We are officially halfway through 2008, and since I just can’t wait until December to highlight some of the year’s best films, I’m going to go ahead and list my top FIVE of the half year. Of course, as we all know, this is notoriously the lesser half of cinema’s calendar year, but there are always a couple gems. Here are the best of what I saw.
5) U23D – For as simple a concept as this is, U23D turns out to be a rather magnificent film. It’s just a concert film, in 3D, on a huge screen. But when the concert is U2, and the setting is some monstrous Latin American soccer stadium, the results are stunning. I hope these immersing experience films are the future of cinema. 4) Mister Lonely – This is a very odd film, but there’s something very touching and true about it. Something about watching a bunch of sad, lonely people dressed up like their favorite celebrities and performing their lives as if they were icons is very appropriate to the fame-obsessed culture we live in today. Plus the film (which stars Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, and Werner Herzog) is just beautifully made. It’s Harmony Korine’s most polished, coherent (if you can call it that) work yet.
3) Wall E – Pixar has just about the best track record of any film company, and Wall E is just about the best thing they’ve ever done (just about). It’s a thing of beauty—a true artist’s picture that is both entertaining, provocative, subtle, sad, and joyful. It reminded me of A.I. a little bit, which is a very good thing.
2) Flight of the Red Balloon – This film from director Hou Hsaio-Hsien is an abstract meditation on childhood innocence, art, and all things bright and beautiful in the everyday. It’s also an homage to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 classic short, The Red Balloon. The film captures so much truth in its images, and Juliette Binoche offers one of the year’s early standouts. I can’t wait to buy it on DVD and slip into its simple, quiet, elegant world once more.
1) Paranoid Park – I wrote on March 6th that Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park “is one of those films that jolts awake my deep love of cinema,” and that it was “without question the best film of 2008 thus far.” I stand by that statement now. This is a film of such daring cinematic bravado, such nuanced observation of human interiority, such organic beauty… It’ll be one I buy on DVD and watch multiple times a year, like a Terrence Malick film or something.