Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Ed Gonzales's top 10 films of 2008.
1) A Dogme film with an Altmanesque soul, "Rachel Getting Married" is a richly eccentric and instinctive look at addiction and the toils, troubles, and joys of blood relations, in which a young girl struggles to save herself using a language no one either speaks or cares to, set by Jonathan Demme during a wedding whose pretense to multiculturalism reveals itself as a narcissistic clan's way of disguising from the world that they're hurting just as badly as the next family.
2) Built on sensuous interplays between people and objects, reality and representation, José Luis Guerín's rapturously alfresco "In the City of Sylvia" uses a voluptuous language of spatial-temporal equations to conflate one's love of people with one's love of movies.
3) A sterling follow-up to his similarly themed "Changing Times", "The Witnesses" is another triumph for the criminally underrated André Téchiné, who uses his sensual humanist verve to hone in on the desires and insecurities of a group of friends and lovers when AIDS rattles their sense of complacency.
4) Errol Morris's dramatic recreations are his aesthetic signature, and they're sometimes sore spots in his work, but in his heady Abu Ghraib exposé "Standard Operating Procedure" they are as purposeful as they were in "The Thin Blue Line", cannily dialoguing with his thesis about the veracity of image-making.
5) "Summer Palace" teems with sex scenes more meaningful than anything in "Lust, Caution", hinging on more than just a feeling of duplicity; in them, Ye Lou locates the soul of his young people, a woman's areola and the hairs on a man's chin popping off the screen as vividly and urgently as placards of political protest.
6) Filmmaker and explorer, Werner Herzog is a man obsessed with the secrets and wonders of uncharted terrains and their inhabitants, and with his sly, poetic, and melancholic "Encounters at the End of the World" he reflects on the eccentricity, compassion, and possible madness of people like himself united in their committment to looking beyond themselves.
7) A sweet and mellow Malaysia-set love story between a young boy and girl, "Mukhsin" is chockablock with bittersweet cultural observations, with Yasmin Ahmad peering at the ecstasies and haunts of her young characters with a mixture of lovingness and randiness that brings to mind Yasujiro Ozu's "Good Morning".
8) Lush with longing and history, "My Father My Lord" suggests an ancient vase with small precarious cracks spread across its surface. Writer-director David Volach's subjective use of video technology toys with space and distance, affecting the curiosity of his cherubic main character, whose love for his father is as powerful and incandescent as lightning.
9) An unexpectedly poignant queering of the horror genre, "Let the Right One In" is the story of one child's painful coming of age and another's insatiable bloodlust. Do not avert your eyes from Tomas Alfredson's gorgeously, meaningfully aestheticized vision, though you may want to cover your neck.
10) With "Happy-Go-Lucky", Mike Leigh engages silent-movie idiom for a study of human behavior that appears out of sync with the times but shouldn't really, and as memorably performed by Sally Hawkins using an arsenal of unbelievably orchestrated sniggers and jostles and punctuating guffaws, her wild child emerges as an example of humane perseverance.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: "Man on Wire", "Chris & Don", "Reprise", "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl", "The Strangers", "Redbelt", "Still Life", "Gran Torino", "Trouble the Water", and "Up the Yangtze".