Time now for our annual tradition of our Summer Check-up of This Year’s Movies. Alright, so I’ve never done this before, but every annual tradition has to start once, no? Seven months of 2008 have flown by, let’s look at the good films they’ve given us so far.
1. JUNO (8)
Best film of the year? I hope not. But we can be certain of one thing: when I saw it in the theatre, I was very lucky. Right after Easter, the room loaded with girls the same age as Juno and a couple of older men. The first 15 minutes of the film are dreadful: the dialogue seemed fake and intentionally funny (you know, the “you better start laughing now cause I’m telling you a joke” sort of humour), but then the movie found its soul. The laughter didn’t come from the older men in the room, but from the girls in the crowd. And at one point, when “All The Young Dudes” was playing, a man who had been a young dude at the time of the recording started singing along to the music.
And let’s not forget Ellen Page, who was an excellent choice for Juno (those who’ve seen her as daughter Lilith in ReGenesis might’ve expected that.)
2. ONCE (8)
Is this a trend? I also hated the beginning of Once, where busker Glen Hansard chases someone who tried to steal his money. After this fake start the story of Hansard (him) meeting Markéta Irglová (her) and eventually jamming plus recording with her looked a lot more sincere. Above all human.
3. TBS (8)
Dutch movie about a psychotic (played by stand-up comedian Theo Maassen) who escapes from prison and takes a 13-year-old girl (Lisa Smit) hostage. When he went to prison, noone wanted to believe he battered his father to death because his father was abusing his sister. Will the girl believe him? Can he find people who’ll back up his story? Or isn’t he as innocent as he claims to be?
4. ATONEMENT (7,5)
Atonement is a good movie with an occasional brilliant scene (e.g. the scene on the beach), but its brilliance doesn’t linger. And in general it was hard to find scenes that could turn a good movie into a classic, mainly because they aren’t there. And of course a bad ending (oh, how horrible) leaves a nasty aftertaste. Pity.
5. ELDORADO (7)
Even if it only takes three hours to drive from one side to the other side of the country, 2008 seems to be the year of Belgian road movies. And coincidentally, one was made in Wallonia, one in Flanders.
Eldorado is the Wallonian effort and is just that bit better. One night Yvan (actor and director Bouli Lanners) comes home and finds a burglar (Fabrice Adde) hiding under his bed. Eventually Yvan pities the poor sod and offers to drive him to his parents (the young man lived in the city, but is penniless and wanted to find money to pay for his journey home). When this odd couple runs into car trouble, they’re helped by a nudist (who claims his name is Alain Delon). Just one of the many funny scenes in this movie. Sadly, the movie is a bit uneven and some scenes are boringly overlong, but Eldorado contains more than a handful of scenes that are so funny you’ll still chuckle about them after a week.
7. SMALL GODS (6,5)
The Flemish road movie of 2008 (released six months before Eldorado). The six and a half you’ll see here is also part of our sympathy for this movie, which dared to be different. Sadly, someone should’ve revised the script properly and taken out all the horrible scenes. It starts early where a man is interrogating our female protagonist. She talks about her odd story and he manages to utter: “So it’s as if you were watching a movie?” Oh, how meta can one go! The woman was abducted by a young man and make a trip through the country together with a runaway girl. Why did he do it? Why was she under arrest in the hospital? We’ll find out, eventually.
Blurry vision galore and an impressive score (by Millionaire’s Aldo Struyf) and soundscapes (by Noise Reduction). It’s a shame it’s occasionally so pseudo-intellectual because it contained many lovely scenes that would make it as popular as the odd Icelandic movies that are so popular around here. Who’s to blame? Mainly the financial film committee, who didn’t want to give money to a film that was so outrageously different from the Flemish movies (read: turds) we normally get to see. This had the potential to become a cult movie, but noone wanted to back up the two brothers who wanted to make their debut movie and so the movie had to do without a firm hand and the control needed to turn a couple of good ideas into a cult movie. That’s right, kids, blame the government!
10. THE DARK KNIGHT (6,5)
Batman and I will never become friends, but Christopher Nolan managed to put another movie to the short list of sequels that are better than the original. Gone is Katie Holmes, who really deserved an award for Worst Performance in 2006 for Batman Begins, and in comes Maggie Gyllenhaal. Whom I like, so that’s good. The movie is fleshier and Heath Ledger is very good as the Joker (even though his performance is overhyped). Christian Bale manages to give Batman/Wayne so gravitas and it’s a shame the death of Ledger made people overlook how good Bale is in this movie. Sadly I had to think of Mark Kermode when I watched one of the many chase scenes in the movie. Kermode mentioned that, during the finale, he noticed he was liking what he was seeing but that he didn’t feel anything. The movie may look great, but there’s emotion missing. And yes, that’s what I felt too: I wanted to be involved more and I know there were many opportunities I should’ve felt more, but I didn’t.