Thursday, January 01, 2009


Happy New Year, film lovers!

I've heard some reviewers complain that this has been a bad year for film - some of the same reviewers that think a film can't be art unless it's edgy and vile. But if you love films that move and inspire you or films that are true expressions of the filmmaker's artistic vision (even if they make you work for it) - then this was a great year for film!

It is a pleasure to present Reel Inspiration's MOST INSPIRING FILMS 2008. This list is compiled of films that have been promoted through our reviews on Reel Inspiration's blogs. Diverse films with entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope or inspire. Some weight has been given to films that are particularly relevant to the issues of our time.

I realize that there are many definitions and opinions on what makes up an inspiring film. I would love to hear them! That's why I'm giving you a chance to share your favorite inspiring films in the comment section.

Wishing you many movie blessings in the New Year!
Jana Segal


11. Director Mike Leigh is known for using improv to develop his scripts and to get natural dialogue and performances out of his actors. His film, "Happy Go Lucky" goes beyond that. It had me thinking after I left the theater. How many current comedies can you say that about?

10. Charlie Kaufman's film, "Synecdoche, New York," is as challenging as the name. Kaufman literally creates a whole world and realizes his uncompromising (though somewhat depressing) creative vision. Some of the images stayed with me for days and I had real a longing to see it again.

9. The touching film, "Under the Same Moon" puts a human face on the heated debate about illegal immigrants and border issues.

8. "Slumdog Millionaire" was hard for me to sit through - watching all those horrific scenes of Indian slum children being abused. But the highly innovative story builds to a strong ending with the worthy theme of how good triumphs over adversity when you stay on your true path.

6 and 7. Music transcends racial differences and initiates human connections in, "The Visitor" and "The Bands Visit." "The Visitor" also reminds us that kindness is it's own reward - earning it the number 5 spot.

5. "The Secret Life of Bees" is a coming of age story set in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. A runaway white girl learns to cope with the painful truth and find forgiveness through the unconditional love of this uniquely liberated black family. I wanted to stay in the world of this heartwarming film and join the family.

4. In the opening scene, we see through magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s point of view as he awakens from a comatose state. It is as if we are inside his head, seeing through his one good eye. We experience his confusion and claustrophobia after becoming paralyzed with a rare illness called “locked-in syndrome.” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” is a metaphor for how he is trapped in his body, but his mind soars as it creates glorious scenes which explore imagined experiences. As Bauby recuperates, he dictates a memoir through the blink of his eye with the aid of his nurses.

3. "Frost/Nixon" is based on the famous news special in which English talk show host, Frost, tried to coax a confession out of Nixon for his part in Watergate. This is a particularly timely piece since many Americans can relate the feeling of losing faith in our government. I found myself rooting for this second rate talk show host to convince the intellectually superior Nixon to finally take responsibility for the cover up and hurting the American people. Compelling writing and acting. I wasn't watching actors, I was watching Frost and Nixon.

2. "Starting Out in the Evening." Andrew Wagner's sheer love of writing radiates in this deep and touching adult drama set in the dying literary world. It might be because I'm a writer, but this film lives in my heart.

1. Harvey Milk's life as the first openly gay elected official is inspiring enough. But actor Sean Penn (living the role of Harvey Milk), writer Dustin Lance Black, and director Gus Van Sant elevate "Milk" from a biopic to art.

You can find full reviews of these films below.



 Sean Penn won Best Actor and Dustin Lance Black won Best Original Screenplay for "Milk."

"Slumdog Millionaire" won Best Picture, Danny Boyle won Best Director, Simon Beaufoy won Best Adapted Screenplay, Anthony Dod Mantle won Best Cinematography, Chirist Dickens won Best Editing for "Slumdog Millionaire." 

Mike Leigh won Best Original Screenplay for, "Happy Go Lucky." 


Robin Farmer said...

I would add Wall-E to the list. I thought that film was creative and quite delicious. It had a lot to say about our culture and it was a love story at heart.

Richard said...

Though it was far from perfect, the January release THE BUCKET LIST probably belongs here. And STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING was a 2007 film, not 2008.

Others worthy of consideration include: THE BAND'S VISIT, the documentary YOUNG@HEART, THERE's NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS and LAST CHANCE HARVEY.

Richard /

Reel Inspiration said...

Thanks for sharing your recommendations, Richard. My cut off is January 1st. Starting Out in the Evening didn't screen in Tucson until March last year, so it didn't make my 2007 list. "The Bucket List" was a favorite on Reel Inspiration's 2007 survey.

Say, did you vote in the survey in the right column under ABOUT ME? You'll find "The Band Visit," and "There's Nothing Like the Holidays" in the survey.

I wish Last "Chance Harvey" was there too. Thanks for "voting" for it here.

Reel Inspiration said...


You're right. The Bucket List should be on the survey. I don't know how I overlooked it.


Jana Segal said...

It is 2015, and I've decided to right a wrong on this 2008 list. I have added, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" in the number 4 slot.