An acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker working in France; a young Mexican director reimagining a canonical Danish film in an obscure Mennonite community in his home country; a West Coast-based American, enamored of the somber rhythms of the blasted Mississippi delta, miraculously captures them in the kind of American independent film all too rare of late; others from around the globe watching the specificities of home --character, geography, community, and class -- evaporate around them. These were the stories of our cinematic 2008, and we'd be hard-pressed to draw any solid conclusions from them, except that passion for those few terrific films that deserve attention always lives, even in those movie years considered less than stellar. Hou Hsiao-hisen's "Flight of the Red Balloon," it should be noted, was the clear winner, with a lead tally higher than any of the past Reverse Shot first placers. There's nothing outwardly trendy about Hou Hsaio-hsien's heavenly masterwork, but it captured something that feels wholly contemporary: even as it recalls Albert Lamorisse's evocation of France in the Fifties (which also saw a terrific, restored print back in theaters this year), "Flight" locates its timeless grace amidst the stuff of 21st-century living. Digital editing, video games, piano tuning, pinball: all exist in the same continuum in Hou's film. Perhaps it is the perfect movie of the moment.
Click here to see the full list. And stay tuned for the rest of our 2008 wrap-up.