By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Unusual for both building a consensus and stirring ardent feelings, WALL-E scored most passionately. But the poll’s top 10 changes drastically if the movies are reordered by the Passiondex and opened up to the top 25 vote-getters. Now, the cult enthusiasms surface: Jonathan Demme’s Altmanesque ensemble extravaganza, Rachel Getting Married (No. 12), enters the top 10 in second place, while a cluster of more esoteric foreign-language movies, José Luis Guerín’s In the City of Sylvia (tied for No. 21 with The Class), Carlos Reygadas’ Mennonite passion play, Silent Light (No. 13) and Serge Bozon’s musical lost-platoon drama, La France (No. 23), place third, fourth and 10th, respectively. Synecdoche, New York moves up to fifth place, and Let the Right One In to sixth (while Still Life drops to seventh, The Flight of the Red Balloon floats down to eighth, and A Christmas Tale falls to ninth). The prize critical cult film: Rachel Getting Married. Despite generally mixed reviews, Demme’s independent feature received a higher percentage of first- and second-place votes than even WALL-E, meaning that the people who liked it really liked it.
I’d argue that Rachel participated in the positive-thinking Zeitgeist as well. The plot may revolve around an obnoxiously disordered personality (Anne Hathaway) and feature the ultimate downer (death of a child), as well as divorce, competitive dishwashing and a number of lesser domestic disasters, but the movie itself was overwhelmingly affirmative, if not positively utopian. Demme had organized the movie around the ultimate rainbow-coalition musical-fusion New Age wedding, which, as a colleague remarked, had everything but Jimmy Carter in a purple dashiki — an image of inclusion that might have been almost too prophetic.
Best Films of 2008
1.WALL-E (237 points, 35 mentions)
2.The Flight of the Red Balloon (163 points, 26 mentions)
3.Happy-Go-Lucky (159 points, 26 mentions)
4.Still Life (147 points, 23 mentions)
5.A Christmas Tale (146 points, 24 mentions)
6. Waltz With Bashir (140 points, 22 mentions)
7. Milk (123 points, 21 mentions)
8. Wendy and Lucy (122 points, 25 mentions)
9. Let the Right One In (113 points, 20 mentions)
10. Synecdoche, New York (106 points, 18 mentions)
1. Sean Penn, Milk (86 points, 36 mentions): Reigning in his mannerisms, Hollywood’s moodiest male star triumphantly vanished into the role of community organizer–political martyr Harvey Milk — and could well emerge brandishing an Oscar.
2. Mickey Rourke,The Wrestler (74 points, 36 mentions): Gotta be the comeback performance of the decade — aging bad boy as an aging, almost lovable, broken-down professional wrestler.
3. Benicio Del Toro,Che (25 points, 12 mentions): A sometime showboat demonstrates his own brand of revolutionary discipline, playing the icon of icons as a dedicated professional.
1. Sally Hawkins,Happy-Go-Lucky (83 points, 34 mentions): Erupting out of the Mike Leigh ensemble, Hawkins riffs an indelible character into existence — a London kindergarten teacher, at once grating and irresistible in her boundless good nature.
2. Michelle Williams,Wendy and Lucy (60 points, 28 mentions): Williams performs a virtual solo as a young woman who loses everything when she loses her dog. No one this year held a close-up better.
3. Juliette Binoche,The Flight of the Red Balloon (55 points, 26 mentions): Encouraged by director Hou Hsiao-hsien to invent her own character, Binoche broke new ground playing a professional puppeteer as eccentric as the movie in which she found herself.
Best Supporting Actor
1. Heath Ledger,The Dark Knight (75 points, 29 mentions): A no-brainer. Even had the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel not been preceded by Ledger’s untimely death, his turn as the anarchic Joker in Louise Brooks eyeshadow would have immortalized him among a generation of moviegoers and aspirant Method actors.
2. Eddie Marsan,Happy-Go-Lucky(43 points, 19 mentions): As the dyspeptic yang to Sally Hawkins’s ebullient yin, this pug-faced Mike Leigh regular proved a formidable test case for the limits of positive thinking and gave a bad name to driving instructors everywhere.
3. Josh Brolin,Milk (30 points, 13 mentions): After playing Dubya for Oliver Stone, Brolin stepped down the political hierarchy to render an even more chilling impersonation of San Francisco supervisor and avid Twinkie-consumer, Dan White.
Best Supporting Actress
1. Penélope Cruz,Vicky Cristina Barcelona (42 points, 21 mentions): Woody Allen’s sun-drenched Spanish ménage à quatre is chugging along pleasantly enough, and then Cruz enters the frame as Javier Bardem’s homicidal ex — and sets the whole thing ablaze like a raging comic fireball.
2.Viola Davis,Doubt (35 points, 14 mentions): As the pragmatic mother of an allegedly molested boy at a Catholic high school, Davis has just one major scene, but it is the kind that stops an audience dead in its tracks and colors the absolutist logic of John Patrick Shanley’s modern morality play with much-needed splotches of gray.
3. Rosemary DeWitt,Rachel Getting Married (30 points, 14 mentions): Although Anne Hathaway has commanded the lion’s share of press, it’s DeWitt’s less showboating performance as the titular betrothed that provides a welcome oasis of calm at the center of Jonathan Demme’s big, fat U.N. wedding party.
Best First Film
Ballast (20 points/mentions): Lance Hammer’s soulful study of a single mother and her teenage son eking out a poverty-line existence in the Mississippi Delta, Ballast was the rare film about the black American experience whose characters possessed a quiet, unassailable dignity from the start — one not revealed (or, worse, bestowed upon them) by the filmmaker.
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