Tuesday, June 23, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture: 2008

It's Tuesday and so I'm here to present to you another 4 Ways a Best Picture Bloggers Roundtable!  In case you aren't aware yet, this is where five bloggers (myself included) take on the four films that won a Best Picture Oscar in a given year.  By Best Picture, we mean Documentary Feature, Foreign Language Film, Animated Film and Best Picture of the Year.  This week, it's all about 2008!

Once again, here is our panel:

Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Wendell from Dell on Movies

Drew:  EEK!!!  Now we get to talk about Man on Wire!!!  This movie was just an utter delight!  My notes say, "Charming, full of life, exhilarating; this is how you tell a story!"  And yay for Oscar awarding a film that, like, wasn't about war or some sort of political message picture.  This was just a great story to tell!

Kevin:  The only note I took while watching Man on Wire was a quote from its leading man: "Life should be lived on the edge of life." That seems so cliché, but coming from Philippe Petit it is pretty much the grandest piece of advice ever written.  The dude is just inspiring to me.  How great to be so dedicated to something.  I admire that.

Britt:  This doc is a good example of reenactments done right.  I always think of those terrible crime/when animals attack shows on TV that have awful, cheesy reenactments, but Man on Wire got it right.  But I had a great time watching this.  I'm a little ashamed of missing it the first time around.

Kevin:  The reenactments, I agree with Britt, are perfectly made and well-placed.

Drew:  Yeah, I kind of hate that it took this project to finally get me to see this, but I'm so glad I finally did.  One of the best docs; ever!  And you're so right about reenactments done right.  In fact, they're done so right that the trailer for The Walk looks like it basically cut this film's reenactments into that movie.

Britt:  But they added Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is sexy AF, so that's okay. :)  Petit is a fascinating man though.  There's no way I could walk on a high wire like that.  And all the detail and work that went into pulling that stunt off was insane.

Jeffery:  I agree that the reenactments are incredible.  Also love the use of music (by Michael Nyman). Not sure how the Zemeckis version will pan out.  I found its trailer (watch in 3D!!!) kind of tacky.

Wendell:     Yay! I get to play early, today!!!  This is a truly magical doc. I love everything about it.  The story is amazing and Petit is so full of life you can't help but love the guy.  I agree, Drew.  We've given AMPAS a lot of shit throughout this project for repeatedly rewarding the same types of movies.  Have to give them a round of applause for this one.  A doc getting an Oscar without stressing how much humanity sucks?  Who knew?  Yup, those reenactments are great.  The only thing I'm looking for out of the upcoming movie is seeing him...er...JGL actually take the walk.  That's the only thing missing from this doc.  We see some stills of him during, but no footage. 

Kevin:  I'm not totally all in yet for JGL in the feature version, but my wife is obsessed with him.  She seemed happy about it when we watched the trailer the other day.  I'm down for anything Zemeckis does though, for sure.

Wendell:  Brit, it's not just the stunt that was insane, the man who did it is certainly off his rocker, but in the best and most infectious way possible. When I wrote my review years ago, I actually started with the sentence "Philippe Petit is crazy."

Drew:  YES!!!  He's so perfectly insane...like, his personality is EVERYTHING!

Britt:  Perfectly insane is a good way to describe him.  You don't want to put him in a strait jacket, but you want to give him a hug instead lol

Kevin:  Dude is definitely #perfectlyinsane.  And so much fun to listen to and watch.

Wendell:  My favorite part of the whole thing is the news interview with the cop who arrested him.  He watched Petit dance back and forth along this line, thousands of feet in the air.  It was obviously the most incredible thing he'd ever seen and it affected him deeply.  Dude was fighting ugly cry face hard and could barely keep it together.

Drew:  That moment with the cop was so moving.  It really brought the whole 'experience' into proportion.  This was a crazy, crazy thing to do... but there's such awe involved here.  R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Wendell:  Oh, I have nothing but the highest possible amount of respect for this dude.

Kevin:  I loved this movie. I wasn't sure about it really until I was towards the end.  Something just clicked and I realized I'd seen a great documentary.  Man on Wire...came to this one for the first time through this project as well.  I don't know why I waited so long.  Perfectly made documentary and an incredibly memorable Oscar win.

Jeffery:  It's extremely riveting, elegiac, funny.  I love how it treats its subjects and invokes the changing times...Petite's relationship with his girlfriend comes to a bittersweet end.

Britt:  A for me!

Kevin:  A+

Wendell:  A+

Jeffery:  A+

Drew:  Guess what…A+!!!


Drew:  What do we think of Departures?

Britt:  I loved this movie.  It started off a bit slow, but once it got going it had this lovely blend of awkwardness, humor, sadness.  It was a very interesting story too.  Admittedly, I don't watch enough Japanese movies that aren't horror, so this was a nice change for me.

Drew:  Once he put on the diaper, I pretty much checked out.

Britt:  Aw, yeah, I knew you didn't like this one.

