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December 18, 2008


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Oh, I've seen so few of these. Of the ones I have seen, the only one that makes me wonder what you've been smoking is "Diary of the Dead". Because oh my goodness gracious, did I not care for that film. And I did like "Land of the Dead".

Tony Dayoub

OK, I haven't seen your first four, and now I regret missing the Breillat one. Number 2? I underestimated that one, maybe.

Or maybe not. Because you've gotta be kidding me with "The Wrestler". Don't get me wrong... I loved the film. Who knows? It might even make MY top 10, because I see a whole lot less films than you do. But I didn't think it was great. Sure it wasn't just Mickey Rourke's performance you were lauding?

I'm still working on seeing "A Christmas Tale," "Gran Torino," and "Rachel Getting Married," so I'll get back to you on those.

Nice to see some love for "Synechdoche," "Che," "Burn after Reading," and "Wall-E".

REALLY nice to see some love for "Shotgun Stories" and "Diary of the Dead".

What, no "Dark Knight"? Cinema Blend may want you ousted from this dimensional plane (bunch of douches). I'm also glad you are not one of the "Slumdog Millionaire" crowd.

I was surprised you left out "Revolutionary Road" and "Elegy," both of which you seemed to champion.

Glenn Kenny

I liked "Land of the Dead" too. I think I like everything that Romero does. I thought "Diary" was one of the smarter cinematic critiques of new media, and it justified both its structure and medium very cleverly/convincingly.

I have to quit—AGAIN!—but it's Winstons. Only a couple a day, though.


It's nice to see Shotgun Stories getting recognised, I loved it too. I also mean to check out Boarding Gate. The reviews I've read have been awful which surprises me because everything I've seen by Olivier Assayas has been great.

Some of my favourites from this year include Honeydripper, In Bruges and The Unknown (La Sconosciuta).

Glenn Kenny

@Tony: I liked "Revolutionary Road," "Doubt," and to a lesser extent "Elegy," just fine. But as I'm now in a position to give free reign to whatever gets me off the most, I've got to admit that I put those movies in a different category. They're good, but I see them as the best of mainstream midcult prestige pictures, something that my most cinephilic self has never been particularly passionate about. In writing them up, I put my "Premiere" head on, and adopted a more journalistically objective stance. What this list represents is the movies I LOVED, or came closest to loving, not the movies I merely respected. I dug "The Dark Knight" too, just not enough.


I smoke Dorals. More than a couple a day, but less than half a pack. That's something, anyway.

So, if you like everything Romero does, does that include "Bruiser" and "Knightriders"?

Ryland Walker Knight

I'll play along, too, GK! Charlie trumps Arnaud?! Breillat, too?! I can handle Rivette and Jacobs (I'd be soooooper dumb to argue that) jumpin up top, but, really, it's like my buddy Martha said about _Synecdoche_ the other day: "I just don't learn that way." Cuz we both agree it's kinda-sorta really good (it did make me feel life, and it did make me feel like talking to people), but our argument is more about, like, where do we locate the value in THIS brand of negation? Cuz, like, _TWBB_ is so fucking good and all it's doing is abnegateabnegateabnegate! and, of course, VISCOSITY! SWIRLS! WILL TO POWER WHAT!?!!

Also, adding to that choir: good on the _Diary of the Dead_ pick. That thing really jumped out at me. But I'm'a save a lot of my evaluations for some other thing, too. (And even then I'll skirt any REAL definitive answers.)

Also, somewhat unrelated: Bruce Conner!

Tony Dayoub


"They're good, but I see them as the best of mainstream midcult prestige pictures..."

Fair enough, and I get you. I'm envious we don't have the access to so many of these films here in ATL, as you alluded to in your post.

I know you dug "The Dark Knight". I did too. But I think it's ridiculous that some of my fellow "new media" think that if you don't put it in your top 10 list you're out of touch. Or that they campaigned (for a brief time, successfully, I might add) to have their minions vote it up on the IMDB users' top 250 movies (as if that list invalidates any kind of critical opinion on the film).

Interesting list, though.

Tony Dayoub

"Knightriders" rocks.

Bill, please educate me on "Bruiser". Never heard of that one.

Glenn Kenny

@Bill: I find things to admire in both "Knightriders" and "Bruiser," but don't count them as among Romero's best.

@RWK: As I said, the preferential order is vague. My preferred preferential order for this year would have been, believe it or not, groups of three, which would have given equal ranking to Eric, Charlie, and Arnaud. And, yeah, Bruce Conner.

@Tony: I wear my "out of touch"ness like a badge of honor.


Erg...I hated "Knightriders". I've only recently come to understand that it has its admirers. I don't understand that, but to each his own, and all that stuff.

"Bruiser" was...what was that one about again? Something about a meek guy getting some sort of mask burned onto his face, which inspired him to get back at his enemies, or something. I thought it was terrible, but I do remember liking the first scene, which involved a suicide occurring live on a radio call-in show. I thought the movie was going somewhere interesting after that, but I ultimately didn't think it did.

