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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Peter Debruge

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Peter Debruge

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.

Peter Debruge

Best Film
1 – WALL-E
2 – The Wrestler
3 – Man on Wire
4 – Gomorrah
5 – The Order of Myths
6 – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7 – Shotgun Stories
8 – Hunger
9 – The Visitor
10 – The Dark Knight

Best Performance
1 – Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
2 – Melissa Leo, Frozen River
3 – Michael Fassbender, Hunger
4 – Kristin Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long
5 – Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
2 – James Franco, Pineapple Express
3 – Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
4 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
5 – Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler

Best Screenplay
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Best First Feature
Shotgun Stories

Best Documentary
Man on Wire

Best Undistributed Film
1 – Secret Sunshine
2 – Kisses
3 – Those Who Remain (Ceux qui restent)
4 – Behind the Walls (Entre les murs)
5 – Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation
6 – More Shoes
7 – The Burning Plain
8 – Vinyan
9 – Les Plages d’Agnes
10 – The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Once again, I out myself as considerably more square than the cohorts who participate in year-end list-making, choosing a mainstream film for my top slot (it was Atonement last year and Dreamgirls in 2006, and I still think those two films are the best of their respective years). I make no apologies for my choice — Wall-E is the rare film this year that made me lean forward in my seat, dreading the fact that each minute brought me closer to the end. It represents that exceptional feat from the Pixar team (just as Toy Story did in its day, rejecting singing fairy tales and talking forest creatures), embracing the studio’s incredible CG tools and top-notch storytelling instincts to craft a film that leaps beyond the boundaries of conventional animation and aspires to do something even live action couldn’t achieve. I’m in awe, and yet, I’m equally smitten with my second and third choices: The Wrestler and Man on Wire, which in their own ways document the two most incredible performances of the year (even if one technically occurred a quarter century ago). Filling out the rest of the list, I realized how many of my top choices technically don’t open until 2009. This is a real problem, since I run the risk of forgetting to mention them 12 months from now. For the record, don’t miss Summer Hours, Sugar, Silent Light, Secret of the Grain, Two Lovers and Secret Sunshine (if there’s any truth to the rumors that a distribution deal is imminent) when they open near you. See, I like obscure movies as much as the next guy, but when it comes to making my year-end list, I’ve gotta be honest with myself: Wall-E’s tops. And I suspect anyone who tries to convince you that Wendy and Lucy or Rachel Getting Married is a superior achievement has lost touch with the spark that attracted us to cinema in the first place.

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