“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For you lot, Christmas and New Year offer a chance to eat lots, stock up on gadgets and DVDs for the next year, and generally hang out. For people who spend their time talking about anything in particular, it can be a bit of a pain. That’s because you, the public, expect/demand, an end-of-year review list rundown top 100 bonanza. But just to be a bit contrary, I won’t give you a simple run-through of the top films of the year. Instead, we’re on a trip back in time, to the land called 2008, to look at A YEAR IN FILM!!! This one, that hasn’t even finished yet…
(‘You need to call it. I can’t call it for you. It wouldn’t be fair.’ – Anton Chigurh)
So you all made it back safely to January. The fog of ‘Best of 2007’ lists has just broken, and the Oscars are on the horizon in the near-future, that is also the past. The best film from the 1st month, undoubtedly, was No Country for Old Men, the film that would go on to win at said past/future award ceremonies. It may have made lots of ‘Best of ’07’ lists due to it coming out in America in November, but it was the ideal film to kick UK audiences into action after their festive slumber. After a slow start, the Coens power through the gears as Javier Bardem relentlessly pursues Josh Brolin’s Vietnam vet armed with a stun gun and enough crazy to fill a bathtub. Intense, hugely entertaining, and a worthy Oscar winner.
(‘I’m already pregnant, what other shenanigans could I get into?’ – Juno MacGuff)
This February we all celebrated at being ‘up a day’ thanks to the leap year, the Writer’s Strike came to an end, and America started the process of trying to begin to work out who could maybe be President. There’s only two parties, shouldn’t take that long. Anyway, in the world of film your big options were Daniel-Day-Lewis in Daniel-Day-Lewis’ There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel-Day-Lewis, or Ellen Page and Michael Cera in Juno. One man’s struggle with the soil, a priest, and himself, or a quirky dram-edy about teenage pregnancy. ACTING!!!!, or acting. I vote Juno. Take that, Day-Lewis.
(‘Cool line, usually I can’t think of those things until later’ – Horton)
One of the benefits of doing your ‘Top Blank of Blank’ list this way is it becomes more than a mere list. It becomes a commentary on the year. And, in that spirit, March was a bit shit, to be honest. Your options were breakneck terror farce Vantage Point, the year’s second worst spoof movie Meet the Spartans, potentially scary but unseen-by-many-including-me Spanish horror The Orphanage, or the eventual top dog Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! It’s not a bad film by any means, in fact it’s fairly entertaining and visually very impressive. But it isn’t exactly in the league of some of the stuff that gets bumped later on…
(‘You think my uncle died for fun? Egotistical prick.’ – Marjane Satrappi)
So after March’s limp offering, April powers into view packing some cinematic heat. The two best films of April had a bit in common, as they both dealt with ‘the kids’. In the colourful corner, Son of Rambow, Garth Jenning’s tale of a little boy with mad religious parents who gets involved with the school nutcase. And in the monochromatic corner, Persepolis, the Franco-Iranian animation about a little girl with mad religious government. It’s a close one, but Persepolis wins out thanks to its sheer unique-and-odd-ness.
(‘”Iron Man.” That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it.’ – Tony Stark)
Apparently May means summer to those in ‘the biz’, and so it was that we were festooned with blockbusters from the start of Month 5. Of May’s crop some were a let-down (Indy, I’m looking in your direction), some invited us to look into a terrifying vision of the near future where cinemas were over-run by mad middle-aged women (Sex and The City, the second biggest ‘bird’s film’ of the year), and some went into the dictionary as examples of the technical term ‘clusterf**k’ (Here comes, here comes Speed Racer…and there he goes again). Iron Man, though, was a great slice of Hollywood blockbuster fun – in hindsight it was a bit heavy on the origin stuff, but Robert Downey Jr is great as Tony Stark in the lighter half of the summer’s rich-man-as-hero double bill.
