Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Lists


It's a confusing year for top ten lists. Two of my favorites of the decade, Flight of the Red Balloon and Silent Light, were on my 2007 list, but keep appearing on '08 lists. The paltry distribution most foreign films received outside of film festivals are leaving critics confused as to whether some of their favorites qualify as '08 releases. I've decided not to be shackled by silly rules. No one's gonna whip me for including a film on my list that I saw at a film festival, are they? The following ten films were seen by me, one way or another, in a movie theater during 2008:

10. Gran Torino (dir. Clint Eastwood)

9. La France (dir. Serge Bozon)

Set during World War I and inspired by the early war films of Samuel Fuller, Bozon follows a troop of French soldiers through the countryside, joined by a woman in drag (the incomparable Sylvie Testud) searching for her husband. They walk, they fight, and the men occasionally burst into songs sung from a female perspective. When motives are revealed and a distinct aimlessness to the journey becomes apparent, the film begins to feel like a vision of purgatory. Weird and fascinating in the best possible ways.

8. My Blueberry Nights (dir. Wong Kar Wai)

7. Transsiberian (dir. Brad Anderson)

6. Encounters at the End of the World (dir. Werner Herzog)

5. Tulpan (dir. Sergei Dvortsevoy)

Life on a steppe in Kazakhstan may not sound like an exciting subject for a film, but in my mind, there was no moment more thrilling in 2008 cinema than watching a mother camel wailing in despair as she chased after a jeep that drove off with her injured child. A close second would be seeing a baby sheep born in one long take. Then there are the awesome lightning storms, miniature tornadoes, and the little girl who sings at the top of her lungs to defy her father. Dvortsevoy's film focuses on sensitive sailor Asa's attempts to woo the titular bachelorette, one of a handful of women available to marry on the steppe. A broader scope and a deeply felt outlook on life develop thanks to the documentary style and constant, welcome peeks into the day-to-day goings on in the life of a Kazakh sheepherder. Not to be missed.

4. Shotgun Stories (dir. Jeff Nichols)

3. WALL-E (dir. Andrew Stanton)

2. Happy-Go-Lucky (dir. Mike Leigh)

1. Synecdoche, New York (dir. Charlie Kaufman)

My Fantasy Acting Award Nominations:


Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Michael Shannon, Shotgun Stories
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Sean Penn, Milk
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Redbelt


Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Emily Mortimer, Transsiberian
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy

Supporting Actor

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Josh Brolin & Emile Hirsch, Milk
Brad Pitt & Richard Jenkins, Burn After Reading
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Doubt
Dianne Weist, Synecdoche, New York
Hanna Schygulla, The Edge of Heaven
Vera Farmiga, Quid Pro Quo
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading


Rather than list my favorite albums of the year, I'm gonna give you a little tracklisting of the songs I had on repeat throughout 2008. I'd appreciate you doing the same, as I'm always looking for new tracks on the mp3. No particular order of preference:

1. "You'll Find a Way", Santogold
2. "Family Tree", TV on the Radio
3. "The Rip", Portishead
4. "Acid Tongue", Jenny Lewis
5. "Up!", M83
6. "Kids", MGMT
7. "Human", The Killers
8. "L.E.S. Artistes", Santogold
9. "Too Late", M83
10. "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be", The Black Keys
11. "Don't Hold Me Close", Spiritualized
12. "Valerie Plame", The Decemberists
13. "Buzzer", Dar Williams
14. "Panama", The Cat Empire
15. "You, Me & the Bourgeoisie", The Submarines


weepingsam said...

I am definitely confused by the dates - too many good films from last 07 probably, and the fact that I set out to post a more representative Best of 2007 list in May probably confused the issue. I usually try to discipline myself around this time of year - only count films that played in a commercial theater in Boston during the year... do the best of the year later... Looking at your list, though, reminds me of one of the strange effects of this policy - La France was nowhere to be found. It's listed as a 2007 film - I saw it in July - at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of a festival - so I didn't put it on my top 10 releases, or top 10 for 2008 - and I saw it too late to put on even the late 2007 list. Though it's probably a good sign of what kind of year 2007 was for films, that it probably wouldn't make that top 10... it would make this year's top 3 if it had been released properly....

