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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Mark Asch

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Mark Asch

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.

Mark Asch
The L Magazine

Best Film
1 – A Christmas Tale
2 – Ashes of Time Redux
3 – Flight of the Red Balloon
4 – In the City of Sylvia
5 – Love Songs
6 – Mad Detective
7 – Reprise
8 – Still Life
9 – Summer Palace
10 – Synecdoche, New York

Best Performance
1 – Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
2 – Juliette Binoche, Flight of the Red Balloon
3 – Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
4 – Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man
5 – Romola Garai, Angel

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Kelly Lin, Boarding Gate
2 – Ludivine Sagnier, Love Songs
3 – Ahney Her, Gran Torino
4 – Samantha Morton, Synecdoche, New York
5 – Ken and Flo Jacobs, Momma’s Man

Best Director
Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park

Best Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading

Best First Feature
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York

Best Documentary
My Winnipeg

Best Undistributed Film
1 – United Red Army
2 – 24 City
3 – Sparrow
4 – Night and Day
5 – The Headless Woman
6 – The Mourning Forest
7 – Angel

This year, leftovers 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Paranoid Park, The Last Mistress, Silent Light, Flight of the Red Balloon, plus momentum-capitalizing qualifier runs for The Class, Hunger, Gomorrah, Che; next year, Summer Hours, Tulpan, Tokyo Sonata. Semiseriously now, guys — have you ever considered holding your year-end poll in September, right before the New York Film Festival? The script of Mamma Mia! was written with the expressed purpose of accommodating as many ABBA songs as possible. Would it have been so fucking hard to name one of the characters “Fernando”? Francois Ozon’s Angel is not technically an undistributed film but unlikely, I’m told, to be released in theaters next year by IFC — probably because it’s something of a cinephile inside joke, a drunken double-dog-dare remake of Imitation of Life. The story of an authoress who lives in the castles she builds in the air, it’s a parodically nouveau-riche misinterpretation of the irony implicit in Sirk’s ersatz glamour, given comic momentum by Romola Garai, a shoe-in for Best Actress With a Lazy Eye. The Wall Street Journal editorial page had it half right, about why Batman is Bush. True enough that the (caped) crusader unilaterally Atlas-shoulders the dirty-but-necessary jobs of warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition and ticking-time-bomb torture; also true is that his struggle is with an “agent of chaos” (self-proclaimed, lest we miss the fact that the Joker is a wild card). The Dark Knight is a very real war waged against an opponent only understood symbolically, and as such is certainly the blockbuster we deserve — not just because it suggests that a noble proxy can act on behalf of a clean-handed citizenry without making mistakes, but because it inaccurately, irresponsibly and immorally believes that what we’re up against is rebellion without a cause.

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