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The Best and Worst of 2008

While Ledger was onscreen, The Dark Knight pushed the outside of the envelope.

THE DARK KNIGHT: Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, I'm an agent of chaos...

But The Joker overshadowed Batman and that threw the film off balance. If director Christopher Nolan had pushed the envelope as much as Ledger, then The Dark Knight would have ranked higher than nine on my list. Coming in at 8 is Iron Man . Although The Dark Knight was more ambitious. Iron Man gets points for aiming lower but achieving exactly what it set out to do. Plus Robert Downey, Jr. was perfect.

IRON MAN: Reporter: Do you rehearse that? <br> Yes, in front of a mirror every night.

The next three slots are taken by foreign films. In the seventh position is the South Korean film Shadows at the Palace that played at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. This all-female murder mystery set in the 15th century serves up an elegant surface but with evil lurking ominously below. Coming in at 6 is Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Time Redux ,a retooled version of his 1994 Hong Kong actioner. This quirky riff on martial arts and Sergio Leone serves up the most seductive images of the year. And at number 5 is Joachim Trier's Reprise. This hip, heady mix of pop culture, punk music and French poetry boasts a playful non-linear structure that's a pure delight.

In fourth position, is another film that plays with time, David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.


BENJAMIN: Our lives are defined by opportunities even the ones we miss...

Fincher doesn't miss any opportunities here with his tale of a man who ages in reverse. Like Thorton Wilder's play Our Town , the film takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary by tweaking our perspective. Trying to make us view issues from a different perspective is The Visitor. Quiet, subtle and absolutely perfect, the film looked at immigration through the prism of one man's friendship with an illegal alien.

THE VISITOR: You can't just take people away like that. He was a good man, person, it's not fair.

And it's not fair to have to choose between these final two films for the best of the year. The films are so different that I'll have to call it a tie between the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In and Danny Boyle's tale of love and destiny, Slumdog Millionare . Both films ignited the screen with freshness and bold innovation making the bulk of what came out this year look stale by comparison. Now we'll have to wait and see if any of these films catch Oscar's eye so they can nab some gold at the box office.

And here are a few other awards I'd like to hand out:

Best Documentaries: Up the Yangtze and Man on Wire

Best Animated: Waltz for Bashir (for adults); Wall-E (for kids)

Worst casting: Tom Cruise in Valkyrie

Most unexpectedly funny performance: Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

Best song (normally something I think is totally pointless but this year I had to highlight): Rock Me Sexy Jesus from Hamlet 2 and Bruce Springsteeen's title track for The Wrestler

Best Pot Comedy (that is a comedy that's gross and vulgar but ultimately good-natured and sweet): Zack and Miri Make a Porno ; Runners up: Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo

Best Ensemble: Rachel Getting Married

Best Guilty Pleasure: Mamma Mia!

Worst Movies: Jumper, 10,000 B.C., Eagle Eye, Surfer Dude

Best Car Chase: Wanted , and Vantage Point

Best Production Design: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hellboy II, The Fall