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Film Comment’s End of Year Critics’ Poll 2008

By Film Comment

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Welcome to Film Comment’s ninth annual critics’ poll. (It wasn’t broke, so we didn’t fix it.) Just as in years past, a small army of colleagues ranked their favorites in two categories: 1) those released theatrically, and 2) those that made their debuts elsewhere—which generally means on the festival circuit. Once again, the selection committee of the New York Film Festival, now in its 46th year, proved to be either cultural weather vane or tastemaker: 10 of the top 20 theatrical films, and 10 of the 20 undistributed titles, made their big-league debuts courtesy of the NYFF. A 100-plus chorus of critics responded with votes that spanned nearly 500 films. For each ballot, a first-place choice was allotted 20 points, 19 for second, and so on.

BEST FILMS OF 2008

Wendy and Lucy

1. Wendy and Lucy
Kelly Reichardt, U.S.

Flight of the Red Balloon

2. Flight of the Red Balloon
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan/France

A Christmas Tale

3. A Christmas Tale
Arnaud Desplechin, France

Happy Go Lucky

4. Happy-Go-Lucky
Mike Leigh, U.K.

Wall-E

5. WALL·E
Andrew Stanton, U.S.

Still Life

6. Still Life
Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong/China

Paranoid Park

7. Paranoid Park
Gus Van Sant, France/U.S.

Waltz With Bashir

8. Waltz with Bashir
Ari Folman, Israel/France/Germany

My Winnipeg

9. My Winnipeg
Guy Maddin, Canada

Milk

10. Milk
Gus Van Sant, U.S.

Let the Right one In

11. Let the Right One In
Tomas Alfredson, Sweden

The Duchess of Langeais

12. The Duchess of Langeais
Jacques Rivette, France/Italy

The Class

13. The Class
Laurent Cantet, France

Synecdoche

14. Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman, U.S.

Hunger

15. Hunger
Steve McQueen, U.K.

Silent Light

16. Silent Light
Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands

Balast

17. Ballast
Lance Hammer, U.S.

Man on Wire

18. Man on Wire
James Marsh, U.K.

The Exiles

19. The Exiles
Kent Mackenzie, U.S.

Gomorrah

20. Gomorrah
Matteo Garrone, Italy

The Dark Knight

21. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan, U.S.

Che

22. Che
Steven Soderbergh, Spain/France/U.S.

The Wrestler

23. The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky, U.S.

The Last Mistress

24. The Last Mistress
Catherine Breillat, France/Italy

Rachel Getting Married

25. Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme, U.S.

Trouble the Water

26. Trouble the Water
Carl Deal & Tia Lessin, U.S.

Momma's Man

27. Momma’s Man
Azazel Jacobs, U.S.

Ashes of Time

28. Ashes of Time Redux
Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong/China

In the City of Sylvia

29. In the City of Sylvia
José Luis Guerín, Spain/France

Alexandra

30. Alexandra
Alexander Sokurov, Russia/France

Encounters at the End of the World

31. Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog, U.S.

Gran Torino

32. Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood, U.S.

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

33. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
Eric Rohmer, France/Spain/Italy

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

34. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher, U.S.

La France

35. La France
Serge Bozon, France

Taxi to the Dark Side

36. Taxi to the Dark Side
Alex Gibney, U.S.

The Edge of Heaven

37. The Edge of Heaven
Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey/Italy

Slumdog Millionaire

38. Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle, U.S./U.K.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

39. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen, Spain

The Silence Before Bach

40. The Silence Before Bach
Pere Portabella, Spain

Frost Nixon

41. Frost/Nixon
Ron Howard, U.S.

Woman on the Beach

42. Woman on the Beach
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea

Before I Forget

43. Before I Forget
Jacques Nolot, France

Frozen River

44. Frozen River
Courtney Hunt, U.S.

The order of the Myths

45. The Order of Myths
Margaret Brown, U.S.

Heartbeat Detector

46. Heartbeat Detector (La Question Humaine)
Nicolas Klotz, France

Tell No One

47. Tell No One
Guillaume Canet, France

Chop Shop

48. Chop Shop
Ramin Bahrani, U.S.

Profit Motive

49. Profit motive and the whispering wind
John Gianvito, U.S.

Fengming

50. Fengming: A Chinese Memoir
Bing Wang, China

BEST UNRELEASED FILMS OF 2008

1. The Headless Woman* Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Spain/France/Italy
2. 24 City* Jia Zhang-ke, China/Hong Kong/Japan
3. Summer Hours Olivier Assayas, France
4. Still Walking Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan
5. Tulpan Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany/Switzerland/Kazakhstan/Russia/Poland
6. RR James Benning, U.S.
7. 35 Shots of Rum* Claire Denis, France/Germany
8. Of Time and the City Terence Davies, U.K.
9. Tony Manero* Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil
10. Liverpool* Lisandro Alonso, Argentina
11. Sugar Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, U.S.
12. Tokyo SonataKiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/Netherlands/Hong Kong
13. Birdsong* Albert Serra, Spain
14. The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow, U.S.
15. United Red Army* Koji Wakamatsu, Japan
16. Night and Day* Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
17. Four Nights with Anna* Jerzy Skolimowski, France/Poland
18. Me and Orson Welles* Richard Linklater, U.K.
19. Il Divo Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France
20. Chouga* Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan/France
21. Lorna’s Silence Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy/Germany
22. Treeless Mountain So Yong Kim, U.S./South Korea
23. A Time to Stir* Paul Cronin, U.S.
(tie) Goodbye Solo Ramin Bahrani, U.S.
24. Captain Ahab* Philippe Ramos, France/Sweden
(tie) Revanche Götz Spielmann, Austria
25. Everlasting Moments Jan Troell, Sweden/Denmark/Norway/Finland/Germany
(tie) I’m Gonna Explode* Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico
26. Afterschool* Antonio Campos, U.S.
27. Flame & Citron* Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark/Germany
28. Three Monkeys Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France/Italy
29. Itinéraire de Jean Bricard* Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, France
30. Sparrow Johnnie To, Hong Kong

(*Currently without U.S. distribution)

Participants: Sam Adams, Thom Andersen, John Anderson, Melissa Anderson, David Ansen, Michael Atkinson, Saul Austerlitz, Miriam Bale, Margaret Barton-Fumo, Marjorie Baumgarten, Bruce Bennett, Nick Bradshaw, Richard Brody, John Caps, Michael Chaiken, Andrew Chan, Chris Chang, Tom Charity, Godfrey Cheshire, Travis Crawford, Gary Crowdus, Mike D’Angelo, Evan Davis, Sam Di Iorio, Lisa Dombrowski, Bilge Ebiri, Cheryl Eddy, David Edelstein, David Ehrenstein, David Fear, Paul Fileri, Scott Foundas, Patrick Friel, Graham Fuller, Susan Gerhard, Gary Giddins, Jason Gross, Larry Gross, Dennis Harvey, Molly Haskell, Logan Hill, J. Hoberman, Robert Horton, Johnny Ray Huston, Harlan Jacobson, J.R. Jones, Kent Jones, Kristin M. Jones, Dave Kehr, Glenn Kenny, Laura Kern, Stuart Klawans, Robert Koehler, Michael Koresky, Nathan Lee, Dennis Lim, Phillip Lopate, Cynthia Lucia, Scott Macaulay, Todd McCarthy, Maitland McDonagh, Don McMahon, Joe Milutis, Wesley Morris, Rob Nelson, Chris Norris, Geoffrey O’Brien, Mark Olsen, Mark Peranson, Jake Perlin, Tony Pipolo, Richard Porton, John Powers, James Quandt, Jed Rapfogel, Nicolas Rapold, Megan Ratner, Bérénice Reynaud, Jim Ridley, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Joshua Rothkopf, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Gene Seymour, Gavin Smith, Vivian Sobchack, Chuck Stephens, Bob Strauss, Jim Supanick, Amy Taubin, José Teodoro, Kenneth Turan, Brynn White, Donald Wilson, Genevieve Yue, David Zuckerman

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