While I wasn't looking half the year passed by. Where did it go?!
So, since I'm idea-deficient, I present my not-very-well-thought-out best films of 2008-to-date list. (Do I need more hyphens?) For those keeping score, selections are listed alphabetically and are thus unranked. (I was going to include an in-progress best of list for music, but this took a lot longer to cobble together than I counted on. Expect it tomorrow.)
For what it's worth, I consider lighter fare just as worthy of the greatest praise, but the fact is that a significant percentage of the best films I've seen this year are heavy. Don't feel bad if you've only heard of two of these.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile): A nearly two-hour squirm of a film about a Romanian woman who arranges her illegal abortion in the 1980s. Not for the faint of heart to be sure but a powerful and complex exploration of a hot button issue.
American Teen: The advertising campaign for this documentary bothers me, but then again, I also have some questions about how the film was made. Those concerns aside, this is a funny and heart-wrenching film that revives all those complicated feelings experienced during adolescence.
Be Kind Rewind: I have no evidence that director Michel Gondry is a knitter, but with the love for the handmade exhibited throughout his body of work, I imagine he'd at least be an admirer of the needlecraft. It's a fun goof on backyard moviemaking and a sincere statement of the magic of expression through art.
Funny Games: As unsettling as the original Austrian film about a family held hostage and tortured by two visitors, Funny Games pokes its proverbial finger in the viewer's chest whenever it isn't wagging said finger. Its stern moralist message about audience enjoyment of and complicity in film violence is perhaps even more relevant today when considering what else is in the multiplex.
Iron Man: Character development and comedy are just as important in this superhero movie as the explosions and impressive special effects expected for something released for the summer movie season.
Paranoid Park: Another cinematic tone poem from director Gus Van Sant. A skateboarder involved in the accidental death of a security guard wrestles with his guilt and inability to share this secret. I told you this list wasn't filled with laugh-a-minute stuff.
Priceless (Hors de prix): This thoroughly charming French romantic comedy about a gold digger and her suitor/protégé is classic Hollywood with a more continental attitude about spelling out the duties of such pursuits.
Redbelt: Is there a point at which the cost of personal integrity is too great to maintain it? Set in the mixed martial arts world, David Mamet thrills with another of his patented con man mysteries that functions pretty well as a morality play too.
Snow Angels: This compassionate study of the often unlikable people wrapped up in a small town tragedy burrows painfully into the heart, but such is the cost of empathy, or any human connection for that matter.
WALL-E: Pixar can do no wrong. Seriously. I'm not sure what it says about the state of cinema that the most romantic yearning I've seen on screen all year features a robot hoping to hold the hand of another, in a computer animated film aimed at kids no less.