I know, I know, it looks dull and a bit too "important" for its own good with its around three hour running time, dusky color scheme and photo stills of Nicole Kidman looking haggard, but this was the most moving and remarkable film of the year. Its theater-style presentation grows on you and so does its message of how easily the milk of human kindness can turn sour. It's not anti-American. Its story is universal and couldn't be more vital at this point in world affairs. Pure genius from the irascible Von Trier.
2. Before Sunset
A sentimental favorite for sure. Almost a decade ago, I fell in love with "Before Sunrise" by accident (I had avoided watching it due to my past Ethan Hawke aversion). Thank goodness I did because both the original and this sequel are two of the most romantic films ever made. They (Linklater, Delpy, Hawke) could've screwed it up the second time around, but instead they somehow topped themselves with bittersweet wonder.
3.The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Sure its wacky, sure the story is wobbly, but with quirky writing, wry acting and Andersonian art direction like this I'm not gonna quibble. It'll put a silly grin on your face, guaranteed.
Smart, funny, sad, refreshing and truly "American" (in a good way).
5. The Five Obstructions
Another Von Trier triumph, this time in documentary form as one director pushes another to leave his comfort zone. And another frustratingly fascinating study in human behavior.
6. Coffee and Cigarettes
Sure, its got some clunkers in the mix (The White Stripes segment was paaaainful), but when it hits, it hits big with terrific performances by the amazing Cate Blanchett (breathtaking in a dual role) and other oddball celebrity pairings. Like "Before Sunset," this film proves there's nothing as satisfying as good conversation.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
While its hijinks tired me out at points, I have to applaud its pure romantic heart and flights of visual fancy.
8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
Zen-sational. Quiet, wise and steeped in stillness.
9. Control Room
An eye-opening documentary from inside the Middle East looking out.
10. Napolean Dynamite
It's true, there's not much too it and all the deadpan performances get a bit much, but its hard to beat the fun of watching these characters doing their thing. Dangit.
11. Last Life in the Universe
A lush, haunted interlude punctuated oddly by toilet humor.
12. Mayor of the Sunset Strip
A heart-wrenching documentary about a music starmaker in the shadows of Hollywood.