I claim the AC writing assignment, Best Dramatic Movies of 2008, with just two days left to submit, and immediately regret it with every writer’s-block bone in my body.
Rating movies is so subjective, so abstract and idiosyncratic in nature, it seems almost pointless to pursue.
I want out. In the Calls for Content™ box on my account page, I hastily click the release button. This gets me nowhere, as a harsh Windows Explorer reminder, in the form of an alarming question mark, issues this stern warning: Before you claim a subject, make sure you can produce it!
I search the web for 2008 drama movies. I can recall only a few dramatic movies of 2008, so I Google and begin the dubious task of movie research. I’m in luck. A movie list, All Time Top 2008 Drama Movies at TopTenREVIEWS™ jogs my fading memory.
There are so many movies. Which ones did I see? Which ones are dramas? The genre is hard to pin down, as so many dramatic films are combined with other genres to produce subsets in categories like action, adventure and crime.
What are the best dramatic movies of 2008? Which films are the most memorable and showcase the genre with the most realistic characters, settings, and life situations?
I really have no idea. I do, however, know about five very good films I watched on DVD or the Internet this year, all in the drama or mixed drama genres.
First up then, at the top of my best dramatic movies of 2008 list, is the sweet, tender coming-of-age flick The Secret Life of Bees.
This movie cuts straight to the dramatic bone. Filled with delicious layers of honeyed female perspective on the frailties and indignities of the human condition, this prize-winning picture stars prominent coming-of-age actress Dakota Fanning, whose stunning portrayal of a young girl searching for the truth behind her mother’s mysterious death and her feelings of abandonment related to it is nothing less than remarkable.
As a motion picture, The Secret Life of Bees is a chocolate feast starring an ensemble of black actors including Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, Tristan Wilds, and Nate Parker. The acting is top notch from start to finish.
The characters, and their stories, are laced with meaningful life lessons. Life is a living contradiction, a constant balancing act between good and evil, fair and unfair, dignified and undignified. People share the same problems regardless of the color of their skin.
The cast makes movie magic weaving a kaleidoscope of complicated themes and characters into a dramatic masterpiece celebrating the contradictory nature of human relationships from easy-to-understand simplicity to insufferable and incomprehensible complexity. The story tells the truth about life. It’s a feel-good movie that made me feel good about the human race again.
My next pick for the best dramatic movies of 2008, Felon, resides on the opposite side of the dramatic spectrum.
This convict story with Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff brings a fresh perspective to the often stale penitentiary drama.
Dorff’s character, a good guy judged bad by an unfair legal system, goes to the big house after he kills a burglar outside his home in what appears to be self defense but turns out to be murder.
The film’s character-driven plot and dialogue is spot on. Shot with gutsy realism and gritty authenticity, this movie is a dramatic time bomb that delivers on all levels.
Pitting basic elements of the human condition against each other, the story delves into the deep abyss of prison life and how evil and violence ultimately destroy the human psyche.
Kilmer, who continues to define himself as middle-age actor, is perfect as the wizened older con who takes Dorff’s fish under his wing, ultimately saving both their lives.
Exceptional dramatic movies mirror human motivation and behavior, good and bad, and ultimately teach us something about ourselves. Number three on my list of the best dramatic movies of 2008 is Traitor.
Don Cheadle seems to be everywhere these days and shows why in this dramatic international thriller.
The movie, set against a backdrop of espionage and counter intelligence, is about discovering the wicked truth of misguided religious patriotism.
Just like in real life, a lot of people die in vain in this movie. Chasing Cheadle across the globe is an FBI agent played by Guy Pearce, who thinks taking his man down puts him on the good side.
The film mirrors real-life situations in a world gone mad with terrorism in the name of major religions. It begs the question, just who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in this topsy-turvy world of satellites and secret service?
Just when you might think dramatic movies are about spies and convicts, along comes the heist flick Flawless, a crime drama about a bank employee (Demi Moore) and a janitor (Michael Caine) who hatch a plan to steal a fortune in diamonds.
Moore, who looks positively regal and elegant in her middle acting years, and Caine, who shows why he might be the most talented and versatile actor of his generation, team up to give audiences a joy ride of pure cinematic pleasure.
The movie is full of gems in life lessons, including one line by Caine that touches at the savage heart of revenge as a price that is always too high.
The final film on my short hit list of best dramatic movies of 2008 is The Counterfeiters, a war drama about a true-life counterfeiting operation in Nazi Germany.
Brilliant acting and a fascinating tale of human suffering set in the midst the most dramatic genocide in world history. The film shows just how deep greed runs in the hearts of evil men. It teaches us that greed, in all its dark forms, is perhaps the greatest evil of all.