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Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009

Last Year in Review

Memorable movies of 2008

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2008 was historic in many ways, and while the year in film pales in significance with Barack Obama and the Great Recession, '08 was cinematically remarkable for three rivetingly memorable performances. Many years slide into oblivion without leaving a single one. 2008, however, saw unforgettable role-playing by Heath Ledger (The DarkKnight), Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler).

OK, Milwaukee didn't see Rourke's turn as a broken-down professional wrestler until '09 and that's my excuse for holding back with a top of 2008 list until the fourth week of the new year. Regardless, '08 was the official release date for a trio of bravura performances and several quietly moving ones, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Doubt. And one of the year's best, Pixar's remarkable WALL-E, had no human actors and no dialogue at all for many minutes.

What's meant by best movie? When you think about it, no one can actually proclaim which films were "best." Best for whom? Following no exact formula, my annual list tries to balance the movies I most enjoyed with my views on the art and craft of the cinema. The numerical ranking gets arbitrary fast. Maybe we should just chalk up everything after 10 under honorable mention?

1. Doubt
2. WALL-E
3. Frost/Nixon
4. Appaloosa
5. Burn After Reading

6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7. Slumdog Millionaire
8. The Dark Knight
9. The Pool
10. The Wrestler
11. The Strangers
12. Man on Wire
13. Milk
14. Gran Torino
15. Valkyrie
16. Married Life
17. What Just Happened
18. Elegy

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