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indieWIRE & Industry Top 10s for 2008

By Indiewire | Indiewire December 31, 2008 at 4:52AM

A final look back at 2008... this time featuring top ten lists from the editors of indieWIRE and industry insiders. Participants were invited to include films released theatrically this year, but each person devised his or her own criteria. indieWIRE readers are invited to post their own top ten list for the year in the comments section below (and don't forget to include your name).
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A final look back at 2008... this time featuring top ten lists from the editors of indieWIRE and industry insiders. Participants were invited to include films released theatrically this year, but each person devised his or her own criteria. indieWIRE readers are invited to post their own top ten list for the year in the comments section below (and don't forget to include your name).

indieWIRE EDITORS

EUGENE HERNANDEZ
indieWIRE, Editor-in-Chief (blog link)

No film this year wholly moved me the way that last year's "There Will Be Blood" did, so I don't have a single movie atop my personal list. That said, there is a strong roster of movies that I feel are the best of 2008. The majority of the films on this year's list are films rooted in reality, exploring true stories, or feature real people on screen. Along with inspired new narrative stories from Woody Allen, Arnaud Desplechin, Courtney Hunt, Charlie Kaufman, and Gus Van Sant are an engaging doc about Derek Jarman, the harrowing story of the Comorrah in Italy, the exuberant tale of a man soaring about the World Trade Center, the life of America's first openly gay politician and activist, an inspiring story of survival amidst the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and an anti-war statement emerging from a therapeutic exploration of lost memories.

Best of 2008:

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"A Christmas Tale"
"Derek"
"Frozen River"
"Gomorrah"
"Man on Wire"
"Milk" / "Paranoid Park"
"Trouble the Water"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
"Waltz with Bashir"

Ten honorable mentions:
"Che," "Chris & Don: A Love Story," "In Search of a Midnight Kiss," "Moving Midway," "Operation Filmmaker," "The Order of Myths," "Silent Light," "Snow Angels, "Wall-E," and "We Are Together"

Five undistributed gems:
"35 Shots of Rum," "In a Dream," "Lovely, Still," "Me and Orson Welles," and "Prodigal Sons"


BRIAN BROOKS
indieWIRE, Managing Editor

(These are in rough order)

1. "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" - A true crime that it was not shortlisted for best doc by the Academy. What were they thinking? Riveting and what a surprise to learn so much about a scandal that has been judged in the court of public opinion.

2. "The Class" - Such a simple concept, and yet the audience and I were glued to the screen.

3. "Che" Part I - A lot of pre-screening hype in Cannes and I had to fight my way in with my lowly blue press pass, but it was well worth it. Great acting and an account worthy of a pop icon.

4. "Milk" - California shamed itself in November with the passage of Proposition 8, but a hero of equal rights from the past shines a light for the future. I hope Sean Penn gets a nomination - a backlash be damned!

5. "Man on Wire" - Beautiful, passionate, exhilarating!

6. "Gomorrah" - This may not have the same appeal to the masses as "Goodfellas" or other worthy Hollywood mob epics, but it's a real McCoy and spellbinding.

7. "Encounters at the End of the World" - Only Herzog could convey an awe of the seventh continent without a visit.

8. "I've Loved You So Long" - "Can you imagine how Hollywood would've tried to do this story?" was a comment a fellow journalist said to me after exiting the theater after the press screening. Kristin Scott Thomas deserves a nom!

9. "Ballast" - In reference to the above, it's heartening to see American directors can tackle a difficult story and avoid the cheese.

10. "Slumdog Millionaire" - Amazing cinematography and a unique story, enough said.

(Note: If "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" is actually an '08 release, then it's definitely number 1 on my list!)

Runners-up: "A Christmas Tale," "Frozen River," "Flight of the Red Balloon," "Che" Part II

Missed out on: "My Winnipeg," "Synecdoche New York, "Mr. Lonely," "The Wrestler," "Waltz with Bashir" and some others... My Bad.


PETER KNEGT
indieWIRE, Assistant Editor (blog link)

I find it hard to agree with the multitude of arguments that 2008 was any sort of weak year for filmmaking. The ten films I narrowed down for this list jointly represent all the adjectives you want from great cinema: affecting, challenging, ambitious, inspiring... I think a lot of the year's collective criticism came from all the letdowns of the final few months. That dozen or so films with great gold hopes that failed to, at least personally, impress, mostly due to one common factor: a lack of any emotional relationship between the screen and the viewer. But that was not the case in the films noted here (and take note: all but one of which screened at least through a festival prior to August). All of these films I can totally go back to in my mind and regain a sense of my reaction. Every moment Poppy spent in the car with Scott. That final scene in "Wendy and Lucy." The awe-inspiring first fifteen minutes of "WALL-E." The first frame of Heath Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight." The walk home from watching "Synecdoche, New York."

Though I'll admit it was probably more challenging to place numbers in front of these films than in most years. Perhaps because no one film had the overwhelming sense of artistry that films that topped this list in the past had ("There Will Be Blood," "Far From Heaven," "Brokeback Mountain," for example). So it should be understood that had I arranged this list last week or next, the order might have been entirely different.