Drew:  I'm all for quirky.  I appreciate quirky.  This was so tonally challenged though, that it took it out of the realm of quirk for me and was just dumb.  It was almost too light, to the point where it all felt rather pointless...and then it tacks on some 'meaningful' ending with his father that felt rather flat in the way it was handled.  I didn't feel anything at all here.  When you consider the fact that this film was up against The Class (light done SO RIGHT) and Waltz with Bashir (RAVES), not to mention Revanche and The Baader Meinhof Complex (two films I haven't seen but have heard great things of), this win makes so little sense.  I guess on one hand I'm applauding the Academy for not going all 'political' and or 'historical' here, because, like, they always do...but on the other hand, I wish they had picked a good movie to reward, regardless of themes.  Like, the real reason I bitch so much about the types of films they gravitate towards is that they usually award the inferior film because of theme over far better and more acclaimed films.  In this case they rewarded a film that was 'against theme' in a way, but that was so dreadfully dull and awkward.  Like...I didn't find any of this funny or witty or charming or interesting or moving at all.  It was just...there.

Britt:  I didn't see any of the other nominees this year (I know I should see Waltz) but I like that the Academy thought outside of their box.  I didn't find it dull at all.  Barbarian Invasions was dull.  This had a lot of heart. 

Wendell:  This was better than The Barbarian Invasions, but that doesn't make it good.

Jeffery:  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I agree that the movie had awkward tonal shifts.  I appreciated the characters (nicely acted overall) and the story.  It was a surprise this won but after watching it now I can see how it would appeal to the Academy.  I have to admit this was somewhat of a refreshing watch after the previous Foreign Film winners.  I think it would make a great play (all those intimate rooms). The actors did a good job conveying emotion. The ending was a little drawn out.  I got the point / stone symbolism pretty quickly.  The movie was best when it didn't belabor things so much.

Kevin:  I don't necessarily see this as an Oscar winner, especially over The Class and Waltz with Bashir (neither of which I've seen but remember all the praise).  Shit.  The Class got so much praise you would've thought it reinvented movies.  Anyway, judging Departures solely on its own merits as a movie, I really liked it.  It has some tonal difficulties early on but it settles into a truly watchable, heartfelt, quite touching movie.  It opened me up to a Japanese custom I knew nothing about and treated it with ample love and care and understanding.  I really got into it.  This is a movie about nice people.  That's a rare thing.  It also worked well for me as a study of a young marriage under unexpected strain.  What a beautiful couple Daigo and Mika are...in many ways I love the symbolic rock story.  And how it comes back around in that highly emotional, well-deserved ending.  I loved the end of this movie.  I found it incredibly moving.  I also found this movie funny and odd and entertaining.  I loved the boss character, the co-worker character, the bath house lady. Just a solid all around movie for me.  I reckon I'm on Britt's side here.

Wendell:  This was soooo blah.  It just droned on about this guy learning the ropes of his job.  When it tried to inject subplots they all failed miserably.  That's a death knell to a movie where the main plot is so uninvolving.  The early parts of it worked because I could imagine myself having similar issues if I had just started that job.  The scene when he gets sick at the sight of the chicken on his table was brilliant.  When he gets used to things and that wears off there is nothing left so it just drags us along while occasionally forcing in some half-baked drama.  First, there's the sudden shame associated with his new profession.  The problem is we've already spent an hour of he and his boss doing the job in the most dignified manner possible for families that are totally grateful for the work they do.  So the dude telling him to find a decent job just came out of left field.  It only served to set up some tepid marital strife between Daigo and Mika.  All of a sudden she's all pissed about what he does and leaves.  Then she just comes back and says "Let's just be happy."  Then, as if the powers that be realized they've got to wrap this thing up somehow they tack on that rock story.  That's used to try and manufacture emotion, but fails because we hate dad.  All we knew is that he bounced when the dude was 6 and never looked back.  If I were him I'd have trouble giving a rat's ass that dude died.  As a viewer I give even less of a shit.  This win combined with the Man on Wire win and neither of two particular movies not winning in the Best Pic category makes me think AMPAS was reacting to criticism and went out of their way to go apolitical and non-historical with their awards that year.  A complete fail on their part since the movie that fits in their normal wheelhouse, Waltz with Bashir, really was the better film.  By a huge margin.  I did like some things, though.  The boss and the secretary at the office were delightful characters.  I really enjoyed them.  The diaper scene Drew checked out of was actually funny.  And I already mentioned the chicken scene.  Not nearly enough to save it, though.

Kevin:  I loved the diaper scene.  So strange.  I really thought it was funny.

Wendell:  That scene gave me my biggest laugh of the movie, easily.

Britt:  I thought it was funny.

Drew:  No.

Britt:  I'm completely on the Departures hype train, to be honest.  A- from me.

Kevin:  I like the simplicity of this movie.  Maybe it's not the most solid, evenly told story ever.  Maybe it shouldn't have won.  But I really felt the emotions I know this movie was going for.  I'm going A- as well.

Drew:  Oh my GOD…WTF!  D, and that’s being nice.

