On the Utility and Futility of Year-End Lists - Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you nothing but peace and happiness in 2009. In keeping with the holiday spirit of 'out with the old, in with the new', here's a link to indieWIRE's 2008 Critics Poll '08.

Since many of the films are year-end specialty releases and art house films, one hopes that, at some point in 2009, these movies will find their way into more provincial cinemas and onto DVD so that the 290 million (or so) people in the United States living outside New York and LA (of which I am one) have the opportunity to judge these films for ourselves. In effect, the 08 poll essentially becomes a "to-watch" list for those of us out in the hinterlands. I am thankful for it.

That said, a survey of this list also exposes the increasingly problematic nature of assessing and classifying films by their release date. Take film #35, Ronnie Brownstein's Frownland. This would have been made my "Best of 2008" list this year... except I saw it at its premiere at SXSW in March 2007. Similarly, the best film I saw in 2008 was There Will Be Blood. Of course, TWBB was not released widely until January, yet it made many critics' Best of 2007 list. Should I include Frownland or Blood on my best-of? Does it matter? Not really. It only highlights the fact that, now more than ever, time and memory are the true arbiters of what lasts.

Enough hand wringing. Of the films I saw in 2008, these are the ones that have stayed with me the longest:

Favorite doc, favorite studio film, and favorite american indie: At the Death House Door The Dark Knight (or There Will Be Blood, if you want to count it as 2008) Frownland

plus two foreign films... Chaturanga In the City of Sylvia

three shorts... Merrily, Merrily (short) Second Egyptian (short) Voda (short)

and four Microbudgets.... Medicine for Melancholy The New Year Parade Wellness Nights and Weekends

And that makes a dozen.

Happy New Year!