' ' Cinema Romantico: The 4th Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Movies of 2008

Friday, January 16, 2009

The 4th Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Movies of 2008

The cinematic year that was 2008 did not scale the same preposterous heights as 2007, and how could it? Such a year is a rare event and that fact is a good thing. As the Rebecca Pidgeon character said in Mamet's "State and Main": "If you were never down, how would you know when you were up?"

Not that I desire to peg 2008 as being a "down" year for movies. Is there ever truly a down year? You will always find one or two or a few films that you treasure and, hells bells, I did - one most especially that I treasure.

I thought about what my list might be for quite some time and I re-watched a few things I'd seen awhile ago and then I thought some more about the list and then I thought, "What the hell am I doing? Enough of this. I'm typing it up. Right now." I did.

This is my Top 5. It might seem a strange Top 5, an assortment of films that should not be sitting side by side by side by side by side. But if you know me and who I am and how I operate and how my mind works, well, it should not be confusing in the slightest. This is a personal Top 5, the five to which I responded the most strongly all year. But enough! On to what I've been waiting all year to declare!

1. Rachel Getting Married. Following a wedding essentially from beginning to end in and around and through a sprawling house with digital hand-held cameras director Jonathan Demme's film (script by Jenny Lumet) is alternately painful and hilarious, often at the same time, as recovering drug addict Kym returns home for her sister's wedding as all sorts of past issues re-surface and bubble to the top (familiar story, yeah, and so's Shakespeare) showing how families have to forgive even if the person or situation isn't really worthy of forgiveness and how one event can help unify people in the face of so much sadness. This is the only time all year I left a movie theater feeling I had just witnessed pure magic. Plus, it contains the greatest Neil Young cover of all time (watch and you'll see).

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. When his whole story has been written I think we may remember this as the pinnacle of the Judd Apatow Mountain (and he was only an exec producer). It is consistently hilarious, often in unexpected ways, and offers more complexity than usual films of its ilk. A couple examples. 1.) When the sexually challenged newlywed played by Jack McBrayer asks the Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) character for advice and Aldous, who in any other movie would be nothing more than the pompous villain, asks, "Have you ever had sex?" He doesn't ask it in a mocking tone but in a tone that displays genuine affection. He really yearns to help this guy and does. This scenes possesses a depth of character that a whole lot more "serious" movies cannot manage. 2.) Our lead Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) attends a hotel function where the eventual love interest Rachel (Mila Kunis) is working and you can tell he wants to ask her out but doesn't. He plods down to the beach where he finds a hotel worker drinking beer who invites Peter to help him prepare a pig for that night's luau. Peter agrees. Little does he know this "preparation" involves him most literally killing the pig. This scene is hilarious all on its own terms but it also toughens up Peter enough to - in the following scene - ask out Rachel. Or, to say it another way, this is a movie that takes the time to provide its characters with motivations.

3. The Reader. Yes, the film involves a certain aspect of Germany's past that has been addressed many, many times on the movie screen but, despite what some critics have claimed, that's only part of this painting and not the primary flourish. It begins as an almost awkward romance of two people of differing ages who are distant from just about everyone else around them who find this one connection and feel transformation through the power of art (in this case, literature) and whose connection will, in the end, be horribly affected but not destroyed by the unfortunate events that occur in the middle. Moving and complex.

4. Man on Wire. I happen to like making year-end best-of lists, as opposed to most critics who are not only contractually obligated to make them but also contractually obligated to whine about making them. ("My nature does not lean toward list-making but tradition dictates...." yeah, yeah, whatever.)

I like making them because, for instance, as I composed this list it caused me to reflect about how I most enjoy movies that make me feel something. Ya' know what I mean? The three movies above me all made me feel something, flaws and all that nonsense aside. And you know what else made me feel something? The scene at the end of "Man on Wire" when the best friend of Phillipe Petit - the man who walked on the wire between the World Trade Center back in 1974 - broke down recalling the event. And the still photo of Petit up on that wire that fateful morning with a smile, like he was the happiest guy on the planet, which he probably was, made me feel something too. This movie, plain and simple, had a whole lot of feeling.

5. The Wackness. Jonathan Levine's coming-of-age tale set in the summer of '94 with drugs piled on top of drugs with more drugs getting thrown in from all sides was not even remotely close to perfect and had all sorts of problems, particularly in the third act, but there a lot of little moments I loved and I loved the performances and, well, I came of age in the summer of '94 and my favorite band in the summer of '94 was A Tribe Called Quest (just like the main character) and I was a socially awkward teen and I fell for a girl my senior year of high school who taught me a lot about life and....do you see where I'm going with this? Plus, it caused me to have the epiphany I'd long waited for in relation to how I could finally attempt a screenplay regarding my own youth and so I don't care what anyone says about this movie. Blow wind, come wrack, it's mad dopeness, yo (even if I've never done a drug in my life).

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