Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, a Middle East hot potato, headed the crowded fields of both animation and, strange to say, documentary, though it was challenged in the first by Hayao Miyazaki’s delicate and dreamlike Ponyo and in the second by James D. Stern’s and Adam Del Deo’s backstage Broadway drama, Every Little Step, Nati Baratz’s reincarnation mystery, Unmistaken Child, and Agnes Varda’s fanciful memoir, The Beaches of Agnes.
Eran Riklis’s Lemon Tree, a Middle East olive branch, and Lone Scherfig’s An Education, a coming-of-age period piece, were worthwhile if for nothing else than their leading ladies, Hiam Abbass and Carey Mulligan respectively. The Japanese Departures by Yojiro Takita and the German Cherry Blossoms by the Japanophile Doris Dörrie dealt tastefully and touchingly with the subject of death. And lastly: Majid Majidi’s slightly sentimental and acutely sensitive The Song of Sparrows, Laurent Cantet’s raw and realistic The Class, Olivier Assayas’s ruminative Summer Hours. I could say, after all those, that I really can’t complain. I could fib.
Tom Tykwer’s The International would have come in for a place of honor were the bulk of it anywhere near the level of the year’s standout action scene, the gunfight at the Guggenheim. Once I started to make that kind of concession, however, I should be obliged to find room as well, on different counts, for the likes of Avatar, 2012, Star Trek, Moon, Battle for Terra, Paranormal Activity, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 500 Days of Summer, Julie and Julia, The Girl from Monaco, Lorna’s Silence, Revanche, The Hurt Locker, Whatever Works, Hotel for Dogs, some others. The imminent sound of wooden spoon scraping bottom of barrel would be silenced in futility by one single statistic. Number of first-run films I watched this year: 268. Do the math.