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Top 10 Movies of 2008! — Part Two!

Today we continue my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2008!  Scroll down (or click here) to read yesterday’s installment, listing numbers 10-6 and several honorable mentions, if you missed it.

5.  Tropic Thunder — Ben Stiller’s evisceration of Hollywood actors and their quest to win Oscars by making “serious” movies is one of the funniest films in recent memory.  Somehow Stiller was able to corral an astonishing group of actors and comedians (Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey, and many more) into the project, creating one of those special films in which every single scene has about ten funny things going on.  Special attention must be paid to the brave work by Robert Downey Jr. (as Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, a man so “method” that he dies his skin black to become the Afrian-American character Sgt. Osiris) and Tom Cruise (buried under a hilariously hideous hairy fat-suit as studio head Les Grossman), who turn in two of the best performances of the year.  Though not the type that will win Oscars!  (Click here for my full review.)

4.  Religulous — Comedian Bill Maher partnered with director Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Borat) to create this movie in which Maher travels around asking people questions about religion.  You might not agree with Maher’s views, but it is impossible not to respect someone willing to ask straight, tough questions of believers.  (Well, not impossible, apparently, as Maher’s film certainly angered some.)  Maher speaks with members of various different religions and denominations, both religious leaders and common people.  He demonstrates a surprising (to me, at least), gentleness with most of the people he questions.  Whatever your faith, the issues that Maher raises are important ones to consider, and it doesn’t hurt that the film is also absolutely hysterical.  (Click here for my full review)

3.  Man on Wire — This extraordinary documentary looks behind-the-scenes at Philippe Petit’s incredible achievement of walking on a high-wire strung between the roofs of the Twin Towers in NYC back in 1974.  The audacity of Petit’s artistic crime is astounding to contemplate, and this film provides an insightful peek into the years that Petit and his friends spent planning the event.  It also explores a variety of ideas about art and human accomplishment.  Amazing.  (Click here for my full review.)

2.  Iron Man — Director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey Jr. created one of the best, most joyful comic book movies I have ever seen.  A fun, funny epic that is also a serious film filled with great character work (as opposed to a camp-fest), Iron Man is everything that a super-hero film should be.  Favreau was able to distill the essence of this classic Marvel super-hero (who has appeared in thousands of comic books since the 1960’s) into an almost-perfect film, aided and abetted by some terrific actors who you might not expect to see in this type of movie (Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Clark Gregg, and others).  Of course, it all rests on Downey Jr., who is overwhelmingly charismatic and honest as billionaire industrialist prick-turned-superhero Tony Stark.  Iron Man also must be praised for opening the door to what looks to be a very exciting series of inter-connected Marvel films to come.  (How great was the post-credits scene with you-know-who???)  I’ve already seen this film at least four times, and I expect to be watching it a heck of a lot more in the future.  (Click here for my full review.)

1.  The Dark Knight — The opposite side of the coin from Iron Man, The Dark Knight is a shockingly grim and brutal film.  It is everything I have always wanted a Batman movie to be.  Director Christopher Nolan and an astounding ensemble (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhardt, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and more) show us life inside the urban hell that is Gotham City.  Throughout the film, every one of the characters are presented with impossible choices without any easy fixes or solutions.  Every character has an arc in the film — and every story is integral to the overall tale being told.  A masterpiece.  (Click here for my full review.)

Whew!  So those were my favorite films of 2008!  I hope you’ll let me know if you agreed or disagreed with my choices!  Tomorrow, we continue with my wrap-up of 2008 with my list of the Top 10 Comic Books of 2008!  See you there.

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