1. "Wendy & Lucy"
2. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
3. "WALL-E"
4. "The Dark Knight"
5. "Waltz with Bashir"
6. "Milk"
7. "A Christmas Tale"
8. "Synecdoche, New York"
9. "Ballast"
10. "Let The Right One In"

Definitely worth mention: "The Class," "Man on Wire," "Gomorrah," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Pineapple Express," "Up The Yangtze," "Rachel Getting Married," "Momma's Man," "Frozen River," and "The Wrestler."


INDUSTRY INSIDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS

ERICA ABEEL
indieWIRE Contributor

(Note: unranked)

"Waltz with Bashir" - Co-opting the style of underground comics to explore the crossroads of history and dream, it's trippy, sexy, and appalling
"Happy-Go-Lucky" - An existential broadside on choosing joy
"A Christmas Tale" - Enlists disease as a metaphor for familial disorders, plus offers vintage Deneuve
"Paranoid Park" - Gorgeous blend of image, sound design, and fractured form to capture the texture of guilt
"The Duchess of Langeais" - A haunting Guillaume Depardieu becomes the embodiment of love as lethal combat
"The Last Mistress" - Made-in-heaven match of Argento and Breillat, plus super-hot Fu'ad Ait Aattou
"The Class" - A seamless performance with the gall to trust its own materials
"Alexandra" - What could be more sublime than Vishnevskaya as Mother Russia, Sokurov's incestuous family ties, and his palette of leached-out sepia and silvered nights?
"The Reader" - Winslett soars in a remarkable adaptation that cruelly toys with viewer sympathy
"The Band's Visit" - Its Chekhovian spirit captures the poignancy and triumphs of small lives


KIM ADELMAN
indieWIRE Shorts Contributor

As the short film columnist for indieWIRE, I'm always favorably inclined toward feature films made by directors who have a short film credit or two on their IMDB page. If you liked these movies, check out the filmmakers' shorter work.

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"Be Kind Rewind"
"Frozen River"
"In Bruges"
"Milk"
"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist"
"Ping Pong Playa"
"RocknRolla"
"Stop-Loss"
"Timecrimes"
"Under the Same Moon"


RICK ALLEN
CEO, SnagFilms

1. "Slumdog Millionaire"
2. "The Dark Knight"
3. "Kicking It"
4. "Man on Wire"
5. "Wall-E"
6. "Milk"
7. "Waltz with Bashir"
8. "Taxi to the Dark Side"
9. "Haze"
10. "Ted: The Future We Will Create"


SHAZ BENNETT
Associate Director of Programming, AFI FEST

I had a really hard time narrowing it down to 10 - there are 15 I think stood out above the rest. There were also some wonderful films from the 2007 festival year which were on my favorite unreleased list last year which I decided to omit for space, but I'm so glad they finally came out!

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"The Class"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"Frozen River"
"Happy-Go-Lucky"
"Hunger"
"Man on Wire"
"Milk"
"Momma's Man"
"The Order of Myths"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"Secrecy"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Waltz with Bashir"
"Wendy and Lucy"

Best as yet undistributed films of 2008:
"Acne"
"Afterschool"
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil"
"Goodbye Solo"
"Finally Lillian and Dan"
"Intimades de Shakespeare y Victor Hugo"
"I'm Gonna Explode (Voy a Explotar)"
"Last Days of Shishmaref"


ANTHONY BREGMAN
Producer, Likely Story

1. "Synecdoche, New York"
2. "Prince of Broadway"
3. "Let the Right One In"
4. "The Visitor"
5. "Kung Fu Panda"
6. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
7. "Burn After Reading"
8. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
9. "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
10. "American Teen"


EFE CAKAREL
Founder and CEO, The Auteurs

1. "Flight of the Red Balloon"
2. "Wall-E"
3. "A Christmas Tale"
4. "Ballast"
5. "Still Life"
6. "Let the Right One In"
7. "My Winnipeg"
8. "The Edge of Heaven"
9. "Wendy and Lucy"
10. "The Wrestler"


MATT DENTLER
Cinetic Media (blog link)

Top Films of 2008:
1. "The Dark Knight"
2. "Slumdog Millionaire"
3. "Wall-E"
4. "Let the Right One In"
5. "Man on Wire"
6. "Synecdoche, New York"
7. "The Order of Myths"
8. "Milk"
9. "The Edge of Heaven"
10. "Glory at Sea"

Web Series:
1. "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"
2. "Wainy Days"
3. "The Stagg Party"

Original Viral Video:
1. "Where the Hell is Matt?"
2. "Prop 8: The Musical"
3. "JC Penney's 'Beware of the Doghouse'"

New Film Portal:
1. Hulu
2. YouTube Screening Room
3. SnagFilms

Relaunched Film Portal:
1. Amazon VOD
2. Joost
3. Babelgum


JEFF DEUTCHMAN
IFC Films

1. "Silent Light"
2. "Flight of the Red Balloon"
3. "Hunger"
4. "Paranoid Park"
5. "The Secret of the Grain"
6. "My Winnipeg"
7. "Man on Wire"
8. "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait"
9. "Dear Zachary"
10. "The Pleasure of Being Robbed"

Also right up there:
"California Dreamin' (Endless)," "A Christmas Tale," "The Class," "The Dark Knight," "Encounters at the End of the World," "Frownland," "Funny Games," "Happy-Go-Lucky," "My Effortless Brilliance," "Operation Filmmaker," "The Order of Myths,"
"Rachel Getting Married," "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," "Timecrimes," the first half of "Wall-E," and "The Wrestler"

I usually like to have more of a combination between Hollywood and its peripheries, but this year's Holly/Indie-wood has been a wasteland, while international art cinema, documentaries, and the American underground have been on fire.

