Tuesday, December 16, 2008

david's 2008 YEAR IN REVIEW. part 1 / 3

well, in the rather indelible words of the joker, "here. we. go."

there's a bit too much to go over all at once, so i'm gonna divvy this up into 3 parts: Various Awards, Honorable / Dishonorable Mentions / and a Top 20 list.

let's begin with Various Awards, shall we?

Phillippe Petit - Man on Wire

What's that you say? Man on Wire was - for lack of a better word - a documentary? well, ostensibly, yes. but petit's eponymous appearance here is a performance of the highest and most theatrical order, a man embodying his own legend. petit is obviously an eccentric and delightfully herzogian individual off-camera as well as on, but by casting himself as Homer to his own history he immortalizes his feats better than any third party ever could. petit bounces, snaps, muses, and altogether performs his own biopic without ever leaving the chair from which he talks to the camera, the home video footage almost giving him license to exaggerate and heighten the already extraordinary details of his story to points far above the old spire on top of the world trade center.

Tie: Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road / Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky

Both women pull of small and subtle miracles here - Winslet in how she makes the most ordinary of women and the most tired of American archetypes (the bored suburbanite) into something devastatingly fresh. the desperate grace with which she trundles through revolutionary road's third act is a sight to behold - Winslet brings remarkable vitality to a woman struggling to live without once striking a false note. As for the adorable Ms. Hawkins, she is just fucking awesome. Stepping into the shoes of a character that could have potentially gone toe-to-toe with carrie bradshaw as the year's most nauseating character, Hawkins... well, she doesn't step in so much as she dives, bringing every facial tick and limb flick her body is capable of with her. Poppy is a force of nature from head to toe, and Hawkins is the greatest of Mike Leigh's many finds.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Well, this was an easy one - nothing else even comes close. The work that Fincher's team did in creating a 90 some-odd year-old infant that seamlessly bears brad pitt's voice and face is among the greatest bits of visual trickery in cinematic history. Your eyes aren't only fooled, they find the resulting curmudgeon to be so organic and real that they don't even tell the brain to start thinking about how it was done. The eyes are so confident in what they're seeing that they leave every other part of you free to engage in the story - seldom has a sight so ridiculous and otherworldly seemed so natural. Fincher's film hurls this pint-sized chunk of cognitive dissonance at the viewer from the very start and takes quite the gamble in doing so, but his strategy pays off enormous dividends... i cared more about the bizzaro mess of little old button by the time he took his first crutch-facilitated steps than i ever did about anyone in slumdog millionaire or the dark knight... which segues rather nicely into -

Tie - Slumdog Millionaire / The Dark Knight

Methinks i've said enough on this blog about the latter by now. it's flagrant disregard for its characters, laughably contrived schemes (the joker's get out of jail plan + gordon's fake death = really?), flaccid action, and high-school philosophizing derail what by all rights should have been the best superhero movie ever made. watching it at home without all the hype, pomp, and circumstance of its theatrical release really crystalizes the negatives and suggests how much the film's glory will be short-lived. this baby ain't gonna age well, folks, though ledger's performance will surely stand the test of time. spiderman 2 can rest easy on the throne for another year.

As for Slumdog Millionaire... oy. brazen attempts to make world cinema more palatable for western audiences rank amongst my favorite films of the decade (crouching tiger, i'm looking at you. how ya doin? call me.), so that in of itself is not enough to get me rankled. i'm not bitter at slumdog millionaire... i don't feel that people are straining to love it as i do with the dark knight, i just... can't understand what people see in this pile o' poo. okay, so it's not a pile o' poo (though it certainly features one), but it is impossibly trite and suffocatingly predictable, even for a fairy tale. the archetypes at work here are more boring than ever (the good brother with no personality vs. the evil brother with only one trait... he's evil. not to mention the wilting violet / supermodel love interest who shares nothing in common with the hero other than an infrequently shared past), and i just can't understand how anyone might care about a single thing that happens in this silly movie. i know times are tough out there and the story of a boy who prizes something over money is a sight for sore eyes, but come on... this is lazy city.

Hilary Swank - P.S. I LOVE YOU
Runners Up - Everyone in Slumdog Millionaire except for the game show host guy who said "jai" a lot. i liked him.

