2007 was a really tough when it came to compiling end of year lists and though I still have not managed to see films like ‘Hunger’, it was still difficult trying to draw up a list of favourite films for 2008, mainly because I tend not to go to the cinemas as often as I should and I am constantly either discovering or re discovering films on DVD. I feel it is really only fair that when magazines, journals and on line websites publish end of year lists they duly consider the parallel importance of a separate list that accounts for the incredibly vast DVD output.
Perhaps the fact that ‘There Will Be Blood’ having been released in January and at the beginning of this year has made it to the top of many UK critics list of top ten films is testament and proof that PTA has made his most memorable film to date. Though I don’t loathe film cannons as they can be important in helping to uncover forgotten films and directors, it seems somehow discriminatory that you are forced to overlook certain films purely because you are being asked to compile a list of merely ten films, a task which is a near impossibility considering how incredibly instantaneous the cinema experience has become.
What follows is a list of my top ten films of 2008 and ten other films which narrowly missed the mark by a whisker. Of course, that means this is not really a top ten list, but more of a top 20 list.
1. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007, US)
A Masterpiece. Tour De Force. Superlative. An Instant Classic. Radical. Marxist. Monstrous. A Film About America.
2. EDGE OF HEAVEN / THE OTHER SIDE
(Dir. Fatih Akin, 2007, Germany)
The multi narrative film finally comes of age. The film ‘Babel’ wanted to be. Fatih Akin is a real talent and one of the most emotionally powerful film makers working today. Beautifully edited. Trans-national cinema at its best.
(Dir. Matteo Garrone, 2008, Italy)
The rebirth of Italian Cinema.
4. MICHAEL CLAYTON
(Dir. Tony Gilroy, 2007, US)
A throwback to the political conspiracy thrillers of the 70s and a fitting tribute to the generous producer collaboration between Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella. And of course George Clooney is frighteningly good.
5. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (Dir. Andrew Dominik, 2006, US)
A fine film with an Oscar winning performance by Brad Pitt. Much more than just a western.
6. IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
(Dir. Paul Haggis, 2008, US)
Far superior to Haggis’ over rated racial essay ‘Crash’. Bombed at the box office. An enclosed, performance driven study of racism. Shades of ‘The Searchers’.
7. THE MIST
(Dir. Frank Darabont, 2007, US)
Perhaps the best statement yet on the rise of religious fanaticism in American society and around the world. Beautifully judged ending. Bleak but necessary.
8. THE BANISHMENT
(Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2007, Russia)
Deeply reminiscent of Tarkovsky but the imagery on display is pure Antonioni in its realisation. Confusing but beguiling cinema. A film that breathes.
9. SECRET SUNSHINE
(Dir. Lee Chang-dong, 2007, South Korea)
A real tearjerker and an emotional rollercoaster. The best female performance of the year.
10. STILL LIFE
(Dir. Jia Zhang-ke, 2006, China)
Proves that Asian cinema is still producing some of the finest film makers around.
11. SHOTGUN STORIES
(Dir. Jeff Nichols, 2007, US)
A terrific mood piece about gun culture and brothers.
(Dir. John Sayles, 2008, US)
Long live John Sayles; America’s finest film maker.
13. DIARY OF THE DEAD
(Dir. George Romero, 2007, US)
Long live George Romero; America’s finest zombie film maker. At his satirical best.
14. SARKAR RAJ
(Dir. Ram Gopal Varma, 2008, India)
Operatic, gaudy, a sequel but what a performance from the maestro of Indian cinema; Amitabh Bhachan.
15. THE DARK KNIGHT
(Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2008, US)
The blockbuster has never looked as beautiful and tragic as this since the 70s. Nolan rules.
16. WALL E
(Dir. Andrew Stanton, 2008, US)
Masterful and magical in every way.
(Dir. Johnnie To, 2007, Hong Kong)
Johnnie To is the last great Hong Kong auteur. Sublime genre film making. An extended tribute to the Hollywood musical.
18. LA ZONA
(Dir. Rodrigo Pla, 2007, Mexico)
A terrifying companion piece to ‘Children of Men’.
19. IL DIVO
(Dir. Paulo Sorrentino, 2008, Italy)
Sorrentino loves excess, but somehow he always makes us forgive the stylistic indulgences. Magnificent performance by Toni Servillo.
(Dir. Raj Kumar Gupta, 2008, India)
A terrible year for Indian cinema, but a very strong showing for UTV’s new production company ‘Spotboy’. Essential viewing in light of the problems plagued by international terrorism in India today.