#14: Pan’s Labyrinth – Top 25 Films of the Decade


Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, César Vea

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
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The Fifth Annual Andy Movie Awards – Part One

Notice the subtle changes? No... well I did it anyway.
It’s time once again for one of my signature posts: the fifth (and probably final) Andy Movie Awards, where I select not only who I think should win the awards being handed out this Sunday, but also who should’ve been nominated with those winners. There’s a lot of posts around this time of year where writers predict who they think will win Oscars, and some about they think should win. But unless you’re the only person in the world who agrees completely with the Academy’s nominees, it’s a false choice. What if your winner wasn’t nominated? What if you’re forced to choose the only worthy nominee in a group of junk?

Instead, I write a super-long post that basically amounts to a series of specified year-end lists, not only for the big awards that people care about, but also the other awards that most people don’t. The only Academy Award categories for feature length films that the Andy Awards don’t cover are Best Achievement in Editing (because I don’t know enough about the process to pass judgement, as with most viewers, I only notice editing when it’s bad), the two sound categories (as it’s not something I notice while watching movies), and Best Original Song (because it’s a stupid award. Instead, I’ve substituted it for my own award).

To make my decisions, I’ve seen 66 films that had a North American release date in 2008. The Academy nominated a total of 36 feature length films, of which I’ve seen 27 (75%). When you take out the ten films nominated in the foreign language and documentary categories (only four of which were released outside of LA/NY… I caught three of those), I’ve seen 24 out of 26 (92%), with the exceptions being Defiance (nominated for Original Score) and Australia (nominated for Costume Design). Thus, whenever my nominations divulge from the Academy (other than in those four categories), it’s because I disagree, not because I don’t know. Which brings me to why this very well may be my last post of this nature: I can’t imagine myself finding the time in the upcoming years to watch this many movies again.

So read on for part one of the end of an era…
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Top 10 Movies of 2008


As I did with my albums of the year list, I have to begin this list lamenting the fact that the 2008 year in film was not as good as the 2007 year in film. It was a down year for art in general, as pretty much any critic you read will tell you. Part of the reason for the negativity is the fact that the usual year end glut of awards baiting prestige films were largely disappointing, often ranging from merely solid to outright bad. And since that’s the steady diet critics (and myself) are fed around the time they write year end lists (albeit theirs come out at the actual end of the year, whereas mine waits until February, but I have to pay to see my movies), so it’s not surprising that the same enthusiasm wasn’t there, especially when the year before featured instant classics like No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, and There Will Be Blood.

Instead, the greatness in 2008 came not from the types of movies Hollywood likes to get dressed up for to dole out awards, but from the films fans line up for to buy overpriced concessions to see on opening day, or movies released early in the year when people weren’t paying attention. So this list is still filled with movies I enjoyed quite a bit, and recommend to everyone. As of this writing, I’ve seen 63 films released in North America in 2008, which includes some foreign language films that were released in their native countries in previous years, but doesn’t include some TIFF films I saw that haven’t yet been released (some of which would definitely contend for this list and will probably pop up next year… unless it is phenomenal). Of those 63, these were the best…
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Top 20 Comic Book Movies of All-Time

I admit, this story makes no sense.

I grew up a comic book fan, falling in and out of the habit as I got older. The times in my life where I stopped reading comics didn’t have too much to do with the comics themselves (although they probably did at times parallel a downturn in quality in the X-Men, the primary series I collected), but more to do with a lack of funds or my other entertainment options taking up my time. But then they started making movies about comics — more specifically, they started making GOOD movies about comics, and I decided to start reading comics again (albeit in much smaller doses).

So I write this list both as a fan of movies and a fan of comics. Thus, I’m also a big fan of movies based on comic books, when I’m not busy being a big critic of movies based on comics that fail to live up to the source material. This is a list I’ve been meaning to write for a few years now, and in that time, the list of candidates has only grown. Because the world of comic book adaptations has grown to encompass a nice variety of of genres and types, I felt a bigger list of 20 would lead to a more diverse and interesting collection than would a traditional list of 10. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen every comic book movie released, but I have seen every one that’s been released that I plan on seeing (meaning that if I haven’t seen a movie by now, I probably never will, because I’ve heard it sucks).

