Friday, December 26, 2008

Is What 2008 Best

As you might already know, I don't do lists. Normally. And I don't believe in ratings. Everything is so grey in the arts that you can't really grade or rate anything, let alone accurately. So I do general rundowns and recaps without assigning an order or hierarchy to anything.

I was excited to see horror novelist Stephen King naming The Dark Knight as his no. 1 film of 2008. But upon second thought, it's actually a no-brainer in such a dismal year. So, a lot of folks would argue that it wasn't a bad year, but most of these folks also put WALL-E as their no. 1 film. Take, for example, Liza Schwarzbaum (of Entertainment Weekly)'s completely misfired comment about her no. 1 film, WALL-E:
"Years from now - yea, unto eternity - all who love movies will rank WALL•E among the medium's most profound, subtle, sophisticated, and gorgeously inventive specimens, ever."

Yet another sublimely stupid statement this year, ranking among the frothing praises afforded to the Watchmen trailer. "Sophisticated"? "Subtle"? "Profound"? Obviously Miss Schwarzbaum hasn't seen any Miyazaki.

I would readily admit that the first half of WALL-E is indeed a surprising new side of American animation. But beyond that, the movie is just another yakkety, run-of-the-mill chase cartoon. Whatever quiet dignity it displayed in the first half gets sucked completely into outer space. Here is a movie that's as utterly and insanely overrated as the local film, Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang.

Enough of what went wrong with other lists. The top of the line movies this year are few. I can mention all of them in one breath, in one sentence.

The Dark Knight, Sparrow, No Country For Old Men (it was released here this year).

If I had seen Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Tokyo Sonata and Miyazaki's Ponyo On A Cliff By The Sea, I'm very sure they would have easily slipped into that sentence.

Special mentions go to Speed Racer, Hancock and The Happening. I do realise that last one is going to get me flamed, but I have a lot of respect for M. Night Shyamalan's work, and I enjoyed that film more than, say, Iron Man, which is another overrated (but vastly more entertaining than WALL-E) movie.

The surprise discovery of this year, for me, was Charles Burnett's endlessly poetic Killer Of Sheep, which finally came out on DVD. And of the box sets I acquired this year, the best is probably the Casablanca Ultimate Collector's Edition, with The Last Emperor Criterion four-disc set coming a close second for its fascinating extras.

Of course, if I could afford the Happy Together 10th Anniversary Limited Edition box set, it would top everything else.

Well, that's it. I did say it was going to be short.

Note that I haven't had the chance to see Ip Man or Let The Right One In, both of which are strong contenders.

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