In Review 2008 | Food
| Cinema | Theater | Dance
| Art | Books
| Classical | Live
1. No Country for Old Men
intense thriller from the Coen Brothers is, without question,
their best, most fully realized work to date. And that’s saying
Bird’s contribution to our chef-obsessed culture is a vital,
visually stunning paean to the healing power of art. Did I
mention that it’s also very funny?
teen, baby-hungry couple, bemused friends and relations. Not
at all like anything you’ve seen before.
3:10 to Yuma
suspenseful remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford-Van Heflin western
has farmer Christian Bale transporting outlaw Russell Crowe
to the eponymous train. Great action. Even better character
parts complex, sobering thriller and mature character study
of a middle-age man coming to terms with his own ordinariness.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
director Sidney Lumet delivers a masterpiece about the disintegration
of family, the eroding effect of greed, and loss.
The Lives of Others
so it actually came out in 2006, and it won an Oscar for Best
Foreign Film, but Capital Region audiences didn’t get to see
this grim, yet ultimately uplifting gem until January. Here
it is almost a year later, and it still haunts me.
In the Garden of Elah
and devastating look at the effects of war on those who serve,
as witnessed by a grieving mother, a struggling-for-respect
detective and a father hell-bent on unearthing the truth.
Adams deserves some sort of award for her utterly bewitching
turn as an animated fairy-tale maiden transported to modern
day Manhattan. A frothy delight.
story of a one-night stand turned permanent domesticity works
a lot better on film than on paper. At once raunchy and sweet,
this is that rare comedy that revels as much in its characters’
vulnerabilities and tenderness as it does their social faux
The Heartbreak Kid
Farrelly brothers turn Elaine May’s poignant, bittersweet
story into a crass, disgusting orgy of bad taste.
Minot’s best-selling book is turned into a turgid, mostly
unwatchable sudser. Not even the likes of Vanessa Redgrave
and Meryl Streep can salvage this one.
Lions for Lambs
Redford’s pedantic lesson in civics preaches to the choir.
The Brave One
victim Jodie Foster turns vigilante, but filmmakers try to
make it seem socially acceptable.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
it me, or did this finale totally suck? Despite a few great
action scenes, this installment was curiously bereft of the
kind of fulfillment one normally expects after having been
led this far into the story. And what a waste of Keith Richards!
Fincher’s stunning drama of obsession in which the eponymous
serial killer is less important than his pursuers. Fincher
helped cement the popularity of the serial-killer genre in
Se7en; as Manohla Dargis pointed out, with Zodiac,
he finishes it off. Great performances by Mark Ruffalo and
Robert Downey, Jr.
Killer of Sheep
in release 30 years after it was made, Charles Burnett’s haunting,
heartbreaking slice-of-life drama is a time capsule from a
hardscrabble 1970s Los Angeles—but remains timeless.
No Country for Old Men
Coen brothers’ best film since Fargo shocked everyone
because the Coens were simply being their best, lean-and-mean
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
sensational musical drama. There’s humanity in Stephen Sondheim’s
music, but Tim Burton’s virtuoso filmmaking is utterly without
empathy or pity. A winning combination.
Away From Her
Polley’s deft Alzheimer’s drama zeroes in on the mysteries
and cruelties of love, enhanced by the presence of the ever-
luminous Julie Christie.
The Bourne Ultimatum
pure adrenaline rush anchored by Matt Damon’s return as the
murderous, if repentent, ex-spy. Budding action directors
will rip off the Waterloo Station sequence for years to come.
musical about making music (and falling in love, which is
sort of the same thing), featuring real musicians Glen Hansard
and Markéta Irglová.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
a seminal American myth torn to shreds in this slow-building
drama with Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell. And
best of all, it has a genuinely stark, 19th-century tone.
year’s best ensemble cast, led by George Clooney, Tilda Swinton
and Tom Wilkinson, in a taut thriller that balances moral
outrage with cinematic style.
I’m Not There
actors playing five Dylans couldn’t scratch the surface of
the genius (and all-around assholery) of the Bobster, but
Todd Haynes’ film was a hugely entertaining try.
performances can’t offset Juno’s drearily smug hipster
The Nanny Diaries
case study in how not to adapt a novel for the screen.
Judging from the imitative result, micromanaging mogul Harvey
Weinstein must have tormented the filmmakers with constant
screams of “Make it more like The Devil Wears Prada!”
In the Shadow of the Moon
moon footage and poignant astronaut interviews are wasted
in this poorly made NASA commercial.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
beginning. Great ending. (Great wigs.) Dreadful middle.
you can get past the fact that the smart, beautiful career
gal would never fuck the lumpy, immature slob—as critic
John Powers wryly observed, “No matter how much she has to
drink”—or you can’t. I can’t.