Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Two

#2 Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, like many Woody Allen films before it, is all about relationships between men and women. Two female friends are vacationing in Spain. A charming, handsome local painter propositions them, proclaiming equal satisfaction with any sensual equation they’re interested in: a threesome, a couple of twosomes, whatever. One is intrigued, one is repulsed, and so it begins. By the time the painter’s fiery ex-wife reenters the scene, Allen has positioned his film to explore as many different approaches to romance and relationships as a summer in Barcelona has romantic nights. Allen, forever the hopeless cynic, … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Two

Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Three

#3 Arguably, the most impressive thing about Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days is its matter-of-fact tone. There’s ample opportunity for highly charged scenes given the subject. Cristian Mungiu’s film follows a woman in mid-eighties Romania who helps her college roommate get an illegal abortion. It follows the progress of this with a measured, consistent attention to all of the details–securing the hotel room, coordinating the trip around other plans, negotiating with the abortionist–that makes it feel like the film is passing in real time, almost agonizingly so. Through it all, the film never stoops to sensationalizing the situation. … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Three

Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Eight

#8 Something that works on the page won’t automatically work on the screen, especially when the original prose tends towards the ruminative. That may explain why the likes of John Updike and Philip Roth are relatively underrepresented on the big screen in comparison to plot hounds like Stephen King and John Grisham, who have had everything but their grocery lists brought to visual life. That doesn’t heighten the value of director Isabel Coixet’s and screenwriter Nicholas Meyers’ refined adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, but it does provide some context about the rarity of the achievement. Elegy concerns a … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Eight

Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Nine

#9 Gus Van Sant’s Milk pulls off the gratifying trick of making the fact that its title character is gay simultaneously vitally central and utterly beside the point. Harvey Milk’s mid-seventies rise from San Francisco small businessman to influential political figure is largely predicated on and shaped by his identity as a homosexual man. His sense of how community works–how to understand it, how to motivate those who are a part of it–is built there from the ground up. The powers of persuasion that serve him well in San Francisco municipal government are forged there. Perhaps most importantly, the urgency … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Nine

Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Ten

#10 Set deep in a Scandinavian winter, Let the Right One In is a dark movie. Dark material, dark sensibilities and a dark, dark sky that crushes down on the characters with an enveloping, bleak power. The Swedish film focuses on a lonely boy who discovers a strange new friend in his apartment complex. It is a girl who appears to be about his age, but is actually ageless. She’s initially curious but standoffish, declaring the impossibility of friendship between the two. In a way, she’s right. What emerges feels like more than friendship, certainly more than the sort of … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Ten