Anyway, this list proves to me that I have much Netflixing to do.

Ryland Walker Knight

Also: super pissed I missed the single Bayarrhea screening of that Garrel flick. That sounds like teh hotness.

Ryland Walker Knight

Also: really pissed I missed the single Bayarrhea screening of that Garrel flick. That shit sounds like teh hotness.

Ryland Walker Knight

whoops! work! internet fail!

Michael Adams

Pleasantly surprised to see the Rivette on top of your list. Among the many reasons to admire his work is his daring to risk boring his audience while taking them carefully where he wants them to go, much like Bergman. Langeais is an introverted chamber piece of minor notes, yet they accumulate to create a melancholy, surprisingly moving effect. The film works visually, psychologically, and thematically, though Depardieu's death makes it even sadder. Also pleased to see 5, 13, 18, and 20 on your fine list.

David Oldaker

I like your list, except I cannot agree with your about Shotgun Stories. Michael Shannon notwhithstanding, I do not understand why people like this movie. The other performances are barely Lifetime-movie acceptable, especially the absolutely hideous performace given by the middle brother, the "angry" one who is all slouchy and broody in every single scene, the one with the long hair who looks like John Ritter. That guy ruined the movie for me, and the other brother, the basketball coach, didn't help either. Not to mention that the movie totally cheeses out at the end, and that its whole vibe is so Gordon Greene-ey that his role as Exec Prod. smacks of little more than onanism. I love George Washington and All The Real Girls as much as anyone, but this style is affected and tired and just plain false and this movie is where it stops working and starts becoming parody.

It would've been nice to see Team Picture on the list in place of Shotgun Stories. That's my favorite American film of the year after Paranoid Park.


Fascinating list, although I despair that a number of these films probably won't come to the Cleveland area (like bill, I have a lot to add to my Netflix list!). And speaking of out-of-touch: I'll admit that Romero is one of those directors I very much need to catch up on, but I didn't even know there was a "Knightriders" that didn't involve David Hasselhoff and a talking car.


David Oldaker:

"The movie cheeses out at the end" -- Um, are you serious? So you would have preferred an ending in which senseless violence prevailed and the two sets of brothers continued killing each other? I thought the quiet ending was an extremely powerful repudiation of destructive macho codes.

"This style is affected and tired and just plain false" -- Well, every noticable style is "affected" in a way, isn't it? I'm not sure that's a meaningful criticism. Van Sant's style in Paranoid Park is "affected" too, in that it's a non-natural way of looking at the world that he consciously adopted, but that doesn't invalidate the film in any way. As for "tired" -- really? You're declaring it "tired" already, after a small handful of films by David Gordon Green and one debut by a new director? Sounds like the problem there might be your fickleness or short attention span. "Just plain false" is more subjective, I suppose, but your baldly declarative phrasing indicates that you think anyone who disagrees with you, anyone for whom Nichols' style is NOT false, must be some kind of idiot. Well, almost everyone who has seen the film disagrees with you, so that attitude's not going to get you very far.

Lord Henry

Glenn, your list makes 2008 seem a more interesting year for movies than it actually was, to my mind. There are a few on there I think are overrated, but definitely agree with the choice of SHOTGUN STORIES, Asia Argento was Best Actress for the two films you've highlighted, and RACHEL GETTING MARRIED and MAD DETECTIVE I'm just about to see in eager anticipation.

Can I give you a heads up from London on great films that might not have opened on your shores as yet? HUNGER, WALTZ WITH BASHIR, FLAME & CITRON, LOUISE-MICHEL, ELDORADO, and PARC (the film REVOLUTIONARY ROAD wanted to be).

yoel meranda

I haven't seen the new Rivette and I feel very sad for it.

Hou should clearly be at the very top. I don't know any filmmakers around comparable to him in any way...

There are some good Turkish films coming out this year by the way... Try to see Vicdan, Three Monkeys, Tatil Kitabı...

Some films on your list came out in Turkey on 2007 so I'm posting both lists:


1. The Electric Princess Picture House / Hou Hsiao Hsien
2. The Flight of the Red Balloon / Hou Hsiao Hsien
3. Dans l’Obscurité / Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
4. Worldly Desires / Apichatpong Weerasethakul
5. Videos by Kyle Canterbury
6. Syndromes and a Century / Apichatpong Weerasethakul
7. Still Life / Jia Zhang Ke
8. The Dibbuk of Haifa / Amos Gitai
9. Passion of Anna / Eytan Ipeker
10. The Host (Gwoemul) / Joon-ho Bong



1. Le Silence de Lorna / Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
2. Chelsea on the Rocks / Abel Ferrara
3. La Fille Coupee en Deux / Claude Chabrol
4. Vicdan / Erden Kıral
5. Üç Maymun / Nuri Bilge Ceylan
6. BIO-ELECTRIC PATINA / Oliver Hockenhull
7. Science Lab / Eytan İpeker
8. Alexandra / Alexander Sokurov
9. Tatil Kitabı / Seyfi Teoman


Glenn Kenny

@David Oldaker: If it's any consolation, "Team Picture" is very likely to make my Best DVDs of '08 list.

