Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008: Year In Movies (PART I: Year In Review)


If there's one defining thing about movies in 2008 for me, it's this: for the first time in a long time, the seat-filling films from the summer actually out-did the over-hyped, underwhelming films from the fall. More than any of the year, it seems, a majority of the greatness this year came from the months in the middle. Whether it be a romance-oriented Pixar film (WALL-E), a biting, hilarious Hollywood satire (Tropic Thunder), or an uber-successful comic book film that may just become the zeitgeist movie of the decade (The Dark Knight), it was the summer that delivered the biggest punches, while Fall films were just reeling.

But let's start really early in the year, when several independent films seldom seen by anyone were circling through multiplexes. There was the Martin McDonaugh hit-man comedy In Bruges, the incredibly nuanced (if under-budgeted) Frozen River, and the massive word-of-mouth picture The Visitor. All three released early in the year and still picking up steam as we head into the beginning of 2009, as Oscar nominations approach.

The summer started out with a bit of a thud, with both Speed Racer and the new Indiana Jones movie failing to bring the big thrills audiences and critics expected from them, but it was the return of Robert Downey Jr. in the expertly-made Iron Man that really got Summer movie season started. WALL-E came out in June and wowed audiences and critics alike, but let's be honest, the biggest film of the summer--and year--was The Dark Knight. With an iconic performance by Heath Ledger and already the second biggest box office numbers in history, it's already gained classic status.

As we transitioned from Summer to Autumn, we were previewed with some excellent films such as Rachel Getting Married, but it was around this time that two films emerged from the film festival circuit with new-found Oscar buzz: The Wrestler and Slumdog Millionaire. The two films, almost an afterthought beforehand, were all the rage at the major festivals. Meanwhile, heavily-buzzed films like Blindness and Miracle At St. Anna floundered in the cinemas.

Then we hit the fall, and nothing could be seen. Every single film studios hoped to win Oscars was postponed to Christmas or later, and for that reason, the general public has still not been able to access a majority of the films that they want to see before Oscar time. No other year I've experienced have the studios worked so hard to make their "prestige pics" unwatchable. To make matters worse, after months and months of keeping the films from us, the films weren't even up to the ever-growing potential. Movies such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Reader were not only droll, but disappointing in more ways the one.

2007 was a year in which there were several films that people loved. Other than The Dark Knight, it is hard to pin-point one film that the audience has truly gravitated to strongly this year. There certainly is WALL-E which has a legion of followers, but as rediculous as it sounds, some people still have trouble supporting an animated film. I fear the Oscars will come and go this February, with no consequence for the film world, but since Miley Cyrus might perform, they might actually get some people to watch.


Revolutionary Road
Last Chance Harvey
The Wrestler
Further parts of 2008: Year In Movies

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