Bryan F. Irrera (bfirrera) wrote,
Bryan F. Irrera

Best of 2008 - Movies

These are my favorite movies (in alphabetical order) that I saw this past year...I've got two lists. The first are the movies that were actually MADE in 2008:

Burn After Reading

I'm not always into the product that the Coen brothers produce (I probably enjoy about 75%, though), but this was definitely on the plus side. Great ensemble (most especially Frances McDormand)...funny character study/farce about spies. Burn After Reading - Amazon Burn After Reading -

Hamlet 2

Very funny, twisted movie. The humor will not be for anyone with a stick up their ass. Steve Coogan leads another great ensemble (including Elisabeth Shue as "herself"). I think the only down side to this one is poor Catherine Keener having to play this same bitch character that she's been typecast as AGAIN. The parts of the movie wherein the play within the movie are being performed are probably the best. I actually want to SEE/BE IN this play! Hamlet 2 - Amazon Hamlet 2 -

Letting Go of God / Religulous

I've got to list these two together, since they would make an interesting double feature. "Letting Go of God" is Julia Sweeney's one-woman monologue about her search for God and her reevaluation of her relationship with him (which was becoming progressively more one-sided throughout her journey). In "Religulous" Bill Maher takes a more irreverant take on the subject matter as he interviews subjects from many different religions around the world about their faith (it's directed by the same guy who directed "Borat" and kind of has that same feeling, though Maher isn't portraying a fictional character). Letting Go of God - Amazon Letting Go of God - Religulous - Amazon Religulous -

Man on Wire

In this absolutely breathtaking documentary, Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker, along with the many people who helped him back in 1974, tells the tale of how he once walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. It's fascinating, suspenseful (even knowing that he did it, I was at the edge of my seat as that fateful day approached in the film) and inspiring. It's also great to see those wonderful towers standing again, even if only in archival footage. Man on Wire - Amazon Man on Wire -


While I wasn't as impressed with Sean Penn's performance as others were (I've seen better performances from him AND I'm not as impressed with actors who do impersonations of historical figures...especially when there are news-reels to crib from), I thought that the whole package here was very impressive and inspiring. It's just a shame that the Academy doesn't always care for those who play villains, 'cause Josh Brolin was marvelous. I liked the film-makers choice of juxtaposing on-set shots with vintage film footage for establishing shots. This was perhaps the least pretentious of Van Sant's work (I know this is somewhat of a back-handed compliment, but I've never enjoyed anything that he's directed before this). True confession time: I saw this ony three weeks after seeing the 1984 documentary (below), so my reaction may have been different otherwise. Milk -

Revolutionary Road

This reunion of the stars of 1997's "Titanic" (along with their co-star, Kathy Bates) is a searing condemnation of 1950's complacency in the suburbs. Winslet's April should be the performance to beat at the Oscars this year. April is dissatisfied with the malaise that has corrupted both herself and her formerly idealistic husband, Frank. She hatches the plan that they should move to Paris at the end of the summer, much to the dismay of their neighbors and Frank's co-workers, who think this idea is crazy. Soon, forces conspire against their escape. Harrowing. Forget movies with people getting chopped up with a hacksaw...THIS is a horror movie. Revolutionary Road -

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

In this film by my all-time favorite director, Woody Allen, two girlfriends, Vicky and Cristina, take a trip to Barcelona. There, they are each in turn subject to the seductions of Juan Antonio, a handsome painter. As they are each under his spell, to different degrees, he is not only fascinated by these two women, but also by his ex-wife, Maria Elena, who he has a perpetual on-again/off-again relationship with. The dialogue is crisp, the locations are romantic, the leads are all wonderful (especially Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, acting in two languages, and relative newcomer Rebecca Hall as Vicky, who is most conflicted in her needs for both romance with Juan Carlos and normalcy/safety with her fiance, Doug. Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Amazon Vicky Cristina Barcelona -


Is there anything better than a Pixar film? How about a post-apocalyptic science fiction love story by Pixar? In this cautionary tale, Wall-E is a little robot who is cleaning up, as best he can, the enormous landfill that Earth has been turned into. Soon, another robot, Eve, captures his attention and eventually he's lead on a chase through space to save her from a giant space cruiser filled with the last of the human race. It's funny, touching, romantic, has lots of action and even has an important message about conservation. Wall-E - Amazon Wall-E -

War, Inc.

This modern "Dr. Strangelove"-esque black comedy focuses mostly on the Halliburtonization that has taken place in our way of running wars (giving out private contracts to mercenaries and companies to fight our war and paying them so much more than our actual troops). Again, this has a great ensemble cast headed by John Cusack, including Marisa Tomei (who is marvelous here as an embittered journalist - I did say to Paul, though, that after this film and Lisa Bonet in "High Fidelity", he's got to romance Dawnn Lewis or Jasmine Guy to make the "A Different World" connection even more complete in his next movie) and the ubiquitous, at least in films with her brother, Joan Cusack. It's hysterical, over the top and SO twisted. War, Inc. - Amazon War, Inc. -

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

This is one of the few times Mr. Smith has stepped away from the safe territory of the Quik-Stop and the people associated with it (including characters Jay and Silent Bob - though Jason Mewes appears as a new character)...this time, unlike "Jersey Girl", it still feels like a Kevin Smith film. Seth Rogan is a perfect fit for this type of filthy dialogue heavy film. He and Elizabeth Banks have wonderful chemistry here and actually make the film seem wholesome at times. As with Nina Hartley's appearance in "Boogie Nights" and Ron Jeremy's appearance in "Orgazmo", Traci Lords' appearance here lends an air of respect to the proceedings (and she's HYSTERICAL in this). It's also important to note that Mr. Smith isn't afraid to keep the nudity in his film fairly balanced between male and female as some directors used to be (as if the mere presence of a male nude means that the director is gay)...and Mr. Mewes is fully frontal, too (and it's quite impressive).Zack and Miri make a Porno -

