Runners-Up 2008: #10 – ‘Dear Zachary’

12.28.08 9 years ago

It’s nice to know someone’s reading. Seriously.

I got e-mails from several of you, or IMs, saying you enjoyed the list but asking me about why somesuch title wasn’t on my list. And it’s a fair question. There were some odd choices on my list, but for me, it’s a matter of which of these movies I’d really want to own on DVD or, even better, BluRay right now. And which ones I’m most likely to watch again. So that top ten.. those are films I absolutely plan to revisit.

And I’ll be adding this next ten to the rotation, too. That’s the thing about lists… you’re always juggling, and all of these were seriously in contention at some point for the top ten list.  I’ll publish each one as its own blog entry as quickly as I can put them up tonight and tomorrow.

And even after you read this list, no doubt you’ll say, “But hold on… you still didn’t mention my favorite film of the year!” There are a number of films that I liked very much, films like “Doubt” or “Afterschool” or “Milk” or “Waltz With Bashir” or “In Bruges” or “The Class”, movies like “Iron Man” or “Kung Fu Panda” or “The Visitor”… movies that I respect like “The Reader” or “Hunger,” but that didn’t quite knock me down the way I feel like they should have.

The year in film is defined as much by what doesn’t make your list as by what does sometimes… for me, certain things strike a deeper chord or just plain hit my pleasure center with great accuracy. There’s one tie on the list, for spot number five, but I think it makes thematic sense, and I love the films for the exact same reason. If the tie bothers you, I apologize in advance.

But other than that, I apologize for nothing.

Especially not for SPEED RACER.  But we’ll get to that soon enough…

The last one here, number ten, is a film I doubt I’ll ever watch again, because I’m not sure I could withstand the experience. It upset me that much. But because of the intensity with which I reacted, I felt like I absolutely needed to find a place for it in one of these articles.

10. “Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father”

One of the most brutally moving films of recent memory, there were certainly other documentaries this year that were more technically adept, but very few with the emotional heft this one has. Kurt Kuenne stumbled into the telling of this story because the film’s central tragedy is his own personal tragedy, a friend lost, an entire network of friends shattered.  Kuenne’s friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, is gunned down by a crazy ex-girlfriend.  When she flees to Canada, a slow motion riot of the justice system at its worst is set into motion, and Kuenne starts out making one film, only to end up making a much, much sadder and more horrifying movie than he ever could have imagined being involved in.  And as dark and as crushing as the story gets, there are two heroes in the film whose existence leavens the worst of the various shocks in the film.  David and Kathleen Bagby, parents of the murdered doctor, emerge as pillars of strength and integrity, and much of what made me sob… and make no mistake, this movie will make even the most hard-hearted viewer weep… is the way they manage to bear up in the face of impossible circumstance.

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