The Common Good

Audio: Gearing up for the Oscars with Great Films from 2008

With the bad economy leaving people without a lot of extra money, many of us have been hunkering down at home with a movie and homemade popcorn. Also, the Oscars are coming up, so I thought it would be a good idea to call up our friend and avid film critic, Gareth Higgins, and ask him which movies of 2008 he considers must-see films. You can listen in on our conversation, or read the quick reviews of them from Gareth below.

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Here is his top 10 list for 2008, as well as two more films thrown in for good measure.

Australia: One of the most underrated films of the year, Baz Luhrmann's Australia is a big romantic epic. It's sheer cinematic pleasure and it also has an incredibly political comment to make about the treatment of the aboriginal people in Australia.

Quantum of Solace: This is an art movie about espionage in which the CIA is in bed with a multinational corporation that is trying to destabilize the democratically elected government in Bolivia in order to steal the water rights and sell the water back to poor people at a high premium. This seems to me like it should have been Sojourners' film of the year!

And now for Gareth's Top 10 Films of 2008:

10. My Winnipeg: A Canadian film about how our childhood memories of where we grew up are parts of ourselves that we always want to recapture.

9. The Rolling Stones concert movie Shine a Light and U2 3D, because they are both great cinematic experiences -- and in the U2 film, it really felt like going to church with Bono as the pastor.

8. Happy-Go-Lucky: This film is about a woman who's just incredibly happy, and the film shows that her experience of what goes on in her life depends on how she looks at them.

7. The Dark Knight: No one's quite sure whether this film is making fun of the war on terror or endorsing it, but that's the genius of it.

6. Rachel Getting Married: A small film about a Connecticut family and the most unrealistic wedding in all of history. By the time the wedding happens, the story of a recovering addict who's got a lot of tragedy in her past has gripped you so much, and become so compelling, that you just want to join in with the wedding.

5. Milk: Gus Van Sant's film about the gay rights movement is not just about gay rights but about social movements in general.

6. Heartbeat Detector: A French movie about unethical business practices, another topic in which Sojourners is interested.

3. Wall-E: This movie is not just the best animated film of the year, but an amazing feat of technology and artistry that has a moral vision of the future that requires us to pay attention.

2. The Visitor: This is a lovely little movie about a depressed, nearing-retirement college professor who is brought back to life by meeting a Senegalese jewelry maker and a Syrian djembe player and then helping them to negotiate the U.S. immigration process.

1. Man on Wire: A documentary about Philippe Petit, a French circus performer, who in 1974 fired a bow and arrow between the two towers of World Trade Center and walked on a tight rope across it -- which on one hand could be the stupidest thing a person could do, but on the other is a work of great artistry.

Gareth HigginsDr. Gareth Higgins is a writer and broadcaster from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has worked as an academic and activist. He is the author of the insightful How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films. He blogs at and co-presents "The Film Talk" podcast with Jett Loe at

Jeannie ChoiJeannie Choi is an assistant editor at Sojourners.

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