Wendell:  Sorry, I didn’t feel any emotions, just relief when it ended.  D

Jeffery:  B+


Drew:  Alright...so now we talk about Wall*E...that one Pixar movie I want to love but can't.  For me, Wall*E is half a great movie (like, masterpiece), and half a mediocre, almost cheap and ridiculous one.  If they had just made a straight up silent throwback love story between two robots, I'd have been in heaven.  Wall*E whole first half may, honestly, be the best thing Pixar has ever done...but then they introduce the humans and it becomes this cheap looking, flamboyant ripoff of all those A.I. blockbuster movies (like iRobot) and I just kind of loathe what it does there.  The humans are disgusting caricatures (I get it, people suck), and the actual plot reveal is so 'been there done that' that all the beauty and imagination of the first half of the film is lost completely.  They are two completely different movies that do not mesh together well at all.  I don't even know where the second half comes from.  It's like this uninspired screwball comedy tacked onto a beautifully rendered silent film.  It's jarring almost.  I would have rather seen Bolt win the Oscar, to be honest.

Kevin:  I so totally agree.  Wall-E starts off and ends up as this beautiful, sweet silent film that is totally engaging and warm and heartfelt.  In the middle is the loud, obnoxious "statement" about how fat we all are that defeats its own message by becoming a huge, ugly action piece in the middle of an otherwise gorgeously made movie.

Drew:  Oh thank you!  I was really afraid I was going to be 'the asshole' here.  I know so many people that consider this a masterpiece and Pixar's best, and I'm always thinking...yeah, it could have been there best...and then it wasn't.

Kevin:  I feel like they didn't trust their audience.  They didn't believe kids could handle a movie without at least a little stupidity, so they threw in a stupid part.  Finding Nemo had some silly kid stuff but it was so well blended into the rest of the picture, it never came off as stupid.  The character Wall-E itself has enough humor and charm.  The loud interlude was unnecessary.  I don't hate this movie by any stretch though. 

Britt:  Yes, Kevin, Pixar definitely didn't trust their audience, but I don't blame them.  Making WALL-E nearly silent for the beginning of the film was a big risk.  And Pixar loves money so they're not going to push it beyond that.  Still, this is my favorite Pixar movie.  Even with the dumb fat human plot.  (I was the only one in the theater laughing when the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme started playing when the captain got up and walked for the first time) I think my niece laughed only because I was laughing.  But WALL-E has some of the most brilliant animation I've ever seen.  When WALL-E is holding on to the back of the rocket, and he touches the stars, and when he and EVE are dancing in space with the fire extinguisher, that was SO beautiful.  My kid forces me to watch this movie with him at least once a week and I still love it.  And I love that this discussion ended on Thursday Movie Pick day when the theme is Animated Films. That's perfect timing. :)

Drew:  Oh, I'm with you there, Kevin.  The 'stupid' part here is too tonally off here...you feel the disconnect between 'halves'.  But I don't hate this, not at all.  And yes, Britt, there are moments here of sheer cinematic beauty.  In parts, this is their best work, just not as a whole, IMHO.

Britt:  I think it needed the human part though.  As much as we would've enjoyed seeing WALL-E on Earth the whole time, our kids probably wouldn't.  At least not the little ones.  In needed the conflict.

Drew:  Yeah, I can see that.  Kids these days don't have attention spans, which is a shame because in rewatching some of the classic films of my youth, I'm not sure my kids would be interested.  It's like the media today wants to self-create a legion of children with ADD.

Britt:  I could barely get my kid to sit through Fantasia.  As much as he loves WALL-E, I'm not sure he could do it without the space story line.  He's also 3, so maybe I'm expecting too much lol

Drew:  Ha!

Kevin:  You're right as well, Britt.  This movie probably wouldn't have worked as well for the younger kids without the "fun" interlude.  And my gripe here is minuscule.  It still works very well overall and is beautifully cinematic more than it is not.  I love the throwbacks go old movies.  The music is outstanding.  The animation of Wall-E, especially on Earth, is probably the best animation Pixar has done this side of Finding Nemo.  I mean I LOVE Wall-E.  Such a wonderfully loving and lovable movie character.  And so memorable.  And the Apple boot-up sound effect is so good.  I laugh every time.  And yes to the outer space fire extinguisher bit.  That's the highlight of the space sequences.  Absolutely beautiful.  The love story with Eve is sweet as well.  So sweet.

Jeffery:  I'm in the camp that the opening of WALL-E is a masterpiece (stunning animation, sound design) and then the movie quickly dissolves into shrill territory.  I'm sort of mixed over all with this one.

Drew:  Yeah, shrill is a good description of that whole segment.

