Before sharing the top ten, I'd like to recognize some particularly noteworthy achievements in 2008:

Best Supposing Actress:
 Penelope Cruz in Vicki Christina Barcelona.  That movie was DOA until Ms. Cruz showed up about two-thirds
of the way through.  Ms. Cruz has never been better on screen (in English, anyway) than she is here, and she seems to be the only person
in that otherwise desolate movie to have a clue what's going on.)

Best Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger in The Dark Night.  Despite recent polls showing TDK to be the Best Movie of All Time (!), the
truth is that we would have pretty much forgotten it by now without Mr. Ledger's mesmerizing performance.

Best Actor:  Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  It wasn't the greatest Indiana Jones movie, but Ford to
welcome us back to the franchise with his best performance.  And to think that he's still doing his own stunts is remarkable.

Best Actress:  Angelina Jolie in Changeling and Wanted.  Talk about range.  I don't think there could be two more disparate roles.  Yet,
Angie pulls both off convincingly and seemingly  effortlessly.


SO HERE'S THE TOP TEN:
,
Top 10
of 2005
Top 10
of 2004
Top 10
of 2003
Top 10
of 2002
Top 10
of 2001
Top 10
of 2000
Top 10
of 1999
Top 10
of 2006
Top 10
of 2007
Atonement It's just as ponderous as the god-awful book it's based on.  If it weren't for the fact that the writers and directors are jacking
the audience around with confusing editing and--well, lying to us, there would be little more to see than Keira Knightly's amazing bone
structure. (1/20/08)

Burn After Reading This looks very much likes the Coen Brothers and their friends (and spouse), George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Frances
McDermott, went to dinner after a day of shooting and decided where they thought the plot should go next.  It's truly dreadful  (9/30/08)

The Day the Earth Stood Still The alien in this movie looks like Keanu Reeves and sounds like Al Gore.  Jennifer Connelly is woefully
miscast as an astro-biologist (I am not making this up), and Jon Hamm from
Mad Men is wasted as the guy who drives them around New
Jersey.  (12/21/08)

Four Christmases may be the WORST Christmas movie EVER.  And this is from a big Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn fan.  
(12/12/08)

Hamlet 2 Considering that it's been forty years (!)  since Springtime for Hitler, Rock Me Sexy Jesus isn't not nearly as edgy as it thinks it
is.  And the rest of the movie is just dreadful. (9/6/08)

Hancock Can I just say I didn't like it and move on?  No?  Fine.  I didn't like it because it was unpleasant, unfunny and uninvolving.  The
only plot point left to the imagination is what the heck Charlize Theron is doing in the movie. (7/24/08)

The Love Guru Imagine, if you will, that you're the guy (or gal) in charge of Paramount Studios.  Mike Myers comes to you and says,
"I'd like to make a movie in which I play the world's Number 2 Love Guru, and I'm trying to catch up with Depak Chopra.  The movie's
going to be silly, pointless and weird."  What do you say?  "Oh,  hell no," seems like a rational response, but hang on a second.  What
would have been your response if he'd said he wanted to make a movie in which he plays an Aurora, Illinois guitar hero?  Or a
dentally-challenged British secret agent?  The point is, with Mike Myers, you say yes and hope for the best.  Sadly, "the best" is nowhere to
be seen in this mess.  And lucky for you, just because some schmuck at Paramount thought he had to make it doesn't mean that you have
to go see it.  So don't. (6/22/08)

Meet the Spartans The movie itself is beneath comment; a more interesting topic would be the motive anyone would have for wanting to
see it.  Let's just say that if you're dumb enough to plunk down eight dollars for this mess...you're dumb enough.  (1/30/08)

Sweeney Todd: Johnny Depp is not a singer.  I think that even Johnny Depp would tell you that.  Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman,
Sacha Baron Cohen--ditto.  (But the adolescent newcomer who sings
Not While I'm Around will break your heart.)  The best I can say for
this movie is that it's an hour shorter than the stage production.  The plot of the stage show was hash, but at least Mr. Burton has made
some sense of it. (1/2/08)