Best Undistributed:
"35 Shots of Rhum"
"Afterschool"
"Bullet in the Head"
"The Headless Woman"
"Mum and Dad"
"My Life Inside"
"My Magic"
"Prince of Broadway"
"Private Lessons"
"The Windmill Movie"


BRITTA ERICKSON
Festival Director, Starz Denver Film Festival/Denver Film Society

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"A Christmas Tale"
"The Dark Knight"
"Flight of the Red Balloon"
"Milk"
"Quantum of Solace"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"They Killed Sister Dorothy"
"WALL-E"
"Wendy and Lucy"

There were so many great docs this year ("Encounters", "Man on Wire", "Yangtze") that I could have made a doc-only list so I chose to put one only - my sentimental favorite - on this list.


HOWARD FEINSTEIN
indieWIRE Contributor

1. "Gran Torino"
2. "The Secret of the Grain"
3. "Alexandra"
4. "Silent Light"
5. "Wall-E"
6. "Milk"
7. "My Winnipeg"
8. "Still Life"
9. "Standard Operating Procedure"
10. "Rachel Getting Married"

"Gran Torino" is number 1. Amerindie filmmakers should worship at the altar of Eastwood the director as well as Eastwood the actor. The man is self-effacing rather than flashy, such a master of conventional techniques and themes that he can beneficially bend them for maximum effect and provocation. What a relief it is to watch a great film that is ABOUT characters and ABOUT important issues, and not in boring, predictable Sundance fashion but in an original, evolved manner. The Clintian canon is singular.

In addition to "Gran Torino," "Milk" at 6 and "Rachel Getting Married" at 10 indicate that there is room out there for excellent character-driven works about real life, no matter how dark it can be. That the directors of all three films (Eastwood, van Sant, and Demme) are older and established is a bit troubling: Are novices relegated to imitation Hollywood crap until they gain loads of clout?

The sublime is frequently inexpensive. The most intense exceptional films released here in 2008 - Abdellatif Kechiche's working-class-Arab, cinematic familieroman The Secret of the Grain (2, France), Alexandre Sokurov's devastating antiwar piece "Alexandra" (3, Russia), and "Silent Light" (4, Mexico), Carlos Reygadas's spare meditation on Dreyer's Ordet channeled through a contemporary Mennonite community - prove that film deserves to be termed the seventh art (if only occasionally) but only far away from the technical one-sidedness of the School of Visual Arts, the New York Film Academy, and industry towns like LA. Will we in this country remain spiritually and intellectually impoverished in our film projects? The election of Obama sent a signal that change is what we want. Might there also be a movie messiah on the horizon?

The medium can still function well as the message. Witness achievements like Alexander Stanton's "Wall-E" (5), clever, visually motivated animation broaching timely topics, and Canadian iconoclast Guy Maddin's anti-naturalistic satire "My Winnipeg" (7), the funniest movie of the year.

Documentaries, and doc-like fiction, continue to blossom aesthetically: to their benefit, they are becoming more and more... un-Moored. Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke continues to fuse fiction and non-fiction, especially in his most recent film, "24 City." But already in "Still Life" (8), he was nipping and tucking the screenplay with more "real" elements - in spite of the fact that he made "Dong," a "pure" doc that, like "Still Life," focuses on the horrible residual effects of the massive Three Gorges Dam project on the citizenry. A borderless hybrid like "Still Life" could be, or perhaps should be, where we are headed. I'm not sure why audiences stayed away from Errol Morris's stylized doc "Standard Operating Procedure" (9) - is it that Abu Ghraib was covered, and free, on cable? - but the film is downright Wagnerian in its aesthetic integration. Most of the other 2008 releases will soon be forgotten, but this one will stand the test of time.


JON FOUGNER
Facebook

1. "The Dark Knight"
2. "Milk"
3. "Slumdog Millionaire"
4. "Assassination of a High School President"
5. "Rachel Getting Married"
6. "The Wrestler"
7. "Edge of Heaven"
8. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
9. "American Teen"
10. "A Christmas Tale"

