tongue-tied lightning

Top 20 of 2008
March 16, 2009, 2:39 AM
Filed under: film

20. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher)

19. The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat)

18. Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller)

17. Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani)

16. Love Songs (Christophe Honore)


15. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin)

14. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme)

13. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)

12. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)

11. Ashes of Time Redux (Wong Kar-Wai)


10. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh

9. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)

8. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)

7. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen)

6. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh)


5. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)

4. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)

3. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

2. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)

1. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)


Blind Spots: Che (Soderbergh), Ballast (Hammer), The Class (Cantet)

2008 ended up being a surprising year.  For most of the year it seemed unlikely anything good would come out of it.  But once films started making their way here from overseas and some indies began to surface many films turned up that hold their own aside the best of the decade.  Chop Shop, Wendy and Lucy and The Wrestler are all insightful explorations into the impoverished underworld that has sprung up under the Bush administration.  4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is one of the most powerful films I saw this year, but I penalized it for not technically being a 2008 film, to protect the sanctity of my ‘top ten’ (I know I’m neurotic, thanks :P)  Woody Allen’s comeback and Martin McDonagh’s jump to the big screen proved to be two of the most rewatchable films of the year.  Charlie Kaufman’s first go behind the camera is confounding and awe-inspiring, if not quite as pretty as his excursions with Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry.  Happy-Go-Lucky’s Poppy is one of the most infectious characters of the year, in yet another nuanced social drama from Mike Leigh.

My top four films stand apart from the rest for me.  Let the Right One In is likely my favorite horror film ever.  Rivaled only by The Shining.  What Tomas Alfredson was able to do with two first time actors is astounding.  It’s very affecting and has stuck with me.  Wall-E is near-perfect.  My favorite animated film to date and in many ways a pinnacle of straightforward Hollywood storytelling.  Forgoing the recent trend of quick edits and incoherent action scenes it returns to more classical inspirations and is the better for it.  One of the best examples of visual storytelling in recent years.

France had a great year.  Love Songs and The Last Mistress were both interesting entries in two often shunned genres (the musical and the costume drama). Olivier Assayas put out two solid if not quite outstanding films with Boarding Gate and Summer HoursThe Secret of the Grain just missed my list, I feel it has a bit of a length problem but the climax is engrossing and moving, and it features a surprising performance by first-timer Hafsia Herzi.  I haven’t seen The Class yet, but for me Flight of the Red Balloon and A Christmas Tale stand above the rest.  One a beautifully photographed portrait of a child growing up in Paris, the other a human portrait of a family that is likely more typical than most of us would like to admit.  Together, two of the years best.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Chop Shop was dandyfine.

Comment by Robbo

I’m so glad you dug ‘Chop Shop.’ Be sure to check out Bahrani’s new film ‘Goodbye Solo’ when it opens in theaters on March 27th. You can check out the trailer and all the theater listings at

Comment by Dusty

[…] 2008 and 2o09 releases because in all likelihood they are on my best of 2008 list (viewable here) or they will be on my best of 2009 list in a month or two.  This year I am ranking them, for no […]

Pingback by 20 Best Films I Saw in 2009 « tongue-tied lightning

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