Category: 2008 Top 10

  • Still Walking (Koreeda, 2008)

    What is surprising--and delightful--about the film is how clear-eyed the portrait of the family is even when the setting for it is a situation that would normally invite excessive sentimentality. Bittersweet is one of the hardest tones to capture, perhaps because we are so cynical that we tend to assume instinctively that it is parody. Koreeda reminds us that emotions that we too often mock (because we find them embarassing or painful) are real and, often, beautiful.

  • At the Edge of the World (Stone, 2008)

    As a documentary, the film is informative without being too polemical. It has a point of view, and its makers have (I imagine) their sympathies. That said, the documentaries I like best are the ones that trust the audience enough to simply give it the story and let the viewers grapple with it on their own terms. In an age where docugandas seem to dominate the landscape, it is nice to see a film that is rich in ideas and circumspect in presentation.

  • 2008 Top Ten

    The creation, dissemination, and response to such lists have become marked by pettiness, pomposity, and preening—at least in the film blogosphere, which has become filled with these attitudes in general. I think the two standard tracks are to pick obscure films to validate how avant garde one is or two pick mainstream films to prove how one is not afraid to be labeled bourgeois by the effete and ineffectual critical consensus.

  • Séraphine (Provost, 2008)

    I can immediately think of two primary types of artist biopics. The first is largely dependent on dramatic irony. You know (and really, the film knows) that Will is going to grow up to be Shakespeare or Ms. Austen is going to become Jane, and so every event is infused with significance. These films appeal to the vanity of the informed viewer. (I’m not saying that is all they do or that they are all necessarily bad for doing so.) Because I know who John Webster is, I take delight in the joke that is unexplained. Because I’m familiar with the plays or paintings or novels, I am instinctively a half second ahead of the reveal and feel smart. And make no mistake, people who watch movies like to feel smart; even if they know they are being pandered to on some levels.