Documentary -- Man On Wire
Viewed at the Ghent Film Festival, without the aid of subtitles during the French parts, this at times stunning documentary captures the events leading up to Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between NYC's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Luckily for us there is a treasure trove of home videos and amature filming of the preparations that took place as well as the event itself. But the recreations are the real gold here. Stylishly shot in black and white the recreations add the suspense of a great heist film to Phillippe's already breathless story of how a street performer came to follow his dream at any cost and capture the world's spotlight -- if only for five minutes. Man on Wire is a loving documentary notable for its complete disregard for the elephant in the room and sticking to the story at hand which is touching, funny and inspiring.
(Runner Up: Encounters at the End of the World)
Comedy -- Tropic Thunder
I don't think the art of acting has gotten as thoroughly buggered in a movie as it does in Tropic Thunder (only the Ricky Gervais series Extras does a better job). Ben Stiller's film brings together a group of actors who are narcissistic to the point of delusion and dropped in the middle of Cambodia in an effort to save a failed war movie. Robert Downey Jr. is amazing beyond reason as the actor who stays in character until the DVD commentary is finished (and yes, the DVD commentary is hilarious). Jack Black even has one of the funnier scenes as a strung out junkie who ends up offering oral sex to anyone who will help him out. And as with Stiller's Zoolander, there's great attention payed to the every detail and brilliant bits in even the smallest of moments, especially Nick Notle's guilt ridden on-set advisor.
(Runner Up: Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Horror -- Funny Games US
Runner Up: Stuck
I can't say for certain that Stuck falls into any specific categories. It could also be described as a exceedingly dark comedy or a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. But in a somewhat unfortunate way, it starts out one way and ends smack dab in the Horror category. I shouldn't expect the movie would stay to stay in stark reality but the ending betrays its true story origins as a morality tale involving a quasi-homeless man being struck by a car and the driver leaving the man stuck in the windshield to die. As told by horror auteur Stuart Gordon, the lessons are learned the hard (and often bloody) way. The laughs don't come easy but thanks to an impressive cast including Stephen Rea as the stuck man, an under appreciated Mena Suvari as the irresponsible driver and a frequently funny Russell Hornsby as her hapless and helpless boyfriend, the movie never strays too far off target. It's a nasty little thriller with a sharp head on its shoulders that should be endorsed by the Good Samaritan society.