At long last, here are Out 1 Film Journal's Top 10 lists. With various writers involved, we have decided, similar to what we did last year, to create a combined list for the top 5 films of the year. Below that, you can see the individual top ten lists from each of our four writers. And wide spread our lists are! 24 different films on four lists, four different #1 films, and lots of films that have not been recognized on many other lists. If nothing else, we hope this list makes you consider, hear about (and watch!) some of the great movies this year that major critics have failed to recognize in favor of what we have found as an extraordinarily weak set of Oscar movies. Nevertheless, cinema stayed strong and lived on in 2008 for each of us with the movies on these lists.
Note: The point system for our cumulative list is the same one used for the Village Voice/LA Weekly poll. Ten points for each #1 films, nine for #2, and on down the line until one point for #10. No tiebreakers were needed. Phew. And, for the record, we played by New York film critics rules. Every film had to have been officially released in NYC at some point in 2008. That kicked a lot of favorites from NYFF and elsewhere (The Headless Woman, Afterschool, Hunger, Summer Hours, etc.) as well as a "new" repertory film. Stick with us and you might see some of those next year. Individual lists after the break.
Out 1 Film Journal's Top 5 Films of 2008
1. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)- 30 points
2. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)- 27 points
3. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)- 26 points
4. Che (Steven Soderbergh)- 15 points
5. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)- 13 points
Brandon Colvin's Top 10 Films of 2008
1. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
2. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
3. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)
4. Ballast (Lance Hammer)
5. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
6. Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani)
7. Iron Man (John Favreau)
8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller)
9. JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri)
10. Reprise (Joachim Trier)
Honorable Mentions: Milk (Gus Van Sant), Che (Steven Soderbergh), The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky), Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
Best Unreleased Film: Hunger (Steve McQueen)
Most Underrated: Speed Racer, Rambo, Doomsday
Most Overrated: Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle)
Best Female Performance: Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy
Best Male Performance: Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man
James Hansen's Top 10 Films of 2008
1. When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves)
A beautiful and utterly staggering experimental film. 16mm dual projection with an original soundtrack performed live by its composer Skúli Sverrisson (along with others) has never been better. While it recalls some of Brakhage's best work, Reeves creates something that is totally unnerving, moving, and new. Special thanks to Michael Sicinski whose recommendation from TIFF (via his site) pushed me to change a flight just so I could see it. It was well worth it.
2. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)
Do you believe in miracles?
3. Che (Steven Soderbergh)
This two park movie uses every second to create an unique dialectic on iconography and guerrilla tactics.
4. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
I watched this for a second time on an airplane. Floating along with the film, I had an euphoric experience that bumped this up a couple spots.
5. Inside (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury)
Best horror film of the decade? It very well might be...
6. The Duchess of Langeais (Jacques Rivette)
Rivette's film powerfully evokes paranoid sexual frustration and total inadequacy in a strict period. It's his strongest film in a long, long time.
7. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
I'll never forget the tracking shot in the dog kennel. Never.
8. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
While on whole I prefer the similar, this far unreleased Afterschool to this, Van Sant's beautiful meditation on adolescent self discovery is a stunner.
9. Paraguayan Hammock (Paz Encina)
Life, death, memory, and aging sway in a distant (yet all too close) hammock.
10. Razzle Dazzle (Ken Jacobs)
Jacobs' use of digital editing enhances the refusal of historical loss in his (and cinema, in general) switch to digital. We just have to stay on the carousel.
Special Mention: Burn After Reading (Coen Brothers), Death Race (Paul W.S. Anderson), Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin), The Happening (M Night Shamyalan), Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh), In Bruges (Martin McDonagh), Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson), Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho), Stuck (Stuart Gordon), The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
Best Previously Unreleased Repertory Film: Je Entends Plus La Guitare (Phillipe Garrel)
Best Unreleased: The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
Most Underrated: Burn After Reading (Coen Brothers)
Most Overrated: The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
Best Female Performance: Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky
Best Male Performance: John Malkovich in Burn After Reading
Jacob Shoaf's Top 10 Films of 2008
1. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
I saw this in theaters twice. It floored me both times in completely different ways and I’m pretty sure I could think about it endle(DIE)
2. Wall*E (Andrew Stanton)
The last place I expected to have a moving cinematic experience was in a NYC theater Saturday matinee showing of a "kids movie" set in outer space. The Cinema works in mysterious ways...
3. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
Simple and heartbreaking. If anyone ever hands me six dollars, I may have an emotional breakdown on the spot.
4. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
I don’t know if it’s the slow, meditative tracking shots through fields of grass, the temporal structure, or the fact that I love the Tony Hawk Playstation games, but this film is a joyous and harrowing bildungsroman that I guarantee enough people didn’t see.
5. Razzle Dazzle (Ken Jacobs)
If you’ve ever spent any time on an Avid or Final Cut editing system, this movie will blow your friggin’ mind. Ken Jacobs plays with dimensionality like no one else.
6. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin)
Maddin mythologizes Winnipeg in this pseudo-semi-autobiographical amalgamation. Equally absurd and contemplative, and (allegedly) it’s all true.
7. The Secret of the Grain (Abdel Kechiche)
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I was put under this film’s spell, but I know that by the end I wanted to strangle the little bastards that took Slimane Beiji’s bike.
8. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
Only Herzog can make me contemplate mortality through the use of penguins.
9. Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani)
This is the poignant story of a street urchin trying to survive. It’s sort of like if Oliver Twist had been set in Queens. Sort of...
10. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)
I nervously writhed more during this than any other film this year (save Stuart Gordon’s Stuck).
Honorable Mention: A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin), Doubt (John Patrick Shanley), The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin), Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller), In Bruges (Martin McDonagh), In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín), Momma’s Man (Azazel Jacobs), Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas), The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
Most Overrated: The Reader (Steven Daldry)
Best Female Performance: Michele Williams in Wendy and Lucy
Best Male Performance: Sean Penn in Milk
Chuck Williamson's Top 10 Films of 2008
1. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)
A cinematic miracle. An austere, slow-paced parable filled with lush, spellbinding cinematography and pained moments of lived-in poignancy. This film’s explorations of faith, love, and death moved me more than anything else this year. Its final moments unfurl like a long, languorous dream—truly stunning and achingly powerful.
2. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
Heartbreaking, naturalistic, absolutely haunting—a near perfect film.
3. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin)
A mad, inventive, and absolutely bonkers film that sutures the vocabulary of silent cinema to the structure of documentary form. Blending fact and fiction, the final results resemble a sort of fever-dream—a mordant, introspective, self-effacing, and certifiably insane creation.
4. Che (Steven Soderbergh)
Benicio del Toro gives a poignant, humanizing performance as Che Guevara in a biopic that dodges the generic tropes, formulas, and clichés that usually damage such films. A moving portrait of a complex, multifaceted figure.
5. Paranoid Park (Gus van Sant)
A frenzied, elliptical, moody masterwork.
6. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
A meditative, elegiac film about the traumas of adolescence, perfectly capturing all the pain, longing, and isolation of youth. That it is also doubles as a subversive and sometimes gory vampire flick does not diminish its power, but enhances it.
7. Ballast (Lance Hammer)
The Mississippi Delta has never felt more cold and desolate.
8. The Duchess of Langeais (Jacques Rivette)
As graceful and multilayered as a seventeenth-century painting, Rivette’s adaptation of Balzac evokes the sort of repressed longing and suffocating traditions symptomatic of the early modern period. And then he turns the whole thing into a sublime cinematic poem.
9. Still Life (Jia Zhang Ke)
A daring mix of documentary realism and absurdist imagery. Surreal images of the Fengjie’s industrial wasteland, filled with gutted, decaying buildings and the desperate, dislocated people who inhabit them, will haunt the viewer long after the credits roll.
10. Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrami)
Set amid the scrap-yards and garbage-dumps of Willet’s Point, this film delivers a grim, jaundiced examination of modern capitalism and the failed American Dream. At the same time, it is an intense, heartbreaking journey through the immigrant experience.
Honorable Mention: The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan), The Flight of the Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien Hou), Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh), The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat), Milk (Gus van Sant), My Father, My Lord (David Volach), The Order of Myths (Margaret Brown), Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris)
Best Unreleased Film: You, The Living (Roy Andersson)
Most Overrated- (tie) Elite Squad (Jose Padilha) and Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle)
Best Female Performance: Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy
Best Male Performance: Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler