It has been true for quite a number of years now, but perhaps more than any other year the best films of 2008 followed the pervasive trend of flying under the radar. Contrary to popular opinion, there were actually a lot of movies to write home about (so many of them foreign films), which is why I compiled more than 10 movies as memorable runner-ups in addition to my best 10 list. But how many people have actually seen most of them? This is probably not that surprising, as the economic downturn made the American studios even less likely than usual to widely release the cinematic treasures to the audience and, in any other year, movies like Let the Right One In and Waltz with Bashir might have had a chance to get more exposure and notice.
And yet, two of the year’s best movies managed to buck that trend from Hollywood by providing great blends of the commercial and the artistic. One was, of course, The Dark Knight, which, upon repeated viewing, shows its few weaknesses more clearly (namely in the final act where the characterization is not completely credible psychologically) but nevertheless still stands out as a riveting, towering achievement. The other is WALL·E, which used to be the type of movie that would stay under the radar in Pixar's animation studios until they established their name with great family entertainments. Many of those previous films were among the best of past years but with a greater leap of creative daring and ambition than before, they created an entertainment that hearkened back to the classic mantra of Walt Disney himself who did not make movies for children, as some assume, but for everyone. It was the summit achievement of the year.
Also, of note, I have not had the chance to fully review all the films that I had seen due to time constraints in the past year and I will try to catch up to them as best as I can in the coming months. So, without further ado, here is my list of the best films of the year:
1. WALL·E – I had said before that the word “wondrous” was created for movies like this one and now that I have watched it again with the sound off, that has become even truer. Not that the sound effects are not just as stellar as well but the first third in particular is simply a masterpiece of pure visual storytelling. Beyond the subtly effective environmental message and social commentary, you can simply look at the picture in this film by Andrew Stanton (who also directed Finding Nemo) and follow the awe of curiosity that the adorable robot, WALL·E, possesses in his eyes with the joy of re-watching silent comedy. Then, there is the love story between him and the female robot, EVE, which generates far more human emotion than any human romance with just a series of electronic purrs. Did I also mention that it is just a great science fiction story? Indeed, no other film throughout the year, animated or live-action, offered more versatile riches than this one.