Oh, 2008, how we'll miss you. Or maybe not. Last year it was really hard to say goodbye to 2007. It was truly a remarkable year in filmmaking. There Will Be Blood. No Country for Old Men. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. No film in 2008 even came close to being as good as those three. For that reason, it's difficult to really compare the two years back to back. It's actually unfair to 2008.
Does that mean that 2008 was a bad year? I wouldn't say that. It was a forgettable for the most part. When looking at this year, the most remembered film will probably be The Dark Knight. A film that is currently the second highest grossing film of all time. It surpassed every expectation and is not just a great comic book movie, but just a great film in general. It's a classic.
Like Crash before it, I feel that Slumdog's reputation will suffer in the coming years. People will probably ask us all what we were thinking? Slumdog Millionaire is the most honored film of all time? What? A film that won more Oscars than The Godfather: Part II (6 wins) and Lawrence of Arabia (7 wins). It won the same amount of Oscars (8 wins) as On The Waterfront and From Here to Eternity. It's not to say the film was horrible, but don't you think we overreacted just a little?
Some people say poor competition, but there were some quality films this year. I start with Milk, which was one of the best biopics of the decade. It even won Sean Penn his second Oscar in five years. It would have been my vote for Best Picture. Harvey Milk's story is a fascinating one that is comparable to Martin Luther KIng Jr. and Barack Obama. He gave a certain group of people hope. I find it to be an emotional and inspiring film.
Even Benjamin Button was not that bad of a film. If people over-appreciated Slumdog, then they under-appreciated this film. People used a poor excuse of saying this film was too much like Forrest Gump. While the similarities are there, it's an unfair statement. How stupid do you really think Fincher, Roth, and co. are? Believe it or not, a lot of films are similar. It was like people came into the film expecting it to be so much like Gump that it took away from their appreciation of the film. Button is a technical marvel. It did lack heart at times, but I still left the theatre satisfied.
Two actors really caught the imagination of the public this year: Heath Ledger and Mickey Rourke. Ledger's run to Oscar glory is a story that will never be forgotten. Possibly never duplicated again. It's a true testament to his talent. More importantly, it all makes his premature death hurt even more. At times I forgot he died 13 months ago these last two weeks. Now, with the Oscars over, he'll really be gone. His awards run kept him alive long after he died. And, his roles of Ennis Del Mar and The Joker will reassure that his legacy is kept intact for many, many years.
Mickey really came back this year and he became one of the great stories of film. He even managed to give Sean Penn a run for his money and almost win the Oscar. Even with the loss, Mickey is a great lesson for any struggling actor. It's not easy, but the film industry can be forgiving. Though, the more important lesson is just not to fuck up in the first place. Also, don't forget about Robert Downey Jr. who also made one hell of a comeback this year, too. Let's hope both of them work off this year and not waste their talent any longer.
On a personal note, this year has reminded me how important film is in my life. I'm not 100% sure what the future holds, but I continue to have hopes and aspirations. Covering the awards this second year was truly special. I called this the best Oscars ever and I truly mean that. Forget about the record of 22-2 (oddly enough the Oscars were held on 2/22) even. Being so close the Kodak gave me this greater appreciation to the whole spectacle. Due to my financial situation, I will probably leave this area of Los Angeles in the short term and won't be here next year, but I'm determined to come back at some point.
As for the historical context of this year, it's always hard to do this soon. I see it as being an average year with good, but not great films. A couple amazing performances from the likes of Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Heath Ledger. An astonishing run to glory from a film that almost went straight to dvd. And, an even more astonishing run of half a billion dollars from a film with a man in a bat suit. Here's to 2008. And, here's hoping that 2009 will amaze us even more.