Hey, I know movies. I've seen over 30 of them. So you gotta believe me when I tell you that my list is, without a doubt, the most airtight and objective top movie list you'll find on any modern medium. Before I continue, I have to admit that I haven't seen the divisive Benjamin Button yet. But I assure you, it would probably not make better than 12th place, because I would like it and think it touching but also find it overlong. I'd then go into how it can't compare to F. Scott Fitzgerald's original work and bust out all these things from writing hundreds of pages on the guy for my American Studies major in college, because I can be like an old man at times. It would be about the third time in three years I'd have found that major useful. On to the top six films of the year!
6. Kung Fu Panda / Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
I realize I may have compromised the integrity of my list at the start with an ambiguous number of films ranked, but these two sort of go together. These films, both made by the non-lamp-related 3D animation studio, are just simple, great fun from beginning to end. Likable characters and voicework, little lag or heavy-handed lessons, and a lot of great laughs and images make for great entertainment for everyone. Honestly, if you're looking for a fun, enormously-satisfying hour and a half, look no further. Wall-E is not gonna be on this list, because while the first half was beautiful, overall the movie made me pretty sad. KFP and M:E2A made me happy. I'm sold.
5. Role Models
Ben Affleck used to be my favorite man alive, but I think Paul Rudd takes the honor with this great comedy that had all the pseudo-raunchy fun of similar comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Pineapple Express, but never took it to a dark place and never took a less than earnest turn like I feel those other films did. Everyone puts in a good performance, children rock, even the required "emotional zing" segment wasn't too drawn-out, and the climax involved a great deal of LARPing. I honestly don't see why Role Models didn't get more attention than it did.
4. The Dark Knight
Enough's been said about this film. It's something of a phenomenon.
3. Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood is so grizzly and jowly in this movie, it seems like at any moment his leathery face will collapse into itself in a supernova of angry old man cliches. And for some reason, he makes that awesome. I've never been in a theater where passive racism was laughed at so hard, and I'm not sure what that means, but by the end of the film Eastwood's bigoted character learns a lesson or two and we believe it. Also, it stands as a good cautionary tale for anyone thinking of moving to Michigan. The football team stinks, the car industry's a dead horse, and the old men are frickin' insane. Buyer beware.
2. Slumdog Millionaire
I love happy romance movies (as my little sister has told me on several occasions: "You're a girl"), and Slumdog is nothing but a simple, beautiful romance. It's one of the more linearly plotted films of the year, but that simplicity works, and is mixed with beautiful visuals, great performances by likable and believable leads, and energetic direction by Danny Boyle. For my heart, there's only one thing that can beat out a great love story, and that thing is...
...Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Muscles from Brussels. A lot of people have looked at me funny when I told them this is easily my favorite film of the year, and others think I'm joking at first. But JCVD plays himself as the outdated action star so well in such a unique, honest film that I can't help but be in love with the man (watch out, Ben Affleck and Paul Rudd!). At one moment, JCVD plays like an action film, at others, an art film, and at others still, a comedic parody of both. I was overjoyed with every fascinating choice the film made, from the pretentious chapter title cards, to the semi-disorienting replays of events, to the gritty camerawork. It's silly, sad, funny, exciting, and interesting all at once. Seriously, I think everybody needs to see this movie. And if your response is, "whatevsies, it's the dude from Bloodsport," well, you really are missing out.
So those are my favorite movies of the year and, coincidentally, the best movies of the year. A lot of awesome stuff came out, but those are the six (seven?) movies that made me leave the theater smiling and eager to watch again. And really, that's all the criteria for a great movie I need.
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