JASON'S BEST: The Ten Best Films of 2008 (Return to Jason's Best Main Page)


Christopher Nolan demonstrated that great art could be great box office, even in this day and age. Here at last was the most definitive Batman movie ever made, anchored by a mesmerizing portrayal of The Joker, unlikely ever to be matched, by Heath Ledger in one of his last roles. Nolan made a Batman that felt like it existed in our real world, and as such, made a crime film that was able to comment on the tense nature of our times, particularly in terms of terrorism. On a technical level, on an acting level, everything was accomplished to perfection, and for me anyway, it was clearly the year's best film.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The Joker's look of surprise and disappointment when the people on the two ferries ultimately decide to not kill the other

Talk about the surprise of the year. Not only did this film surprisingly and deservedly go on to sweep the Academy Awards, but I think it completely surprises any new viewer who discovers the pure joy and spirit of this independent effort by director Danny Boyle ... I know it did for me when I first saw it. Structured so brilliantly to tell the story of an unlikely game show contestant who is simply trying to find the love of his life, it becomes a new fable and presented a view of India that many people had likely not experienced. A true rags to riches story in every sense of the word ... both on the screen and behind the scenes. Frieda Pinto in particular completely lights up the screen ... and our hearts.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The final dance during the end credits to the song "Jai Ho"

Another very accomplished effort by Ron Howard. The David Frost interviews with Richard Nixon, a watershed event in American politics, is brought to thrilling life by showing the behind the scenes difficulties that made all those interviews possible. Ron Howard completely evokes the timeframe, and you truly feel as if you are thrust back to this amazing history. Howard made the absolute correct choice in having Frank Langella and Michael Sheen play the lead roles, after playing them on stage, and you can clearly tell how well these two inhabit these roles, and the chemistry the two have in volleying back and forth during the interviews.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Nixon telling Frost at the end that he really envies his ability to enjoy people and socially interact

A true masterpiece from director David Fincher, a beautiful film that presents a fantastical story about a man aging in reverse that has so much to say about the passage of time, life, love, and death. The visual effects are truly extraordinary, in making Brad Pitt not only an aged youngster, but also the youthful Brad Pitt as his physical features get younger as he approaches the end of his life. A very unique epic.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The brief moments of happiness when Benjamin and Daisy are roughly the same age, and look at each other in a mirror

After so many years of trying to get the story of Harvey Milk to the big screen, Gus Van Sant finally prevailed and created an immensely powerful portrait of the man who became the first openly gay elected politician. Sean Penn gives a much deserved Oscar winning performance as Milk, proving once again how he is truly one of our most gifted and talented actors. With so much still to achieve for gay rights, this film is a portrait of the early struggles and early victories, and a touching portrayal of one of the movement's most charismatic and tragic fighters.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Harvey and Scott sitting outside their newly open photographic shop and contemplating if they can make it there, followed by a kiss out in the open

Once again, the geniuses over at Disney and Pixar prove that they can do no wrong ... continuing to find unique stories for their amazing computer animated achievements that are able to still garner huge boxoffice, but more importantly, are also thoroughly original and amazingly entertaining. This was also one of the boldest experiments by Pixar, as almost the first half of the film plays like a silent movie, as we simply follow this little robot's daily adventures around a wasted planet Earth that can no longer support human life. In a lot of these scenes, it brings to mind some of the best science fiction movie ideas, but at the same time, is so very engaging for youngsters at the same time. It's the continued gift for appealing to all audiences that Pixar has achieved once again.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Wall-E first being pulled into space and his journey to the Axiom

A devastating emotional drama about the downward spiral of a marriage. For the first time since the much more romantic Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are reunited on screen, and both give stunning performances ... Frank Wheeler, realizing the rut his life is in and doing what he can to keep his wife happy, and April, experiencing a downward spiral that is even more tragic. For me, this was truly Kate Winslet's best performance of the year, and should have received more notice. Evoking the time period so well, showing that not all things were great back in the idealistic 1950's, it's a truly remarkable achievement from director Sam Mendes.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The devastating morning scene when April makes Frank breakfast, pretending that everything is okay after the torturous night before

A stunning and very engaging documentary that recounted the amazing achievement of Philippe Petit, a French high wire walker and street performer, who spent 45 minutes on a tightrope suspended between the two towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. That story itself would be so engaging to learn more about, but this documentary is also structured brilliantly to truly engage the viewer, combining actual and re-staged scenes to really make the film a lot like a thriller, showing how they were able to pull off what was essentially a crime, and to understand the pure joy of Petit of wanting to achieve what looks so impossible.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Simply seeing the still images of Petit on the high wire suspended between the two towers

A truly engaging story that begins as a powerful love affair for a young boy with an older woman, that eventually becomes a different story entirely when the boy grows up and then encounters the truth about who that woman is. Kate Winslet delivered another stunning performance as a former Nazi SS guard who now tries to grapple with life after the war. We have seen many different films about World War II, and in particular the Holocaust, but never quite examining the struggles of Germany to make peace with their horrific Nazi past as this film does. That alone makes the film intriguing, but it's also a powerful testament to how much and how far love at a young age will go and what you will do for that love.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The moment that the younger Michael discovers who Hanna Schmitz really is in the courtroom

I doubt this film would have been as special as it is had Mickey Rourke not been in it. In a story that so parallels the promise and downfall that Mickey Rourke's own acting career had, it has a powerful resonance, and it's mostly due to the incredible performance that Rourke delivers, in my opinion the best lead acting performance of the year. The story of a wrestler who lost everything and finds the opportunity and the fight to try to come back may have been done before, but never quite as good as this.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The display of incredible acting by Rourke when he apologizes to his daughter and asking her not to hate him

Honorable Mentions:
Tropic Thunder
Flash of Genius
Iron Man
Zack & Miri Make a Porno
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Seven Pounds
Shine a Light
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Frozen River
The Visitor
In Bruges