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Alamo programmers TOP TEN list 2008!!!


The votes have been cast and your friendly neighborhood Alamo programming office have officially declared their favorites for the year. If you like pre-adolecscent Swedish vampires, you'll be very pleased with the results:

TIM LEAGUE - bossman, founder, Fantastic Fest maniac

1) LET THE RIGHT ONE IN - This one is a total package movie. Rest assured, the American remake will add a pop-punk soundtrack and a teen idol lead. Please see the original, it’s a genre masterpiece.

2) THE WRESTLER - The trailer gave me goosebumps the first time I saw it, and the feature lives up to the hype 100%. Mickey Rourke has been building to this role his whole life.

3) THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD - The highest grossing Korean film in history was also the audience award winner at this year’s Fantastic Fest. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is one of my all-time favorite films, and this explosively fun film honestly gives it a run for the money. (US Premiere: Fantastic Fest)

4) MARTYRS - Some hate it, I love it. Opinions are not middling about this unflinching, gut-punch French horror flick. It’s a beautiful, intense meta-horror modern classic. Weinstein has it slated for an unrated DVD release in March, so watch for it. The French own modern horror in my book. (US Premiere: Fantastic Fest)

5) EX DRUMMER - You’ve never seen anything like Ex Drummer. First time Dutch director Koen Mortier delivers a wildly original shocker loosely structured around a megalomaniac author who joins forces with a vagrant, a loser and a rapist to form a punk cover band.

6) SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE - Slumdog had me at the early poop trough scene and kept strong to the end. Bollywood and Hollywood are starting to merge and the results are exciting – look for a Paul Schrader all-singing-all-dancing Bollywood flick in 2009!

7) IRON MAN - Sure, the final battle was pretty lame, but Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark stands as the best superhero casting EVER. To me, this one blew the doors off the Batmobile.

8 ) WALL E - Check it out…a second heartwarming movie makes my top ten. Viva Pixar for consistently providing smart, beautiful movies that work equally well as kindergarten eye candy and adult entertainment. We’ve already watched 45 minutes of Up (their new one) and from what we’ve seen, it may very well be on my 2009 list.

9) JCVD - After I saw this film, Jean Claude Van Damme has no bigger fan than me. JCVD is an acting tour-de-force by a guy we never thought had anything more than karate “chops.” Speaking in his native tongue, he’s tender, charming, subtle and intelligent. AND he still kicks ass. (US Premiere: Fantastic Fest)

10) MILK - I can’t say as I had the best time of my life watching Milk, but Sean Penn’s transformation into Harvey Milk was so spot-on-perfect and the parallels to the current California Prop 8 bigotry and intolerance make this one absolutely essential viewing.

LARS NILSEN - lead programmer, repertory wizard, Weird Wednesdays

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: Awesome down and dirty doc about the golden age of Aussie Sleaze. Biggest concentration of gunpowder and breasteses you'll find outside of Weird Wednesday and Terror Tuesday.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN: It feels so much like real childhood memories it hurts. I never thought of this as a horror movie. It has so many textures and emotions that I'd never seen expressed on film before. Really special.

I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW: Crazy lives! The story of two obsessed greats and their rapprochement. One extroverted stalker meets a much more quietly desperate transgendered superfan and they meet their idol Tiffany!

LOVE STORY: Not technically a 2008 film but it finally hit screens this year. Arthur Lee talked extensively with these guys and let loose. Huge and devastating.

WILD COMBINATION: I'm not a big Arthur Russell fan honestly, but this movie about the late musician is exceptional.

WESLEY WILLIS’ JOYRIDES: I wasn't expecting this Wesley Willis movie to be so big in scope and so full of great footage. Sad, joyous. Most underrated film of the year.

INSIDE THE CIRCLE: Again, not a 2008 film but what can you do? It's about breakdancer dudes trying to start a scene but on a larger level it's about the pain and difficulty and triumph of getting ANYTHING done.

THE UNFORESEEN: Kind of a doc, kind of a tone poem. Something really different and unusual. Looks at the destructive wave of greed and development in Austin with the eyes of a poet/painter/pathologist. Hard to describe. Harder to forget, particularly as these skyscrapers keep blocking out the sun.

JCVD: Most insane (and uncalled-for) example of self-aggrandizement since I don't know when. But Jean-Claude Van Damme's instinct to exalt himself provides a fascinating tension that underlies the film and makes it thrum. When He delivers His soliloquy I watched with my mouth hanging open. What?!

