Top 12 Movies of 2008
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for those who don't get around to seeing movies until they are cheaper and more convenient

We have passed the trading deadline and our play-off rosters are set. Unless you know voodoo, there is nothing more we can do for our Scoresheet teams other than a few minor line-up tweaks.. So, allow me to direct your attention towards movies.


Here in Toronto this week we are having what is proclaimed to be the most important movie festival in the world. However, I don't wish to discuss current movies or the top candidates for the upcoming Oscar season. In fact, I generally don't bother seeing movies until long after they've reached DVD - long enough after that they don't even require a "recent release" premium for renting them or require a quicker return date. Fortunately, I live right around the corner from one of the best video stores in this cinemanic city, so I have no problems finding any movie I want. I just keep a list of every movie I read or hear about which comes highly recommended and watch it at my own convenience. Sure, my wife and I enjoy going out for a movie once in awhile, but it is nicer to stay home, snuggle together on a comfortable couch and watch a movie on our plasma screen completely on our own schedule. The only hard part is keeping her from answering the phone during the movie - but I am making progress in that.


So, now, I have finally seen the most highly recommended movies of 2008. Well, I may be a bit behind on foreign movies - and I go by their North American release dates, not their international release dates. Perhaps, I've become a little jaded, but it seems there was no great overwhelming choice for best movie last year. However, there were many that were extremely well made and held my interest all the way through. So, these are tough calls and may well have depended on my frame of mind when I saw them - and how much I remember about them - although how memorable they are is one overall criterion for ranking them.


As with baseball (and music) I take ranking very seriously and have put considerable thought into these rankings. I appreciate all genres. To help with my rankings, I break down a movie into four categories which apply to all genres:

            A. Grip - how strongly did the movie have me riveted? How strongly did it affect my emotions?

            B. Depth - how nuanced was the acting? how intelligent was the plot and the dialogue? Did I learn anything consciously or subconsciously?

            C. Fun - did it make me laugh? Was it amusing in parts? Was it likeable?

            D. Beauty - how awesome was the cinematography and art direction?


So, here is how I'd rank the top 12 of 2008 - one for each month:


1. Changeling - there are many actresses more charming to me than Jolie, but this who-dun-it had me thoroughly engrossed. At the same time, it was a brilliant, entertaining, and horrifying sociological study of the early '30s.


2. Auf de anderen Seite (Edge of Heaven) - great characterizations and various engaging stories all coming together.


3. Slumdog Millionaire - colorful, dramatic, full of charm, - although a bit fluffy compared to the other top 6 - but well worth it.


4. The Reader - deep characterizations, interesting moral dilemmas


5. Milk - a great ride through an amazing time


6. The Wrestler - quirky, but memorable and tearjerking.


7. Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona - a thoroughly fun flick


8. Revolutionary Road - exquisitely shot entertaining classic tragedy (set in '50s)


9. Doubt - gripping verbal sparring; well set


10. Frozen River - flawed, but unforgettable completely realistic slice of North American desperation


11. Iron Man - most entertaining of many incredible superhero movies


12. In Bruges - a bit of everything: comedy, poignancy, plot twists, Bruges


Honorable Mention: Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, Gone Baby Gone, Wall-E, Elegy, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I only saw parts of the Dark Knight on an airplane, but it might be worth a mention. Otherwise, The Visitor and Lymelife are the most highly recommended movies still on my list of movies to see.


John Carter