Thursday, January 07, 2010

NYC Commercial Releases Seen in 2009

Just a bit of recordkeeping. These are movies I saw in 2009 that had a commercial release in New York. I use Mike D'Angelo's very helpful list of commercial releases as my guide.

  • Adoration (Atom Egoyan)
  • Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
  • Afterschool (Antonio Campos)
  • Angels & Demons (Ron Howard)
  • Antichrist (Lars von Trier)
  • Avatar (James Cameron)
  • Away We Go (Sam Mendes)
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel)
  • The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
  • The Box (Richard Kelly)
  • Bride Wars (Gary Winick)
  • Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar)
  • Brothers (Jim Sheridan)
  • The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
  • Brüno (Larry Charles)
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic (P.J. Hogan)
  • Coraline (Henry Selick)
  • Crank 2: High Voltage (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
  • Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper)
  • Departures (Yôjirô Takita)
  • Disney's A Christmas Carol (Robert Zemeckis)
  • District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)
  • Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi)
  • Duplicity (Tony Gilroy)
  • Easy Virtue (Stephan Elliott)
  • An Education (Lone Scherfig)
  • Fanboys (Kyle Newman)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
  • Fast & Furious (Justin Lin)
  • The Final Destination (David R. Ellis)
  • Fired Up (Will Gluck)
  • (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb)
  • Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner)
  • Friday the 13th (Marcus Nispel)
  • Funny People (Judd Apatow)
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Stephen Sommers)
  • Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Mark Waters)
  • The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh)
  • Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani)
  • Grace (Paul Solet)
  • The Great Buck Howard (Sean McGinly)
  • Halloween II (Rob Zombie)
  • The Hangover (Todd Phillips)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates)
  • The Haunting in Connecticut (Peter Cornwell)
  • He's Just Not That Into You (Ken Kwapis)
  • The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
  • Home (Ursula Meier)
  • The House of the Devil (Ti West)
  • Humpday (Lynn Shelton)
  • Hunger (Steve McQueen)
  • The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
  • I Love You, Man (John Hamburg)
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Carlos Saldanha)
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam)
  • In the Loop (Armando Iannucci)
  • The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)
  • Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  • The International (Tom Tykwer)
  • The Invention of Lying (Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson)
  • It's Complicated (Nancy Meyers)
  • Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama)
  • Julia (Erick Zonca)
  • Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron)
  • Knowing (Alex Proyas)
  • La Belle personne (Christophe Honoré)
  • The Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis)
  • The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch)
  • Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
  • Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater)
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats (Grant Heslov)
  • The Messenger (Oren Moverman)
  • Michael Jackson's This Is It (Kenny Ortega)
  • Miss March (Zach Cregger & Trevor Moore)
  • Monsters vs. Aliens (Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon)
  • Moon (Duncan Jones)
  • My Bloody Valentine (Patrick Lussier)
  • My Sister's Keeper (Nick Cassavetes)
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Shawn Levy)
  • 9 (Shane Acker)
  • Nine (Rob Marshall)
  • Obsessed (Steve Shill)
  • Orphan (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  • Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli)
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Steve Carr) [Shut off DVD at ~20 min.]
  • A Perfect Getaway (David Twohy)
  • Precious (Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire) (Lee Daniels)
  • The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements & John Musker)
  • The Proposal (Anne Fletcher)
  • Public Enemies (Michael Mann)
  • Push (Paul McGuigan)
  • Race to Witch Mountain (Andy Fickman)
  • Revanche (Götz Spielmann)
  • The Road (John Hillcoat)
  • Saw VI (Kevin Greutert)
  • A Serious Man (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
  • Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie)
  • Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley)
  • 17 Again (Burr Steers)
  • Skills Like This (Monty Miranda)
  • Sorority Row (Stewart Hendler)
  • Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)
  • State of Play (Kevin Macdonald)
  • The Stepfather (Nelson McCormick)
  • Sugar (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck)
  • Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
  • Sunshine Cleaning (Christine Jeffs)
  • Taken (Pierre Morel)
  • The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Tony Scott)
  • Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee)
  • Terminator Salvation (McG)
  • Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola)
  • 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Michael Bay)
  • Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy)
  • 12 Rounds (Renny Harlin)
  • 2012 (Roland Emmerich)
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Chris Weitz)
  • Two Lovers (James Gray)
  • Tyson (James Toback)
  • The Ugly Truth (Robert Luketic)
  • The Unborn (David S. Goyer)
  • The Uninvited (Charles Guard & Thomas Guard)
  • Up (Pete Docter)
  • Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
  • Watchmen (Zack Snyder)
  • Whatever Works (Woody Allen)
  • Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze)
  • Whip It (Drew Barrymore)
  • The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood)
  • The Yes Men Fix the World (Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonanno)
  • Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer

Movies I missed or that haven't opened near me that I'd like to see:

  • The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda)
  • Beeswax (Andrew Bujalski)
  • Bright Star (Jane Campion)
  • Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone)
  • Good Hair (Jeff Stilson)
  • The Maid (Sebastián Silva)
  • Mammoth (Lukas Moodysson)
  • Must Read After My Death (Morgan Dews)
  • Passing Strange (Spike Lee)
  • Pirate Radio (Richard Curtis)
  • Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki)
  • Red Cliff (John Woo)
  • The September Issue (R.J. Cutler)
  • Séraphine (Martin Provost))
  • Sin Nombre (Cary Joji Fukunaga)
  • Skin (Anthony Fabian)
  • Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
  • The Sun (Alexander Sokurov)
  • Surveillance (Jennifer Lynch)
  • Thirst (Park Chan-wook)
  • Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  • Tony Manero (Pablo Larraín)
  • 12 (Nikita Mikhalkov)
  • 24 City (Jia Zhangke)
  • Under Our Skin (Andy Abrahams Wilson)
  • Valentino: The Last Emperor (Matt Tyrnauer)
  • We Live in Public (Ondi Timoner)
  • World's Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait)
  • Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (Aviva Kempner)
  • You, the Living (Roy Andersson)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Recapping the Decade: 2000-2009

After slaving over my Top Ten Movies of 2009, out of some perverse sense of duty, I've also put together a new list of ten favorites from 2000-2009. In addition to that, I'm reprinting my original lists — or, at least, these are as close to the original versions of those lists as I have. (I recall some early-decade revisions made circa '04.) There are some glaring omissions (for example, I saw Panic Room six times theatrically, but it doesn't appear on my 2002 list), so they don't necessarily reflect my views today, but to my surprise a lot of them come quite close. Let's kick it off with the brand-new decade list, shall we?

Best of the Decade: 2000-2009
1. The New World (2005, Terrence Malick)
2. Gerry (2002, Gus Van Sant)
3. Before Sunset (2004, Richard Linklater)
4. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)
7. Dogville (2003, Lars von Trier)
8. 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee)
9. Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe)
10. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell)

Notes: Needless to say, this was tough. There are at least a dozen other movies that were in the running. I briefly considered borrowing Dan Sallitt's method of ranking films from 1999-2008 instead. But while Sallitt's got an international rationale, for me, it would just be cheating. (If you're curious, that cuts Basterds for eligibility and bumps Hedwig. Insert Fight Club at #2 and Eyes Wide Shut at #3.)

1. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
2. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
3. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
4. State and Main (David Mamet)
5. Bring It On (Peyton Reed)
6. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
7. You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan)
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen)
9. Hamlet (Michael Almereyda)
10. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh)

Notes: I remember the original version of this list (written for my high school newspaper) had Traffic in the top spot. But that was just posturing. And if I were to remake this list today, it wouldn't be anywhere near it at all. Still dig the other nine, though I might reorder them.

1. The Princess and the Warrior (Tom Tykwer)
2. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
3. Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell)
5. Training Day (Antoine Fuqua)
6. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai)
7. Freddy Got Fingered (Tom Green)
8. Audition (Takashi Miike)
9. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
10. AI (Steven Spielberg)

Notes: This is pretty close to the original, I think, though I know AI is a product of mid-decade revisionism. (I hated it upon its release, and only warmed to it in subsequent viewings.)

1. 25th Hour (Spike Lee)
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
3. Igby Goes Down (Burr Steers)
4. Spider-Man (Sam Raimi)
5. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke)
6. The Rules of Attraction (Roger Avary)
7. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón)
8. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
9. Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener)
10. Adaptation. (Spike Jonze)

Notes: Also very close to the original, though LOTR was added only after I saw the extended cut on DVD. As noted earlier, Panic Room should be here someplace.