Jan Wahl's objection that "The Dark Knight"'s mere PG-13 rating demonstrates the absurdity of the MPAA's value system, given the movie's violence, is well taken; riding this roller coaster opening weekend on IMAX deserves an R for Rocking and Rolling in a way that proves that exhibition is still economically viable. The efforts of Dustin Lance Black, Sean Penn, Gus Van Sant, Michael London, and Danny Elfman were lovingly poured into "Milk," a timely reminder of America's need for the San Francisco Bay Area to continue to nudge the United States towards the right side of history. "Slumdog Millionaire"'s central narratological device (tying extended flashbacks to Millionaire questions) isn't any harder won than, say, printing fiat money or rhyming words by changing their last syllable, but the soundtrack, photography, directing, editing, and acting riveted me to my seat and made the film a party-in-a-movie-theater. Including "Assassination of a High School President" is a cheat, since it's unreleased, and that's the problem: Brett Simon's hysterical feature-length debut brought down the house in both Park City and Austin, deftly chilling out his music video sensibility and lassoing Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis, and Mischa Barton onto his wavelength to print this cool-as-a-cucumber, beautifully colored, faux noir. Hat tip to Colin Darretta for pointing me to the SPC gem "Rachel Getting Married," whose director Jonathan Demme brings a handicam verisimilitude (I expect the toast scene will be taught for years) to the Stamford, CT wedding preparations that serve as much more than the backdrop to Anne Hathaway's often infuriating sister-of-the-bride. Mickey Rourke is just too good in "The Wrestler" and will give Sean Penn a run for his money. Hat tip to Harry Chotiner for pointing me to Fatih Akin's devasting Turkish-German film "The Edge of Heaven." I can't justify why Woody Allen's ridiculous summer abroad parody "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" makes the list over, say, "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," but I had as much fun watching it as the cast seem to have had making it, and I hope it signals a renaissance of Weinsteins' Midas touch. Not altogether objectively, "American Teen" is my favorite of an embarrassingly short list of docs I managed to see this year because its story is sincerely told and universal; Variety's objection to that very timelessness seems cynical. Recent leading French cinema seems hyper-conscious of itself as an artistic medium at once participating in and other than its august lineage of (mostly) higher media (vide "Diving Bell"'s direct allusions to magazines, TV, photography, marble work, music, drawing, fashion, theater, and of course fictional and non-fictional literature), and top contenders this year like "Flight of the Red Balloon" and even "Man on Wire" are no exception, but my favorite this year was "A Christmas Tale."


JASON GUERRASIO
indieWIRE Production Columnist

There wasn't really a film that I could definitively go to the mat for this year. But there were more than ten that I really enjoyed.

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"Che"
"The Class"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Elegy"
"Man on Wire"
"Milk"
"Momma's Man"
"Paranoid Park"
"Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired"
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
"Wall-E"
"The Wrestler"

Still need to see: "Ballast," "Frost/Nixon," and "Gran Torino"

Film that deserves distribution: Antonio Campos's "Afterschool"

Films I enjoyed that open in early '09:
"Sugar" - Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's ("Half Nelson") look at a Latin baseball pitcher's climb to the Majors is as authentic as they come. But its draw is not only limited to sports fans. With solid storytelling and beautiful lensing by d.p. Andrij Parekh, the film has been wowing arthouse audiences on the festival circuit since it premiered at Sundance. (Opens in early April)

"Adventureland" - Greg Mottola returns to the indie world after making a splash in Hollywood with "Superbad" in 2007. In his latest film he looks at recent college grads stuck in a summer job at a cheesy amusement park in 1980s Pittsburgh. Starring Jesse Eisenberg ("The Squid and the Whale") and Kristen Stewart ("Twilight"), this coming-of-age romantic comedy will certainly bring back a lot of nostalgic memories of a mundane first job or the drama surrounding a first love. (Screening in Premieres section at Sundance then opens in late March)


MARIE THERESE GUIRGIS
Manager

(Note: unranked)

"Gran Torino"
"The Flight of the Red Balloon"
"A Christmas Tale"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Let The Right One In"
"Paranoid Park"
"Silent Light"
"Iron Man"
"The Visitor"
"Alexandra"


CHRIS HYAMS
Founder, B-Side Entertainment

1. "Wall-E"
2. "It Might Get Loud"
3. "Slumdog Millionaire"
4. "JCVD"
5. "The Wrestler"
6. "Waltz with Bashir"
7. "Let The Right One In"
8. "Synecdoche, NY"
9. "More Than a Game"
10. "The Dark Night"

Yes, #'s 2 & 9 don't get released until 2009, but I saw both at Toronto and they're definitely on my list.

Favorite undistributed film: "Visioneers"
Favorite theatrical experience: "U2 3D" (IMAX)
Biggest disappointment: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"


DOUG JONES
Senior Programmer, Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival

Since the two best films I saw this year both start with W, I'll do this in reverse-alphabetical order, so they can be on top.

"Wendy and Lucy"
"WALL-E"
"Must Read After My Death"
"Mirageman"
"Mechanical Love"
"Loot"
"Let the Right One In"
"KJFG No. 5"
"Hunger"
"Ballast"


JYTTE JENSEN
Curator, Department of Film, MoMA

(Note: unranked)

"Silent Light"
"Still Life"
"Trouble the Water"
"35 Shots of Rum"
"Razzle Dazzle"
"Ballast"
"The Headless Woman"
"Hunger"
"The Secret of the Grain"
"The Silence Before Bach"


KEATON KAIL
IFC Films

1. "A Christmas Tale"
2. "Wall-E"
3. "Let the Right One In"
4. "Encounters at the End of the World"
5. "Azur & Asmar"
6. "Hunger"
7. "Waltz with Bashir"
8. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
9. "Flight of the Red Balloon"
10. "Wendy & Lucy"
11. The Dark Knight

Good films, not yet in release:
"Private Lessons," "The Chaser," "The Good the Bad the Weird," "Hafez," and "Tokyo Gore Police"

Disclaimer: I've still to see a ton of films that interest me. And apparently my tastes are a giant conflict of interest. Forgive me.


