Here are my impressions of the great and not-so-great films of 2008. (There are still a lot I’ve got to see).
1. Best Movie I didn’t see: Blindness. This film based on the 1995 novel by Nobel Prize winning author and Communist Jose Saramago, has an all- star cast with Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, and Alice Braga premiered in October and then disappeared. There was also a New York play that was produced in 2007. I missed the reviews and know no one who saw it. Even more surprising is the total lack of interest I’ve discovered amongst my Marxist friends. Here you have a potentially great film, based on a novel by a Nobel prize winning working-class intellectual of a new type and all you get from some lefties is “yawn.” Talk about blindness. Has anyone seen this movie?
1. Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a probing and artful and at times lyrical treatment of a painful subject involving doubt faith and morality. As my mother said, “A masterpiece!” And I would add, masterful in every way: writing, directing, acting, cinematography. The only thing not convincing was Ms. Streep, at the end, but she made up for it in everything she did before.
2. Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie, A fine job on an important subject: the second class status of women.
3. Slum Dog Millionaire, Good rags-to-riches movie, even if it perpetuates the bourgeois dream.
4. Rachel Getting Married, not bad, good acting, credible writing, fine use of music and dance, generous thematically as it treats dysfunction. Curious anti-racism: while displaying an inter-racial marriage, the actors of color barely speak – almost as bad as reading a Camus novel, where Arabs are so much furniture in the scenery.
5. Seven Pounds, Will Smith is excellent and Rasario Dawson displays a great talent in this tale of guilt and gift giving.
6. Secret Life of Bees, starring Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah, is a moving Southern tale that deserves to told. Unfortunately, the film needs a better writer and director to tell it. Queen Latifah is excellent, while Dakota Flemming seems at times unable to find the emotional material her character requires.
7. Bucket List, featuring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, a feel good movie if there ever was one, discovering class peace and redemption. Improbable but I guess if Barack Obama can get elected president of the US, anything is possible.
8. Cassandra’s Dream, directed by Woody Allen and starring, Colin Farrel and Ian McGregor, aptly explores, love, ambition and betrayal: class struggle in the raw. This really shouldn’t be at number 8, but I don’t feel like moving it.
9. Red Belt, nominally a martial arts movie, displays the fine acting talent of Mike Terry, portraying a struggling fighting instructor set against the petty bourgeois ambitions of a high maintenance wife. Despite this sexist and pedestrian treatment of the female character an interesting treatment of how to find ones way out of life’s many knots.
10. Miracle at St. Ana, directed by Spike Lee, based on the fine novel by James McBride. Uneven acting and the film doesn’t match the magical realism achieved in the book.
1. Dark Knight, actor Heath Ledger as the Joker saves this Batman film from total ruin, in a fine performance, even if he tragically was unable to save himself from its aftermath.
2. Day the Earth Stood Still, this remake of the 1950 film starring Keanu Reeves, should not have been remade.
3. Forbidden Kingdom, not so funny quasi-martial arts film, with a few great fighting scenes.
4. Body of Lies, an allegedly action packed drama, displaying the talent of Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, with not much drama but packed full of banalities. The war on terror seems to be not the only thing that is being lost these days, but I guess someone got paid, only it wasn’t the viewing audience.
5. Vantage Point, starring Forrest Whittaker and Dennis Quaid, in another take on the war against terror that seems to have be of no vantage and to have little point.
6. Hancock, reveals that the world won’t end if Hollywood allows a leading Black man, Will Smith, to share romance with a leading white woman, Charlize Theron, whose lips actually meet, if only for second, in this superhuman tale. Pity the script was so thin and the rendering so insipid given the fine talent brought to the stage.
7. Run Fat Boy Run, a mildly amusing British film, holding 7th place, because well something has to.
8. This movie was so bad I can’t remember it.
9. Fill in the blank.
10. Any suggestions?