The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Top Ten movies of 2008

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Judy Thorburn

Las Vegas Tribune -
Las Vegas Round The Clock
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The Women Film Critics Circle -
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Looking Back at The Flick Chick’s Top Ten Movies of 2008

Last year there were so many entertaining and thought provoking films that I had a trouble deciding which would make my Top Ten list for 2007.  This year, though, is another story, as I didn’t feel there weren’t as many great films released in 2008.  In any case, I did manage to come up with, what I think is, a reputable list of films that stand out from the rest, including a few that don’t fit into the usual formula and were surprisingly refreshing, to say the least.

1. In Bruges – This wonderfully crafted dark comedy about an unlikely pair of hit men (portrayed by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) hiding out in Belgium after a hit gone terribly wrong, broke away from the formulaic mold with its well written, offbeat script by director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh that cleverly interweaves a mix of violence, humor and unusual characters.

2. Burn After Reading – Writer/directors The Coen Brothers (Ethan and Joel) have come up with yet another outrageous hilarious romp with unexpected twists, turns, and surprises.  The great ensemble cast includes hilarious, quirky performances by Frances MacDormand and Brad Pitt as a clueless jerk in this deliciously funny spoof on espionage thrillers.

3. The Dark Knight –   The second installment of the new Batman theatrical franchise is a perfect follow up to Batman Begins and a stylish masterpiece. Christian Bale is again excellent as the Caped Crusader, but the late Heath Ledger is astounding, adding an entirely new electrifying dimension to Batman’s nemesis, the villainous, maniacal Joker.  He steals every scene in this dark and atmospheric comic book adaptation and is the odds on favorite to posthumously win the Oscar for best supporting role.

4. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 20 years after the last installment of the popular franchise was released, Indiana Jones is back and better than ever with an older, but nonetheless forceful Harrison Ford reprising his iconic screen character.   As an exciting, fast paced, roller coaster action adventure, you couldn’t ask for more when it comes to pure escapist fun?

5. Milk – In Gus Van Sant’s compelling biopic, Sean Penn seamlessly disappears into the persona of the late Harvey Milk, the first opening gay person to be elected to public office whose life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 48, in 1978. The story traces Milk’s struggle from camera store owner and gay rights activist to outspoken elected politician and delves into his personal romantic entanglements.  Penn rightfully deserves the Oscar for Best Actor for his phenomenal, multi dimensional performance, and the entire supporting cast is outstanding including Josh Brolin as Milk’s fellow politician and James Franco as a former lover, who help carry this powerful drama.  Milk’s story is especially timely considering the outcome of California’s Proposition 8 which resulted in a ban of gay marriage.

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett deliver fantastic performances in this beautiful, skillfully crafted fantasy tale and tender love story about making the most out the precious time we are given in life because nothing lasts. Eric Roth’s script is loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story about a man who lives his life in reverse – born physically old and gradually growing younger as time goes by. Everything about this sweeping epic is exquisite, including direction, cinematography, set design, special effects, and the most convincing age enhancing makeup/prosthetics ever seen on screen.

7. The Duchess – With other actresses being mentioned for the coveted Best Actress Oscar, I hope a much deserving Keira Knightly won’t be left out in the cold. This is her best role yet and she shines in this fact based historical costume drama that tells the story of 18th century aristocrat/outspoken feminist Georgiana Spencer, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was adored by the common people but stuck in a loveless, bad marriage. Beautifully crafted and gorgeously photographed, one can’t help but also notice how much this Duchess had in common with her ancestor, the late Princess Diana.

8. The Spiderwick Chronicles -  I found myself completely immersed in this enchanting fantasy adventure based on a series of popular children’s books that centers around the discovery of a mysterious book which contains knowledge about magical, scary creatures that inhabit a secret, hidden world and could destroy mankind.  Child actor Freddie Highmore leads an impressive cast that includes Mary Louise Parker as his mother, Joan Plowright as his great aunt, David Strathairn as his great uncle, and Nick Nolte as the evil shape shifting ogre, Mulgarath plus an array of imaginative CGI creatures such as fairies, goblins, ogres, the amusing Hogsqueal, an easily-distracted Hobgoblin (voiced by Seth Rogan) and Thimbletack, the Brownie / Boggart (voiced by Martin Short).

9. Frozen River – During these rough economic times, it is easy to relate to writer/director Courtney Hunt’s gripping, moving story about a desperate woman, brilliantly portrayed by Melissa Leo, who gets caught up in a scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants across the U.S./Canadian border.

10. Religulous – Talk show host/political humorist Bill Mahr dared to take on religion with a no holds barred approach in this controversial documentary that poses many questions about belief and so called blind faith. Mahr traveled all over the world, meeting with representatives of the world’s top religions.  The result is informative, funny, best appreciated by those with an open mind and hopefully thought provoking for “true believers”.


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