(‘We kill one, and maybe save a thousand.’ – Fox)
June was very much the eye of the storm in terms of films – that’s to say there was big stuff at either side but not much going on in the middle. Another Narnia flick? If I wanted talking animals I’d go back to March, this is June, up your game. A film about killer wind? The Happening was nonsense from start to finish, Mark Wahlberg can’t act, and for M Night Shyamalan to come back from this would require a suitably Shyamalinian twist, and those only happen in his films that no-one likes. So June is represented by Wanted, Timur Bekmambetov’s batshit-insane comic shoot-em-up that made no sense at all, but did have Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and exploding rats. Sometimes that’s all it takes to come first…
(‘Ta-dah!’ – Wall-E)
So to the biggie. July saw Hollywood bring its A-game, and with some excellent consequences. First though, a word for Mamma Mia! It’s now the highest-grossing film of all time in the UK, which is a worrying thought. Moving on… July turned into a head-to-head between some film about a guy dressed as a bat, and some film about a robot with a toy whisk. The Dark Knight had big hype, big names, big effects, big acting, big explosions, and a big running time. Other end-of-year polls will say it was #1. But this is a run-down of the year, and there was another film out in July that was just better. Wall-E. One of the greatest films you’ll EVER see, marrying unbelievable animation with brilliant slapstick action, innovative sound design with a rip-roaring plot, and throwing in some incredibly well-rounded yet fantastical robot characters – Pixar once again smashed the opposition clean into the ground. Even when the opposition was a certain Knight that the rest of the internet wouldn’t stop banging on about…
(‘It’s impossible, that’s sure. So let’s start working.’ – Phillipe Petit)
By August the dust had settled on blockbuster season and everyone was safely hunkered down for the Autumn release schedules. However, having spent all its cinema money in the previous 3 months, The Moviebarn didn’t actually see much. The Wackness wasn’t great, news reached that Step Brothers was OK, so the ‘Barn, for one month only, cedes to the opinion of assorted film critics and crowns Man on Wire, the documentary about a mad Frenchman high-wiring between the Twin Towers, as the film of August. Now it just has to see it…
(‘Everybody knows you never go full retard.’ – Kirk Lazarus)
The films of September were an odd bunch, and all a bit farcical in their own way. Taken was a madcap, slightly xenophobic, and fairly bloodthirsty romp where Liam Neeson bombed around Paris shooting EVERYONE. RocknRolla saw a lot of non-Cockneys affecting piss-poor ‘cockles and pears’-type accents. Righteous Kill was an exercise in how to use two great actors and still turn out the cinematic equivalent of a limp fart. Tropic Thunder was more of an intentional farce, and featured Mr Downey Jr. again, playing a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude. Hit-and-miss, yes, but when it hit, it hit. Remember kids, never go full retard.
(‘Appearances can be… deceptive.’ – Chad Feldhelmer)
Seems like it’s about time for more mega-bucks Hollywood action. Quantum of Solace kept to the concept of ‘New Bond’, which means grit, realism, blondeness and lots of fighting. High School Musical 3 did not, as predicted, eschew the format of 1 and 2 and turn into a jazz-based avant garde ‘dance experiment’. Gomorrah underwhelmed, largely due to a hefty run-time and its relentlessly bleak nature. Burn After Reading, though. Coming so soon after No Country, but so so different, it’s equal parts screwball comedy and revenge thriller. It’s got more stars than an astronomy book, and some pretty gnarly violence as well. Those Coen brothers might have a future, y’know…
Y’know that election I mentioned near the start? They only just picked the winner down here. That’s a whole web page that took. They picked the nice guy. To celebrate, Oliver Stone made some Hollywood actors do some guff impressions of member’s of George W‘s cabinet. Poor, poor film. Waltz With Bashir got the critics going with its mixture of real horror and animated visuals, and I’ll give them this one, in another lean month at the cinema.
(‘Good landing, boys! Who says a penguin can’t fly?’ – A Penguin)
We’re here, at the end of our trip. Keep your hands inside the ride, though, still one last thing to do. Boxing Day. Big films for a big day, that’s always been the plan, and they don’t come much bigger than Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. Epic, vast, very very long, it’s going to be the film that you’ll see if someone says ‘oh I fancy a film today, THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS’. If 3 hours of Aussie history doesn’t sound great, there’s always Madagascar 2. Cartoon lions, Sacha Baron Cohen, and liking to move it, move it. That’s what brings down the curtain on ’08. Sometimes film moves in mysterious ways…