7. Shortbus -- Hedwig creator John Cameron Mitchell sets out to free explicit sex from the pornography ghetto. This one is not for the prudish and definitely not the sort of movie you watch with your parents. But for all this ambition, Shortbus is really just a charming, unassuming, militantly-pro-sex indie-comedy. Sure, it's not perfect (e.g. the ending is joyous, but narratively unbelievable), but it's still quite a lot of fun. (Don't worry the trailer below is SFW.)
6. (tie) Juno / Knocked Up -- Quick! When was the last time a comedy won Best Picture? (ans. 1977, Annie Hall) Comedies don't get no respect, but if you've ever tried ... it's a helluva lot harder to make someone laugh than it is to make them cry. Maybe it's because we just went through the whole pregnancy thing this year, but we both loved these two movies ... both funny and both true. And by-the-way, Ellen Page is amazing.
5. Once -- A lovely little DIY musical about making music and emotional connections. It doesn't try too hard and dances lightly away from all the cliches you think you see coming. Even if you're not a fan of angsty folk rock, I'd be willing to bet you'll love Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's songs. Like this one:
4. Offside -- Jafar Panahi shot much of this film guerrilla-style during the 2005 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain. The film centers on a group of young female soccer fans caught and arrested while trying to sneak into the game. Panahi's genius is in taking an abstract political issue (women's equality in Iran) and finding a way to dramatize it, concretize it and even dress it up in a veneer of Iranian patriotism. Aside from its political impact, it's also a very engaging film that gives you many reasons to love the plucky heroines and even sympathize with their jailers.
3. Hot Fuzz -- Huh. Lots of funny movies this year. This was the most purely enjoyable movie I've watched in a while. Big 'ole grin upon leaving the theater.
2. Men With Guns -- John Sayles inverts Dante's Inferno to weave a parable of the past 30 years of Central American history. A wealthy doctor leaves his comfortable life to go in search of a band of medical students he turned loose in the jungle years before to serve the Mayan villages. He finds only an unreported dirty-war waged by his government against the people. As he journeys deeper into the jungle and into the stories of his missing students, he hears stories of a village high up in the mountains that has never known violence.
1. Children of Men -- High-quality, believable special effects are so common now that its easy to become jaded by movie spectacle. And yet, my jaw was literally hanging open for the last 45 minutes of this movie, courtesy of an extended, uncut sequence--set in the midst of a battle in a concentration camp--that truly has to be seen to be believed. The story and the acting are first rate as well -- Clive Owen is an appropriately low-key hero. News reports from the end of humanity never seemed so matter of fact. I don't know how well it will stand up on a second viewing, but for now, this is the best and most memorable movie I've seen in several years.
Old School: I've been periodically netflixing some oldies but goodies -- these were all great films, but it seems weird to put them on my list: Burn!, On the Waterfront, Chinatown.
Honorable Mention: Ratatouille, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Pan's Labyrinth, Brick, The Queen, The Science of Sleep, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, In The Mood For Love, Instrument, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, The Bourne Ultimatum, and ... Casino Royale