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IndieWire Critics Poll Names Romanian Drama As Best of the Year

Friday, December 29-----In a last farewell nod to the best films of the past year, respected film website IndieWire has announced the results of its first annual Critics Poll. The Romanian drama THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, an emotionally devastating meditation on the thin line between life and death, was the top choice of a group of 100 leading North American film critics. The film, the second feature of director Cristi Puiu, won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for several European Film Awards and is a contender as Best Foreign Film for the Independent Spirit Awards.

The poll was conducted by Dennis Lim, former critic for the New York alternative weekly The Village Voice, and IndieWire contributor Anthony Kaufman. In contrast with the end-of-the-year critical nods based on geography (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, et al), the poll is a wide-ranging national survey that calls attention to some of the best, and in many cases, most overlooked films of the past year.

The full Top Ten list for Best Film included:

1. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (Romania, Cristi Puiu)
2. L'ENFANT (Belgium, The Dardenne Brothers)
3. THE DEPARTED (US, Martin Scorsese)
4. INLAND EMPIRE (US, David Lynch)
5. ARMY OF SHADOWS (France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
6. THREE TIMES (Taiwan, Hsiou-Sou-Shen)
7. OLD JOY (US, Kelly Reichardt)
8. UNITED 93 (US/UK, Paul Greengrass)
9. CHILDREN OF MEN (US, Alfonso Cuaron)
10. HALF NELSON (USA, Ryan Fleck)

The IndieWire Critics Poll also singled out other categories. The top five choices for Best Performance of the Year included: Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN), Ryan Gosling (HALF NELSON), Laura Dern (INLAND EMPIRE), Sacha Baron Cohen (BORAT) and Forest Whitaker (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND).

The top five Best Supporting Performances of the Year included: Mark Wahlberg (THE DEPARTED), Shareeka Epps (HALF NELSON), Robert Downey Jr. (A SCANNER DARKLY), Jackie Earle Haley (LITTLE CHILDREN) and Nick Nolte (CLEAN).

Martin Scorsese led the poll as Best Director for his return-to-form crime drama THE DEPARTED. Occupying places 2-5 on the Critics Poll were: David Lynch (INLAND EMPIRE), Cristi Puiu (THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU), Alfonso Cuaron (CHILDREN OF MEN) and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (L'ENFANT).

2006 Sundance Film Festival winner IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, directed by James Longley, received the Number #1 nod in the Best Documentary category, followed by: THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSON (Jeff Feuerzeig), OUR DAILY BREAD (Nikolaus Geyrhalter), DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Amy Berg) and THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT (Chris Marker).

The neo-noir debut feature BRICK, directed by Rian Johnson, was the choice as Best First Film, followed by: 4 (Ilya Khrzhanovsky), LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris), THE PUFFY CHAIR (Jay Duplass) and MAN PUSH CART (Ramin Bahrani). The Critics Poll also singled out the top five worthy films that have yet to be picked up for theatrical distribution, including (in top five order): WOMAN ON THE BEACH, STILL LIFE, COLOSSAL YOUTH, IN BETWEEN DAYS and PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES.

In an IndieWire article explaining the voting process, Dennis Lim pointed to a dispiriting statistic. The Best Film winner THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU was also the lowest-grossing film in the entire top twenty list of films singled out, ekeing out less than $80,000 in the United States. This certainly points to a disconnect between the reaction of informed critics and the disappointing performance of the entire "sub-titled foreign film" sector in the marketplace. Many of the films included on the list may not make it to the final Oscar dash, but they are certainly worthy of mention and hopefully will be rediscovered by intrepid film buffs when they hit home video shelves in the new year.

For the complete list of films and their ranking, log on to: IndieWire Critics Poll.

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor

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