead you to believe it had.

2. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly - This is the older candidate I alluded to earlier that, after I rewatched it, displaced There Will Be Blood, and I stand by that. Julian Schnabel's adaptation of a story that was previously thought unfilmable is technically impressive, as the director takes us inside the body and mind of a man all but totally paralysed, but it's also a breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking story of the imagination and hope.

1. The Dark Knight - You know, I may watch a lot of so-called 'art house' films but at heart I'm still the 7 year old who saw Jurassic Park because it had dinosaurs in and loves a big old blockbuster, so to see a film which marries those two sensibilities is a rare pleasure. Or it would be had Christopher Nolan not already done it once before with Batman Begins. I don't really need to add anything else to the review I wrote before, other than I loved it from beginning to end and hope that that creative team can reconvene to make a third one and that it's even half as good as this one.