1. Gerry (Gus Van Sant)
2. Elephant (Gus Van Sant)
3. Intolerable Cruelty (Joel Coen)
4. Shattered Glass (Billy Ray)
5. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)
6. Down With Love (Peyton Reed)
7. 28 Days Later... (Danny Boyle)
8. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (McG)
9. Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff)
10. Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike)

1. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)
2. Dogville (Lars von Trier)
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
4. Undertow (David Gordon Green)
5. The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo)
6. Primer (Shane Carruth)
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)
8. Mean Girls (Mark Waters)
9. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)
10. The Five Obstructions (Jørgen Leth & Lars von Trier)

1. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
2. Munich (Steven Spielberg)
3. The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
4. Caché (Michael Haneke)
5. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
6. Serenity (Joss Whedon)
7. Walk the Line (James Mangold)
8. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
9. War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg)
10. Shopgirl (Arnand Tucker)

Notes: My love/hate relationship with Brokeback Mountain is well documented, so I'll spare you. Mysterious Skin belongs in the top spot.

1. The New World (Terrence Malick)
2. The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry)
3. Miami Vice (Michael Mann)
4. The Descent (Neil Marshall)
5. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola)
6. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
7. The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
8. Inside Man (Spike Lee)
9. Volver (Pedro Almodóvar)
10. Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry)

Notes: An unusually strong year, this one. If I'd expanded my top ten of the decade to top 20, you'd likely see a number of these titles show up.

1. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer)
2. Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie)
3. Joshua (George Ratliff)
4. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
5. Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez/Rob Zombie/Edgar Wright/Eli Roth/Quentin Tarantino)
6. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright)
7. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg)
8. Ratatouille (Brad Bird)
9. Black Book (Paul Verhoeven)
10. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)

Notes: Also a strong year, although I probably overrated the top two films. 3-10 are really the cream of the crop. Should've found room for Zodiac and Gone Baby Gone, which do appear on the original version of this list (a total cheat, with several ties).

1. Cloverfield (Matt Reeves)
2. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. Love Songs (Christophe Honoré)
4. Southland Tales (Richard Kelly)
5. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
6. Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers)
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller)
8. WALL•E (Andrew Stanton)
9. Burn After Reading (Joel & Ethan Coen)
10. The Wackness (Jonathan Levine)

Notes: Not to knock Cloverfield (for which I still have great fondness, but haven't seen since its release), but There Will Be Blood, Synecdoche, New York and Southland Tales are the true top three (in that order).

2009 [Full post]
1. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
2. Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
3. Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)
4. Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola)
5. Afterschool (Antonio Campos)
6. The House of the Devil (Ti West)
7. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar)
8. Away We Go (Sam Mendes)
9. The Messenger (Oren Moverman)
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Favorite Films of 2009

What follows is a list of my ten favorite movies of 2009, plus another ten runners-up. I've installed a new feature this year: Timeliness! Our early-December trip to The Big Apple (and a DVD import or two) has allowed me to change my eligibility rules to any film that opened commercially in New York. (I turn to Mike D'Angelo's handy dandy list as my guide.) Of course, there were inevitably films I missed that I wished I'd seen, most notably Bright Star and Ponyo, and a dozen more obscure titles. However, if my records are correct, I saw 126 of the year's new releases, so I feel pretty good about my list. If I have any regrets, it's that all but one of the movies featured here were directed by men, and (to add insult to injury) the sole exception is an honorable mention. But since only a baker's dozen of the movies I saw this year were directed by women, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I don't think it's me.

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson) I was beginning to question my decision to place this one in the final slot, if only because I don't really have anything to say about this widely praised stop-motion marvel that hasn't already been said. How much could I have really liked it, I wondered, if I can't even conjure up a measly paragraph on the subject? But I have to go with my gut, because seeing Anderson's gleefully inventive adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox (co-written by Noah Baumbach) filled me with pure, childlike joy. And though I've enjoyed each and every one of his other films, Fox constitutes a surprising dedication to storytelling that hasn't been seen in Anderson's work since Rushmore (if ever). Most importantly? It's a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see it again.