AARON KATZ
Filmmaker, "Quiet City"

There are a lot of movies from 2008 that I haven't seen yet so I'm only going to make a list of five new releases.

Top 5 New Releases of 2008
1. "Paranoid Park"
2. "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait"
3. "Let the Right One In"
4. "The Pleasure of Being Robbed"
5. "Silent Light"

Top 5 Repertory Experiences of 2008
1. "Tango & Cash" at BAM
2. "Alien" at IFC Center
3. "Unfaithfully Yours" at Walter Reade
4. "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" at BAM
5. "The Wicker Man" (2006) at Sunshine

Top 5 VHS Experiences of 2008
1. "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle"
2. "The Pelican Brief"
3. "Breakdown"
4. "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"
5. "Double Team"


ERIC KOHN
indieWIRE Contributor and blogger (blog link)

1. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
2. "Mister Lonely"
3. "Frownland"
4. "Eden"
5. "The Class"
6. "Tropic Thunder"
7. "My Father, My Lord"
8. "Man on Wire"
9. "Chop Shop"
10. "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired"


PETER LAWSON
VP Acquisitions, Miramax Films

1. "Slumdog Millionaire"
2. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
3. "The Dark Knight"
4. "Frost/Nixon"
5. "Tropic Thunder"
6. "Vicky Christina Barcelona"
7. "Man on Wire"
8. "Reprise"
9. "Waltz with Bashir"
10. "Australia" (I am an Aussie after all!)


MICHAEL LERMAN
indieWIRE Contributor and blogger (blog link)

1. "The Wrestler"
2. "The Order of Myths"
3. "Snow Angels"
4. "Wendy and Lucy"
5. "Hunger"
6. "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired"
7. "Silent Light" / "The Secret of the Grain"
8. "Let the Right One In" / "Timecrimes"
9. "The Class" / "A Christmas Tale"
10. "Wall-E" / "Kung Fu Panda"

Honorable Mention: "The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela," "Burn After Reading," "Momma's Man," "The Pleasure of Being Robbed," "Baghead," "Man on Wire," "Late Bloomer," "My Winnipeg," "Surfwise," "Mister Lonely," "Son of Rambow," and "How She Move".


GARY MEYER
Co-Director, Telluride Film Festival; Program Director, Balboa Theatre, San Francisco

I hate limiting myself to ten films and having to put them in a ranking (so they are in alpha order). Because I see films at festivals and in screenings long before they are released theatrically as part of my job as Co-Director of the Telluride Film Festival, my own personal list would not reflect the reality of what most readers have had access to see.

These are the films in both General and San Francisco release during 2008:
"The Curious Case of Banjamin Button"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Happy-Go-Lucky"
"In Bruges"
"Iron Man"
"Man on Wire"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Wall-E"

These films may have opened New York and/or Los Angeles in 2007 but not until 2008 in most of the country. They belong on the above list:
"4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days"
"The Band's Visit"
"The Counterfeiters"
"The Diving Bell and The Butterfly"
"Jar City"

These would be in the top list also if they had opened SF in 2008:
"The Class"
"Everlasting Moments"
"Gomorrah"
"Hunger"
"Kisses"
"Revanche"
"The Secret of the Grain"
"Tulpan"
"Waltz with Bashir"

DVDs got more interesting and so much superb material came out that special appreciation must be paid to Criterion Collection, Kino, Flicker Alley, Milestone, and Warner Brothers Home Video (thank you George Feltenstein) with Sony/Columbia starting to do some great stuff (with the consultation of Mike Schlesinger) and Fox offering a couple of amazing box sets and superb film noir titles with extras.


JARED MOSHE
Partner, Sidetrack Films (blog link)

(Note: unranked)

"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Wall-E"
"The Dark Knight"
"Waltz with Bashir"
"The Wrestler"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"Changeling" - yes, I realize I am the only person who liked this movie.
"Man on Wire"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"The Wire" (Season 5) - When a large number of film stalwarts disappear from a major film festival to watch a TV show, it deserves to be on this list.


DAVID NUGENT
Director of Programming, Hamptons International Film Festival

In vague order:

1. "Reprise" & "The Pleasure of Being Robbed": These two films signaled to me, in ways both strikingly similar and distinct, the freshness of cinema in 2008 and that smart and intuitive filmmakers can be heavily influenced by the work that preceded them, while still breathing fresh new life into the form.
2. "Waltz with Bashir": A truly successful and haunting film that has really stuck with me.
3. "Hunger": Combined the best elements of video art and narrative filmmaking.
4. "Loot": Great pairing of filmmaker to subject resulting in a lazily enchanting film.
5. "Boogie": Amazing attention to the intricacies, tone, and tempo of romantic love and transitions in adult life.
6. "Modern Life (La Vie Moderne)": Patient and insightful documentary filmmaking.
7. "A Christmas Tale": The most interesting use of music in a film I've seen in a while. A filmmaker truly in command of his craft.
8. "Shotgun Stories": Michael Shannon's quiet intensity continues to impress.
9. "Mister Lonely": Another fascinating film from a truly unique filmmaker.
10. "Paranoid Park" & "Milk": These two together confirm Van Sant as my favorite American filmmaker in my life.

