MIDNITES FOR MANIACS CURATOR JESSE HAWTHORNE FICKS' TOP TEN (AND THEN SOME):
1 Downloading Nancy (Johan Renck, USA) People were literally running out of the Sundance screening of this brutally honest exploration of a couple's complacent relationship. Maria Bello and Rufus Sewell bare all, while Christopher Doyle's camera traps them in the year's coldest blue harshness.
2 Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, Spain/USA) After 2007's Cassandra's Dream, another tiny gem from the greatest living filmmaker.
3 Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA) Quiet and haunting, this follow-up to Reichardt's wonderful Old Joy (2006) is a perfect antithesis to Sean Penn's overly romanticized Into the Wild (2007).
4 Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France) I cried throughout this unique family drama and immediately called my parents as soon as it was over. Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) is the closest thing I can think of.
5 JCVD. (Mabrouk El Mechri, Belgium/Luxembourg/France) Jean-Claude Van Damme is a genuine genre actor and this deconstructive meta-film lovingly proves it.
6 CJ7 (Stephen Chow, Hong Kong) Overlooked by adults and kids alike, this little Furby comedy is insanity at its most brilliant!
7 Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, UK) Leigh's loving tribute to teachers is a dark and lonely place. En-Ra-Ha.
8 Redbelt (David Mamet, USA) Mamet does martial arts: the metaphors are limitless.
9 Funny Games (Michael Haneke (USA/France/UK/Austria/Germany/Italy) Mean, lean and totally gene!
10 Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, USA/Germany) Sly captures American destruction and cynicism in half the time as PT Anderson's meandering There Will Be Blood (2007).
Favorite actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (Darren Aronfsky, USA) Ignore Aronfsky's overly sentimental tendencies and Rourke will blow your mind. Then go watch Tsui Hark's Double Team (1998) for the ultimate '90s rumble: Rourke vs. Van Damme!
Favorite actress: Emmanuelle Béart, Vinyan (Fabrice Du Welz, France/Belgium/UK) Wealthy white tourists will stop at nothing to colonize every corner of this planet. Watch Béart and husband Rufus Sewell (see Downloading Nancy) go absolutely nuts as they battle each other and creepy jungle kids in this hypnotic hybrid of The African Queen (1951) and Don't Look Now (1973).
Favorite animated movie: Wall*E (Andrew Stanton, USA) This unofficial remake of Silent Running (1972) should win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Favorite mumblecore film: Baghead (Duplass Brothers, USA) The brothers continue to nail their jokes hilariously and earnestly.
Favorite trailer: The Class (Laurent Cantet, France) Tears well up every time I see the trailer for this Cannes Golden Palm winner (due in early 2009).