BE KIND REWIND: All right, like everyone with a heart and mind I am fed up with Jack Black. He's always taking the wrong part and playing outside his strengths. He's good here. And I loved the Capra-esque story of VHS vs. DVD and small business vs. big. It's a sweet movie, okay?

HENRI MAZZA - creative director, superhost, anything that ends with "-alongs"

If you look back at last year's lists of top ten faves, you'll see that I couldn't stay in the mold of picking only feature films and chose Funny or Die's THE LANDLORD as my favorite movie of the year. This year, I'd love to do the same thing, especially because the lines between movies and videos and even TV shows are getting increasingly blurred.

Still I'm going to play by the rules this year and choose actual and technical feature length films released theatrically and distributed widely throughout the U.S. in the 2008 calendar year. That means that THE WRESTLER and GRAN TORINO both don't count, because it totally isn't fair that you can release a movie in two select cities and then claim legitimacy when you show up on a top ten list from some culturati in a different city. That kind of thinking may work with the Academy, but I'm above that kind of "for your consideration" nonsense.

But before abandoning my snarky intro completely, let me just say that obviously the two greatest pieces of moving images that told a story this year were DOCTOR HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG and MAD MEN's second season. They don't count either, of course, and that's poopie.

Okay, with that rant out of the way, here are my other picks for top tens:

10) W.
Not the greatest movie of the year, but it made me want to be president by showing that seriously, ANYONE can be the commander-in-chief, so long as your daddy is rich but doesn't really love you.

I generally hate Bill Maher's superiority complex, and his feigned humility when he was doing the interview circuit for this movie was definitely bullshit. But thank god we've got someone who'll go out and question anyone and everyone who believes in god and can bring the new rationalism deeper into the culture than Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins alone.

8 ) WALL-E
The long, silent first act of this film more than makes up for the fact that some of the social commentary seemed to be reaching a little. Yes, trash is bad, and people should exercise. Yawn. Get back to the robots who inexplicably gained self-consciousness and fell in love!

Definitely a better family film this year, and I'm not just saying that because it's all about making movies. It's also not just because Chuck Bass is in it, but that certainly helps.

Keeping with the kids theme, I love it when they're running around in the slums as children in this movie. I love the structure of using Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I love the cheesy happy ending. But the intro title card (the same one used on the poster) that poses the question of how Dev made it to question 19 that bookends the movie is so so so horrible that it almost made me want to take the movie off of my list entirely just to teach it a lesson. If I thought Danny Boyle would have cared, I totally would have, too.

More kids! Except this time one of them is undead.

Sort of a generic romcom, sure, but Jason Siegel proves that of all the Apatow clan, he's the one with the most heart. I laughed at dick jokes and I still rooted for the main character.

Another title that plenty of people are claiming has been too hyped this year, but even though the bit with the passengers on the ships trying to decide if they'll blow themselves up or not felt like it was lifted straight out of the 1960s Batman TV show (in a bad way, Zack), so much of the rest of this movie twisted Batman and the Joker both into the best reimagining since Frank Miller.

At some point in their career, every action star should be required to play a fictionalized and troubled version of themselves. Especially if Steven Segal will cut his pony tail.

Yes, there were tons of great indie films and dramatic performances from actors across the board last year, but no single moment made me tingle the same way it felt when Robert Downey, Jr. said, "Yeah, I can fly." That feeling is why I started going to movies in the first place, and in a year when George Lucas raped my childhood once again, it was sooo refreshing to see that a Hollywood blockbuster could still lift my cynical, overexposed suspension of disbelief to the point where I felt like I could fly, too.

Honorable Mention: MAN ON WIRE. I haven't seen it yet, but it's the next rental in my queue. I'm 100% sure that as soon as I have seen it it'll be displacing something on this list, but I don't know what it will be yet.

BRAD PARRETT - hardest working man in show business, damage control, king

In no particular order, these are my top 10 films of 2008.  They may not be triumphs of technique or narrative, but these are the films that caught me off guard in a good way.  (Note: I have not yet had the chance to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE or THE WRESTLER, expect a Top 12 soon)

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN- Probably a broken record here, but this one truly is remarkable.

MISTER LONELY - Harmony Korine's first stab at more traditional storytelling proved he was not just a Dogme director riding a vouch from Herzog.

SOUTH OF HEAVEN - Not sure if this one counts because it has not yet been released theatrically, but if you were fortunate enough to catch it at Fantastic Fest, you'd know this film is not playing by anyone else's rulebook. Shea Whigham's performance as 'Mad Dog' deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

SON OF RAMBOW - This British export is more straight forward than some of the others on this list, but it's just too good to leave off.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS - Might be loosing some points on this pick, but this mainstream comedy from arthouse auteur David Gordon Green blends up a nice balance of honesty, style and slapstick.

