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Phil Kyle selects his top movie picks for 2008

Another cinematic year is complete. The explosive dust from the summer blockbusters has settled. The tears from the tragic dramas of the award season have been wiped from our cheeks. And everybody remembered Kate Hudson had once again been in two horrible films in one year.

2008 was an incredibly busy year for Hollywood, and I was in the back row of the theater eating Reeses Pieces for the whole thing. After reflecting on the year in film, I was startled to see the amount of disappointing and dull films. There were few great cinematic achievements and most of those were hidden in limited release or behind a crowd of kids waiting to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Nonetheless, there were at least 10 gems that manifested the talent some filmmakers had to offer. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Films of 2008:

10. Role Models: Probably the biggest surprise of the year for me and many critics. Without a doubt the funniest movie I saw in 2008. Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, and Jane Lynch all shine in this raunchy comedy about friendship and responsibility. By the way, this is the second year in a row that Christopher Plasse, aka McLovin, had appeared on my top film list. I guess I could not get enough of his McLovin.

9. The Visitor: This was a film released earlier in the year and almost forgotten except for the lead performance by Richard Jenkins. He starred as a lonely widower who befriended an African couple after they mistakenly settled in his vacant New York apartment. They repaid him with lessons of companionship and culture. A very delightful story that turned suspenseful after they faced challenges of immigration. A very moving film.

8. Doubt: Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman once again proved that they were the royalty of actors. Most will remember her this year for the zany performance in the eye candy musical Mamma Mia!  I saw that film and just wanted to erase the sounds of Pierce Brosnan singing from my memory. Doubt was an incredible film about the confrontation of a nun and priest in a Catholic school after allegations of child molestation.

7. Religulous: I am a little biased with this film since I love Bill Mahar and his anti-religious viewpoints. It was a very disturbing and hilarious documentary about the global implications of organized religions. A must-see.

6. Frost/Nixon: Director Ron Howard seemed to be the go-to guy when it came to choosing fascinating and appealing scripts. This time he created a captivating portrayal of Richard Nixon after the Watergate Scandal through the story of a series of interviews that Nixon participated in with pretty boy David Frost in 1977. Frost was known more for his talk show antics more than political discussions. Many young people will not be drawn to this story due to its historic theme; however, it was in no way a stereotypical History Channel bore. The performances and fantastic script livened up the genre and made it a wonderful film.

5. The Dark Knight: Definitely a fan favorite, I considered The Dark Knight to be one of the best superhero films ever made. Heath Ledger’s performance had outshined the entire work, but the well developed story and brilliant direction illustrated the perfection of the film. By the way, what was with Christian Bale’s deep lisp as Batman? I do not remember the Caped Crusader ever having a speech impediment.

4. The Wrestler: Director Darren Aronofsky was known for his films of characters hitting rock-bottom, remember Requiem for a Dream? This story followed a washed-up wrestler pinned, pun intended, by health problems, bankruptcy, and loneliness. Mickey Rourke tackled, pun also intended, the lead role and delivered a performance worthy of many awards. What made this film outstanding was that it was not about the world of wrestling but the consequences of the profession. Absolutely phenomenal film.

3. Milk: This film about the first gay politician in the 1970s should have been released prior to Election Day, so that people would have understood the struggles for sexual equality. This film had it all: suspense, love, drama, comedy, and male nudity. Sean Penn delivered another great performance as Harvey Milk, and there are a few other surprise performances by Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, and that flamboyant kid from High School Musical! Disney claimed he had a girlfriend…right. Anyway, a powerful and must-see film to understand the discrimination against homosexuals in the last forty years.

2. WALL-E: I will be honest: I always hated animated films. They are directed toward the intelligence of six year olds, and I have been reading Newsweek since I was seven. Nonetheless, sometimes an animated film is released that breaks the confines of the genre. WALL-E not only stood as a great animated kids’ feature, but it was one of the best films ever made.

A simple story of a robot in love, the film provided lessons about human destruction of the Earth and themselves. I have a soft spot for love stories and two robots holding hands do it for me every time.

1.Slumdog Millionaire: I always know that I have seen the best movie of the year after I feel a shiver go up my spine at some point. This film did it. The story of an Indian boy’s adventure on a game show may seem like a lame premise, but it builds into a beautifully crafted tale of the life of an impoverished child surviving in the ghetto and falling in love. There were no robots holding hands; instead, the growth of a boy wanting devotion more than monetary success.

With dreadful depictions of poverty, but a story of hope and passion, Slumdog Millionaire was absolute perfection. If that does not interest you, just see it to discover the Indian version of Regis Philbin.

Here’s to you 2008!