John Moses’ top films of 2008

A Clips tradition, here are the Top Films of 2008, as compiled by Filmworks President John Moses.

  1. The Edge of Heaven. From Germany and Turkey, overlapping stories of parents and their adult children, confronting divisions of culture, gender and age to achieve heartfelt reconciliations. With his fifth feature, writer-director Fatih Akin joins the ranks of the most gifted filmmakers in the world today.
  2. Slumdog Millionaire. Danny Boyle’s dazzling, cinematic scramble through the slums and modern high-rises of Mumbai succeeds in integrating social realism, romance and comedy into one winning masala.
  3. Frozen River. Riveting performance from Melissa Leo as a desperate mother trying to provide for her two sons on the Canadian-U.S. border. This first feature from Courtney Hunt was the best American independent film of the year.
  4. The Visitor. Todd McCarthy’s follow-up to The Station Agent was the year’s summer relief for filmgoers looking for thoughtful drama at the multiplexes. Starring Richard Jenkins.
  5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Realistic drama from Romania, set during the final days of Communist rule, when abortion was illegal. The mounting suspense during the real-time dinner scene is worthy of Hitchcock.
  6. In Bruges. Martin McDonagh’s witty script about two hit men in hiding might remind you of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter.
  7. Still Life. Parallel love stories set against the actual demolition of Fengjie on the Yangtze River. Part fiction, part documentary, this winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival has the pacing of Antonioni and the beauty of classical Chinese painting.
  8. The Band’s Visit. Understated comedy-drama from Israel about an Egyptian police band stranded in a remote Israeli town.
  9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Critics complained that this film did not hit the high mark that Woody Allen set in the ’70s and ’80s. Maybe so, but this newest effort still was the best romantic comedy of the year.
  10. Encounters at the End of the World. With his characteristic interest in documenting the obsessions that drive people to the fringes of society, Werner Herzog focuses on the scientists and support workers he finds in Antarctica.