Doodad Kind of Town

Reflections on 2008
January 1, 2009, 7:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s really, really, really early on New Year’s Day, and the houseful of friends who were here to celebrate the New Year with me have now dispersed. Thanks to too much coffee too late at night, I’m still wide awake. And I’m thinking over some of my 2008 film experiences.

It’s too soon for me to do a “Ten Best” list, since I still have several end-of-year prestige films to see. But here are some remembrances of the year just ended:

My Strangest Film Experience of the Year: Seeing “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” in a small multiplex auditorium – right next to a huge auditorium where the Hannah Montana concert film was playing. Someday, I hope to experience this sensitive, moving human drama unaccompanied by the piercing squeals of nine-year-old Miley Cyrus fans.

Favorite Classics Discovered this Year: “Sunrise,” “Day of Wrath,” “Blow Up,” and “The Shop Around the Corner” top the list of films I finally got around to seeing in 2008.

Favorite Actor Discovered this Year: Mathieu Almaric. Why didn’t I notice this guy before? I saw Almaric in no less than 5 films this year, and he wowed me every time. Prior to 2008, I believe I’d only seen his cameo in “Marie Antoinette.”

Most Memorable Film Character of the Year: Poppy Cross, the heroine of Mike Leigh’s “Happy go Lucky,” played by Sally Hawkins. I saw this film almost a month ago, and I still think about Poppy, her unflagging optimism, and her determination to connect with people and make the best of every situation. She’s almost become a role model to me, which is interesting given that I had mixed feelings about her upon first seeing the film. Did I mention that I’m talking about a fictional character here? I can’t remember the last time – or any time- that a character has seemed so real and influential to me.

Biggest Disappointment: “Sex and the City: The Movie.” Loved the series, hated the movie. In 30-minute installments, the tales of Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals were clever, edgy and frequently touching. But 150 uninterrupted minutes of their self-involvement and designer clothes only confirmed what the series’ more vociferous critics already believed: that “Sex and the City” was shallow, vacuous, and more about product placement than well-crafted stories and characters. They should have just let this series die. More bad news: a sequel is apparently in the works.

Most Overrated: “The Visitor.” Kind of sweet and kind of sensitive, but hardly worthy of the critical love-fest with which it was greeted. I love Richard Jenkins, but he’s so much more memorable in his supporting roles than in this leading one. He’s so restrained here, I wasn’t sure he had a pulse.

Most Underrated Film of the Year: “Swing Vote.” Well-acted and very entertaining. As summer films went, I liked this a lot more than “The Dark Knight.”

My Favorite Filmgoing Convenience: On Demand: IFC in Theaters. Thanks to this service, I was able to watch films like “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “A Girl Cut in Two,” “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” and others from the comfort of my own living room, at the same time they were playing in downtown arthouse theatres.

I Don’t Get It: Arnaud Delspechin’s “A Christmas Tale” is at or near the top of just about every critic’s Top 10 list. I found it aimless, confusing and ultimately pointless.

The “Island of Dr. Moreau” award for Worst Movie of the Year (so named because the 1996 remake of “Dr. Moreau” is generally acknowledged by my group of moviegoing friends to be the worst film we’ve ever seen): “The Women.” There is no excuse for every making this film,and no excuse for involving so many talented women in such a needless waste of celluloid. Runners-up: “Wanted” and “Cassandra’s Dream.”


16 Comments so far
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I completely agree with you on A CHRISTMAS TALE Pat, which I also found as unfocused and convoluted. I know we are in th evast minority though. Unfortunately though, I completely disagree with you on THE VISITOR, which is my #2 film of the year. The lasting emotions it generated in its perceptive and quietly piercing cross-cultural tableau was as moving an experiences as i’ve had in a theatre this year, and it seems to be a validation of the adage “less is more.” Jenkins, of course (as you yourself note) was simply extraordinary. Kudos to you for discovering DAY OF WRATH and SUNRISE, which are two of the greatest films in the history of the cinema. I was fortunate enough to see the Dreyer at the IFC back in September (I had seen it on several times on video over the years before that) and it again was simply overwhelming, and I reviewwed it for my site, as you may well have as well. Again, thanks for your compassion towards me at cinematic Passions for the pet loss, and I wish you and yours a wonderful 2009.I will add your site to my blogroll tonite.

Comment by Sam Juliano

Pat-Totally with you on Mathieu Almaric. This will sound like a cheap compliment to him, but he’s so cute to look at! Oh, and yeah, I love his presense too. Even in a small roll like in Munich he is memorable.And hears to you on seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly without distraction. I loved that movie. Sadly, I saw it on DVD and not in the theater, but it still managed to wrap itself around my head.You’re right on with Swing Vote too. It was the unsung special movie of the summer.