Additional: "Lorna's Silenve," "Elegy," "Tyson," and "Married Life"


DANA O'KEEFE
Cinetic Media

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"The Dark Knight"
"Hunger"
"Let the Right One In"
"Man on Wire"
"Momma's Man"
"My Winnipeg"
"The Pool"
"The Order of Myths"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
"Waltz with Bashir"


CHARLIE OLSKY
Susan Norget Film Promotion

In the interest of fairness, I have chosen not to include films that I have worked on. Unfortunately, this includes films such as "Silent Light," "A Christmas Tale," "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)," "Ballast," and "Man on Wire," so this makes the task more difficult.

1. "Synecdoche, New York"
2. "Flight of the Red Balloon"
3. "The Order of Myths"
4. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
5. "The Duchess of Langeais"
6. "My Winnipeg"
7. "Wall-E"
8. "The Wrestler"
9. "Baghead"
10. "Days and Clouds"

Movies I have not yet seen that I'm sure would be in contention:
"Waltz with Bashir," "In the City of Silvia," "The Witnesses," "Up the Yangtze," and "Tuya's Marriage"


RICHARD PENA
Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"Ballast"
"A Christmas Tale"
"The Class"
"Frozen River"
"The Headless Woman"
"Summer Hours"
"Timecrimes"
"24 City"
"Waltz with Bashir"
"The Wrestler"


JANET PIERSON
Producer, SXSW Film Conference and Festival

1. "Synecdoche, NY"
2. "Milk"
3. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
4. "The Wrestler"
5. "Encounters at the End of the World"
6. "Hunger"
7. "Waltz with Bashir"
8. "Reprise"
9. "My Winnipeg"
10. "Mister Lonely"

This is only the barest snapshot of films I've loved this year. The "year" isn't absolute - I see a lot of films at festivals rather than during their theatrical releases. And this year in particular, I saw so much I enjoyed at SXSW, Toronto International Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival - way more than ten total. There's also a ton of films I haven't seen this year, both commercial and art/independent that I'm sure I would have enjoyed e.g.: "I've Loved Your So Long," "A Christmas Tale," and "Gomorrah."


MILTON TABBOT
Senior Director, Programming, IFP

(Note: Unranked, alphabetical order)

"Ballast"
"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"Hunger"
"Man on Wire"
"My Winnipeg"
"Paranoid Park"
"Silent Light"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"WALL.E"
"Wendy and Lucy"

Less films on my own personal list this year, so that must mean something! I abided by the criteria this time around so held back "Summer Hours" and "Tulpan," but because I had listed "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" in 2007, I didn't repeat it.


TOM QUINN
Senior Vice President/Head of Acquisitions, Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing

1. "Gomorrah"
2. "Slumdog Millionaire" / "Wall-E" (tie)
3. "Man on Wire"
4. "Let the Right One In"
5. "Reprise"
6. "My Winnipeg"
7. "August Evening" (most impressive debut, director Chris Eska)
8. "Stuck"
9. "Bigger Stronger Faster"
10. "The Wackness"

If I had a few more slots I'd throw in "The Wrestler," "Encounters at the End of the World," "Peter and the Wolf" (Oscar Winner for Animated Short), "Madagascar 2" (I know, I know... I'm a sucker for talking animals... even animated ones), and basically anything screening at the Hyde Park Drive-In Theater, or the Alamo Draft House, South Lamar. Meanwhile, I think I'm sufficiently burned out on superheroes, films based on successful plays, fake mumblecore masquerading as high art, and anything online (excluding Indiewire of course). Finally, if "Soul Power" were released this year it'd be at the top of this list.


MARK RABINOWITZ
Editor in Chief, The Rabbi Report

Best Film (As per usual, I broke the rules. I simply couldn't get it down to 10.)

(Note: unranked, alphabetical order)

"4 Months, 3 Week, 2 Days" (I know this went on many 2007 lists, but it was released in 2008)
"A Christmas Tale"
"Boy A"
"The Counterfeiters" (again, a 2008 release forgotten by many critics come awards time)
"The Dark Knight"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"Flight of the Red Balloon"
"Let the Right One In"
"Gran Torino"
"Man on Wire"
"My Winnipeg"
"The Wrestler"
"Wall-E"

This has been called a "thin year," but I think it's anything but. It's possible that the year-end, awards-bait films were less than exemplary (I haven't seen most of them, but they're meeting with less-than-stellar word of mouth and reviews) but the indie, documentary, and foreign-language films on offer have been exceptional. I couldn't rank my list because to be honest, I have three or four legitimate #1s, including a $530 million blockbuster, a Romanian abortion suspense drama, a Swedish vampire romance, a doc cum heist film about a man who does the impossible, and a genuinely moving animated film about a happy-go-lucky garbage robot and the inter-stellar scout that loves him. Sounds like a pretty great year to me!