9. The Messenger (Oren Moverman) Contrived family dramas and action movies with morbid final-frame punchlines are a dime a dozen, even if they are set against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Messenger tells a story we haven't seen. Ben Foster plays Will Montgomery, a physically damaged U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who returns from Iraq and is reassigned to a Casualty Notification team with Capt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). Moverman co-wrote the screenplay for The Messenger with Alessandro Camon, and its major flaw is that it feels a like the scenarios are compiled from a journalist's notebook. But Moverman The Director more or less overcomes this, by capturing his actors' remarkable performances in long, mesmerizing takes. Foster, Harrelson, and Samantha Morton are all astonishingly good. As a study of masculine identity, The Messenger nails the camaraderie and one-upmanship that coexist in military life, and it successfully explores Will's frustration with how to square his sense of duty with an army that's operated and deployed by a political system that shows little respect for his sacrifice. If there was a consistent theme across many films this year, it was this: Who the hell are we? What are we doing here? The Messenger captures the weird feeling of living each day after being set adrift.

8. Away We Go (Sam Mendes) Feeling unprepared for parenthood, a newly pregnant, thirty-something couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) audition a series of cities (Phoenix, Tuscon, Madison, Montreal, and Miami) where they do what Ebert endearingly dubbed, "comparison shopping among lifestyles". Admittedly this sort of episodic journey is nothing new, but there is something so genuine reflected in the love these characters share, and so valuable in the message that you can't model your life on the surface of someone else's example. Screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida convey the self-awareness, doubt and insecurity that accompany modern adulthood, and they enliven what might've been an otherwise generic narrative. As Verona, Rudolph is assertive but vulnerable, unsure of herself as a mother, and dealing with the idea of becoming a parent while still grieving the loss of her own. Krasinski is funny, sweet, and endearing as Burt; masculine but gentle. Though there are a few peculiar cinematic flourishes that border on distracting, and the barrage of eccentric supporting players teeters on the brink of a sideshow (some critics complained Burt and Verona are smug, when actually it's just that they're not the absurd caricatures they encounter), but director Sam Mendes' best film is buoyed by the high caliber of its talent (Alisson Janney, Melanie Lynskey, and Paul Schneider, among others), and a perfect ending. With clear-sighted warmth and good-natured humor, Away We Go is about two people who are unsure of almost everything but their love for each other, and it doesn't mock their effort to embrace responsibility. This is a wonderful movie.

7. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar) Though it's no Volver, Almodóvar's latest arrives bearing a glut of cinematic pleasures — from his usual labyrinthine Sirkian melodrama, to the still-untapped wealth of new and enchanting ways he finds to capture the beauty and charisma of his star, Penélope Cruz, as no other filmmaker has. But Broken Embraces begins without her: Harry Caine is the adopted pseudonym of blinded screenwriter Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar). After a mysterious visitor named Ray X emerges from Harry's past, he reveals that Ray X is actually the son of the wealthy (and recently deceased) Ernesto Martel, who financed a movie Harry/Mateo directed, a comedy called Girls and Suitcases, with Ernesto's girlfriend, Lena (Cruz), as its star. What follows is a panoply of delicious subterfuge — sex, secrets, betrayal. All these complications grow a bit unwieldy — dashing back and forth from past to present, et al. — but somehow, among a kaleidoscope of colors and characters, Broken Embraces flourishes in this sprawling plot-scape. If it lags a bit in the last half hour — or more accurately, any time Almodóvar's muse is offscreen — Cruz's absence adds a layer of poignancy to Harry Caine's remembrance, and that last scene is a killer.

6. The House of the Devil (Ti West) After an extraneous opening title card (explaining what follows is "based on true unexplained events"), Ti West's '80s-tastic suspense thriller, The House of the Devil, overcomes the odds to take the well-worn "babysitter alone in a house" template and make it utterly, unbearably nerve-racking. I can't remember the feeling of waiting... for... something... to... happen! being quite so satisfying as it is here; indeed, I'd probably have to reach way back to 1997's climbing-over-the-killer scene in Scream 2 for a corresponding example of such successfully prolonged, stomach-twisting, couch-clawing anticipation. But whereas Craven riveted us in horror for three gut-wrenching minutes, West manages to sustain a palpable sense of dread for nearly 70 — only once ratcheting up the action to shock us inescapably into submission. With limited screen time, Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov are persuasive and delectably sinister — but it's really Jocelin Donahue's show. As Sam, the cash-poor, college-aged babysitter in question, Donahue commands our allegiance and manages to carry pretty much the entire movie. Interviewed by Karina Longworth, West lamented his producers' impatience with the movie's pace: "The movie's called House of the fucking Devil — it's gonna get there." Does it ever.

5. Afterschool (Antonio Campos) I first learned of Budd Dwyer's televised 1987 suicide not long before seeing Afterschool, and immediately sought out the video online. Watching it, at the age of 24, was the first time I'd ever seen a person die. Video has that power — it can capture reality as it truly is. Yet Dwyer's final act was also a carefully orchestrated performance, preceded by a speech, the dispensing of three envelopes (including a suicide note), and a too-late warning for those assembled to "leave the room if this will offend you." Arguably, his decision to commit his final act so publicly was itself an affectation. Of course, 22 years after the fact, I didn't need Budd Dwyer to find a video like that. As has been exhaustively lamented/celebrated, anyone can now live a public life (or death) online, often with a carefully cultivated persona. Afterschool is about how the promise of technology has turned us all into performers, anxious to cater to outside expectations or elicit reaction; and how this has only made us hunger even more for something real. In Campos' shrewdly stylish debut, that hunger collides with our appetites for sex, violence, and self-destruction, but Campos reaches beyond that to reveal our complicity in collective self-deception. To those who question the film's upper-class high school setting: Is there a better breeding ground for pretense in the digital age? And Campos deftly deflects criticism of the movie's heightened version of contemporary teenage behavior (dismissively oversimplified in most corners as "unrealistic") in Zachary Wigon's terrific interview at The House Next Door. (There's also something to be said for the integrity of Campos' strategy here, reminding us constantly that this isn't real, either.) If I have a complaint, it's that Campos' focus is so exact that, for all its wide-reaching implications, while you're watching it, Afterschool can sometimes feel more like an exercise than a full-fledged movie. Still, as exercises go, this is a meaty one. If I may play the role of critic: "Provocative and visionary, it heralds a great new talent."

4. Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola) With his first original screenplay since The Conversation in 1974, Coppola has embarked on an exhilarating personal journey in Tetro, exploring complex family relationships, interwoven with creativity and fame, bathed in vivid, borderline-erotic black and white imagery, and framed by artful compositions. 18-year-old Bennie (boyish-but-smoldering Alden Ehrenreich) drops in on big brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo, great as usual), whom he has idolized, but a rivalry emerges from their overdue reunion, and long-buried secrets begin to surface. "I think when you do personal work, you don't know the full scope of what you're getting into," Coppola told Movies Online. But that ambiguity only adds to the effectiveness of Tetro's dreamlike quality, and the result feels fully realized without being overly exact. Before he hit it big, of course, Coppola was a renegade UCLA film grad with the ambition to make movies that would be stylish and personal. His tremendous success in Hollywood eventually morphed into something of a detour, but he has always had the purpose of an independent filmmaker. Although his attempts to work around the system have produced three decades of admittedly erratic results, the cryptic Tetro's indelible vitality and youthful torment belie the age of its maker. Yet only someone with his experience and unique spirit could've produced this particular work of art. I was totally and unexpectedly captivated by it.

3. Star Trek (J.J. Abrams) Permit me this indulgence, won't you? Lively and fun, with a terrific cast, it's nevertheless true, Star Trek is not among the year's "best" films, per se. That is, if by best, we're ruling out movies that seek — à la Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future — solely to entertain, on a grand but humane scale. Abrams' Star Trek finds its way here, very nearly atop my list of favorites, because it's just a great fucking time at the movies. As a Star Trek enthusiast, I'm late to the party. I still haven't seen a full season of any "Star Trek" series, and only caught up with movies I-VI in 2007 (on my then-newly acquired — in a retro-themed outburst of self-indulgence — laserdisc player, of all things). I am not a Trekker. But this mobius strip–inspired franchise reboot overcame a lame-ass villain (paired with Bana's stolid performance, Trek's only major flaw) to engage a quorum of my cinematic pleasure zones. (Now that it's on video, I've honestly lost track of the number of times I've seen it.) Tightly constructed narrative characterized by forward momentum? Check. Elaborate, mind-bending mythology? Check. Sexy-smoldering leading man? Chris Pine as the ultra-confident Kirk? In those snugly fit, three-alarm briefs? With that come-hither stare? Well, it's enough to give any good-natured queer boy a chronic case of the vapors. But, like I said, don't mind me...

2. Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) If there's one movie I would've really liked to revisit before compiling this list, this is it. But since the DVD's not out 'til Tuesday, here goes: Upon seeing L'Enfant in 2006, I was a total neophyte vis-à-vis les frères Dardenne. Having admired it as carefully composed and well acted but also overly didactic, I wasn't exactly running off to add La Promesse and Rosetta to my Netflix queue. So when I stepped into the (near-empty) auditorium for Lorna's Silence at The Neon in Dayton, I was completely unprepared for its immersive, emotional story. Like my favorite film this year, major parts of the plot are simply omitted, yet the story advances naturally and coherently, its power more acutely focused. Of course, Lorna does have its detractors, and it's hard for me to think of it now without also remembering the big showdown on Nictate's blog; and while I've grown quite fond of her tweets and all, I should go on record as saying that I don't think Lorna is nearly as terrible and unsympathetic as Nictate does, nor do I think that the events that transpire late in the film bear any trace of misogyny. To be honest, part of what made L'Enfant hard for me to swallow from the get-go was the total inhumanity of Bruno's act. Lorna's no saint, but it's her complicity (sorry, her silence) in the acts of others that renders her responsible. It's true Lorna is a "victim," but she's largely a victim of her own desperate choices. Lorna's Silence is about her desperate struggle for atonement, and how selfish desires are rarely compatible with the virtues of compassion and mercy. Without spoiling anything, the movie's mildly controversial (and admittedly pessimistic) third act completely worked for me dramatically. But beyond the surface explanation, I see Lorna wracked with guilt, and burdened by a psychological need to regain control in the face of so much outside chaos. From beginning to end, this is Lorna's tragic story, and it breaks my heart.

1. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino) Like Chris Penn says in Reservoir Dogs, "First things fuckin' last!" It wasn't obvious to me at first that I was so in love with Tarantino's revisionist World War II epic. Yet, like all great movies, this one stayed with me. I saw it again. Then it came out on video last month, and I watched it more or less on a loop. Each time I see it, I become more convinced: This is a ginuwine masterpiece in the making, full of iconic characters, great performances, and dialogue that would probably be quoted freely in the streets even now, if so much of it weren't in French and German. Brad Pitt's speech to the Basterds in Chapter Two has such rhythm and his performance such ferocity, I considered simply reprinting the whole thing here in place of my commentary and calling it a day. But that would overlook the innumerable other treasures Tarantino brings to the screen. There's the justly celebrated Christoph Waltz in the performance of the year as Col. Hans Landa ("Oooh! That's a bingo! Is that how you say it?"); Diane Kruger as the turncoat movie star Bridget von Hammersmark; and the mystifyingly overlooked performance of Mélanie Laurent, driven to avenge her family (and her race) as the sultry Shosanna Dreyfus. Even things that irked me at first, such as the similarities in structure and design to Tarantino's other work (especially Kill Bill), I have come to cherish as part of what also feels like a more casual, collaborative style. While it's difficult to say for sure (given the tremendous quality of his output), from the year's best scene in that farmhouse on the French countryside, to the deliriously macabre final shot (and music cue), this may be my favorite Tarantino film yet.

Honorable mention: Richard Kelly's provocative scifi parable, The Box, was dismissed by critics and ignored by audiences; poor guy can't catch a break. I totally dug Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom (featuring a pair of great supporting performances by Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi), which falters only when it doesn't quite know how to end. Two movies that came particularly close to making the list proper were Tony Gilroy's hilarious, sharp-witted Duplicity, and Götz Spielmann's phenomenal drama, Revanche. Ursula Meier's little-seen Home and Alex Proyas' deeply misunderstood Knowing each take a gem of a story and dutifully work through it; both wholly captivating, they leave no crazy stone unturned. Armando Iannucci's political satire, In the Loop, and the Coens' too-cynical A Serious Man are both slight but very funny. With a playfulness not seen in his work for decades, Whatever Works proved Woody Allen is on some kind of a roll. Michael Haneke's riveting black and white epic, The White Ribbon, is less effective as a morality play than it is as straight up melodrama. Finally, a word of praise for Nicolas Cage in The Bad Lieutenant — Port of Call: New Orleans, who gives a performance in Werner Herzog's film that makes it worth seeing more than once; and Mo'Nique in Precious (Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire), who gives a great performance in a movie that's otherwise not worth seeing at all.