Comment by Fox

Hey Sam! Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad there is someone else out there who was disenchanted by “A Christmas Tale.” I’m glad you got something lasting out of “The Visitor,” and I welcome your comments on it – disagreements among movie bloggers are what makes this whole enterprise interesting.Thanks for the kind wishes, and may I extend a “Happy New Year” to you and your family as well. Finally, I would love to see your “Day of Wrath” review – I posted my own awhile back. How does one get to your blog?

Comment by Pat

Fox -Yep, Mathieu Amalric sure is cute. I blush to say I don’t remember him from “Munich,” but it’s been awhile. May have to check that one out again.I would MUCH rather have seen “Diving Bell…” on DVD than next door to the Miley Cyrus fan club, but oh well…. at least it makes a good anecdote!Glad to see someone else as fond of “Swing Vote” as I was. It really didn’t get its due, in critical or box office terms.

Comment by Pat

Ed Howard at Only the Cinema has an appreciation of A Christmas Tale that you might find interesting. I haven’t seen it, but because Ed compares its director to Godard, I’m sure I’d have a hard time with it.

Comment by Marilyn

Thanks very much for your interest in my review Pat. my site is: on the right sidebar you can type in “Day of Wrath” under the tag on the “search” line, and the review will come up on the page. Again I extend to you my sicerest wishes for a great 2009, and I completely agree that much of the fun blogging is taking different positions and sharing views.

Comment by Sam Juliano

Good reflections Pat. I think I saw myself in some of your reflections. What that means, I have no idea but there it was.Interesting comment on Swing Vote. Pretty much dismissed, but I will check it out.In the suburban hell that is my area, I do not films like Happy Go Lucky. A Christmas Tale is playing in a small theater across town, otherwise it wouldn’t play here at all.I will say that overall I was pretty disappointed with 2008. No real gems to speak of. Or maybe I just haven’t seen them yet.

Comment by PIPER

Sam -I enjoyed your take on “Day of Wrath” and will be adding your site to my blog roll.Piper -I have to agree with you about 2008. Last year was a great year for films, and in its wake, 2008 has been an overall disappointment.

Comment by Pat

Seeing as I don’t see a specific space for this, I’ll just put it here.Forgive me, my precious…It’s tres early here and I’m barely dragging myself around. But you did say in another thread that your birthday was a week from last Monday.Which would make it the 5th of January – which is TODAY, is it not? PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong…But I do believe I’ve hit the bullseye. So…Happy Birthday to youHappy Birthday to youHappy Birthday, darling PatHappy Birthday to youAnd many more….

Comment by Miranda Wilding

Miranda – You have a fantastic memeory – yes, today is indeed my birthday. Thank you so much for the kind wishes.I’m hoping to get a post up later today, since it is also the first anniversary of my inclusion in the Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB), and, thus, cause for further reflection.

Comment by Pat

dear pat – this is more a letter to the editor than some specific reaction – I think you are a great reviewer ! after reading your criticism (mixed with americana such as muffin baking and xmas tree trimming and mall duty and cheddar hamburguers – yes, the cinema , at times, is like a blueberry muffin … – by the way, have you seen “blueberry nioghts” ?)I picked up lotsa films you rite about because of your text and had a great time! Good criticism such as you produce makes one want to “read” whatever is being dissected ! Will look you up frequently now ! … As you say in some Woody Allen review you wrote,I, too, need the eggs ! …(did you major in film?)p s – reading in preview mode about today being your birthday,congratulations and best wishes !and tell us what films you got as presents ! a.

Comment by alfredo

and something I forgot:about the name… not a good name!L. A. M. B. is not a good name !how about … W. O. L. F. ? ? ? (World Organisation of Lovers of Film ?)well…

Comment by alfredo

Patty,See, I am keeping in touch! Again, happy birthday, and thanks for the inspiration.Your favorite Rho Ep (Jeanette)

Comment by Anonymous

Alfredo -Thanks for stopping by and your kind thoughts. I’m afraid I’m not responsible for the LAMB acronym though – but whatever it’s called it’s still a great group.

Comment by Pat

Jeanette -Wow! You left a comment! Thanks.Funny you identified yourself a fellow Rho Ep – I was just telling someone about good old Rho Epsilon Alpha Delta the other day. (I think they thought I was nuts!)

Comment by Pat

It should say something about A Christmas Tale that, after it ordering it On Demand, I only made it through the first hour.

Comment by Daniel Getahun

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