Anyway - here's a link to my lists: movies, music - and here are the lists, without frills. And with Edge of Heaven restored - somehow it disappeared off the best of list when I posted it...

Released, 2008:

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
2. Flight of the Red Balloon
3. A Christmas Tale
4. Exiles - from 1960...
5. Don’t Touch the Axe
6. Edge of Heaven - left it off the original post, but it belongs on here
7. My Winnipeg
8. Encounters at the end of the World
9. Man on Wire - nice little run of documentaries there this spring and summer...
10. Chop Shop

...instead of Rohmer's Romance of Astree and Celedon - which I'm not sure was actually commercially screened - it was at the MFA, though I think it had a whole week's run - but I can't remember for sure...

Music: you can see the best records above - not that it's very exciting, being a bit of a down year for my music buying (and listening, for some reason.) This is the CD I burned to proselytize my brothers - I don't know if I'd call it representative, it's mostly the obvious choices, but it's what I liked....

-TV on the Radio - Halfway Home & Dancing Choose
-Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Hopscotch Willie
-Sigur Rus - Gobbledigook
-Raconteurs - Top Yourself
-REM - Supernatural Superserious [dunno if I would include this if it were for me - though this is a pretty decent song]
-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Albert Goes West [what REM should sound like] and Dig Lazarus Dig!!!
-Mercury Rev - Snowflake in a Hot World
-Melvins - the Kicking Machine
-The Kills - What New York Used to Be
-Fleet Foxes - Sun it Rises & Oliver James
-Earth - Omens and Portents I: the Driver [this record and the TV on the Radio record are the ones I will be listening to as the years go by...]
-Dungen - Samtidigt 1
-The Duke Spirit - This Ship was Built to Last [one of those records I wonder if I gave up on too soon - I started listening to it at the end of the year and began wondering if I screwed up...]
-Boris - Statement [I can't get enough Michio Kurihara]
-Beck - Modern Guilt [he's still hanging around, still pretty good...]

I should add a couple things - like: best music discovery: 2 post-punk giants.... first, not quite a discovery, since I had heard songs here and there, seen videos on YouTube, but could never find any records - this year not only did I actually find a copy of The Pop Group's "Y" - but bought a bunch of Mark Stewart records... quite good... And Second - though maybe even better - bought Young Marble Giants' Colossal Youth - a genuinely wonderful record...

Movies - a really good year for retrospectives - Oshima, Minelli, Claire Denis, Lucrecia Martel, Jose Luis Guerin, Oliveira, Losey.... I'd somehow managed to get this far as a movie geek without seeing a single film by Vincente Minelli [that is a lie: I saw Cabin in the Sky on TV a long time ago, but had no idea that it was Minelli, just that it was very cool] - so the Minelli retrospective was certainly a high point.

Mike Doc said...

I'm mad at myself for leaving Sigur Ros off my mixlist, though I have a nasty habit of referring to all of their songs as "The One That Goes..." and then attempting some horrible approximation of the melody with my modest vocal talents.

I do know which one is "Gobbledigook", cus that was the closing number at their concert, which I'd list as my best concert of '08. There were confetti cannons. It was glorious.

Joseph B. said...

Kudos, Mike, for including "My Blueberry Nights" on your list. I don't understand the "meh" attitude towards this film. I love it. "Shotgun Stories" as well.

I've got about 10 or so more movies to watch before I finalize my list.. namely "The Wrestler" and "Revolutionary Road" this week sometime and a few odds and ends in the Netflix queue such as Rivette's "Duchess" film, "Baghead" and Hong Sang Soo's "Woman On the Beach". I'll cross post my list here once complete.