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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Michael Koresky

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Michael Koresky

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.

Michael Koresky
Reverse Shot/indieWIRE/The Criterion Collection

Best Film
1 – The Flight of the Red Balloon
2 – Waltz with Bashir
3 – A Christmas Tale
4 – Synecdoche, New York
5 – Silent Light
6 – Still Life
7 – Ballast
8 – The Last Mistress
9 – The Class
10 – Before I Forget

Best Performance
1 – Juliette Binoche, Flight of the Red Balloon
2 – Tarra Riggs, Ballast
3 – Sean Penn, Milk
4 – Colin Farrell, Cassandra’s Dream
5 – Catherine Deneuve, A Christmas Tale

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Samantha Morton, Synecdoche, New York
2 – Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
3 – Dianne Wiest, Synecdoche, New York
4 – Sally Hawkins, Cassandra’s Dream
5 – Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married

Best Director
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Flight of the Red Balloon

Best Screenplay
Catherine Breillat, The Last Mistress

Best First Feature

Best Documentary
Chris and Don, A Love Story

Best Undistributed Film
1 – The Headless Woman
2 – 35 Rhums
3 – Be Like Others
4 – Chouga
5 – Les Plages d’Agnes
6 – Involuntary

Overcoming gimmickry: The best films of 2008 were those that dispensed with all pretense to cleverness or self-conscious intricacy. These were rushes of pure feeling, and if we expected it from some (Hou Hsiao-hsien with Flight of the Red Balloon), others were complete surprises (Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York went beyond its puzzle-piece premise into something indescribably beautiful, even peaceful). Waltz with Bashir overcame its own determined designs with a peerless examination of memory (animation not as a limitless state of mind, but as a two-dimensional prison), and Desplechin’s New Wave-y jingle-jangles (or are they jingle bells?) dissolved in a flurry of emotions (MOST of them recognizable). Even if most of the year’s best came from predictable corners of the world (Hou, Carlos Reygadas, Breillat, Jia Zhangke, Laurent Cantet? duh), little delights slipped in here and there. Ballast, Chop Shop, Operation Filmmaker, and Chris & Don: A Love Story were invigorating examples of passion projects from exciting new American independent filmmakers. Good titles to keep in your arsenal if some jerk teeters up to you, cup of wine in hand, and tells you, with speech a little slurred, that indie film is dead in the U.S..

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