@Lord Henry: I haven't seen any of the films you mention save "Waltz With Bashir," which I like a lot and am still a bit confused with respect to how it's rolling out in the U.S. I think I'd like to wait for it to go wider before laying on the kudos.

@Yoel: Thanks for your lists. Some I've seen—LOVE "Syndromes," "Alexandra," and "Lorna;" the Chabrol only barely missed making the above list. Look forward to catching up with the others.

David Oldaker

I'm going to assume that B.W. is Jeff Nichols and chalk his hostilty up to me hitting a nerve.

What I meant to say is that particular style is becoming affected. No one else has nutballed Van Sant's style yet (although from what I've heard, Afterschool is in the Van Sant vein), but that style too will become tiresome once it's ripped off multiple times.

Jeff Nichols is a crank turner. His direction of the actors was borderline incompetent. Michael Shannon is a good enough actor to slough off the amateur posturings of an fraud auteur.

And yeah, the ending was bullshit. A cop out. Did it have to end in violence? No. Who says it had to do that? But after all the sturm and drang, one family pitted against another, initmations of something biblical brewing on the horizon, we're treated to a poorly composed and choreographed fight, and then the site of Michael Shannon sitting on his porch, and all is well with the world. Valuable life lessons have been learned. Hokum. Bad writing straight from an episode of One Tree Hill.

Not buying it. Jeff Nichols ain't your man. Look somewhere else for the next great hope of Indiewood. Aaron Katz or Andrew Nenninger. Those guys are the real deal. They both have very subtle styles and seem interested in being as honest as possible about what it is that they have experienced. Shotgun Stories is warmed over Southern Gothic populated with people who the director has nothing but contempt for. Especially that mother.

David Oldaker

BW: Almost everyone who has seen the film disagrees with you...

You take a poll? You personally know all 100 people who saw the movie. And you're calling out my baldly declarative statements?

Glenn Kenny

David, obviously I don't agree with you on Nichols, particularly the contempt part. But I am a big booster of both Nenninger and Katz.

Tony Dayoub

"Michael Shannon notwhithstanding, I do not understand why people like this movie."

That's right, David. You don't.

Dirty Harry

I know somebody already said it and you explained it but I was all primed to say it before I saw that someone else said it, so I'm saying it: DIARY OF THE DEAD?

Love Romero -- all things Romero. Love THE CRAZIES. Love LAND OF THE DEAD, saw DIARY with Romero there in person to introduce and stood in line with some real, uhm, well, okay, scary weirdos for the pleasure.

Awful. It took days for the disappointment to wear off. Awful. I can't talk anymore, it's all coming back...

Glenn Kenny

Now I'm curious. I understand that there are some out there who just don't like "Diary of the Dead," but I don't understand the flat-out hatred of it as some kind of abomination in Romero's body of work. WHich is to say, I'd love to hear from a hater just what is so hater-worthy of it. I don't ask this as a throw-down. I'm only curious—and frankly wondering, by now, just what it is I've been smoking. Expound, please!


Didn't mean to be hostile, David, but I can see that I was a bit overzealous. Chalk it up to two things: my passionate appreciation of Shotgun Stories (as of now, it's my favorite of '08) and your tone, which I perceived as glib and assholish. When I see people stirring the pot like that, I sometimes feel the need to correct it by stirring in the opposite direction. Ah, the internet.


Nice list, Glenn; you've inspired me to move FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON to the top of my Netflix queue. Wondering: have you seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN? It's presently in my top five of the year, and I'd go so far as to say it's the best vampire-related film I've ever seen (edging out NEAR DARK and your boy Romero's MARTIN). See it before the Hollywood remake drains all the subtlety and atmosphere out of it.

Also, a general recommendation to readers of this blog to check out Brad Anderson's TRANSSIBERIAN, an excellent thriller in the Hitchcock vein which came and went without ceremony earlier this year. In our depressing era of CGI wankery and headache-inducing quick cuts, this kind of movie -- a tension-based thriller in which the suspense derives from the characterization and the skilled unfolding of a story -- almost never gets made anymore. It may not be anything new, but TRANSSIBERIAN merits celebration as a return to a rapidly disappearing style of filmmaking.


I'd love to expound, Glenn, but honestly my memory of "Diary" is a little hazy at this point. But do remember thinking that the performances and the writing were close to excruciating. Another problem is that I've never been one to think that Romero's satire was his strong suit, and that's never been the draw for me to his films. In, say, "Dawn", the satire is only there if you want it, but he foregrounds it in "Diary" (as I remember). Since I don't think Romero is especially funny (okay, "Dawn" had its moments), this was a bad move, as far as I was concerned.

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