Wendell:  One thing this whole project is revealing is that Drew and I have reasonably similar tastes.  I say that because I once again find myself in full agreement with his assessment of a movie.  The first forty/forty-five minutes were great.  The last half of the movie was heavy-handed and stupid.  I totally understand that Pixar didn't trust its audience and it nearly sank its whole movie because of it.  Making so much of the movie essentially a silent film was a bold move.  They just copped out with the rest of it because, I'm speculating here, they bought into the ADHD stuff and thought they would lose kids.  However, the beginning is so good it draws you in, kids included.  You're absolutely mesmerized by that part of the film.  I've watched it with kids seeing it for the first time and I don't recall any of them looking like they were checking out before the people showed up.  Pixar was running free for another touchdown when they inexplicably dropped the ball.  They should've realized that great story-telling works and will continue to work for the entirety of the film even if it’s unconventional.  To prove my point, most people who praise the film mostly talk about that first forty minutes in glowing terms and sorta like the rest.  I don't hate it, though.  I'm just disappointed because of what could've been.  As it stands, I'll take both Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who over WALL-E as a whole.  I found Bolt kinda boring for long stretches.  Of course, Waltz with Bashir should have been nominated and won.  The love story with Eve should have been what the entire movie was about.  I'll own up to laughing at the 2001 reference.  Overall, WALL-E is part masterpiece, part crap.  So happens the masterpiece part is strong enough to keep this from being a bad film.

Drew:  Yup, part masterpiece, part crap! 

Jeffery:  I agree that they should have trusted their audience more.  Kids are smart!

Kevin:  I'm right there with you.  For real.  You are so right about the Eve and Wall-E love story.  It is the movie.  I disconnect from this movie so much at one point and then never fully recover every time I watch it.  I do really admire the whole first part. I mean a lot. It is such perfect filmmaking.  Oh, and I meant to add to what Wendell said about kids getting into this thing even in the beginning scenes.  I showed this to my 7th graders, and they were mesmerized.  I mean in awe of this movie.  Way before the people showed up.

Wendell:  B-

Drew:  B- as well.

Kevin:  I'm going slightly higher with a B.

Britt:  A+ I'm not getting off the WALL-E hype train any time soon.

Jeffery:  I give this one a B.


Drew:  Slumdog Millionaire was the little film that could back in 2008.  It just raked in everything in this powerful and somewhat hilarious dash towards Oscar glory.  Do we think it was a deserved steamroll?

Britt:  I think it did.  This film took forever to make it to the town I lived in at the time, so I was on the Milk train (truck?)  But when I finally saw it, I was like "Oh, that's why."  I thought it was great.  It also has one of my favorite movie Soundtracks of all time.

Drew:  I'll say this, having read the atrocious novel that the film is adapted from, I have a new respect for what this adaptation offers, but that's not really enough for me to consider this a worthy Oscar winner.  This is yet another one of those films that suffers from 'Forrest Gump Syndrome'...it's just one cliche after another tossed into a hodgepodge of nonsensical plot-lines that spin around in cinematic circles until we come to this lazy 'screenwriting 101' climax that just makes this all feel like a 'teen movie' with some cursing.  I mean, this is well meaning and enjoyable mediocrity, but it's still mediocrity.  Slumdog Millionaire certainly benefited from a VERY week slate of 'Oscar Movies' that year, which allowed Slumdog fever to take hold of the critics.  There was really nothing else to back up.  When the only threats to the Top 5 films of the year were a cartoon about robot romance and a Batman movie, you know that AMPAS is punching themselves in the balls over having to actually pick a winner.  The struggle was real that year.

Britt:  I disagree, I think this 2008 had a lot of good films, and some very clear Oscar bait, so they shouldn't have had THAT big of an issue.  This year will forever be the year that pissed me off though for not having The Dark Knight in the Best Picture race.  I know it's "just a super hero movie" \but it's a perfect super hero movie.  And they nominated Benjamin Button instead.  GTFO.

Drew:  Oh, 2008 did have a lot of great films...but it became very clear as the Oscar race heated up that they weren't going to get nominated.  This was very much a locked set of four (Slumdog, Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon) with Dark Knight and Wall*E looking like the two fighting for that final spot until Harvey pimped The Reader and Winslet's eventual Oscar glory to AMPAS voters with his usual persuasive ways.

Kevin:  I can't imagine a more boring list of Best Picture nominees.  The winner included.  Now, I'll go ahead and say that Slumdog Millionaire is far from a bad movie.  I really liked it.  But it did not deserve to win an Oscar at all. 

Britt:  I loved The Reader, but I hated that Winslet jumped from supporting to lead, that's kind of cheap when you're so far into the game.  I'm also salty because the next year was when they went to 10 nominees.  Why couldn't they do that THIS year and give The Dark Knight what it deserved?  But back to Slumdog, I think Dev Patel is a fascinating actor, and I thought he and Pinto had amazing chemistry.

Drew:  [Wigg cringe pic]

Britt:  [Dishonor pic]  What!?!?!?!

Drew:  LOL, I don't think I've ever heard anyone call Dev Patel fascinating...and Pinto is about as stale and 'oh look she's pretty' as they come.  But I have a feeling that this is going to be about as fun as talking about Crash, now.

Britt:  Pinto isn't a very good actress, but she had excellent chemistry with Patel (probably because they were dating) but Patel IS fascinating.  He was great in The Newsroom and Skins.

Drew:  I only know him from his film work, which is like, this and those senior hotel movies.  I loved the outrage when he snagged a SAG nom for this.

