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The Best (and Worst) Films of 2008

Love it or Hate it

From Gus Van Sant’s hotly anticipated take on the life of self-appointed "Mayor of Castro Street" Harvey Milk to Darren Aronofsky’s harrowing depiction of a down-and-out wrestler gambling away his life for one last shot at glory, the past year has featured more than its share of rousing successes -- and, for living legend Al Pacino, a pair of embarrassing flops. The following lists represent our critics’ choices for the year’s biggest hits and most egregious misses.

Rossiter Drake

Best Films
1. The Wrestler: Mickey Rourke has enjoyed a series of short-lived comebacks during the past two decades, but nothing to suggest his career-defining turn as a desperate, broken-down wrestler at the end of his rope. He’s not the only reason to see Darren Aronofsky’s latest, a riveting meditation on the self-mutilating lengths aging warriors will go to relive their glory days. But it’s hard to imagine the film – or this year’s Oscars – without the imposing Rourke, who gained 35 pounds of muscle to play Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

2. Wall*E

3. Let the Right One In

4. In Bruges

5. Frost/Nixon

Honorable Mention: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, W., The Dark Knight, The Reader, JCVD

Worst Films
1. Prom Night: How tempting it would be, given its brilliant ensemble cast and the formidable skills of Joel and Ethan Coen (sharing directorial credits for just the second time, after the award-winning No Country for Old Men) to give the year’s biggest booby prize to the tone-deaf Burn After Reading. Yet there can be no overlooking 2008’s biggest bust. Featuring Scott Porter (from NBC’s underappreciated “Friday Night Lights”) and Idris Elba (of HBO’s “The Wire”), it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect something resembling competence from this PG-13 remake of 1980’s Prom Night. Instead, director Nelson McCormick delivers a turgid, unwatchable cash-grab.

2. The Eye

3. Burn After Reading

4. Jumper

5. Righteous Kill

Dishonorable Mention: Filth and Wisdom, Postal, Quantum of Solace, Baby Mama, 88 Minutes
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Mel Valentin

Best Films
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Audiences will shake their heads in wonder and awe at the technical wizardry, courtesy of Digital Domain, that de-ages Brad Pitt from a man in his 80s into a teenager and Cate Blanchett from a woman in her 20s to a woman in her 80s, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher’s decade-in-the-making masterpiece, is so much more. Through Benjamin’s eyes, the familiar (e.g. life, love, mortality) becomes unfamiliar. If that’s not art, then it’s hard to know what it is.

2. The Dark Knight

3. Wall*E

4. Body of War

5. Choke

Honorable Mention: Body of War, Forbidden Lie$, Son of Rambow, Man on Wire, Let the Right One In


Worst Films
1. 88 Minutes:

2. The Happening

3. The Love Guru

4. The X-Files: I Want to Believe

5. Righteous Kill

Dishonorable Mention: Hell Ride, Babylon A.D., Fly Me to the Moon, Disaster Movie
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Martin Malloy

Best Films
1. Synecdoche, New York: It’s a love it or hate it film. I loved it and think it will gain appreciation with time.

2. The Wrestler

3. Humboldt County

4. Slumdog Millionaire

5. The Dark Knight

Honorable Mention: The Visitor, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express

Worst Films
1. The Duchess: Do we really need another period piece with Keira Knightly as an oppressed, yet strong female character?

2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

3. Vantage Point

4. Four Christmases

5. The Love Guru