2008: The Movie(s)
January 4, 2009 12:21 AM   Subscribe

The Village Voice and IndieWire have both put out their dueling film critic's polls this year, with Wall-E and Flight of the Red Balloon topping the lists, respectively. [Previously]

Films that topped both lists: Wendy and Lucy, A Christmas Tale, Happy-Go-Lucky, Still Life, Waltz in Bashir, Synecdoche, New York, and the two halves of Gus Vant Sant, Milk and Paranoid Park.

Served alongside these polls are assorted commentaries about the state of film culture and the film industry. Indiewire compiles all the critic's comments about the year into a single piece, while the Village Voice offers us a couple of essays: J. Hoberman writes about the poll, Robert Wilonsky comments on 3D film, and Jim Ridley talks about the future of indie film distribution.

Indiewire is also good enough to post the ballots of every participating critic, including the ballot of MeFi's own Jürgen Fauth.
posted by Weebot (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
To editorialize a bit, I always enjoy reading these critic's polls, but both Indiewire and Village Voice kinda did a subpar job this year of putting these together as far as presentation and commentary goes.

Also, glad to see that I'm not the only one who didn't think Speed Racer was worthless, J├╝rgen.
posted by Weebot at 12:21 AM on January 4, 2009

Somebody should put together a site that tracks critics' top ten lists for movies and books and music and stuff where you can put in your own top ten list and then it tells you which critic's list is closest to yours.
posted by dogwalker at 1:05 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I knew the first Red Balloon. We met in a bar, in Paris, many years ago. Already, by the time I met the Balloon, it was old and withered. Wrinkled, shriveled, out of steam, out of air, the original Red Balloon spoke with me. "These new Red Balloons are not like the old Balloons. They're flighty. They dart about with no strings attached. Modern Balloon culture is Pop Culture."

And you know there's no worse insult to a Balloon than Pop.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:33 AM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really didn't care for Paranoid Park. It tries to pass off the vapidity of teenage boredom as deep and meaningful introspection. So damn pretentious it hurt to watch.
posted by bardic at 4:40 AM on January 4, 2009

I really, really hated Synecdoche. If I wanted hinky female characters and forty minutes of Philip Seymour Hoffman playing with his excrement, I could have gotten it for free off the internet.

(Also, the lack of love for My Winnipeg makes me sad like a sad person.)
posted by pxe2000 at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2009

What bardic said. There were a couple of great but sadly short collage-y sections in Paranoid Park that really worked, but overall there wasn't much there; it's not even close to a great film. Blake Nelson's YA novel though, is great. Much more emotionally true (Van Sant for some reason changed the accidental murder scene to remove some of the kid's agency, which affects the whole thing for the worse).

And Wall-E is just ridiculously over-rated pretty much everywhere. That said, I'm really looking forward to seeing Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, the great-looking Waltz with Bashir and a bunch of others when they come out on DVD.
posted by mediareport at 7:04 AM on January 4, 2009

Ugh Wendy and Lucy was just boring. It seemed like the sort of suburban fantasy of what living it rough is. It does not help that I knew someone in college that not only looked just like Michelle Williams, was into the whole couch surfing, bohemian I have no money thing, but whose dad was an executive at Visa. Her bumming it lifestyle was always shattered when, without fail, every Christmas season she'd be gone to some island in the Caribbean. I actually gave up on the movie after she got caught shoplifting at a grocery store. I found myself yelling at the screen, "Your dad could buy this entire fucking town!" I hope the dog turned out okay, I have a feeling something was going to happen to that dog.

Flight of the Red Balloon was great though. Juliette Binoche deserves an Oscar for playing an absolute mess. I don't know how a bohemian puppeteer living in a beautiful Parisian apartment could be so stressed out all the time, but she really needed to get her shit together.

And only because it appears on these lists and I didn't get my two cents in on the Let the Right One In thread, 200 year old castrated Jewish vampires trapped in a 12 year old body and living in working class Swedish apartment blocks definitely don't sparkle. I haven't seen Twilight but I'm guessing none of the child vampires in that keep pedophile slaves in their apartment.

