Ethan’s Top Ten of 2008

Missing the Best of the Year podcast was a major suck sandwich. My dang internets was down but are now back up. So I think I should share the list I was going to discuss on the air.

10. Synecdoche, New York – Okay, let’s get this out of the way. This movie is depressing, confusing, ugly, tedious and meandering. But you know what? It’s one of the most ambitious movies I think I’ve ever seen. And I appreciate that so much. Writer/Director Charlie Kaufman throws every single idea and fear he’s ever felt in his life on the screen. And it may take way too much to decipher, but it’s still incredible to see it unfold before you. And though as easy as it is to detect by now how offputting this film is, it’s still very poignant in the end.

9.Hunger – Steve McQueen’s (not that one silly buns) film is a statement to the actions that people take to fulfill their purpose in life. From the imprisoned IRA soldier who puts every inch of his into serving his purpose. And the guards who hate themselves for their cruelty yet have to do it to serve their country. The stunning 12-minute single shot in this film could’ve been incredibly boring in concept, but the stunning acting of Fassbender and Cunningham keep us riveted. That’s what this film does amazingly, making us compelled by even the most mundane of things that the people in this film undergo.

8.Let The Right One In – You know what I appreciate in genre films? Patience. The idea of taking the time to develop your characters, establish their reality and place. And this film thrives on it. Now, there’s a lot of gore even in the beginning but it’s only when it needs to be used. It at no point reaches the gratuity of even really good horror films. This movie is all about its relationship. We see it build throughout the movie and in the end it climaxes in a piece that has both awesome gore and a real establishment of the point of its characters.

7.Happy-Go-Lucky – A lot have found the main character of this film, Poppy, to be “annoying”. But what matter is how you react, whether it be good or bad. This film is a comment on happiness in our world and it can help…and hurt. We see Poppy brighten the day of her students or friends, but also putting her driving instructor on the brink. Is happiness something we should strive for? Or is it simply a lost cause on the damaged souls of our world?

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – The title of character of Benjamin Button is yes, somewhat of a uninteresting man when you take away the reverse-aging aspect. But when you think about it, the film is more about our own reactions. We are put in Benjamin Button’s shoes throughout the film. We are left to decide how he feels. We are left to think about how we see our lives. By the end as Benjamin reflects on the people he’s known in his life, he’s really asking you to do the same.

5. Slumdog Millionaire – Everyone in a while it’s nice to a film that offers a reaffirming message about life. Sure, there’s the crap that some have to go through, but love conquers all! Yes, that’s a cheesy theme. But when a movie makes it that exciting and beautiful with its pure drunken love of cinema, you can’t help but be won over.

4. Wall-E – This movie got me thinking about how cinema has changed over the years. Films originally began silent, they were simply moving picture shows. But images tell stories just as well as the written word. After all, cinema is built on the foundation of showing and not telling. Wall-E is a battle cry for the genuine human connection that we have abandoned through consumerism. We’re forcing our own technology to become more human than we are.

3. The Wrestler – This is undoubtedly a very simple story told in slow beats. Aronofsky perfectly shows us this world through images. Whether it be the looks that Randy gives when selling his merchandise or working at a deli counter. This film is in fact quite the tragedy. We are lead to believe for a small portion of the film that everything is going to be all right. That Randy’s daughter will accept him into her life, that uber-hot stripper will love him back. But we see this richly developed character realistically crumbled. From the first scenes of Rourke to The Boss’ song at the end, this movie broke my heart.

2. The Dark Knight – The character of Batman has always been very special to me. I always felt good when reading a comic featuring him or watching an episode of the animated series. But The Dark Knight does something I’d never seen anything really do. It made me question the character’s moral decisions and the repercussions that he would face. This film transcended the idea of cartoon panels with speech bubbles into a true examination of our day and age’s reaction to terrorism. Batman essentially using the Patriot Act to capture The Joker is a clear representation of one of my most detested figures, President George W. Bush. But Batman caught him. The film left me with a gray area that made me think hard about the war on terror. Not often do you see cartoonish characters ask those kinds of questions to its audience.

1. Milk – No movie this year moved me more. No movie this year made me more hopeful. No movie this year was better shot or better acted. From the incredibly powerful rally scenes to the tender emotional moments between Milk and Scott. Or even just Penn’s funny little quirks. Another thing I love about this movie is how it addressed the theme of insecurity. From the members of Milk’s staff who can’t come out to their parents or the characters of Dan White and Jack Lira. Whose insecurity in their sexuality cause them to make rash, violent decisions. But Milk is a message movie of the best kind, it doesn’t preach. It uses historical context to just create a spellbinding, emotional story. And that’s why I think Gus Van Sant’s Milk is the best damn movie of 2008.

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I saved Manhattan from Mothra when I was 15.

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