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indieWIRE CRITICS’ POLL ’08 | Robert Koehler

indieWIRE CRITICS' POLL '08 | Robert Koehler

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.

Robert Koehler
Variety/Cinema Scope/Cineaste/Christian Science Monitor

Best Film
1 – In the City of Sylvia
2 – Gomorrah
3 – La France
4 – Ballast
5 – The Silence Before Bach
6 – Fengming: A Chinese Memoir
7 – My Winnipeg
8 – Paranoid Park
9 – Man on Wire
10 – Still Life

Best Performance
1 – Michael Fassbender, Hunger
2 – Carla Riba, Alice’s House
3 – Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
4 – Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
5 – Mathieu Almaric, A Christmas Tale

Best Supporting Performance
1 – Viola Davis, Doubt
2 – Michel Blanc, The Witnesses
3 – Neil Patrick Harris, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo
4 – Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Role Models
5 – Anne Consigny, A Christmas Tale

Best Director
Jose Luis Guerin, In the City of Sylvia

Best Screenplay
Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti,Gianni Di Gregorio, Massimo Gaudioso, Roberto Saviano, Matteo Garrone, Gomorrah

Best First Feature

Best Documentary
Fengming: A Chinese Memoir

Best Undistributed Film
1 – Liverpool
2 – El Cant dels ocells (Birdsong)
3 – Still Walking
4 – Il Divo
5 – Delta
6 – Night and Day
7 – Our Beloved Month of August
8 – When It Was Blue
9 – RR
10 – United Red Army

The best piece of news in the Sisyphian efforts to get non-U.S. cinema shown in the U.S. was Anthology Film Archives’ week-long December exhibition of Jose Luis Guerin’s “In the City of Sylvia,” which I will argue (long into the night, or as long as it takes) is the greatest film of the new century. The saddest piece of news is that the Anthology run is probably the end of Guerin’s masterpiece of sight, sound and play on the fallacies of romance as a means of perception and understanding. But my best memories of 2008 will revolve around two of the world’s most brilliant and radical filmmakers; first, Lisandro Alonso, starting with an absolutely nutty screening at the Guadalajara film festival of his seminal “La libertad,” in which the first reel (full of the sound of wood-chopping by Alonso’s wood-chopping subject) was out of sync by a crucial half-second, and then followed by Alonso being the life of the (post-screening) party in at least three cities on various continents; and (though by no means second) Albert Serra, who explained in several cities where his astonishing “El Cant dels ocells” screened (and further amplified in Cinema Scope editor and colleague and new non-fiction filmmaker Mark Peranson’s “kind-of making-of” film on “El Cant” titled “Waiting for Sancho”) that having his non-professional actors climb insanely steep inclines during location shooting in the Canary Islands resulted in much better performances, and that most of what passes for cinema, now or at any time (and especially for him in his own country of Spain) isn’t cinema at all. A few artists in the wilderness are always needed to cut through the crap, which is precisely what Alonso and Serra did this year.

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