Films I haven't yet seen that are making others' lists:
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Happy-Go-Lucky," "Still Life," "Silent Light" (although I'd argue that MoMA run notwithstanding, this is a 2009 release), "Frost/Nixon," "Waltz with Bashir," "Up the Yangtze," "Tell No One," "Rachel Getting Married," "The Order of Myths," "Shotgun Stories," "Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell," "Milk," "Ballast," and "Synecdoche, New York"


RANIA RICHARDSON
indieWIRE Contributor and blogger

0. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days" - Last year's film? This year's film? Either way, it tops.
1. "Days and Clouds" - What love and marriage really look like.
2. "A Christmas Tale" - Lots to think about, lots to talk about, a cup that runneth over.
3. "Caramel" - Nadine Labaki's Lebanese beauty salon comedy is light-years ahead of its American counterparts.
4. "Tell No One" - Give me a white-knuckle chase and a briard with a key role in a thriller any time.
5. "Eight Miles High" - The atmospheric true story of a German model-turned-groupie in the 1960s. Wish I were there.
6. "Lost in Beijing" - Yu Li's sexy story of two generations of couples in a changing China was unfortunately censored at home.
7. "Roman de Gare" - This mystery set in the literary world is made for English-majors like me.
8. "The Black Balloon" - Elissa Down's realistic family portrait got lost in the year-end shuffle. It's very funny and feels wholly authentic.
9. "Sukiyaki Western Django" - Visually delicious genre-bender, with a pistol-packing hot grandma to boot.
10. "Silent Light" and "The Class" - These two outstanding films should really count for 2009, their year of US theatrical release.

In need of distribution:
"The Aquarium" and "Marina of the Zabbaleen" seen at Tribeca
"The Hourglass" and "A Week Alone" seen at Thessaloniki


RAJENDRA ROY
Chief Curator, Department of Film, MoMA

1 Tie: "Wall-E" and "Momma's Man"
2. "Hunger"
3. "Synecdoche, New York"
4. "Milk"
5. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
6. "Ballast"
7. "Trouble the Water"
8. "Waltz with Bashir"
9. "Japan Japan"
10. "Tropic Thunder"

Runners-up: "The Dark Knight," "I've Loved You So Long," and "Pineapple Express"


DUSTY SMITH
Roadside Attractions

1. "Synecdoche, New York"
2. "Paranoid Park"
3. "The Class"
4. "WALL-E"
5. "Gran Torino"
6. "Bigger, Stronger, Faster"
7. "Frozen River"
8. "The Wrestler"
9. "Religulous"
10. "Shotgun Stories"

I've omitted any/all Roadside, or Roadside-affiliated, titles because I remember one time when I was a kid reading Rolling Stone's Artist Top Ten lists and Jimmy Buffett had listed one of his crappy albums as his #1 album of the year and thinking how lame that was. Since then, I've lived my life by one simple rule: Don't be Jimmy Buffett.


BRYAN STAMP
Participant Media

My favorite films:
1. "Goodbye Solo"
2. "The Class"
3. "Wall-E"
4. "Man on Wire"
5. "Synecdoche, New York"
6. "Waltz with Bashir"
7. "Afterschool"
8. "Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed On The Mountains"
9. "The Wrestler"
10. "My Winnipeg" / "Of Time and the City" / "The Beaches of Agnes"
11. "The Exiles" (1961)
12. "A Christmas Tale"
13. "Wendy and Lucy"
14. "Hunger"
15. "Rachel Getting Married"
16. "Treeless Mountain" / "Lake Tahoe"
17. "Medicine for Melancholy"

Plus 3 shorts:
1. "I Am So Proud of You" (animator Don Hertzfeldt's chapter two in the Bill series).
2. "Passages" (the latest animation from Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre and the NFB, a nightmarish recount of a woman's first labor)
3. "Wait for Me" (Ross Kauffman's heartbreaking documentary of a mother's hope and anguish)

With special recognition to:
"Waltz with Bashir," "The Class," "Man on Wire," and "My Winnipeg" for eschewing convention and transcending genres and rewarding filmgoers with unique and exhilarating cinematic experiences.

Filmmakers Guy Maddin, Terrence Davies, and Agnes Varda each for dramatically celebrating the places in their heart - with varying degrees of warmth, sentiment, humor, melancholy, absurdity, wit and charm.

And the two young leads (Hee-yeon Kim and Song-hee Kim) from "Treeless Mountain."
Not since "Ponette" has loss of innocence and feelings of abandonment been so effectively expressed through the lonely and desperate eyes of a grieving child.

For more about my favorite docs of the year check out AJ's blog.


GENNA TERRANOVA
Senior Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival Doha

1. "Slumdog Millionaire"
2. "Wall-E"
3. "The Dark Knight"
4. "Milk"
5. "Man on Wire"
6. "The Wrestler"
7. "Let the Right One In"
8. "Revolutionary Road"
9. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
10. "A Christmas Tale"


ANNE THOMPSPON
Variety

1. "Wall-E"
2. "Slumdog Millionaire"
3. "Milk"
4. "Everlasting Moments"
5. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
6. "Man on Wire"
7. "Waltz with Bashir"
8. "A Christmas Tale"
9. "Wendy and Lucy"
10. "Appaloosa"


