here's my top 8 for the calendar year, listed in alphabetical order:
* beverly hills chihuahua - ha ha, gotcha. for reals...
* dark knight, the - so good that it transcends the entire comic book genre. it's actually a clever & sophisticated crime drama concerning the denizens of gotham city featuring an electric performance by the late heath ledger. also the first narrative feature to incorporate IMAX cameras for six of its scenes...
* frost/nixon - an unexpected surprise from the occasionally vanilla ron howard. showcases a standout perf by frank langella as tricky dick, as his explosive outburst in a hallucinatory phone call made the hair on my arms rise. closeup of his face in the last debate is one of the memorable shots of the year.
* in bruges - uproarious dark comedy that got lost in the shuffle during its february release. if you often wondered just when has colin farrell ever been good, here is your answer. juicy, sarcastic dialogue runs rampant in this tale of hitmen stranded in a belgium town. guns, beer, scenery, women and midgets. what more could you ask for?
* slumdog millionaire - this rousing crowdpleaser marks the return to truly independent cinema for danny boyle. it's a vivid, energetic and romantic tale about an underdog overcoming the odds. plus, the screening i attended at the camerimage festival in poland was the top cinematic experience of my lifetime.
* speed racer - to date, as close as animation come to life one will ever see. going in, i thought the film was going to be all style and no substance, but i was happy to be proven wrong. unbeknownst to many, there's actually a serious, redemptive tale about family hidden in a trippy kaleidoscope of color and visual effects.
* tell no one - this small french suspenser garnered great reviews and lived up to them and more. great lead perf by francois cluzet, channeling his best michael douglas impression of a man being taken advantage of and coming out swinging. twisty, unnerving and exciting, this film featured one of the best action scenes of the year taking place on a freeway.
* transsiberian - a gutwrenching thriller about a couple who encounter, uh, difficulties on their train ride from beijing to russia. truly a harrowing tale and kudos to emily mortimer, whose performance leaves you squirming in your seat.
* wall-E - yawn. another pixar masterpiece that rivals the best of silent films in its first 40 minutes. just a charming tale about a robot in his quest to save the earth and find love in the process. reminds you of why one goes to the movies in the first place.