Kevin:  As for Pinto and Patel, both mediocre actor at best.  Patel was good in The Newsroom, but that's all Aaron Sorkin.  Anybody's a good actor reading his grandiose, badass dialogue.

Britt:  I disagree, his dialogue didn't make Olivia Munn better.

Kevin:  I loved the Olivia Munn character.  And I love Olivia Munn.  Damn!  Maybe I subconsciously forgive her bad acting, because, well, you know...

Britt:  Can we at least agree on the score being awesome for this film?  Jai Ho is a great song.

Kevin:  I can't argue against the music in Slumdog.  Certainly a highlight.  The ending Bollywood dance number is the shit.  It's a good enough movie.  Danny Boyle is always a solid director.  And it's a tightly written screenplay.  Maybe a bit too tight, even.

Drew:  Fucking love Jai Ho!

Kevin:  This is a year where my favorite movies didn't come close to Best Picture. For example, David Gordon Green's Snow Angels, David Mamet's Redbelt, Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, and Jonathan Demme's masterful Rachel Getting Married (it may have had a slight chance).  So many powerful, smart movies.  None to be found on Oscar night, at least in this category.  Milk was good, especially in Sean Penn's unreal greatness.  The Reader was okay.  I didn't love it.  But I love Kate, so it worked enough.  Frost/Nixon was just pure Oscar bait.  Frank Langella was a boss in that flick, but it has proven itself forgettable other than that.  Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a gorgeous movie but a bit off-putting given the old man baby concept.  It's honestly my favorite of the nominees.  Back to Slumdog...I suppose I like that a good, solid crowd-pleaser won the Oscar.  I don't have any big attachment to it personally though.  In that, it's a failure.  It's one of those I never had any interest in until after it won the Oscar.  Got it from Netflix when the DVD dropped.  Liked it.  Never thought about it again, except for every now and then when somebody brought up the whole diving into shit scene.  I don't see a comparison to Forrest Gump in any way.  But I love Forrest Gump.  It means something to me in a deep way.  One of the first big movie memories of my life.  It's the movie that won the Oscar the first year I started caring about Oscars.

Drew:  Kev, I'll spare you my Forrest Gump lecture because it's not pertinent to this year, but that movie is the definition of 'trying it'...

Kevin:  It's all personal nostalgia on that one for me.  Let's definitely not do that here.  2007 set the bar way too high in the late aughts.  2008 pales in comparison.  And I didn't mention it before, but I would've taken The Dark Knight for Best Picture over any of these five nominees.  Not even close.  Brittany nailed it on The Dark Knight.  That's the best "superhero" movie ever made, if you're asking me, a guy who doesn't have a strong history with superhero movies.

Drew:  Yeah, 2007 was so strong, that 2008 just feels all the more week in comparison.  Real buzz killer.  I like how Kevin mentions that the script may be 'too tight'...in digging up my review for the film, I note:  "I have never seen a film that was so over-thought and yet simultaneous so under-thought as Slumdog Millionaire"  I stand by that.  This is a film that tries so hard to lay this foundation and yet, it seems to completely forget itself in many areas.  It creates these stories with such urgent detailing but never quite understands how to make them all work together, and at the end of the day, this is not a collection of short stories...this is a feature film that NEEDS to work as a whole, not in parts.  And, yes Kev, Boyle is typically great, but this is probably his worst film (it is his worst film) and I hate when true talents are recognized for creating something beneath them.  28 Days Later, Trainspotting...fuck, even Millions are all prime examples of how well Boyle can tell a story, and while he tells this story well, the story itself is so contrived it feels unworthy of being told.

Britt:  I think it blended together well.  It didn't feel like short stories to me.  I liked the narrative of him getting his game show questions, and us seeing how he was able to answer them correctly.  It felt different, and I don't see this as one of Boyle's weaker movies at all.  I'd say this one was stronger than The Beach, Millions, Sunshine and Trance.

Drew:  I haven't seen Trance...but I'll give you The BeachMillions is a beautifully rich film, and one of my favorites from 2005.  Sunshine is not a film I remember that well, so I can't compare, honestly.  And don't get me wrong...like I said, I enjoyed this...like, you can't help but have fun here, but I can't call this a good film.  Like Kevin, most of my favorites (outside of The Dark Knight) didn't even come close this year.  A Christmas Tale, In Bruges, Troubled Water, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Brothers Bloom, Let the Right One In, The Wrestler, Synecdoche NY.  I have this feeling that Britt is making mental notes for how rough she's going to be on a certain 2010 Oscar winner she knows I adore...

Britt:  #ToyStory3GetFucked lol

Drew:  I’m bracing myself for the heartbreak.

Britt:  I really liked this year for movies, but you're right.  So many good ones missed out.  And I love In Bruges.

Drew:  In Bruges, the more I think about it, is fucking perfect.

Britt:  It is. This year would've benefited from 10 nominees. 1) The Dark Knight. 2) Slumdog. 3) Milk 4) In Bruges 5) Let The Right One In 6) The Wrestler 7)Changeling 8) WALL-E 9)Doubt 10) Revolutionary Road for me.

