Call me lazy or irresponsible or just plain fed up with hierarchies, but I couldn't come up with a top ten list this year. For nearly a decade, I've come up with something publishable for indieWIRE or the Village Voice. But not this year. My primary excuse is a personal one: The first year and half of raising a child has engulfed my time, and kept me from seeing so many of the movies that I probably should have seen (I'm embarrassed to admit the following oversights: "Flight of the Red Balloon," "Hunger," "Synecdoche, New York," "La France," and many others.)
Upon reflection, I also find it nearly impossible to remember how exactly a movie moved me, and especially, whether one movie moved me more than another. This happens every year, but the new-parent-addled brain is particularly mushy.
There's also the problem of release dates: I can definitely say that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's "Sugar" was one of my favorite movies that I saw this year, but it's not coming out until 2009. The same goes for "Goodbye Solo," Rahmin Bahrani's exquisite North Carolina tale about a man who wants to kill himself and the Senegalese taxi driver who tries to prevent it. And Lucrecia Martel's "The Headless Woman" was my favorite film at Cannes 2008, but it doesn't even have a distributor and may never come out. See my rundown in today's indieWIRE about the top undistributed films of the year.
And what do you do with a film such as Carlos Reygadas' "Silent Light," which only played for six days in New York in 2008, but is suddenly appearing on top ten lists even though no one will really be able to see it until 2009. Also, I don't know how to judge a film which I found excrutiatingly slow at certain points and amazingly transcendant at other points. Certainly, placing it on a numerical list does little to satisfy that quandary.
Sure, "Ballast," "Momma's Man," "My Winnipeg," "Still Life," "A Christmas Tale" and "Waltz with Bashir" would probably make a final 2008 tabulation. And maybe "Che," too. And possibly "Paranoid Park," too, though I seem to remember feeling that film was stylishly breathtaking, but ultimately slight. And there's a few scenes in Werner Herzog's doc "Encounters at the End of the World" that I probably loved more than anything else I saw last year. But there's that word "probably" again. I can't say, for sure.