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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Mike D’Angelo

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Mike D'Angelo

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.

Mike D’Angelo
Las Vegas Weekly

Best Film
1 – Silent Light
2 – Paranoid Park
3 – Rachel Getting Married
4 – Burn After Reading
5 – WALL-E
6 – The Brothers Bloom
7 – Funny Games
8 – The Duchess of Langeais
9 – In the City of Sylvia
10 – The Secret of the Grain

Best Performance
1 – Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
2 – Fu’ad Ait Aattou, The Last Mistress
3 – Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4 – Karl Markovics, The Counterfeiters
5 – Guillaume Depardieu, The Duchess of Langeais

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Hafsia Herzi, The Secret of the Grain
2 – Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
3 – Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
4 – Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
5 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Best Director
Carlos Reygadas, Silent Light

Best Screenplay
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading

Best First Feature
Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Best Documentary
Chicago 10

Best Undistributed Film
1 – Afterschool
2 – Sita Sings the Blues
3 – The Headless Woman
4 – Night and Day
5 – American Son
6 – 35 Shots of Rum
7 – Summer Hours
8 – Foster Child
9 – Just Anybody
10 – The Rest of the Night

Why is it that every time Gus Van Sant releases two movies in the same year, conventional “wisdom” rushes to champion the wrong one? At least Elephant, as morally repugnant as I personally found its dreamy depiction of impending slaughter, was every bit as bold and challenging as its superior cousin, which got totally Gerried in 2003’s year-end polls. Milk, on the other hand, is just a generic great-man biopic in a moderately arty suit, and it’s a mystery how anyone could think twice about its tepid, checklisted Wiki-drama after experiencing the arresting subjectivity and giddy formal exuberance of Paranoid Park. Can’t we make a statement about Prop 8 some other way? The last time we encouraged Van Sant to go mainstream, he gave us Sean Connery calling some black kid his dawg; Béla Tarr had to stage a goddamn intervention. [NOTE: This next one contains a big Gran Torino spoiler, but there’s no way to avoid it. If you don’t want to run it for that reason, I totally understand.] So there’s this movie about a belligerent, misanthropic, foul-mouthed racist who grudgingly befriends a socially stunted kid, saving him from bullies and teaching him how to be a man. Eventually their unlikely bond becomes so strong that this apparently incorrigible dude nobly sacrifices himself on the youngster’s behalf, going down in a hail of bullets. When this movie was actually intended to be hilarious, it was called Bad Santa. When it was hilarious entirely by accident, yet somehow managed to snow an amazing number of people into ignoring its blatant cartoonishness and ascribing to it all manner of imaginary culminatory Significance, it was called Gran Torino. Decades from now, when film historians are trying to make sense of Bush-era cinema, W. won’t be half as telling or useful as the blinkered, self-deluded D.C. dumbshits that populate Burn After Reading—a politically astute satirical marvel that was predictably dismissed as an anti-generous gallery of grotesques. “What did we learn, Palmer? I guess we learned not to do it again. Though I’m fucked if I know what we did.” “Yes, sir, it’s…hard to say.”

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