My favorite movies I saw in 2008 (thanks, mostly, to Netflix) that WEREN'T made in 2008 (again, in alphabetical order):

Arranged (2007)

This is a beautiful, sad, sweet little film. It focuses on the friendship between two young women who would seemingly have nothing in common. One is Muslim, one is a Hasidic Jew. They bond over the fact that both sets of their parents are planning to arrange a marriage for them. A great story about rising above prejudices and finding respect, love and friendship! Arranged - AmazonArranged -

Common Wealth (2006)

In this black comedy/suspense thriller combo, Carmen Maura (frequent muse/star of Pedro Almodóvar's films) plays a beleagured real-estate agent, on the verge of losing her marriage and her job, who, while trying to sell an apartment stumbles onto a plot by the neighbors in the building to steal another (now deceased) tenant's millions (and is now trapped in the building with them as they hunt her, the money and each other). Thrilling and hysterical in equal portions. Common Wealth - Amazon Common Wealth -

Confessions of a Super-Hero (2007)

This one is sort of the sadder brother to the geek fest documentaries of recent years, "King of Kong" and "Air Guitar Nation". It explores the lives of a group of "celebrity lookalikes" who dress up and pose for photos with tourists at Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Especially fascinating are the George Clooney lookalike who plays "Batman" and the Christopher Reeve lookalike who plays "Superman" (and who you ALMOST believe really thinks he IS Superman). The Superman lookalike, Christopher Dennis, has a whole 'nother layer of crazy(?), as his cover story is that he is the secret son of actress Sandy Dennis (though her family is shown in the film denying his existence. Confessions of a Superhero - Amazon Confessions of a Superhero -

Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

This film, based on the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who after suffering a stroke was diagnosed with "locked-down syndrome" (he could ONLY move his left eye), is equally gorgeous and horrifying. The majority of the film is shot from Bauby's perspective in his bed, as he struggles to communicate with the outside world. We are trapped in there WITH him. It's an incredible journey as he eventually learns a way to tell his tale to the outside world. Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Amazon Diving Bell and the Butterfly -

The Fall (2006)

This film, starring Lee Pace of "Pushing Daisies", is almost two films in one. In the outer film, Mr. Pace plays a silent film stuntman who was injured during a stunt and now is paralyzed and trapped in a hospital. The inner film revolves around an elaborate fairy tale he spins for a little girl who is staying in the hospital. Much of the movie revolves around their growing relationship and the "Wizard of Oz" film ending "you were there and you were there" recasting of the various denizens from the hospital into their roles in the fairy tale (as we are seeing it through her eyes). The real strength of this film is in both the performances by Lee Pace and the little girl, Catinca Untaru, and the lush, vivid cinematography and exotic locales used throughout. Kudos for the amazing art direction!The Fall - Amazon The Fall -

Infamous (2006)

True confessions time: I did NOT see 2006's "Capote" with Philip Seymour Hoffman, so I can not tell you how this film compares. That said, there are many great performances in this film, most especially from Toby Jones as Truman Capote, Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee (I loved her so much, I finally was inspired to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" this year for Banned Book Week), and both Lee Pace and Daniel Craig as the "In Cold Blood" killers. Fascinating characters/story.
Infamous - Amazon Infamous -

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

On the surface, this movie has a really twisted premise. A gentle man from a small town falls in love with a sex doll. However, this movie is one of the sweetest films I've seen in a long time. The townspeople in this film rival those of "Big Eden" for the cutest, sweetest, most understanding people who in real life would probably not embrace the title character so easily... Ryan Gosling gives such a layered, delicate performance and, for me, the other big standout is Patricia Clarkson as the town doctor, who is charged with diagnosing Lars' possible mental illness. Truly a feel-good movie to cherish.Lars and the Real Girl - Amazon Lars and the Real Girl -

Taxi To the Dark Side (2007)

While I believe in supporting our troops, no matter how I feel about our current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, this documentary shows us the darker side of this war and those amongst us who are so easy to give in to the darker side of their souls and allow themselves to become barbarians. This film explores in graphic detail the torture we are imposing on prisoners whose only crime may be the color of their skin, their manner of dress, or simply being in the wrong place or time. "I Was Only Following Orders" isn't just for our enemies to decree, apparently. Every American citizen should watch this and re-evaluate the way we raise our children to accept xenophobia as a natural state of mind. Taxi to the Dark Side - Amazon Taxi to the Dark Side -

Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

This documentary, composed of newsreels of Mr. Milk paired with interviews of his various friends, associates and staff members is superior to the new dramatization simply for featuring the ACTUAL people who lived it telling their own stories in their own words. Again, everyone should see this.The Times of Harvey Milk - Amazon The Times of Harvey Milk The Times of Harvey Milk - watch it now on

YPF (2007)

This comedy is composed of five stories of different couples in various stages of their relationships over the course of one sexual encounter. There's the married couple hoping to put some spice back into their relationship, the couple who are looking for a one-night stand (but may be falling in love), the exes who might be aiming for make-up sex, the best friends who might be changing the nature of their relationship and finally the threesome. Very funny, attractive leads (including Callum Blue from "Dead Like Me" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" and Josh Cooke from the short-lived sitcoms "Committed" and "Four Kings").Young People Fucking - Amazon Young People Fucking -


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