2008 Movies: Insiders and Outsiders Lists


A number of DC insiders — including Paul Begala, Katherine Kennedy, Margaret Carlson, Peter Fenn, George Vradenburg, Winston Lord, Strobe Talbott, Grover Norquist, Jim Moran, Dana Perino, Steve Clemons, and others — shared their thoughts on movies that “tickled their fancy” for the year in Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin’s Yeas & Neas column today in the DC Examiner.
My list was:

Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
“Milk,” “The Dark Knight,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “War Child.”

I also liked “Valkyrie” and “Iron Man” but not as much as those above.
War Child” is not out yet on national distribution but the moving story of hip-hop artist Emanuel Jal who made it out of the bleakness of a conscripted child soldier in Africa is sweeping a lot of film awards out there and was directed by my friend Karim Chrobog and co-produced by my colleague Afshin Molavi.
But there are some DC outsiders (who nonetheless are mostly local and who allow me honorary membership) have their own best movie of the year contest.
Will Bower, now infamous for helping to launch PUMA (go research it on your own) in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Democratic primary to Barack Obama, launched some years ago the Annual Willoughby Awards for best films of the year.
Bower has about three dozen diverse friends — from all walks — who go through a rigorous process of movie and performance selection. First, before the end of the year, nominators have to select “two best movies” and “two best performances”. No supporting and primary actors — no division for men and women — no distinction between comedies and musicals and documentaries and independents and major features.
Then they get a chance to redo their choices — which I just did — and resubmit by January 6. Then there is another round in a few weeks.
So, for fun, here are the Willoughby 2008 choices as they stand at this moment:
The Dark Knight
The Fall
Hamlet 2
I’ve Loved You So Long
In Bruges
King Fu Panda
Slumdog Millionaire
Snow Angels

Colin Farrell (In Bruges)
Ralph Fiennes (The Duchess)
Frank Langhella (Frost/Nixon)
Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
James McAvoy (Wanted)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Sean Penn (Milk)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long)
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)

I’m on a movie kick this week, and I know many other TWN readers are as well. Sometimes I do need a distraction from the economic and foreign policy morass that the US is in today.
I will be seeing “Doubt“, “Revolutionary Road“, and “Australia” this weekend with friends — and before closing, I should say that I have now seen “Bottle Shock” about six times this last month on long-distance United Airlines flights. Has anyone else seen it?
The more I had no movie choices on the flights other than “Bottle Shock“, the more I really liked it — and feel like I should have added it to my roster for the DC Examiner.
More later.
— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “2008 Movies: Insiders and Outsiders Lists

  1. Ty Lookwell says:

    Oh, Franklin … sigh.
    De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum.
    “Wow, that movie sucked” – Ty Lookwell.


  2. Gina says:

    I really liked the movies where the settlers were attacked by Indians because they settled on the Indians’ land, but then the Cavalry came and easily wiped out the Indians because God gave the land to the settlers and the Indians were heathens whose gods were inferior. That was cool.


  3. PW says:

    Definitely agree about The Visitor — several wonderful performances. Being dependent on Netflix, I’ll have to look forward to ’08 movies sometime in ’09. Milk is at the top of the list (Sean Penn, whether as director or actor, is always at the top of this household’s list) — along with the Kristin Scott Thomas film. Currently playing here are: Tokyo Twilight (Ozu), Christ Stopped at Eboli, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 days.


  4. Screwball Comedy says:

    I like the movie where the Israeli are killing the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are killing Israelis not so much.
    It’s a sequel.


  5. Jay says:

    Anybody see THE VISITOR? One of my favorites in an overall weak year for movies.


  6. Franklin says:

    Ty Lookwellt,
    I’ve seen Gran Torino once, and have talked to others who’ve seen the film in a different theater who had a similar response. No one said “wow, that movie sucked”.
    I realize that responses to films are subjective ultimately.
    I thought the cinematography was pretty polished Hollywood filmcraft — similar to the script and the acting.
    Did the film suck? On balance I think most audiences — especially in the U.S. — will connect with the storyline.
    The only reason that I’d dock the film points is that it doesn’t approach the form itself in a new way. It’s not like Kubrick’s “2001” or Fellini’s “8-1/2” or “Citizen Kane” (e.g. films that force audiences and film-makers to rethink the craft).
    “Slumdog” was more ambitious in that sense — although I think it too had enough short-comings to put it in the “near-great” category.


  7. Ducktape says:

    I saw Bottle Shock on a Delta flight and really enjoyed it. Don’t know if it ranks with the others because I haven’t seen them, but definitely worth the time.
    The stars must have been strangely aligned, because the movie going the other way was WALL-E and I agree on it being a terrific movie. I almost never find a movie I want to watch on an airline, and on this trip, I had a good one each way. These were the only two movies I watched outside of my own TV this year …. FWIW.


  8. Bob h says:

    “Milk”, “Tell No One”, “Vicky, Crystal, Barcelona”,
    “Elegy” among my favorites. Really a mediocre year for movies.


  9. Ty Lookwellt says:

    Wow, I thought Gran Torino was incredibly bad. Bad acting, insultingly stupid script. I couldn’t believe this was the same guy who had directed and acted in Million Dollar Baby – it made me worried about Eastwood’s abilities as he’s gotten older. Really, really, really bad, false and fake… Mostly because of an incredibly bad screenplay, but also because of horrible acting. The cinematography was ok.
    And Frost/Nixon is a crime against history.


  10. Franklin says:

    Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” is a must see.
    Even though I could see the pitch: “Imagine “Karate Kid” meets “Unforgiven,” which sounds like one of those bad Hollywood jokes. Doesn’t matter, the film works and had the theater in tears.
    Also loved “Slumdog Millionaire”.
    For documentary “Man on a Wire” is one that I missed in 2008 in the theaters, but plan to catch before Jan. 2009 is finished.


  11. DonS says:

    “Divided We Fall” . . . actually suggested by my wife, Edie. Actual, timeless moral dilemmas, with nuance, taking the WWII European saga as its setting.


  12. Linda says:

    “Kung Fu Panda” but no mention of “WALL-E”–not very good taste in animated films.


  13. Lurker says:

    Excellent List, Steve. I think “Milk” was one of the most memorable
    for me this year.


  14. Timber Wolf says:

    Man some of these movies I never heard about..but anyways ..
    Well, the fact Begala is there .. Carville being out is good.
    Ahem. And hillary didn’t lose..she was robbed. But anyway ..
    I don’t blame the author at all. I’m a movie buff. So, abt morass ..


  15. Dan Kervick says:

    I believe I only saw three films this year:
    The first was actually five films. It was the group of pieces nominated as the best live action short film. The nominees were:
    “At Night”
    “Il Supplente (The Substitute)”
    “Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)”
    “Tanghi Argentini”
    “The Tonto Woman”
    I enjoyed them all, but especially liked “At Night” and “The Mozart of Pickpokets”. The latter won the Oscar.
    The second film I saw was “Son of Rambow”, which I loved.
    The third was “Pineapple Express”, which was hilarious. I saw it with my son when we were on the road visiting some of the colleges to which he had applied. There were about 200 people in the theater, and I’m pretty sure I was the oldest guy there.


  16. rich says:

    Paul Soglin on Milk:
    “Tonight we saw Milk. The first two minutes were as emotional an introduction to any film I have ever seen.
    . . . .
    Unlike Dade County, Florida, Minneapolis, or Eugene, Oregon, despite our best efforts to bait Anita Bryant, we could not lure her to Madison.
    June 1977 was the last time I saw San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. It was probably Friday June 17 at the conclusion of a hard week of work . . .”


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