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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Andrew O’Hehir

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Andrew O'Hehir

This is the latest ballot in indieWIRE’s 2008 Critics Poll, continuing the tradition of a national survey of critics by calling attention to the year’s best — and, in many cases, most overlooked — films, providing a meaningful counterpoint to much of the year-end hoopla. Note that some lists are unranked at the discretion of the critic. For all categories except Best Undistributed Film, eligible feature films had first-run theatrical engagements in the U.S. during 2008. Films without a U.S. distributor, screened anywhere (festival circuit, one-off screenings, etc.), are eligible in the Best Undistributed Film category. The full list of critics poll ballots is available here at indieWIRE and tabulated results are being published by indieWIRE later this month.

Andrew O’Hehir

Best Film
1 – A Christmas Tale
2 – Waltz With Bashir
3 – Chop Shop
4 – Encounters at the End of the World
5 – The Flight of the Red Balloon
6 – Momma’s Man
7 – Man on Wire
8 – The Order of Myths
9 – Heartbeat Detector
10 – The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

Best Performance
1 – Jeff Goldblum, Adam Resurrected
2 – Juliette Binoche, Flight of the Red Balloon
3 – Ayca Damgaci, My Marlon and Brando
4 – Ivan Barnev, I Served the King of England
5 – Galina Vishnevskaya, Alexandra

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Jean-Paul Roussillon, A Christmas Tale
2 – Elise Muller, Baghead
3 – Hama Ali Kahn, My Marlon and Brando
4 – David Strathairn, My Blueberry Nights
5 – Lina Leandersson, Let the Right One In

Best Director
Arnaud Desplechin, A Christmas Tale

Best Screenplay
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Best First Feature

Best Documentary
Waltz With Bashir

Best Undistributed Film
1 – Nerdcore Rising
2 – Birdsong
3 – Tony Manero

Strong year for serious-minded foreign films, with one (Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale) that’s up there with the big fellas. And an even better year for documentaries, with several groundbreaking efforts (Waltz With Bashir, Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, Man on Wire). For American independent films, not so hot. I loved Momma’s Man and Chop Shop, by the two best young American directors I see anywhere. But both seem now unfairly and unfortunately linked to the mini neorealist wave, whose audience barely extends outside the film festival circuit. I don’t have a problem with movies beloved by critics and ignored by the public — I mean, that category would include most of my favorites. But to be earnest and didactic *and* massively unpopular, a la Ballast or The Pool or August Evening, bespeaks an underlying aesthetic failure.

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