ILYA TOVBIS
indieWIRE Contributor

1. "Song of Sparrows" - Iranian helmer Majid Majidi might be the best contemporary filmmaker that consistently works on an intimate human scale and this movie is proof positive of his boundless talent.
2. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" - A film that is deeply devastating and hard to watch, but impossible to keep your eyes off of.
3. "Synecdoche, New York" - Kaufman's loony concoction gets harder to unravel with each viewing, but the pleasure in tangling with his web is unparalleled.
4. "Idiots and Angels" - Bill Plympton at his perverse best: an animated adult fairy that mocks, skewers, and then recycles notions of conventional morality.
5. "Another Planet" - A quiet, lovely, and horrifying glimpse at the state of impoverished children around the world. An incredibly ambitious film (shot with four large crews in as many continents) that never stoops to cheap sentimentality.
6. "WALL-E" - Quite possibly the best Pixar movie ever, which is a tall order. Raucously fun yet intelligently, almost Shakespearingly, layered with morals and subtexts.
7. "My Winnipeg" - This docu-fantasia is a twisted love poem to Guy Maddin's hometown, replete with tall tales of somnambulists, hermaphrodite streets, and frozen horse carcasses.
8. "All is Forgiven" - Deceptively simple, this three-part tale of a down and out father's relationship with his child and girlfriend gently burrows into viewer, and stays with you long after the last reel plays.
9. "Waltz with Bashir" - Striking animation brings the film's innovative storytelling to life, and the dynamite ending is nothing short of haunting.
10. "Ballast" - This account of three poor Mississippi family members dealing with the effects of a suicide is unfiltered and grippingly honest throughout, crafting melancholic beauty out of the Delta's lonely landscape and the characters' unswerving determination to survive an insurmountable loss.


BASIL TSIOKOS
Programming Associate, US Documentary Features, Sundance Film Festival & Former Artistic Director, NewFest: The NY LGBT Film Festival

Top Ten Documentaries:
1. "Man on Wire"
2. "Encounters at the End of the World"
3. "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired"
4. "Chris & Don: A Love Story"
5. "Pray the Devil Back to Hell"
6. "STRANDED: I've come from a plane that crashed on the mountains"
7. "Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived"
8. "Kicking It"
9. "Derek"
10. "Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell"

Top Ten Narratives:
1. "Love Songs"
2. "Paranoid Park"
3. "WALL-E"
4. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days"
5. "Savage Grace"
6. "Milk"
7. "The Dark Knight"
8. "Synecdoche, New York"
9. "Ballast"
10. "Hunger"

Notes: I have limited myself to 2008 commercial releases. I decided to include two lists, separating out documentaries and narratives rather than try to combine the two. I also have not yet seen a few of the bigger end of year releases yet which might change the above lists (though I have seen a number which have deliberately been left off the list).


C. MASON WELLS
IFC Center, filmmaker

1. "I No Longer Hear the Guitar"
2. "In The City of Sylvia"
3. "Still Life"
4. "Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind"
5. "Before I Forget"
6. "Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World"
7. "Stuff and Dough"
8. "Happy-Go-Lucky
9. "Shotgun Stories"
10. "La France"

And, even better, my 10 favorite discoveries at the NY rep houses:
1. Oliveira's "Doomed Love," BAM (Happy 100th, Manoel!)
2. Hawks's "Hatari," Anthology
3. Uchida's "The Mad Fox," BAM
4. Frampton's "Critical Mass," MoMA
5. Woodberry's "Bless Their Little Hearts," Anthology
6. Godard's "Les Carabiniers," Film Forum
7. Oshima's "Taboo," Walter Reade
8. Preminger's "Advise and Consent," Film Forum
9. Depardon's "An Empty Quarter," FIAF
10. Andrei "Yes, I Co-Wrote Andrei Rubley" Konchalovsky's "Tango & Cash," BAM

R.I.P. Manny Farber and Mondo Kim's collection of OOP VHS tapes; you
will both be missed.


RYAN WERNER
IFC Films

Top Films
I chose to do a list without any of the films I worked on at IFC Films. Here are some of my favorites of the past year from other companies:

(Note: unranked)

"Silent Light" and "Alexandra"
"The Dark Knight"
"Gran Torino" and "The Wrestler"
"Synecdoche, New York"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Ballast" and "Reprise"
"The Class"
"Man on Wire" and "Roman Polanski Wanted & Desired" and "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)," and "Encounters at the End of the World"
"Wall-E"
"Happy-Go-Lucky" and "Milk"
"Waltz with Bashir"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

Best Undistributed - "The Headless Woman"
Special Mention - "I Can No Longer Hear The Guitar" - One of the films that really impressed me that was finally released in America by Film Desk.


ROB WILLIAMS
Liberation Entertainment

1. "Wall-E"
2. "Man on Wire"
3. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
4. "Gran Torino"
5. "Vicky Christina Barcelona"
6. "I've Loved You So Long"
7. "Milk"
8. "The Wrestler"
9. "The Edge of Heaven"
10. Tie: "Slumdog Millionaire," "Stranded" "Eden," "The Dark Knight", "In a Dream," "Baghead," "Encounters at the End of the World," and "The Order of Myths"


CAMERON YATES
indieWIRE Contributor and documentary filmmaker, & former Shorts Programmer, NewFest: The NY LGBT Film Festival

1. "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
2. "Silent Light"
3. "A Christmas Tale"
4. "The Flight of the Red Balloon"
5. "Happy-Go-Lucky"
6. "Man on Wire"
7. "Wendy and Lucy"
8. "The Order of Myths"
9. "Synecdoche, New York"
10. "Hunger"

Runners-up: "Ballast," "My Winnipeg," "Gomorrah," "Let the Right One In," "Snow Angels," "The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins," and "Baghead"

This article is related to: Critics' Poll





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