The run up to the Oscars is dominated by best-of lists, and - with few exceptions (including the Women Film Critics Circle Awards)
- most of those lists end up looking just about the same: dominated by
men, featuring only a small handful of female performers. Which is why
it was so exciting this past weekend to see The New York Times
list of the year's best. While not quite chock full of women, the list
does draw attention to some fine filmmaking and performances by women
that are not likely to draw attention at the major awards ceremonies
this year. If you missed any of these in the theaters last year, you'll
want to make sure to add them to your DVD queues this year.
Asia Argento: The Last Mistress
Both Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden nominate Asia Argento for her work in The Last Mistress,
which is a well-deserved acknowledgment that Argento is rather quietly becoming
one of the fiercest actresses of her generation. My bet is that she
will be a polarizing figure throughout her career, wowing some critics
and needling others - but she's definitely not to be missed.
Kelly Reichardt, Michelle Williams: Wendy and Lucy
Both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis honor director Kelly Reichardt and actress Michelle Williams for their work in this engaging drama. If you blinked, you probably missed it when it hit theaters last month. Thank goodness they didn't.
Sally Hawkins, Mike Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky
Mike Leigh gets a whole lot of love from all the Times critics for his writing and directing, while Sally Hawkins gets nods for her turn in this comedy. Mike Leigh has been making great films about women for a long time, but they're rarely this fun - or this funny.
Melissa Leo: Frozen River
I've been excited about seeing Melissa Leo garner so many indie film honors this year, and it's great to see Stephen Holden acknowledge her work on this list. Let's hope the critical success of Frozen River propels Leo, as well as the film's director Courtney Hunt, to wider acclaim.
Darnell Martin: Cadillac Records
2008 was a really challenging year for films by and about African-Americans - and for African-American actors. It's very satisfying, then, to see A.O. Scott recognize Darnell Martin for her screenwriting as well as name Cadillac Records one of the best films of the year. Many critics greeted the film with lukewarm responses, but I'm hoping that Cadillac Records will get a warmer reception on DVD. Here's also hoping that Darnell Martin gets a lot more work in the future.
See the full list of of the Times's critics picks for the best of 2008 here.
For Your Consideration, Academy [NYT]