Kevin:  Revolutionary Road was a killer, man.  That's a dark piece of movie.  Another insane Leo role that got little notice.  I like your list there, Britt.  And In Bruges is indeed perfect.  Easily in my personal Top Ten of 2008.  I really should see more Boyle. So many titles I meant to see and never got to.  Doubt was a great movie. Oh, I miss a Phil so bad. 

Britt:  Me too, Kevin.

Drew:  I still actively try and forget PSH is gone.  When I remember, I get depressed all over again.  One of the only celebrity deaths that made me cry.

Wendell:  I really like this one as a popcorn flick.  I just have big fun watching it.  Not the biggest Dev Patel fan, but thought he was pretty good, here. And it helped that he had good chemistry with Pinto.  They helped keep the movie moving along.  Still, it was Boyle's direction that really makes this work as much as it does.  I think it benefitted from the same thing I spoke about with the Best Animated winner (I think), AMPAS seemed to be going out of its way to not go with their typical choices this year.  Of the noms, Frost/Nixon and The Reader are both right up their alley, but neither took home the big prize.  Instead, this fun flick that became a sensation snuck in for the win.  Hell, with all of its 'hot buttons' and a towering performance from Penn, Milk looks like a virtual lock in hindsight.  I really like the way Slumdog is written.  It was definitely episodic, but I thought it tied all the various strands together nicely.  I have no problem whatsoever with Boyle's director win.  He really did a masterful job.  For the record, Boyle's worse film is Sunshine.  It was excellent until it suddenly decided to be a monster flick.  Ugh.  Honestly, I'm a sucker for Forrest Gump.  I know it’s full of cliche's and coincidences, but I love it.  Just watched it a couple nights ago with my daughter (she's seen it a few times, too) and still enjoyed it a lot.  That was a really long way of explaining why I like the writing for Slumdog.  It doesn’t always work for me that way, but Gump and Slumdog do the trick, for me.  Freida Pinto may not be much of an actress, but good Gawd!  She is distractingly beautiful.  Every time she shows up on the screen, I'm like ‘damn’.  Love the Bollywood number at the end. Completely out of left field, but very fun.  As much as I've praised it, I have to say that this was hardly the best picture of '08.  I wouldn't even have nominated it.  I might be biased because I'm a huge Batfan, but I have The Dark Knight as my personal winner.  It really is far and away the best superhero flick ever made and is a legitimately excellent crime thriller.  Forgot Let the Right One In came out in '08.  Wow.  Another foreign language pic better than the winner.  In Bruges, The Wrestler are both awesome.  Would love to see any of those get noms.  Summing it up for me:  A very fun, light-hearted flick with a fairy tale ending that had no business winning Best Pic.

Jeffery:  I feel like the country was briefly in an optimistic mood post-Obama election.  Doesn't this film seem like such u-turn after the previous year's winner.  The Slumdog Millionaire steamroll makes sense in hindsight.  It's a likable movie with a good cast.  Some flashy film-making.  The pausing of the story-line back to the game show conceit still feels so corny and forced though.  And those game show scenes really kill the movie's occasionally rapturous momentum.

Drew:  Mediocrity done flashy and fun...C+

Wendell:  B-

Kevin:  Well said, both of you.  I'm at B- as well.

Britt:  A from me.

Kevin:  I'm at a B with this one.


YEAR SCORE: 286/400


1) Man on Wire (98 Points)
2) Wall*E (68 Points)
3) Slumdog Millionaire (63 Points)
4) Departures (57 Points)

Closing Comments

Drew:  So...this year was pretty meh for me, outside of that incredible doc.

Britt:  I think this was a very solid year.  Like we talked about through the discussions, The Academy decided to think outside of its box this year and I think all the winners were worthy.  Sure, I'll never stop being pissed about The Dark Knight not sneaking in on Best Pic, but I can't complain too much about the films that actually won.  I loved all four.

Kevin:  Not overwhelmingly meh for me. Wall-E is so close to masterpiece it's maddening. I found Departures endearing. It's a movie I would recommend to people.  Man on Wire is an amazing story beautifully and skillfully told.  Slumdog is fine.  It's just not really something I have the desire to go back to.  I do agree that this is another year where Oscar missed the truly great movies of the year.

Wendell:  Man on Wire is a masterpiece. WALL-E should've been, but decided not to be, on purpose. Slumdog was fun, but nothing more. Departures was a misfire.  So yeah, pretty meh for me, too.  Pissed because The Dark Knight wasn't nominated.  But I'm also pissed that its snub was such a hot topic because AMPAS overreacted and expanded the Best Pic field for the foreseeable future.  Wouldn't be so bad if that meant they'd nominate more truly great films, but...well...I'll get into specifics when we talk about '09.

Drew:  YES!  The expanded field dilemma is such a big deal because even AMPAS can't decide what to do with it!