The X-Files: I Want to Believe stinks.  On ice.  (On ice, under ice, in ice, through ice...everywhere in the vicinity of ice)  The only
satisfaction I got from this movie was the confirmation of my belief since the beginning that Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully is the more
compelling personality in this much -analyzed partnership.
10.  Get Smart Behold The Forty-Year-Old Sitcom.  I have to say that I wasn't a big fan of this tv show back in the day.  Apparently, not
many people were--the network always ran it on Saturday night when the adults were out of the house.  Apparently, some of the kids who
got left at home with the sitter on Saturday night do remember it fondly, and some of them probably had something to do with making this
light, happy-go-lucky and yes, smart movie. I never had much appreciation for Don Adams, the doofus star of the tv show, or Barbara
Feldon, who seemed like a poor man's Emma Peel.  However, Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway match each other in humor and bring a
warmth to the characters that was nowhere to be found in the sitcom.  Together, they make
Get Smart this summer's Hairspray.
(06/23/08)

9.  Valkyrie  Don't hate it because it's "a Tom Cruise movie."  There are lots of good actors in it, and only one of them is named Tom
Cruise.  This is the story of General Claus von Stauffenberg, who led an unsuccessful assassination plot against Hitler on July 20, 1944.  
In the aftermath of the incident, von Stauffenberg and dozens of his associates were murdered.  The movie is serious and thoughtful, and
even though you know it will end badly, you know can't take your eyes away from it.  (12/29/08)

8. Tropic Thunder  News networks that apparently don't think their audiences would sit still for a story about the energy situation or the
invasion of Georgia are giving extra time to the way the words "retard" and "nigger" get thrown around in this movie.  Is it objectionable?  
Oh, yeah.  Is it why this movie is rated "R" in the first place?  Probably.  To your humble correspondent, the irony of all this is that in a
movie with enough violence and drug use to make Sylvester Stallone and Cheech and Chong blush, language is what seems to offend those
who live to be offended.  If you think you're one of them, don't go--and under NO circumstances should you allow a child to go.  Having
said all that, it's hilarious.  (8/18/08)

7. Iron Man I saw this in a packed theater on 42nd Street in New York, where the audience whooped and hollered through coming
attractions for
Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk (especially loud), Hellraiser and the new Will Smith movie, but when the feature
presentation started, they became curiously silent.  I suspect that one reason for the lack of over-the-top teenage enthusiasm was that they
were watching a movie that was actually geared for adults, not teenagers.  Needless to say, I thought that was pretty terrific.  The movie
may not be the second coming (or the fourth) of
Spider-Man, but it is a perfectly serviceable device for killing a couple of hours and not
feeling as if you've been insulted.  Robert Downey, Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard are refreshing (if offbeat) choices for the
lead roles, and frankly it's nice to have a superhero around who: 1) is a grown-up; 2) seems to think that Islamo-fascism is bad; and 3)
doesn't feel compelled to maintain a secret identity.  Yeah, I'd watch more of that.  (5/5/08)

6. Role Models Please don't hate me for liking this movie.  Yes, it's as shallow as Joe Biden, but it's much funnier and has a much better
message.  Paul Rudd is especially good (he also helped to write the screenplay), and Jane Lynch is even better in a smaller part as a
self-help lunatic.  Even though the kids use language that made 50-somethings blush, it's still a lot of fun.  (11/12/08)   

5. The Bank Job Ostensibly the story of the 1971 "walkie-talkie robbery" in London, the movie features a snootful of compelling
performances--chiefly from Jason Stratham as the leader of the motley bunch of bank robbers and Saffron Burrows as the woman who's
hiding something.  There's a secondary plot about 70's era cult figure Michael X, but it confuses, rather than enhances the movie.  The
editing and pacing are crisp,  there are enough laughs along the way to make the grisly later scenes bearable, and you're really drawn into
the story about a gang that discovered that it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart. (3/14/08)

