Must see flicks from 2008

It has been a very interesting year for movies. The frustrating-yet-justified writer’s strike that ended in February 2008 put a stall on the film industry as a whole, making it a relatively slow first half of the year. Besides a few enjoyable summer blockbusters (Wall-E, Hellboy II, The Dark Knight), and some hilariously over-the-top comedies (Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder), there wasn’t much to speak of. In fact, by the time November rolled around, I was having a hard time even putting together five movies that I considered to be the best of the year. Thankfully, the winter months made up for the 10 months prior, and by the end of January, I had plenty of films to consider in my “best of” list. So, without further delay, here are my picks for the best films of 2008.

1. The Wrestler. I have always been a fan of Darren Aronofsky’s work. Requiem For a Dream and The Fountain are among my favorite movies made in the past ten years. That being said, I was floored by this film. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of his lifetime as the broken down, washed up Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a professional wrestler who has fallen out of popularity since his heyday in the ‘80s. Marisa Tomei provides a powerful acting assist to the heartbreaking Rourke, who will undoubtedly win the best actor Oscar. Speaking both physically and emotionally, The Wrestler truly pulls no punches.

2. Slumdog Millionaire. Danny Boyle is an extremely talented director, who has crafted some instant cult classics in the past several years. Slumdog Millionaire is Boyle’s best movie yet. Filmed in Mumbai, the movie follows Jamal Malik, who finds his way into the hot seat of India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire in order to win the favor of his childhood love. The film is very stylistic, with innovative and experimental cinematography. At its core a story of romance, Slumdog Millionaire is simply a feel-good film.

3. Milk. This film is all about the actors. Every person involved contributes a solid representation of his or her historical counterpart. Sean Penn, who plays Harvey Milk (the first openly gay man elected to public office), is perfect. His performance is second only to Mickey Rourke’s in The Wrestler. The supporting cast is stellar as well, with Josh Brolin, James Franco and Emile Hirsch all bringing life to their characters. Milk is a poignant film filled with wonderful performances.

4. The Dark Knight. The film that has been lauded as the best superhero movie ever made truly lives up to its reputation. It’s the perfect amalgam of action, suspense, crime and comedy—dark, sadistic comedy. Heath Ledger’s Joker is the most iconic villain in film since Darth Vader—downright unforgettable. The movie is a tad long, and the story is unnecessarily convoluted at times, but these are small setbacks when compared to it’s sheer awesomeness.

5. Wall-E. This film is simultaneously the best animated film of the year and Pixar’s finest movie to date. I saw this movie three times in theaters and several more times since its DVD release; it’s just a damn good film. This is the perfect example of an animated “kids” movie that transcends all age barriers. All at once, it acts as a comedic physical comedy, a romance narrative, a space adventure and an environmental commentary. Wall-E subsists on so many different levels that it’s a joy to watch over and over again.