With the first days of 2009 behind us, it’s time for a look at the year that was. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t find the music and movies of 2008 overwhelming. Nevertheless, the movies I saw were watched and ranked, which left me with a list. And the top position goes to…
1. SON OF RAMBOW
Still not sure whether this movie should get 8.5 or 9 out of 10, but one thing is sure: no movie ranked higher in my list this year. Set in the early 1980, the movie features two young boys inspired by the movie Rambo and out to make their own little film, Son of Rambow. Nostalgia meets a love for film and the mix is spiced with lots of imagination , thanks to illustrator David O’Reilly who also helped director Garth Jennings out with his first film, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. A top cast (especially the two young boys who’re the centre of the story) and wonderful ideas, this couldn’t go wrong if they tried it (which, luckily, they didn’t).
And now for the rest of the top 10.
2. LE SILENCE DE LORNA
Lorna may not have been the kick in the movie Rosetta was, but this movie is a bit different from what the Dardenne brothers served us before. I don’t know about you, but the shock formula the brothers tended to dish out from La Promesse left me a bit weary after watching L’Enfant, the movie before Lorna.Yes, the social awareness remains in this tale of a Eastern-European girl married to a drug addict for passport reasons. All she has to do is wait for the junkie to kick the bucket and then she can marry the man of her dreams. Well, almost… only the junkie is now hoping to stay clean and the passport mob have different plans for her. In typical Dardenne style, the brothers make no attempt to have Lorna look sympathetic. It’s only after a while you’ll find she’s not the heartless ice queen she pretends to be.Good, but what’s new about that? Well, the shocking camera is out of the picture (odd, the brothers who got famous for using it don’t use it any longer, while it’s now used in almost any action movie) and the brothers even allowed music in the background of the film. As a result, Lorna is the brothers’ best film but one. Still not sure whether it’s an 8 or 8.5, but there’s no doubt this was my n°2 in my 2008 hit list.
3. JUNO (8)
“Best film of the year? I hope not.” I wrote back in June.Yes, I was very lucky to watch this in a cinema with an excellent crowd, girls Juno‘s age responding to the movie and an older man singing along to “All The Young Dudes”. I’ve never been in a more interactive audience and I’m well aware this may cause me to overrate the film, but then again, it’s my list, no? Punchy dialogue and a well-cast Ellen Page, whether you like her or not.
Biggest downside: the atrocious first fifteen minutes, which made me cringe and not laugh at all. Bite through that and you’ll be awarded.
4. NOWHERE MAN (8)
In 1998 Patrice Toye directed the movie Rosie, which is still one of my favourite Belgian films. We only had to wait ten years for her next movie, but Toye managed to be just a bit more faster than Axl Rose. The Dutch title of the film is (N)iemand, a pun on “someone” and “no one”. A good way to describe the movie where a misantropic guy in his early forties walks inside a burning house in an attempt to be declared dead. And then it’s off to paradise with a fake passport and nothing but hope and dreams. Turns out the idyllic place is a shithole where the unemployment rates are as high as the temperature. After a handful of years with his dreams shattered and his right hand in a glove (he was bitten by a horse and his hand got infected), he returns to Belgium, but did his wife wait for him?
Like in Rosie, Toye manages to play with reality: it’s not always easy to see what’s a dream and what’s reality. (Hence the image of a beach inside a living room, as you can see on your right.) To be honest, Rosie (where a troubled girl invented a lover) was more effective and the scene at the airport seems stolen from a bad film by David Lynch, but I for one am very happy Toye made another film. I can’t wait for her next film. Read all about in DV’s review of the year 2018.
5. ONCE (8)
Was this 2008’s trend? Like with Juno, 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.
6. 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…?
7. BREATH (SOOM) (7.5)
Why does a woman go and visit a prisoner who’s locked up for killing his wife and children? Her husband doesn’t respect her and when she finds out he’s having an affair, the trips to prison begin. Director Kim Ki-Duk gives a surreal touch to all of this: the woman is allowed by the head of the prison to dress up a room, where she’ll perform a song for the prisoner. They are even allowed to touch each other. Yes, all of this can only happen in a parallel world with different sets of rules, but who said movies couldn’t be an exercise in escapism?
The entire movie leaves you with questions. Why does she visit this prisoner? Why does the prison official allow the woman in and do all of this stuff? Breath is coldly distant and eerily close at the same time. Genuinely the weirdest film I saw all year.
8. PART OF THE WEEKEND NEVER DIES (7.5)
Part documentary, part roadmovie, Part of the Weekend Never Dies is a movie made by Saam Farahmand and Soulwax about the rockband Soulwax. Oh, and 2 Many DJs, their DJ persona. Oh, and Nite Versions, Soulwax’s dance versions of their latest rock album. Oh, and Radio Soulwax, the mini-festival with Soulwax and like-minded bands touring all over the world. Confusing? I think noone really understands it.
Filmed with one camera, this movie gives an observation of what a world tour is. The excesses, the boredom, the weirdness of it all. Here today, somewhere else tomorrow. All this footage is combined with a weird intro by Soko, a couple of statements by friends (e.g. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem) and some reactions by fans.All of this speeds by in just over 60 minutes, so by the end you’ll either be wearied out or in the mood to party. At times confusing and non-linear and therefore accurate.
9. ATONEMENT (7.5)
Technically, I’d have to put Atonement in this list: after all it’s a decently made movie. But as I said earlier this year, none of it lingers. There are plenty of scenes that could’ve been better and could’ve turned this into a really good movie. And the ending is awful. Compare this to my number 11, In Bruges, which doesn’t claim to be a masterpiece, but it’s a movie made with lots of fun. If it hadn’t been for the fact that McDonagh managed to make a movie about a town where noone seems to have the right accent (all the locals are either Dutch, Wallonian or French), In Bruges would’ve made it into my top ten and I would’ve kicked this film out, but what can one do against such sloppiness? Never mind, the scene on the beach in Atonement is flabbergastingly good and about the only thing worth remembering this film for. Yes, we missed a personal touch here.
10. ELDORADO (7)
I can’t remember ever have put so many Belgian movies inside my top 10. Maybe because it’s now financially a bit easier to make a film and because some recent successes have spawned a lot of other films. Ever since I last spoke about this film (June), it’s this movie that got selected as Belgium’s next Oscar candidate, so it appears I’m not the only one who liked it.
Here’s what I wrote back in June: “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.”
And that’s it for 2008. The movies that just didn’t make it were In Bruges, No Country For Old Men, Loft (another Belgian film, the latest by the director of the cult hit The Alzheimer Case), Ang Lee’s Lust/Caution and El Orfanato. Before I’ll leave you with my hope 2009 will be better, let me just point out that Deeopey reviewed Son of Rambow way back in April. You can read his review here.