But first, I’ll clarify what I mean by “comic book movies”. For the purpose of this list, a comic book movie is any feature length film whose story and/or characters originally appeared in a comic book (and a comic book includes comics, comic strips, graphic novels, or manga). So films with comic book themes that didn’t originate in the world of comics, such as The Incredibles, Unbreakable, or Hancock, don’t qualify. Nor do sci-fish properties that originated elsewhere but have since become comic books, such as Transformers (not that it would ever make a list of mine).

The other thing I should clarify is what I mean by “top”. In this, I’m mostly judging the films by the quality of the films themselves, and less so by how strong they are as adaptations, although that will obviously come into play. The reason this isn’t simply a list on the best adaptations is twofold: one, I haven’t read all the source material for every comic book movie, and two, some movies don’t necessarily adapt one source as much as they borrow from several (that said, if I have read the source material, it would obviously affect my opinion of the film). Other than that, “top” is an amalgamation between “best” and “favourite”. And now, on to the list…
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TIFF 08: Day 10

This one’s a couple days late, but I didn’t feel like lugging around the laptop one more day and didn’t feel like writing when we got home from our last screening. I’m home now, and ready to put the whole whirlwind trip behind me. It was a great time, but I’m glad to be home with my couch and my dog. So here’s one more day of TIFFing before I get back into the routine of the real world.

Read on for musings on Chocolate, The Real Shaolin, and Miracle at St. Anna, plus a couple of wrap-up thoughts…
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TIFF 08: Day 5

Now that we’ve been at this for four days, we’re settling into the routine pretty well. We wake up and have a little something to eat at the hotel (since we have a kitchen in our room), then head out to the first screening. When we have back-to-back screenings (which are generally separated by an hour), we’ll grab something portable for lunch/dinner and eat it in line for the next screening. At some point, we’ll have time to come back to our hotel for a nap (or simply relaxing while still being awake), then head out to the final screening (taking the subway to each location, as we’re right on the line and most of the theatres are as well).

But there’s also a routine to the screenings themselves, which is of more interest to you, the reader. We’re generally seated 20 minutes or so before the film is due to begin (today I’ve been using that time to write this stuff on my laptop… like I’m doing right now, whereas previously the laptop stayed at home while Kim and I played Scrabble on our iPods). The films never start on time, as they want to give enough time to sell tickets to people in the rush line. Then the festival programmer comes out to introduce the film, thank the sponsors, tell us to turn off electronic devices, and introduce the director/producer who is in attendance (every screening thus far besides Passchendaele has had a representative, generally the director, except in the case of the multi-director effort covered below). The director gives a short intro to the film, and if it’s a premiere, will also introduce the cast in attendance. They then sit down (or leave if they’re not sticking around), the lights dim, and the anti-piracy message comes on screen (to which those in the audience in the know reply “Arrrr”). We get a Bell Lightbox ad (that’s the new festival location that they’re building), then a Universal NBC message thanking the festival volunteers (for whom we in the audience applaud), an annoying Motorolla ad I’m more than tired of, and a Cadillac people’s choice award ad I’m also tired of (but less so than the Moto one), and the film begins.

If it’s a premiere, the toadies in the reserved seats will applaud for the studio/distributor banners of whomever they work for. Generally, the audience will applaud for anyone mentioned in the credits who was announced to be in attendance (whereas toadies will also applaud for people like the DP or others mentioned in the credits that we don’t know). When the film is over, there’s more applause (maybe even a standing O, generally induced by the toadies), and a short Q&A. If Kim and I have another screening to get to, or didn’t particularly like the film, we don’t stick around for that (which is why at TIFF, aisle seats are king. We’re sitting at the aisle right now, in two seats separated from the rest of the row. These may be my favourite seats yet). As we leave the screening, we hand off our ballots for the People’s Choice Award, rinse, repeat.

Read on for musings on New York, I Love You, Ashes of Time Redux, and Plastic City
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