Monday, February 2, 2009

Out 1 Film Journal's Top Films of 2008

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


Tony Dayoub said...

Brandon, thanks for mentioning both Speed Racer and Rambo. With you and Jeremy from Moon in the Gutter behind Rambo I don't feel so crazy anymore. Can't wait for Stallone's The Expendables.

James, you've got some weird ones there. Nice to see some love for Che, but I was on the fence about The Happening and Stuck.

Death Race? Really?

Jacob, thanks for mentioning A Christmas Tale.

Chuck, you've got a few I missed that I'm interested in seeing, like My Winnipeg.

What I learned after reading your post:

I should see Wendy and Lucy.

I'm glad you guys agree that Slumdog Millionaire is overrated.

I'm wondering why you guys are so into Milk a rather conventional film by a guy who's way better when doing films like Paranoid Park.

Chuck W said...

I totally put Inside and Rambo in my Netflix queue right after reading all of our lists. I have also not seen When I Was Blue and Razzle Dazzle, and am patiently waiting for a DVD release. Really wanted to view at least the latter film before I made my list, but... this did not come to pass.

Tony D. - My Winnipeg is excellent, probably my favorite Maddin film in quite a long time. Of course, your mileage may vary. Some people absolutely loathe Maddin's silent cinema pastiche, but I love it.

And Milk. Well, yes, despite how conventional it is, I was still incredibly moved by it. Even though I wouldn't call it "great," I cannot deny that it made me a little teary-eyed. If I was going to root for any of those Oscar films, it would be Milk.

Paranoid Park is still the better film.

James Hansen said...

Thanks for the comments Tony. Mine always tend to the side of slightly weird, but at least I'm consistent... As far as the selections of mine you highlighted:

I know I'm crazy, but I really liked The Happening and found it conceptually interesting and completely goofy which sold it even more. Check out my full review. Its listed on the side of the page. Same with Stuck...I don't think its great, but the way it incorporates and embeds itself within the tabloid culture and storylines, enhanced through its odd execution and Rea's great performance, it really worked for me.

As far as Death Race...I think it was the best pure action movie of the year. Its a touch on the silly side, but its pretty bad ass. Can't fault a movie for being a super solid genre picture.

And I also agree that Milk was a bit overrated, even by the guys here. I liked it, but was a bit surprised to see it on all those HM lists.

Chuck- Inside is AMAZING. I watched it with Jacob, who apparently thought it was kind of silly or something. I thought it was scary, smart, gruesome, and exciting...some aspects that are missing from almost every horror movie these days.

Razzle Dazzle is solid (although its no TOM TOM or STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH...) When It Was Blue is just flat out astonishing. I might be getting some of Reeves' earlier films soon. If I do, we'll talk. I'm not sure if/when WIWB is coming on DVD or anything, but I'll keep everyone updated. Reeves says its gonna play around a bit, so maybe it'll make its way to Nashville or something. I think you'd especially love it.

Brandon Colvin said...

My top three were the site's top three . . . although in different order. Which basically means, I speak for all of us. Hahaha.

In defense of MILK, name a better biopic. I can't. The best of the Oscar bunch for sure. But it pales in comparison to the previous four Van Sant features.

Also, I'm proud of our diversity. And, Tony, you should take a look at DOOMSDAY if you haven't already. I think you might dig it; we have closely aligned tastes.

Shameful lapses in viewing this year:

A Christmas Tale
My Winnipeg
Razzle Dazzle
The Duchess of Langeais
When It Was Blue

Tony Dayoub said...


Che was a better biopic in 2008. Unconventional structure, and a well-rounded view of a man that was both hero and monster to many, an anlogy would be if the film Milk were simply the first of a two parter with the second part seen from the perspective of his opposition in the Prop 6 Campaign.

As for Doomsday, I'll check it out. You're right that are tastes trend the same.

Brandon Colvin said...

I forgot about CHE, probably because it's so unconventional. But yeah, it was better. Haha.

Anonymous said...

No problem, Tony D. Someone had to rep Desplechin.

And for the record, it was sort of hard to take Inside seriously when the first shot is a Fetus Cam (something hilarious happens, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone...). The rest of it was solid (though, I thought, fairly standard) horror. I think I recall some ridiculous moments at the end as well, but it's been a few months...

For those waiting on a Razzle Dazzle DVD, the last I heard was that it was held up by soundtrack issues. So you might be in for a long wait.

Lapses in viewing:
The Class
Rachel Getting Married
A bunch of minor crap that probably wouldn't have had an impact on my list

James Hansen said...

Well, Jacob, it was a movie called INSIDE. If it didn't have some supreme interiority (which is strongly built in every aspect of the production), then it wouldn't really make sense. I'm not saying a fetal shot isn't a little goofy, but it certainly didn't hurt the movie; if anything, I felt like it deepened the psychology.

Plus, I think if you watch any horror movie made in the last five years or so (save for, in some circles, THE DESCENT, which I think is good but kind of overrated) there is nothing standard about INSIDE. I mean, its still fits the horror genre, but its doing a lot more and doing a lot differently than anything else I've seen in a long long time.

Someone else needs to see it (other than Nathan Lee who is totally with me) so we can get another voice in here. around?

Chuck W said...

You had me at fetus-cam.

BAM! Inside is now sitting pretty at the top of my queue.

Brandon Colvin said...

I thought INSIDE was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, my thinking Inside is a little silly doesn't mean that I dislike it. I liked it a lot. (4/5 on the 'flix, if you didn't know).

Though, to be fair, I do tend to write off horror movies. I like them, but I never get so into them that they "make me want to vomit."

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