Before we get to the Top 10, the best of the rest
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25 (+1). "White Reindeer" (Zach Clark); "This Is Martin Bonner" (Chad Hartigan)
The great joy of compiling personal year-end lists is that there's no one to punish you for cheating, and so I kick things off with a tie between two films that are connected in my mind in multiple ways. Chad Hartigan, a former writer here at In Contention, quietly moved me with the practical humanity and unadorned tenderness of "This is Martin Bonner," while his North Carolina classmate Zach Clark surprised me with the wry but unexpectedly generous outlook of his wistful holiday drama "White Reindeer." It was Hartigan who turned me on to Clark's work a few years back; this year, their films were allies in reclaiming the moral conscience of the irony-afflicted American indie.