4. Changeling Clint Eastwood's story of one of the more shameful episodes in the checkered history of the Los Angeles Police
Department is a haunting tale of murder and deception.  The tone of the story is especially noteworthy.  I got the sense that Mr. Eastwood
was not so much telling a story as much as watching it unfold with has much disgust and disbelief as the audience.   Angelina Jolie
disappears in the role of mother who comes home one afternoon to find that her young son has vanished.  John Malkovich (in a difficult
role)  is less "actorly" that usual--which serves this movie very well.  Set in the early 1020's, this movie is less atmospheric than

Chinatown
or L. A. Confidential, but it's much more realistic.  Check it out   (11/4/08)

3. Wanted Somebody I know (I can't remember whom) was recently speaking to Mrs. Morgan Freeman, who said that her husband is
tired of playing God.  (I can't imagine how someone could get tired of playing God, but I'll let is pass.) In this (ultra-violent, no kids!)
cartoon-come-to-life, he plays Sloan, a character who likes to play God.  (I guess that's what passes for nuance in Hollywood.) Here he
gets plenty of help from James McElvoy and Angelina Jolie.  This movie has lots of action and violence.  If all cartoon adaptations were
this good, I'd probably go to see more of them.  Also, I can't remember the last time I liked a movie for its music.  Danny Elfman's movie
music is always good, and his work he's done on this movie is among his best.   Even if you don't get around to seeing the movie, go to
Amazon and check out the soundtrack.  (I particularly like
The Little Things.) (7/5/08)

2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  Will there ever be another movie like this?  Maybe, but don't count on it.  This
is probably the last of a dying breed.I liked it --a lot--and a lot more than I thought I would.  Indy is back and moving around pretty well
for an older guy.  (Interestingly, Harrison Ford is playing about the same age here that Sean Connery did in the last Indiana Jones movie.  
As opposed to Connery, who mostly "sat in the truck", Ford climbs around like a monkey, swings from his bull whip AND gets the girl in
the end.)  The only time during the movie when I wasn't willing to suspend my disbelief was the ridiculous nuclear blast sequence--after a
quick shower, Indy was good to go.  The rest of the time, I enjoyed being in the company of filmmakers who really know how to put on a
show.  (5/30/08)

1.  Gran Torino The cool kid reviewers will probably tell you that the best movie of 2008 is either something you've never heard of (say,
Synedoche, New York) or some soulless clunker like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  They won't be jumping on the band wagon
for
Gran Torino as they did for Million Dollar Baby because it makes them uncomfortable.  Hell, it made me uncomfortable.  It flies in the
face of the current Hollywood reality and trots out some ancient notions like "Old people may actually have something useful to pass along
to younger people," and "Americans are basically good people."  But it might also just be the best American movie in a long, long time.  
Toads fly out of Clint Eastwood's mouth every time he opens it.  As a retired auto worker in a decaying Detroit suburb, he's confounded
by what passes for values these days, and particularly so by the Hmong refugees who have moved in to the house next door.  Although
their culture is as different as it is possible to be, their values turn out to be as conservative as his own.  As the movie goes along, they
learn to coexist.  Throughout the movie, you sense that something really bad is just about to happen.  Lots of bad things do happen, but
their consequences don't always turn out to be what you thank they'll be.  In the hands of a lesser director than Clint Eastwood (such as
the director of
Seven Pounds) Gran Torino could  have been a disaster.  Instead, it's something very much like a masterpiece.
In 2007, I paid to see 40 American movies.  This year, the number was up to 42.

This was something of a surprise, because if you had asked, I would have said that I saw a LOT fewer American movies this year.  I think
it's because I saw
0 foreign movies in a regular theater this year, although I saw lots of them in film festivals.  (I think that's a reflection of
living in Mississippi.)

Another big change from 2007 is that the movies (or the ones I saw anyway) were generally a lot worse this year.  In the past, I've deluded
myself into thinking that I could smell a turkey a good ways off, and that I knew how to stay away from the clunkers.  However, my "oy
vey-dar" let me down this year, and I saw my share of dogs.  So.  Despite being a good year for the box office, I saw so many stinkers that
I've decided to bring back my list of the Top 10 Worst (or, more accurately, "Least Favorite") Movies of the Year.  Because it's the
holidays, I'll just list them alphabetically.


                               
                             MATT'S TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2008
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