Jeffery:  Man on Wire is far and away the best of the winners.  Not really a huge Slumdog Millionaire fan but I don't hate the win.  Plus Danny Boyle is a pretty interesting, risk-taking filmmaker.  Wall-E has some brilliant moments but gets bogged down in the second half.  Departures was a nice film if a bit dragged out.  I liked a lot of the films from this year (Frozen River, The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married); I would have nominated those 3 for more than they were nominated but it's nice that they ultimately got some recognition.

Let's Get TRENDY!

So, this week's hashtag comes straight from Wendell's mouth concerning Wall*E, but for me (I know not for everyone), it pretty much summed up the year.  #PartMasterpiecePartCrap  Yup, that's what we're going with this week, so get to Twitter and make us trendy, and be sure to comment below you're thoughts on our thoughts and the year in question!


  1. Oh my God, I didn't realize I was the only person standing between Man on Wire and a perfect score. Fuck me.

    1. It took the lead from Nemo! I'll be shocked if anything bests it at this point, but 98 is nothing to scoff at! It's such a perfect, perfect movie.

  2. Good GOD but y'all were HARSH on Wall-E! I think the second half of Wall-E is actually underrated (largely because the first half is an unqualified masterpiece, but still...). It's a near-perfect screwball comedy. And I'm honestly confused when people criticize it, because what would you put in its place? Eventually, we HAVE to go back to the Axiom, because there's just not much more story to tell on Earth. Yes, the stuff with the robots on the Axiom is better than the stuff with the people, but the stuff with the Captain is great, and it's such a fully realized world. The economy of storytelling in Wall-E is so incredible, and done mostly through visuals, that I can only applaud. I don't think Wall-E is Pixar's BEST (I would put it in the lower end of the top tier), because the ending with Wall-E and Eve has never had quite the impact on me that the movie wants, but it is damn good. A-/B+ for me.

    Man on Wire is just about as close to perfect as you can get. Of course, with that story and that cast you can hardly go wrong (#perfectlyinsane is a PERFECT description of Petit), but even still it's great.

    I haven't seen Departures, but the consensus seems to be that it's a "nice" film, which is AMPAS's OTHER default mode for Foreign Film (after Message Movies Preferably About the Holocaust, of course). It probably won because Waltz With Bashir and The Class split the vote of the cinema crowd. For what it's worth, I think The Class is PERFECT.

    As for Slumdog Millionaire, it's all about the high it leaves you on. Leaving the theater, my then-partner said to me "That is ABSOLUTELY the Best Picture of the year," and I couldn't help but agree. I liked-but-not-loved it (easy B+), but I felt that way about nearly every film in the running for Best Pic 2008, with Milk being the sole exception. 2008 is like the year of the "almost, but not quite" LOL.

    And don't get me started on the ridiculously over-rated The Dark Knight.

    1. I stand by my thoughts on Wall*E, but I have heard the 'screwball comedy' argument, and as you can see, Britt was a BIG fan of the film too.

      Man on Wire is just perfection, right! Like...THAT is how you tell a story.

      You can skip Departures, as far as I'm concerned.

      I can see the thinking regards to the high. I mean, it's a fun movie, I admit that...but I don't think it's a 'good' one...if that makes sense.

  3. WALL-E is my favorite Pixar film as it was the one that visually wowed me and had a story that I didn't expect to be told as I was extremely moved by it. I also love Man on Wire which I think is a great doc. I like Slumdog Millionaire as well but my mom loved it.

    1. I think 'like not love' pretty aptly describes most of this year, to be honest.

  4. I have to see Man On Wire. I have heard nothing but raves for it but part of me would be hyperventilating since I have a phobic fear of heights. This film, so far, is the highest in marks period. I do want to see Wall-E and will have an open mind to it even though I am not enamoured with that fat people who probably all pray to Wal-Mart. I have not seen the foreign film and don't even recall it but have heard about Bashir. Slumdog Millionaire is fun and nice. We had heard so much about it that, when we finally saw it, we were underwhelmed. In Bruges is brilliant and I am all for The Dark Knight which I think is a brilliant film. It is a shame that the Academy is so biased against these films for the higher awards.

    1. LOL, the fat people who pray to Wal-Mart comment is so well played you don't even know!

      And Man on Wire shouldn't make you too anxious, since they only show photos of the actual walk itself.

    2. It is the actual walk that I am freaked about and I will be sitting on my couch-lol Oh I meant to write about attention spans. I was just at a conference last week and the speaker brought up the point about this very thing. 30 years ago (it could be 20-going by memory), the average attention span was 19 minutes...today it is 9 seconds!! What does that say about technology, food, lack of exercise etc...?

    3. How awesome is it that Birgit had to write a second comment because she forgot to mention shortening attention spans? lol.

  5. Overall, this year just feels so forgettable. Maybe if The Dark Knight had at least been nominated for Best Picture it'd be more memorable.

    So glad to see the high praise for Man on Wire - a masterpiece, indeed (as is In Bruges). I've not seen Departures, but I go back and forth on where I'd rank Wall-E. Like, how do you grade half a masterpiece? I'm somewhere between an A- and a B+, but I'd easily give it the win in the Animated category that year.

