The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline Monahan's Top Ten Films of 2008

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Jacqueline MonahanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Las Vegas Round The Clock -
Jacqueline Monahan is an English/Math tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Jacqueline Monahan’s Top Ten Films of 2008

In a rather lackluster movie year, these ten cinematic efforts stood out as shining examples that someone somewhere is doing something right.

1.  Milk

Sean Penn’s amazing, transcendent performance as gay rights activist Harvey Milk will cause you to view him with new eyes.  A great supporting cast features James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Victor Garber as key figures in Milk’s life.  As tremendous as the ensemble is, the Gus Van Sant film’s power and poignancy come from superb Penn-manship.

2.  In Bruges

A tragic comedy or comedic tragedy that leaves you wondering where it will take you next.  Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell supply the contemplation, rage, guilt and impatience of hitmen on an imposed Belgian holiday.  Writer/director Martin McDonagh supplies the quirks and surprises.  Ralph Fiennes makes a late, menacing appearance as a crime boss, but you’ll encounter drugs, a dwarf, Hieronymus Bosch, and horse tranquilizer first.

3. Gran Torino

Dirty Harry has aged into Korean War vet Walt in this tale of generational and ethnic diversity.  Clint Eastwood growls his way through intolerance, racism and finally enlightenment, directing with an eye toward irony, humor and decency wrapped in a hard coating of opinionated epithets. Hmong culture is explored reluctantly only when it moves next door to bigoted Walt and his prized possession, the 1972 titular car.  Gran Torino manages to capture the slow evolution that turns bitter division into quiet devotion.

4.  The Duchess

Keira Knightly radiates a serene determination in Saul Dibb’s overlooked period drama based on true events.  An ancestor of Princess Diana’s, Lady Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire lives a privileged life full of heartbreak and inequality.  Ralph Fiennes is splendid as her cold, conflicted husband, but Knightly steals the show with a dignity and elegance that surround her like one of her sumptuous gowns.

5.  Burn After Reading

An excellent ensemble cast in a comedy of errors that illustrates government agencies in action.  The Coen Brothers are masters of the (believably) absurd and harness the talents of Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich to show you.  A wayward DVD of harmless information is offered to Washington’s Russian Embassy – for a price; the owner wants some cosmetic surgery, you see.  Then the C.I.A. gets involved, making the lunacy come full circle.

6.  Frozen River

A powerful, understated performance by Melissa Leo leads this little known story of human trafficking on the Canadian-U.S. border.  Writer/director Courtney Hunt expertly helms an illuminating foray into poverty, desertion, desperation and racial profiling in a small town near a Mohawk reservation.  Some genuinely harrowing scenes are intermingled with others of quiet despair.  Although the film eloquently exposes the dilemma of single moms willing to break the law to support their children, the miracle here is that you don’t want to judge them.

7.  The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan’s wild ride is dark and provocative, with stellar performances from Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger.  Gary Oldman carries his weight as well as a pre-commissioner Gordon.  Clever and suspenseful, you almost don’t know what part of the screen to focus on next, which make multiple viewings helpful.  You’ll want to see it again anyway, just to hear Ledger’s mad Joker affirm that he’s not crazy.  Nolan pulls off intelligent action at a frenzied pace with a plot that makes sense; The Dark Knight not only lives up to, but surpasses its hype.

8.  Frost/Nixon

Deceptively sedate reenactment of the series of interviews conducted by David Frost on a petulant, though sometimes introspective Richard Nixon.  Frank Langella transmits a baffled, angry, ultimately defeated Nixon.  Michael Sheen supplies the essence of Frost’s frivolous party boy, who gets serious just in time for the former president’s unexpected, revelatory admissions.  Subtle insights into both men emerge from Ron Howard’s careful direction, making the playboy journalist and the politician both flawed and formidable.

9.  Wall-E

Disney’s sentimental trash compactor and his devotion to a robotic probe comprise the love story in this futuristic cautionary tale of pollution and sloth.  The lack of words makes it even more urgent to discover that actions mean so much more.  Andrew Stanton’s direction makes for a mesmerizing journey in which personified machines show mankind the truly humane way to live.

10.  The Spiderwick Chronicles

Director Mark Waters’ fanciful tale of magical nature and the creatures, both delicate and fearsome that make up the earthly realm we all share but cannot view.  Freddie Highmore, as a set of wildly different twins, is especially appealing.  The underlying message of ecological preservation and family devotion keeps the enchantment targeted and a welcome respite from the mundane world we’ve come to accept as reality.

Here’s hoping that 2009 brings with it even more of a cinematic motivation to sit quietly in the dark among strangers, despite the crackle of popcorn bags and the occasional light of a wayward cell phone.  Here’s hoping that someone somewhere will continue to get it right.


You are here: Home Features Feature Articles Jacqueline Monahan Jacqueline Monahan's Top Ten Films of 2008