S&S names ‘Hunger’ best of 2008

Posted by · 9:07 am · December 1st, 2008

Sight & Sound’s annual Top Ten is, for my money, one of the most intelligent and respectable of all critics’ lists, and this year’s is no exception. Revealed in the magazine’s just-out January 2009 issue, the list is drawn from a poll of 50 international critics, including such heavyweights as Kenneth Turan, Amy Taubin, Armond White and Peter Bradshaw, and the results (for me, at least) are hard to argue with.

The list rather bluntly highlights the less-than-stellar year American cinema has had, with only one 2008 U.S. picture (“WALL-E”) making the cut. (The inclusion of “There Will Be Blood” stems from UK release date differences, which might also account for the low profile of some current year-end contenders.) But it’s a rich and exciting collection of films, however you look at it:

1. “Hunger” (Steve McQueen)
2. “There Will Be Blood” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. “WALL-E” (Andrew Stanton)
4. “Gomorrah” (Matteo Garrone)
=5. “A Christmas Tale” (Arnaud Desplechin)
=5. “The Class” (Laurent Cantet)
7. “Of Time and the City” (Terence Davies)
8. “Happy-Go-Lucky” (Mike Leigh)
=9. “The Headless Woman” (Lucrecia Martel)
=9. “Let the Right One In” (Tomas Alfredson)

I can’t tell you how much happier I would be if the eventual Best Picture nominees were drawn from that lot. We can but dream.

I also have to say, by the way, that “A Christmas Tale” has really grown on me in the weeks since I saw it at the London Film Festival, as the visual and structural clutter of Desplechin’s approach has revealed to me, in hindsight, a greater thematic density than I perhaps originally credited it with. It’s one of the hazards of writing starred reviews that one often has to assign a numerical value to a film before it has completely settled in one’s mind. Suffice to say I would now bump up my original three-star rating.

The same goes for “Happy-Go-Lucky,” where instances of what I initially perceived as writerly imprecision now seem to speak more to the film’s current social context. Easily one of the year’s finest.

I digress. Anyway, it’s an impeccable list, as you’d expect from a publication that has previously crowned masterworks like “Amores Perros,” “Cache” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” the best of their respective years. Good work, S&S.

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9 responses so far

  • 1 12-01-2008 at 9:45 am

    daveylow said...

    Interesting list but did the critics see all the films coming out late in the year? I really don’t think WALL-E belongs on a 10 Best List–this is really the most overrated film of the year. Where is Milk?

  • 2 12-01-2008 at 10:25 am

    Ivan said...

    Checking their previous top tens, these guys really have good taste in movies! and in some cases match ed with Oscar choices
    Brokeback Mountain
    A History of Violence
    The Departed
    The Queen
    United 93
    Pan’s Labyrinth
    I´m Not There
    The Lives of Others *2006
    No Country for Old Men
    The Assassination of Jesse James
    Eastern Promises
    There Will Be Blood (in the top ten of this year)

    so maybe these are good news for
    The Class
    and Hunger (will be great if that tuesday morning Michael Fassbender come together with Rourke, Penn, Jenkins and DiCaprio) Dream Team I know!

  • 3 12-01-2008 at 11:36 am

    N8 said...

    daveylow, you’re wrong.

    And having recently seen Happy-Go-Lucky, I am quite pleased to see it getting some Top Ten attention. I think you and I may actually agree on something, Guy. It is certainly one of the year’s finest films.

  • 4 12-01-2008 at 1:05 pm

    Jamie said...

    Great list except that I find the inclusion of The Headless Women extremely puzzling. Saw the film at Cannes and thought it was terrible; don’t remember it garnering any strong reviews either.

  • 5 12-01-2008 at 2:45 pm

    Diego said...

    Wall-E deserves a nomination for Best Picture!

  • 6 12-01-2008 at 3:56 pm

    Kokushi said...

    Happy Go-Lucky was good but better than TDK, In Bruges, LOL, thats like saying The Godfather 3 is better than part 1 &2.

  • 7 12-01-2008 at 4:28 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kokushi: I disagree. Each to their own, but “Happy-Go-Lucky” has nagged away at me for over six months now — there’s something urgent and devastatingly sad about its storytelling to me that resonates more than most of the things I’ve seen this year. It’s a grower.

    N8: Glad we agree on something! Long may it continue.

    Ivan: I’m starting to get a weird feeling about Michael Fassbender. I’m tempted to put him in my top 5, insane as that sounds. But every year has at least one out-of-left-field arthouse nom. Maybe he is it.

  • 8 12-02-2008 at 4:38 am

    Simone said...

    Guy, you’re my kind of guy ;-), I’m glad you think so highly of Michael and Hunger. I’m going to pimp you massively at my Fassbender blog for your brilliant thoughts.