I refuse to do a Top Ten Films list. First, I haven’t seen enough movies, only a few dozen of the films that were released this year to be quite honest. Second, when you start micromanaging things to that level it is so subjective as to be meaningless. So, we’ve come up with 15 Notable Film Awards for 2008 that even movies123 the most hardcore movie buffs may have overlooked, forgotten about, not seen, or just plain not have considered at the time. If you get anything out of this set of awards, hopefully it will be a more thorough understanding and appreciation of film. Hahaha…just kidding!
** Biggest Disappointment of 2008 **
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
While the argument can be made that Crystal Skull could share this award with X-Files: I Want to Believe, there is no question that expectations forced it into the top spot. The original Indiana Jones Trilogy is one of the most beloved series of films of all time. X-Files, while having a hard-core following, had pretty much dropped off the radar for most fans for a while. From a script standpoint, X-Files was better. In the end, had X-Files been a weekly episode, it would have fit in and played fine. Crystal Skull was just a misfire on most every cylinder. Part of taking 17 years to work up a sequel while year after year saying that you’re going to have to find the “perfect” script kind of puts fans in a mindset that now that they’ve got the film rolling that they DID find the perfect script. Actually, they may have. Frank Darabont’s original script Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, which is about 65% of what hit the screen was actually pretty delightful. It took a mastermind of Lucas’ caliber to strip all the fun out and completely squash the life out of it. Darabont’s script may not have been epic, but it certainly had a lot of Indy “fun” in it and was much more true to the spirit of the character. With all that in mind, it was still good to see Harrison Ford don the fedora again, and there were a few nice Indy moments. The motorcycle chase in the first act was about as pure fun as the movie got, though. Beyond that, if there is going to be any more Jones films, please wait until George Lucas retires or dies. Get his fingers out of the creative process -ANY creative process. Don’t trust the guy to plan your lunch menu at this point…unless after getting up from the restaurant table you can claim that he shot first. The most fitting review for Crystal Skull could ironically come from a classic movie line in the afore-referenced scene from Harrison Ford himself: “Sorry about the mess.”
** Most Outstanding Film with a Rotten Climax **
We are currently in the Golden Age of comic book films. There are two things going on with this phenomenon. One is that digital effects have finally reached a stage to bring the outrageousness of Super Hero comics to life in somewhat of a believable way, but second is that filmmakers are starting to take seriously the need for comic book movies to have a real script and characters. Just recreating a replica of ink and paint tights and a few tag lines is not enough. With that in mind, we got the mind-numbingly outstanding Dark Knight that kind of came and overshadowed the outstanding Iron Man in this capacity. Robert Downey, Jr was brilliant in this role, and though Iron Man was never one of my “books” during my brief few year flirtation with the comic book world in my younger years, he really brought the character to life with a sense of justice. What came together on screen was so good 85% of the time, that by the time it came to the terribly mediocre “climactic battle” between Iron Man and the evil Iron Obadiah Jeff Bridges that it was completely forgivable because it was so entertaining in every other respect. Great script, great effects, self-gratification humor – all the ingredients of a comic book geek’s fantasy film.
** Best Audience Reaction to a Poop Joke **
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
No way I’ll spoil this, but as poop jokes go, Zack and Miri Make a Porno has a priceless one that had the audience I saw it with gasping in a mix of delight and disgust. I enjoyed it myself. Also, It’s noteworthy that Kevin Smith managed to give us probably his best overall effort yet. While Zack and Miri may not have been the funniest movie he’s ever made, it certainly was a fine flick from Smith. Definitely his most sharply directed and solid effort yet as a filmmaker.
** Best Kept Film Secret/Most Fun Movie Speculation **
If you were to review movies as an entire investment, marketing package, and product, Cloverfield would hands down be one of the best Hollywood efforts of all time. Producer JJ Abrams’ brain child of a “first person” Blair Witch Style giant monster movie was shrouded in mystery up until shortly before release. Even the official website didn’t reveal anything about what the movie was going to be about or even the title. The fact that the script didn’t leak is phenomenal in today’s day and age, and that was partly achieved by keeping the cast full of unknown players and not letting them read the script before signing their contracts. Cloverfield itself was actually one of the year’s best movies as well, though there were some flaws with it that kept it from being truly classic. Complete lack of likeability and logical decision-making on the part of the main characters was my biggest beef with it. WAY too much exposition in the first act almost lost me as a viewer. However, as giant monster movies go, this was the best time I had watching one since my pre-teen “honeymoon” with the Godzilla series on Channel 4 on weekends.