    Full disclosure: I saw Slumdog Millionaire 4 times in theaters. I LOVED it when it first came out, and it was my personal winner for some time. (In Bruges was #2, and Slumdog gradually fell.) I always forget how dark it really is, but the film had everything - a thrilling, uplifting story (and well-adapted), fantastic music, gorgeous cinematography, great editing, and terrific directing by Boyle. Though I'd give it an A- now, I'm still a fan of this win.

    And you MUST see Trance! Even if it's only so you can call it Boyle's worst. :P (LOL, I'd still give it an A, though.)

    1. Yeah, forgettable is a good way to describe it.

      So with you on Man on Wire, bro!

      Your Slumdog excitement is...well at least it isn't your #1 anymore :-P

      I want to see Trance to finish out Boyle's filmography. It's the last film of his I have to see, pre-Steve Jobs.

  6. I put off watching Slumdog for a long time, it looked so uninspiring even with all the hype. When I watched it earlier this year the film proved out my initial impression, while there was nothing terribly wrong with it there wasn’t really anything very right either. Of the nominees I only liked The Reader less. Frost/Nixon and Milk would have made my list even though they are really more performance pieces, where they excelled, than masterpieces of filmmaking. I remember a get deal of hubbub surrounding the omission of The Dark Knight and how it deserved a place because it is so brilliant and beloved, though not by me. It would not make my list either. Mine would have been filled out with In Bruges, Farrell is so great in that-despite Penn’s brilliance as Harvey Milk Colin would have been my choice for actor this year, I’ve Loved You So Long-which contains my choice for best actress, Kristin Scott Thomas-she’s a knockout-and my pick for winner Tell No One which was released in France in 2006 but wasn’t released in the states until 2008 so with the academy’s crazy rules would mean it would have competed here if they’d have sense enough to acknowledge it.

    Watched Man on Wire especially for this. Having an aversion to heights I’d never felt compelled to see it, but everywhere I’d seen it referenced was so positive I decided I’d give it a shot and I’m glad I did. Like Kevin I wasn’t sure about it until towards the end, it was interesting and entertaining but it was when they got to the actual walk that it really pulled me in. The clips of the cop and his awe were very touching without even trying. I also liked that the participants were honest about their reservations about being involved. No false bravado along the lines of “I was always all in and believed in this totally!” Except for Phillippe of course. With that grade it earned from the panel I can’t see anything else coming out ahead of it in the final votes. I hadn’t been sure about JGL in the lead of the upcoming film, I like him but I wasn’t sure about his accent, I’m still not, or his physicality but having seen this he seems a much better match.

    1. I need to see Tell No One.

      Kristen Scott Thomas is my winner too :-D

      I'm loving all this In Bruges love.

      I love that you saw Man on Wire just for this, and that you loved it. It's such a perfect example of perfect filmmaking. Like, every part of it works so beautifully together.

    2. TELL NO ONE!!!! LOVE that movie. So great. I really need to see I've Loved You So Long, too. J'adore Kristin Scott Thomas.

    3. I should have a Kristen Scott Thomas appreciation day here...like, for real!

    4. I'm a bit staggered that I've seen a French film that you haven't!!

    5. We shall fix this and never let it happen again.

    6. Ha Ha! The book that is the basis for the film by Harlan Coben is excellent as well.

    7. I just added the movie to my Netflix queue!

  7. Regarding Slumdog Millionaire's win, I think that was just a sugar high because it had that "little movie that could" status that people got behind. To me, it's win is a crime when looking at its unnominated competition like The Wrestler, Happy-Go-Lucky, and especially The Dark Knight. It seemed like they wanted to nominate TDK for Best Picture, but they chickened out.

    Why were they so hesitant, I wonder?

    1. I think the hesitation comes from the massive block of voters who consider genre films to be 'lesser'...once they die off, I think it'll be easier for films like The Dark Knight to get in on merit over any feeling of necessity.

  8. 2008 was probably one of the weakest years at the oscars. Out of the 5 that got nominated, I only thought Frost/Nixon deserved the praise and The Reader is probably one of the worst Best Picture nominees of all-time. I think the only reason it got nominated was because the Academy wanted to honor Minghella and Sydney Pollack with posthumous nominations.

    And movies like The Dark Knight and The Wrestler did not deserve to be left out.

    1. I'm one of those rare people who actually liked The Reader and found it the most deserving of the nominees, but I wouldn't have nominated it myself.

  9. Kevin's phone "flew" into the lake a few weekends ago while this blogathon has been going on, so he put his Twitter account on our iPad that I primarily use for school. That being said, I haven't read all of your blog post, but I have kept up with your conversations live, which is kind of distracting but in a good way, while working, and it's been fun. We often have our own conversations about the movies. I chose this year to comment because I, like others, felt like this year could have benefited from the expanded field in the best picture category. I don't think this is posted yet, but I, like you, think the best animated film of 2009 was The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I love Up!

    Love the round table idea.

    1. Thanks Amanda! Glad to see you're following our conversations live :-P

      I'm excited to get the 2009 conversation up next week. It's already been very lively!