It’s that time again when I stick up my top 20 films of the year. I’ve left it far too late to spend time writing anything meaningful of insightful about why they’re all good and why I like them, so you’ll just need to be happy with the brief pish I’ve scribbled about them all.
1. In The Loop
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Starring: James Gandolfini, Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi
Seeing this at its Glasgow Film Festival premiere definitely did add to the enjoyment of it. This, if you didn’t know is essentially the film version of the TV series The Thick Of It. I recently met someone who had never heard of The Thick Of It, so maybe you didn’t know that. Anyway, from the very first moments of Malcolm Tucker shouting and swearing at anyone and everyone around him the film is a total hoot. Tom Hollander turns in a brilliantly awkward performance as the MP put of his depth as he’s spun this way and that over an imminent invasion. Steve Coogan appears in a hilarious cameo as a moaning nutcase pestering his local MP with his petty grievances. I don’t think I enjoyed a movie more all year.
2. Inglourious Basterds
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz
It would appear there’s a straight down the line love it or hate it with this film. Clearly I’m in the ‘love it’ camp. The lengthy first scene is edge of the seat stuff and a total masterclass in creating tension. It’s pure war-revenge porn but I see nothing wrong with that. Even the one star reviews had to admit that Christoph Waltz is outstanding. You would have to think he’s a certainty for an Oscar nomination.
3. The Hangover
Directed by Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galiafainakis, Ed Helms
This is the film I saw most times in the cinema (three). Being a huge fan of Zach Galiafanakis’s stand-up comedy I was always going to be rushing to see a film where he has a major role. Chuck in Ed Helms, a guy I’ve grown to love greatly as Andy Bernard in The Office and you’ve got a winner for me.
4. Mesrine: Killer Instinct
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Cécile De France, Gérard Depardieu
There’s very little to like about France’s most notorious criminal, the ruthless gangster Jacques Mesrine. The film has little real character development and moves from one violent act to another. For all that it was utterly gripping from beginning to end. I could have watched the second part right after the first. It’s just a shame that the second part Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 only played for a week and I missed it.
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Rebecca Hall
Michael Sheen is probably the finest British actor working at the moment. He’s brilliant in this as David Frost chasing the biggest coup of his career with his interview with Richard Nixon.
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (voice), Matt Berry
Sam Rockwell gives not one but two of the performances of the year in this film about an astronaut about to leave his base on the moon and return home. All is not as it seems as he discovers his clone.
Directed by Chris Atkins
A documentary that got a limited release in Glasgow and Edinburgh it really is a must see. The film exposes the underhand methods and deceit that goes into creating celebrities. The last portion of the film on Live 8 is particularly damning.
You should see it when you can, before Max Clifford and his injunction gets some of the juicy bits cut out.
There’s a bit on the website where they give you step by step instructions of how to sell your own fake story to the tabloids.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
Now, I would have thought that zombies have pretty much had their day in movies what with the spate of zombie films in recent years. I would have been wrong however. Zombieland is a great romp from start to finish. It gets straight into the story and the characters from the off, it’s a stylish take on the genre and features an amazing cameo from Bill Murray. You can’t ask for much more really.
9. World's Greatest Dad
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore
Written and directed by Police Academy’s Bobcat Goldthwait World’s Greatest Dad is funny, horrific and touching. I’m not going to say much about the plot because I knew very little about it going in and it was all the better for it.
It only got a limited release in America so the chances of it getting a proper release here (it played at the Edinburgh Film Festival) look slim.
10. Funny People
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
A film about stand-up and about relationships. It’s probably a bit longer than it needs to be, but it has a really good cast and enough laugh out loud moments to be a success.
This film was spoiled for me slightly by the clown repeatedly kicking the back of my seat all throughout it. He only stopped when I had to go all John Paul on him. As a result I’ve added Fridays to my list of no-go-to-the-cinema days. It comes to something when you can’t see a film in peace without threatening to punch fuck out of someone sitting behind you.
If you haven't watched the Raaaaaaaandy segments online get on it now. He's only in the film briefly but these are gold.
11. The Wrestler
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
When I was about 18 I spent several weeks watching Mickey Rourke classics like Angel Heart, Barfly, A Prayer For the Dying, Diner and The Pope of Greenwich Village. I also watched pish like Johnny Handsome, Homeboy, Wild Orchid and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. I always knew he was a great actor even if his movie choices were increasingly awful. He credits his agent David Unger with the turnaround in his career.
Anyway he’s great in this as Randy "The Ram" Robinson a star of the 80s now performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centres around New Jersey.
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin
Milk charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk’s life. An outstanding performance from Sean Penn in the title role. You can read the film's script here.
Directed by Pete Docter
Starring: Ed Asner (voice), Christopher Plummer (voice), Paul Eiding (voice)
An animated comedy adventure about a 78-year-old man who ties balloons to his house and flies away, with an 8-year-old stowaway. There’s a sequence near the beginning of this films which is as good as anything you’ll see in a film all year.
14. The Damned United
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent
Michael Sheen again, this time as Brian Clough, in the cinema adaptation of David Peace’s brilliant book on Clough's 44 days in charge of Leeds United.
15. Sunshine Cleaning
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin
One of those wee gems that goes undetected by many filmgoers. Once the high school cheerleading captain who dated the quarterback, Rose Lorkowski now finds herself a thirty-something single mother working as a maid. Her sister Norah, is still living at home with their dad, a salesman with a lifelong history of ill-fated get rich quick schemes.
Desperate to get her son into a better school, Rose persuades Norah to go into the crime scene clean-up business with her to make some quick cash. It’s funny and moving and well worth seeing.
16. The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes
When a new sergeant takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat. Good, edge of the seat stuff.
Here's a good interview with screenwriter Mark Boal.
17. Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Starring: Kevin Goocher, Glenn Gyorffy, Steve 'Lips' Kudlow
A documentary on the enduring lack of success of the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil. We see them in the process of touring to almost no one in Europe and the tensions in recording their 13th album.
The film is made by someone who has genuine affection for the band, so it’s never the point-the-finger-and-laugh film it could have turned into.
It’s very funny in places, but it’s also quite a nice film in parts and a must see for anyone who’s a fan of rock documentaries.
18. A Serious Man
Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Simon Helberg, Adam Arkin, Richard Kind
A brilliantly made film, that stays with you long after you've come out of the cinema.
19. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Meryl Streep (voice), George Clooney (voice), Bill Murray (voice)
As a film maker Wes Anderson does it for me every time. A kids' film that's not really a kids' film.
20. District 9
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
Aliens in South Africa. Begins slowly but really picks up.
Other films that deserve a mention include Watchmen, Gran Torino, State of Play, Synecdoche New York and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
This has been the sixth Talking Pish round up of the films of the year. You can find the others below.
Tom’s Films of 2008
Tom’s Films of 2007
Tom’s Films of 2006
Tom’s Films of 2005
Tom’s Films of 2004