With the bad economy leaving people without a lot of extra money, many of us have been hunkering down at home with a movie and homemade popcorn. Also, the Oscars are coming up, so I thought it would be a good idea to call up our friend and avid film critic, Gareth Higgins, and ask him which movies of 2008 he considers must-see films. You can listen in on our conversation, or read the quick reviews of them from Gareth below.
Here is his top 10 list for 2008, as well as two more films thrown in for good measure.
Australia: One of the most underrated films of the year, Baz Luhrmann's Australia is a big romantic epic. It's sheer cinematic pleasure and it also has an incredibly political comment to make about the treatment of the aboriginal people in Australia.
Quantum of Solace: This is an art movie about espionage in which the CIA is in bed with a multinational corporation that is trying to destabilize the democratically elected government in Bolivia in order to steal the water rights and sell the water back to poor people at a high premium. This seems to me like it should have been Sojourners' film of the year!
And now for Gareth's Top 10 Films of 2008:
10. My Winnipeg: A Canadian film about how our childhood memories of where we grew up are parts of ourselves that we always want to recapture.
8. Happy-Go-Lucky: This film is about a woman who's just incredibly happy, and the film shows that her experience of what goes on in her life depends on how she looks at them.
7. The Dark Knight: No one's quite sure whether this film is making fun of the war on terror or endorsing it, but that's the genius of it.
6. Rachel Getting Married: A small film about a Connecticut family and the most unrealistic wedding in all of history. By the time the wedding happens, the story of a recovering addict who's got a lot of tragedy in her past has gripped you so much, and become so compelling, that you just want to join in with the wedding.
5. Milk: Gus Van Sant's film about the gay rights movement is not just about gay rights but about social movements in general.
6. Heartbeat Detector: A French movie about unethical business practices, another topic in which Sojourners is interested.
3. Wall-E: This movie is not just the best animated film of the year, but an amazing feat of technology and artistry that has a moral vision of the future that requires us to pay attention.
2. The Visitor: This is a lovely little movie about a depressed, nearing-retirement college professor who is brought back to life by meeting a Senegalese jewelry maker and a Syrian djembe player and then helping them to negotiate the U.S. immigration process.
1. Man on Wire: A documentary about Philippe Petit, a French circus performer, who in 1974 fired a bow and arrow between the two towers of World Trade Center and walked on a tight rope across it -- which on one hand could be the stupidest thing a person could do, but on the other is a work of great artistry.
Dr. Gareth Higgins is a writer and broadcaster from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has worked as an academic and activist. He is the author of the insightful How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films. He blogs at www.godisnotelsewhere.blogspot.com and co-presents "The Film Talk" podcast with Jett Loe at www.thefilmtalk.com.
Jeannie Choi is an assistant editor at Sojourners.