Um... really, you want to contest this one? do you even remember the scene where her character first meets gerard butler's, somewhere in ireland or something? wow. lolkatz city. yes, the ridiculously jacked king of the spartans has romantic feelings for the world's dumbest librarian. it's not the fact that she can't read a map that has approximately one location on it, it's that she thought the bangs were a good idea. they weren't. just play a transgendered character, or a boxer, or a transgendered boxer again and we'll give you another oscar and pretend this whole thing never happened.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Yup. And it's not just because i met THE ONE AND ONLY BRADFORD HOWE when i saw it. and yes, i know shia lebouf swung on vines. you know why that didn't bother me? cause everything shia lebouf does is the worst, and so i just saw that scene as being status quo. thus, it didn't distract me from the fact that i was watching a breathlessly kinetic, relentlessly entertaining adventure film that kept me engaged like a man in a refrigerator being rocketed hundreds of yards in the aftermath of a small nuclear explosion. that shit was FUN. does anyone remember LAUGHTER!? okay, almost famous quotes aside, no one makes a busier yet less finicky composition than senor spielberg, and this material played right into his strengths. the story was pure drivel of course, but cate blanchett was in it and... as LQ would say - WANT. this whole stupid mess just chugged along and made me smile and was a gay old time. it made not have had the same feel and dressings as the original trilogy, but... well, let's just say i'm not the type to be all torn up over fidelity to source material. ahem. just wait for watchmen.


EruditeChick said...

There's a big difference between fidelity to the source material and honoring the source material, to be sure. I think Snyder knows how to do both at the same time, and translate that source material into the language of film.

Unlike Caruso or Reeves, who until they prove otherwise, I have officially marked down at fuckwits.

david said...

well, until it's proven that the cinematic medium somehow enriches the story of watchmen in a way in which the graphic novel cannot, i will continue to find the adaptation to be entirely unnecessary and purely spurred by greed. cause... simply filming a panel from a comic book don't impress me much.

and if Snyder knows how to do both of those things you mentioned at the same time, her sure didn't show it in 300. but maybe that's because 300 was an awful graphic novel and frank miller is kind of not all that great OH YES I WENT THERE. i liked dawn of the dead. :) but watchmen will at the very least be entertaining so i'm there.

EruditeChick said...

See, I think given 300s source material, Snyder did show those skills.I am... I am not a big Frank Miller fan. I think he's done a few awesome things, but beyond those few, I think he's a sort of crazy old man in love with his own fetishes.

See All Star Batman and Robin for further proof of this.

I think 300 was compellingly told on film. But the story is... it has all this extra crap in it that it needs because without it, it's like... barely a story. At least from Miller's pov. Watchmen is the opposite- it has all this extra stuff in it that serves the graphic novel, enhancing but not cluttering the story and the world, and some of that will have to be lost, due to both mechanics and things like run times.

But I think, as Dawn of the Dead showed, Snyder knows how to move a group of characters through a story, and is particularly good at portraying the world as it almost-is, which is very Watchmen.

I also think what's commendable about his page-to-screen philosophy is the fact that the practice forces him to stay grounded. The fact that he kept the graphic novel on-set and handed it out to the actors and used it the way he did even informed their performances- recall Patrick 'Captain America' Wilson's discussion of Dan at CC08. From the footage we've seen, he's blatantly not just filming the graphic novel panel by panel. It's abundantly clear. But the fact that he makes the effort, at certain points, to do so is admirable.

david said...

eh, i'm reserving my judgment. but don't reference the group of characters snyder handled in the dawn of the dead remake with any sort of reverence... i mean, it was a silly little remake of dawn of the dead. the man has made 2 movies - and to call him particularly good at making anything but money is a bit unearned at this point. eh, i guess i would have just preferred for a filmmaker who directs with some effin personality to take on watchmen rather than someone who has simply proven he has an interest in geek culture and little understanding of what makes a story tick. i remain skeptical but excited.

EruditeChick said...

No, effin TRUE DAT, dude. It wasn't really a moving character piece, was DotD.

I'm more excited than skeptical. But yeah, we shall see. Dark Knight was a let down, and that more hype than Watchmen, and a more revered director. Still, I'm gonna err on the side of optimism this time around.

Because I'm a masochist like that.