Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

November 6, 2008

2008 Dunnies

Filed under: Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:14 am

While I finish out the busy season for my day job, I’m going to the back catalog for notable past writings.  Here’s my writeup of the year in film for last year:


I found 2007 a fascinating and often maddening year for movies. The two movies that reached highest (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood), were both fundamentally flawed — brilliantly assembled and executed musings that led nowhere (which, it appears, in the year 2008 wins you Oscars as well as perhaps the presidency). They dazzled, they awed, they told us nothing. Anderson and the Coens would have been well served to have philosopher co-directors. One day I will be able to go back and enjoy them, the weight of expectation having drained from their identity in my mind. But brilliant as they occasionally were, the pain of those lost opportunities will likely keep me from
revisiting them for years.

And that’s one measure I use when I’m thinking about the best movie of the year — a film I’d gladly watch again, especially with someone who hasn’t seen it. There were quite a few of those this year. I have a weakness for elegiac westerns and gritty crime dramas with family issues, and this was a great year for those. Several of my favorites of the year, though, seemed to slip right past the cultural conversation. Daniel Day Lewis’s magisterial performance and the haunting score and cinematography earned There Will Be Blood a spot in my top five despite my disappointments with it, but I found The Assassination of Jesse James, buoyed by Casey Affleck’s coming-out party and yet another in a string of award-worthy Brad Pitt performances, to be easily the equal of No Country for Old Men. Sidney Lumet made a dazzling return to form with before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (despite an ending that drifts into bad popcorn drama), Zodiac had a number of amazing performances (as well as the second-best use of music in any film I saw, after TWBB), and We Own the Night took family issues and crime to a near mythic level (before also being marred by a somewhat melodramatic finale). Atonement was beautifully shot, and while thin in places redeemed itself well by the end of the film. Juno, I thought, was everything its fans claimed — quirky, spirited, hilarious, a delight.

But my three favorite films of the year, all of which I’ll watch over and over again, were the following:

3. Away From Her — Just a stunning directorial debut by Sarah Polley. It has every strength you would expect from her as a director, and many more. Maybe the most mature, clearheaded examination of love of the last few years. Both Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie give near-perfect performances, the script hits nearly every right note, and it’s shot beautifully. You probably haven’t seen this one. Do.

2. Ratatouille — missing the top spot by the smallest of margins. Understand, I’m not even a big fan of animated movies. but I’m not sure how long it’s been since any director has made three consecutive films this good — The Iron Giant, the Incredibles, Ratatouille. The animation is dazzling, the characters are compelling and real, and the story is completely and utterly engaging. I know it helps that I’m somewhat of a foodie, but I really don’t understand how anyone could not love this movie.

1. Once — sigh. See it. Period. Trust me.

The 2008 Dunnies for Achievement in Film:
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (with Gordon Pinsent deserving special notice for Away From Her)
Actress: Julie Christie, Away From Her (though I’m never mad when Blanchett wins anything)
Supp actor: Casey Affleck, Jesse James (though Wilkinson/Bardem/O’Toole were all spectacular)
Supp Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (though it would be nice to see Ruby Dee win)
Cinematography: Jesse James (though No Country for Old Men was great too)
Song: Falling Slowly, from Once
Score: There Will Be Blood
Adapted Screenplay: Atonement
Original Screenplay: Juno
Sound: There Will Be Blood
Animated: Ratatouille (Persepolis in any other year)
Art Direction: Atonement
Costumes: Elizabeth
Film Editing: No Country for Old Men
Foreign: The Lives of Others
Documentary: The Future is Unwritten
Director: John Carney, Once
Film: Once, just barely beating Ratatouille
Most Overrated: Into the Wild
Biggest Revelation: Casey Affleck (both movies)
Best New Directors: Sarah Polley, followed by (gulp) Ben Affleck (did I really just say that?)
Best Current Directorial Hot Streak: Brad Bird (The Iron Giant – The Incredibles – Ratatouille) (one of the top threepeats ever)
Best Ensemble: Zodiac

Michael’s Top Ten Films of the Year in Alphabetical Order (My Best Picture Nominees Starred):
The Assassination of Jesse James By Robert Ford the Coward
*Away From Her
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
The Lives of Others
*There Will Be Blood
We Own the Night

Other 2008 Movies that were interesting/intriguing/provocative/well worth seeing:

Persepolis – my favorite memoir movie of recent years
Paprika — the third best of three very strong Animated Feature nominees
No Country for Old Men — see above
Savages, The — weak script, amazing performances by two of the best actors around
Knocked Up — what a comedy should be
In the Shadow of the Moon
Gone Baby Gone — the first hour is the best short film I saw all year
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Michael Clayton — top-rate genre flick; Clooney, Wilkinson, and Pollack are all fantastic
3:10 to Yuma
Eastern Promises
I’m Not There — another fascinating failure
Superbad — silly, goofy fun
American Hardcore — rock solid
American Gangster
The Wind That Shakes the Barley

1 Comment »

  1. […] My film of the year for 2008 was Wall-E, but I believe there were six or seven better films last year. See my 2008 Dunnies essay here. […]

    Pingback by 2009 Dunnies for Achievement in Film « Michael John Dunaway Lifestream — February 18, 2009 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

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