Each of the Notebook's writers were given the opportunity to submit two lists of their ten favorite films of 2008. One is restricted to films receiving at least a week's theatrical run in the U.S., a limitation regretfully imposed only so that we may arrive at a final tally of the Notebook's overall favorites released this year. The second list is optional, and opens up the field to anything seen in 2008, new or old, festival or regular release. Each writer is also given space for words of explaination, rant, annotation, or anything else that occurs to them about their film viewing in 2008.
I barely seem to have seen any new films this year -- I did vaguely "keep up" by seeing stuff on DVD from the year before, but most of my explorations have been archaeological in nature. While I might be able to cobble together a list of my ten best films from 2008, it might intersect rather closely with my ten worst, and would certainly intersect closely with everybody else's lists. But I can cheerfully supply a list of the things I saw during a year's blogging that made a deep enough impression on me that they back popped into my head when I thought back. I'm probably missing lots, but here are ten films which seemed to suggest different ways of making films or thinking about films. And we always need that.
The Last Flight (William Dieterle, 1931). Brilliant, strange, off-kilter tale of war fatigue and drink.
Seven Footprints to Satan (Benjamin Christensen, 1929). Viewed with illegible Italian intertitles, this stopped being a haunted-house comedy thriller and changed into the Lynchian descent into vaudevillian madness it always wanted to be.
Sebastian (David Green, 1968). Moving and quirky spy drama with beautiful performances and a reckless disregard for plot.
This Land is Mine! (Jean Renoir, 1943). Maybe my most emotional viewing experience of the year.
Kitty (Mitchell Leisen, 1945). Beautifully detailed period comedy-drama, cheerfully amoral and sophisticated.
Thunderbolt (Josef Von Sternberg, 1929). Another deeply weird early talkie, deserving of restoration/distribution at once. How different cinema could have been!
Bay of Angels (Jacques Demy, 1963). Absolutely thrilling.
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008). I didn’t see many new films, but this one could qualify for a top ten in just about any year.
Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969). Seriously disturbed, ludicrous, vivid and basically bananas. Offensive too, probably, but so exhilaratingly off-the-wall it short-circuits good taste.
Bewitched (Arch Oboler, 1945). Oboler’s cute little psycho-thriller moves in strange ways and deploys sound in an inventive and unconventional fashion. It could still serve as godfather to a new kind of cinema.