'Wall-E,' 'Torino' win big for '08

The American Film Institute named its best films for 2008 on Sunday afternoon and the big winners were " Wall-E," the Disney/Pixar animated romantic comedy about a lovable robot, and "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood's drama about a widowed bigot who faces his own prejudices.

The AFI Awards 2008 also recognized a pair of television programs, both critically acclaimed cable cop dramas which concluded this year: FX's "The Shield" and HBO's " The Wire."

Besides "Wall-E" and "Gran Torino," AFI rounded out its 10 outstanding films of the year with the fable-like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; the Batman adventure "The Dark Knight"; the historical drama "Frost/Nixon"; a tale of illegal immigrant smuggling, "Frozen River"; the comic book adventure "Iron Man"; the portrayal of slain gay-rights activist Harvey Milk's life, "Milk"; a drama about a woman and her dog, "Wendy and Lucy"; and a drama about an aging athlete who won't quit, "The Wrestler."

Joining "The Shield" and "The Wire" in the television category were NBC's workplace comedy " The Office," HBO's psychological drama " In Treatment," NBC's cop drama "Life," ABC's drama-thriller " Lost," and two AMC dramas, the Emmy-winning "Mad Men" and the off-kilter " Breaking Bad."

Two HBO mini-series also were honored: " John Adams," based on the bestselling book by David McCullough about the nation's second president, and "Recount," based on the events surrounding the 2000 presidential election.

The AFI Awards selections were made by a 13-person jury composed of scholars, industry professionals, critics and AFI trustees.

Among the film jurors were USC film professor Rick Jewell; writer/director/producer Robert Towne; critics Richard Schickel, Elvis Mitchell and Leonard Maltin; and columnist Anne Thompson. Television jurors included AFI president emeritus Jean Picker Firstenberg, The Times' TV critic Mary McNamara and TV Guide's Matt Roush.

The winners will be honored at a luncheon Jan. 9.

King is a Times staff writer.