Though no Che? I loved Che. The Ocean's Eleven soundtrack was a little out of place, I kept expecting Brad Pitt in a lounge suit to appear out of the jungle with an impish grin and say, "You didn't expect to just waltz into the Sierra Madres without being noticed? If you want to do this, you're going to need the best."
posted by geoff. at 9:25 AM on January 4, 2009

Hey, thanks for the excellent post & the shoutout, Weebot. We all know that lists usually lead to trouble, so it's exciting to see that so far, I agree with every single opinion voiced in this thread -- Che is on top of my list (no Brad Pitt, but you did see Matt Damon, right?), Red Balloon is marvelous (just saw it so long ago it didn't register as 2008 for me), and Wall-E, Paranoid Park, Wendy & Lucy, and Synecdoche all struck me as overpraised at best and atrocious at worst. Not sure though what you're saying about Let the Right One In, geoff. It's not a sparkly movie, but moving & exciting, anyway?

Interesting bit about Wendy & Lucy: at the NYFF press conference, director Kelly Reichardt explained Wendy's back story, which she decided to leave out of the movie: IIRC, she lost her house in a fire and really is in desperate straights. I think leaving this bit of info out was a fatal mistake -- I reacted just like geoff, assuming that Wendy's lifestyle was a choice, and it robs the movie of its impact. And you were totally right to worry about the dog.
posted by muckster at 10:30 AM on January 4, 2009

And Wall-E is just ridiculously over-rated pretty much everywhere.

This is a very bold statement that is -- I regret to inform you -- like so many bold statements, absolutely and completely wrong.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:57 PM on January 4, 2009

And Wall-E is just ridiculously over-rated pretty much everywhere.

Thanks. I thought I was the only one.
posted by davebush at 6:02 PM on January 4, 2009

Actually, the compound word over-rated is pretty much over-rated everywhere.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:56 AM on January 5, 2009

Yes, I only found it a bit over-rated, didn't care fore the cutesy robo-love all that much, and the action scenes of the second half didn't really hold up on second viewing.

muckster: I think geoff took a shot at "twilight", where the "vampires" sparkle in the sun.
I just saw "let the right one in" again, and it definitely is on the top of my list for 2008.
posted by kolophon at 4:11 AM on January 5, 2009

she lost her house in a fire and really is in desperate straights

I really liked Wendy and Lucy. It reminded me a little of the novels of Thomas Hardy. Also, the photography was really good; I loved the colors.
posted by elmono at 7:34 AM on January 5, 2009

Interesting bit about Wendy & Lucy: at the NYFF press conference, director Kelly Reichardt explained Wendy's back story, which she decided to leave out of the movie: IIRC, she lost her house in a fire and really is in desperate straights.

This completely changes the movie. While the movie is beautifully shot, and Michelle Williams does a wonderful job, she looks way too much like a grad school hipster. The clothing, the haircut, the outfit are all something I'd see on a bohemian living in the city. It really broke the reality of someone down on their luck and replaced it with someone who's roughing it before going back for the fall semester at Amherst. I went ahead and watched it again last night, a little back story really, really helped. Let the Right One in also becomes better when you're aware of what happens in the book. Perhaps this is a language or cultural barrier, the name Eli is a big tipoff, I missed it the first go around.
posted by geoff. at 9:29 AM on January 5, 2009

And yeah, in Twilight the vampires sparkle in the sun. Klaus Klinski is rolling over in his grave.
posted by geoff. at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2009

Oh, I see -- I skipped Twilight, so I completely missed the sparkle thing.

Vadim Rizov has more details from that Wendy & Lucy press conference:
Reichardt revealed Wendy's backstory, completely absent from the film and better off for it, but completely plausible: "She was in Indiana and was a renter and had a house-fire and had no insurance and had to get out of the place where she was leaving." Further motivation: "That the fireman had damaged everything, so she was just sort of left with what she had, and that she had heard about people going into Alaska and working in canneries. She was probably wasn't one of the people who set out the way she set out, but she had enough gumption to try it out." Work started on the screenplay after Katrina victims too poor to flee the storm were mocked on conservative talk shows.
This really does change the movie completely, and I don't agree with Vadim that it's better off not revealing it. Actually, I don't think it's really "backstory" at all -- why Wendy is going where she's going is part of the story. There are some hints in the phone call with her family, but it's not enough to judge her choices by. Umberto D. is the obvious comparison for a similar small-scale tragedy involving a dog, but that movie tells you everything you need to get emotionally involved. Wendy & Lucy is formally interesting and Williams is terrific, but the narrative felt shoddy to me. (Don't want to spoil it here, but did anybody else have problems with the aftermath of the shoplifting scene? I didn't believe that at all.)
posted by muckster at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2009

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