Some of the best pictures in 2008 according to RONALD WAN, including those in the Best Picture category and of course, those that unfortunately aren’t

Granted, the five Best Picture nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards are terrific. But why stop at five nominees? Here at UrbanWire, we honour some of the best films shown in 2008, including three from the Best Picture category. Yes, we’re going with as many selections as possible because it has just been a great year for the movies.

And the Oscar goes to…each of these movies that is worth its weight in gold.

Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Oh the horrors. I meant its exclusion in the Best Picture category when most of the film critics’ circles have gingerly acknowledged the film. If the film were nominated, it would have been a wonderful shot in the arm for the Oscars. Imagine the ratings. The Dark Knight was more than a comic-book blockbuster movie. It was a Shakespearean drama steeped in mythology, dark neuroses, dualism of justice and vengeance and a striking inference to the way we live now.



Many are mistaken this is a political film. It’s not. It’s simply a character study on two people – David Frost and Richard Nixon. Frost is the down-and-out interviewer while Nixon is put under the nation’s spotlight. Both engage in a series of TV interviews weighted in nuances. It’s like watching two men engaged in a fight or less violently, a dance. Frost corners Nixon. Nixon perspires. Frost sits forward. You don’t have to know Watergate to understand this film. Just watch the men go at each other. It’s beautiful.

The Reader

The Reader

Many wondered, “Not another Holocaust movie!” Really? Is it? I think the provocative film reveals more about human nature than post-war Germans struggling with war guilt. We see Hanna Schmitz and Michael simply as a couple transfixed in an illicit affair. And later, her shameful secret not being able to read and (much later) his refusal to reveal her secret and help Hanna in her court case. The secrets and choices made define who they are. And the ending where we come face to face with Hanna’s choice is painful and heartbreaking.

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor is about change. How a professor moves out of inertia in near-retirement age towards embracing love once again. How a foreign couple living in New York lost one another to the tangled mess called bureaucracy. How a mother sheds her tough exterior while in search of her son. This film by Tom McCarthy does not have a happy ending. It lays bare the story and shows us who the characters are, and how they behave in their circumstances. Richard Jenkins as the widowed professor and perhaps the visitor himself brings this film to life with a stellar performance. Easily the best film for 2008.


Rachel Getting Married

Everyone I know who saw the film wants to attend Rachel’s wedding. Me too. That’s the beauty of Rachel Getting Married. Director Jonathan Demme has shot the film in a homemade video style that suggests intimacy, realness and familiarity. It’s as if you know the couple or extended family. It strikes close to the heart because it centres on familial ties, especially the sibling rivalry between Rachel and Kym, played by Anne Hathaway. That’s the way a movie should be – personal and affecting.

Iron Man

Iron Man

The way I see it, Iron Man seems more like a comedy. You find Robert Downey Jr. hamming it up as Tony Stark, the playboy billionaire and weapons manufacturer. He drinks a Scotch in the Afghanistan desert while flirting with a female operative. He asks for a cheeseburger. Amidst the action and pyrotechnics, here is a comeback actor performing perfect comic timing complete with brains and brawn. Forget the angst (Hulk) and romance (Spider-Man). Iron Man is the most fun comic movie to watch.

Frozen River

Frozen River

The frozen river in the movie is actually a dangerous terrain to cross, caused by the forces of nature. Inevitable, treacherous and cold. And that’s the allegory for the movie. A mother (played by the brilliant Melissa Leo) who struggles to bring up her two kids in a trailer home after the father walks out with the money. Who struggles to make ends meet at a discount store. Who resorts to illegal means inadvertently to raise the cash. It’s a raw story about survival and making sure there’s dinner on the table for the family. Can’t help but feel a little warm in your heart at the end of the movie.



Milk is a movie on a man approaching 40 and the choices he made to define the rest of his life. Harvey Milk, as portrayed by the magnificent Sean Penn, is a joy to watch. It isn’t so much the politics the audience is interested in. It’s Milk. His personal and political convictions. His ever-flowing milk of human kindness. His ability to put on that smile even when the going gets tough. In the end, Milk simply endears us to love the film.



All you consumers be damned. At least that’s the moral of this animated Pixar film. But what we love best is of course, the good old love story between Wall-E, the trashed collector robot protagonist and Eve. And their love story is told in little gestures and body language, which brings us back to the era of silent movies and Charlie Chaplin flicks. It has the potential to be a classic in the distant future. Wait, it already feels like it.

Other notable mentions:

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading for being such an insane madcap! Watching the ensemble cast let loose is a guilty pleasure.

Cloverfield for its not-too-subtle dig at a voyeuristic generation and creating a B-list monster flick. And thanks for those darn headaches.

Doubt for stellar casting across the board from Meryl Streep to Viola Davis.

Man on Wire for a well-made documentary sprinkled with a narrative style and for showing us what it means to live life on the edge.

Irina Palm for deftly pushing a midlife woman to a limit and moral ground in a light-hearted British drama filled with humour and love.

The Band’s Visit for portraying cultural differences (Israel and the Arab world) and the ordinary, lonely people caught in them. And for allowing us to revisit our inner selves and finding that glimmer of hope somewhere.

Red Cliff for being an epic war movie the way it should be – beautifully choreographed action and amidst the drums, arrows and sword fights, poetic scene after scene of verbal sparring and intellectual verbosity.

*Considering some films are slower in screening in Singapore theatres, pardon me for missing out on certain films that might be good, if not better, than my choices.

Do you agree with the writer’s choices? What about the exclusion of Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Tell us your favourite film for 2008 here in the comment box.

*This article has been re-routed from, which is currently experiencing server problems.