WALL-E - A kids' movie with almost no dialogue. That takes balls. And this film has stunning balls.

MILK- Cheers to Van Sant for pulling off the most flamboyantly nuanced pic of the year.

VICKI CHRISTINA BARCELONA- I think Woody Allen's worst films are still better than most films that come out any given year. This is one of his best.

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD - This doc from Werner Herzog is a beautiful (in both style and substance) document of the human condition at end of the Earth...literally.


ZACK CARLSON - programmer, gore and childrens film obsessive, Terror Tuesdays

10) FIGHTER – Follow this if you can: a Danish modern-day kung fu love story between a Turkish teen girl and her red-headed sparring partner falls under fire from her traditionalistic family. Though the movie isn’t nearly as fisticuffs-oriented as its title might imply, the leads were all deeply entertaining, convincing and – thank christ – unglamorous.

9) PUNISHER: WAR ZONE – Fuck you, art. This was the killingest movie of the year, and I saw it twice in the theater to make sure I counted correctly: 94 on-screen deaths. RAGING. This would’ve been on Tim League’s top ten list too if he didn’t pass out pre-credits from too much rice wine at the karaoke parlor.

8 ) MILK – A much less enjoyable gunfire fatality than those mentioned above but a really strong film. Though not all of the performances sold me (I’m looking at you, SPEED RACER kid), Sean Penn, James Franco and especially Josh Brolin pulled me right into this biopic that (for once) told a story that wasn’t already common information. I salute Gus Van Sant for shrugging off his long string of indie apologies for Hollywood stinkers and creating something undeniably powerful here. If I had emotions, I would’ve cried.

7) EX-DRUMMER – Racist, misogynist, homophobist, apocalyptist. This Belgian movie is a kick in the nuts/uterus of every human to roam this earth. And best of all, that’s not what makes it great. It’s a well-written, textured, engrossing story about a handful of people that should’ve been flushed at birth, beautifully shot and impossible to look away from….even at the most harrowing moments. If more movies were like this, cinema would be in better shape and the suicide rate would be through the roof.

6) DAI NIPPON JIN [BIG MAN JAPAN] – It took me about three weeks to realize that this was one of the best times I’ve had in a movie theater in years. The deadpan comic story of a semi-employed, self-loathing Japanese monster fighter in his flagging days. Nods to Godzilla movies, sumo wrestling, Ultraman and everything else that makes Japan the most ridiculous/enviable entertainment source in the universe.

5) ESTOMAGO – Though it features liberal amounts of humor, drama and violence, Estomago is very much about eating. The sets range from high-falootin’ kitchens to rat-infested prisons, and even when you’re watching a cramped room filled with scumbags eating insects, the filmmakers make it palatable. Every shot and line is deceptively simple as a story is told in quasi-reverse order to reveal the inevitable secret, but all the fun comes in the culinarily charged trip.

4) ONE MINUTE TO NINE (documentary) – A true crime doc that focuses on the parties affected by a horrendous act, without capitalizing on the act itself. I’ve rarely if ever seen a more personal and sincere documentary on a family, and the fact that the crisis is so monumental just serves to highlight the spirit and perseverance of the subjects, rather to paint them as victims. I hate to be vague, but anything I say would give away parts of the story, and it’s best viewed straight. Just watch it.

3) I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW (documentary) – A true wringer of an experience, as the viewer follows two very different – but equally obsessed - stalkers of ‘80s pop icon Tiffany. There’s no pity, no judgment and nothing seems left out, as both of the subjects seem all too willing to lay their very apparent psychoses on the table for the viewer. One of the best films to ever play Fantastic Fest, and despite the fact that it was a documentary among horror and science fiction, one of the most impossibly unhinged.

2) IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE! – Lauded character Crispin Glover’s sophomore directorial effort is miles beyond his all-developmentally challenged epic WHAT IS IT?. Lead Steven C. Stewart is a severely palsied man who becomes entrenched in a Raymond Chandler-like series of homicidal acts. Glover’s dad Bruce puts in an incredible performance as a suffering husband, and though the film ends with graphic sex between its disabled lead and a young woman, there’s nothing about it that would keep me from recommending it to anyone besides my grandmother. Really, really goddamn good.

1) LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – The best movie of 2008. The best horror movie in years. The best love story in decades. The best vampire movie in half a century.

Still need to see:
SPEED RACER (apparently the chimp actor is amazing, no shit)

Annnnd...the Top-grossing Alamo films for 2008 are:


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