here’s where we’re supposed to tell you how much we disapprove of the idea of lists, how film should be each individual’s own discovery, how no one should tell you what to watch and why. Well, screw that. Life’s too short to wade through every Sweet Home Alabama in the attempt at finding a Before Sunset, so we, the long-suffering critics, are here to provide you a handy little guide. Plus, in compiling this list of the top movies released in the new millennium we were objective, hard-nosed and accurate—we even used numbers and everything.

So, here it is: the unimpeachable and unarguable Top 50 Movies of 2000 to 2005 (through the end of September, but not exactly because the votes were tallied before that, but you get the general idea, I hope?)

Enjoy!
[Stylus at the Movies]

50. George Washington
With George Washington, David Gordon Green earned numerous comparisons to Terrence Malick. The connection wasn’t unfounded as both directors shared a knack for meditative voice-over narrations and an eye for beautiful landscapes, but Green, opting for greater realism, litters his film with spacious dialogue that doesn’t merely propel the narrative along, but adds depth to its moments. Green paints such a convincing portrait of poor southern youth that one might mistake it for a documentary. Indeed, the best moments arrive when the narrative hesitates, lingering on meandering conversations that lesser films might disregard. Not that Green avoids adding touches of heightened poetry, but he balances them successfully against grittier elements, making it as insightful as it is tragic. Green focused this technique on later films, fashioning a slightly more conventional approach, but it was this film that would secure him a place as the greatest of our generation’s maverick directors.
[Dave Micevic]

49. Unknown Pleasures
In 2000’s Platform, Jia Zhang-ke drew on his formative years in rural China, spanning the People’s Republic’s rocky transition from rigid Maoism to privatization, a period of seismic change and cautious hopefulness. Unknown Pleasures is a penetrating digital snapshot of China’s here and now, jazzier in its formal rhythms while markedly less optimistic in its sense of social possibility. Where Jia’s earlier film is (in more ways than one) a classic coming-of-age picture, his follow-up is the diametric opposite: a bleak meditation on cultural stasis and the consequent, palpable sense of hopelessness. Its disaffected young protagonists are going nowhere—slowly.
[Josh Timmermann]

48. Dancer in the Dark
Lars von Trier rarely escapes a review without the word “provocateur” having been slapped onto his work like an expiry date onto a bag of lunchmeat. Like most labels, this one is misleading because it fails to account for the notion that someone like von Trier genuinely cares about anything but scandalizing his audience. With Dancer in the Dark, he surpassed his critics’ expectations, however, with the unlikely help of singer Björk, who performs her heart out as the pitiable Selma, a mother faced with an ever-worsening illness and the desperate need to care for her child. The end of the film may find Von Trier at his most merciless—who doesn’t know someone who has been permanently traumatized by this film?—but Björk’s commitment and the sprightly genre-play give us something that, in the end, rises above bald exhibitionism.
[Bob Kotyk]

47. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Forget simple suspension: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon basically asked audiences to obliterate their disbelief, to buy into a world of moon-walking, Matrix-aping samurais. If it feels like Lee’s playing a video game here, that because he basically is—the gorgeous backdrops feel like levels, the epic battle sequences like end-bosses. Don’t lie—your thumb reached for the “jump” button more than once. Amidst all the high-fantasy, old-world swordplay, it’s easy to forget that Lee is milking the oldest tricks in the book—revenge, honor, love—for an honest-to-goodness plot. No reason to get fancy with the themes, though: They’re just fodder for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s psychedelia, a bunch of deadly warriors pogoing around a trippy McDonalds playscape.
[Andrew Gaerig]

46. Million Dollar Baby
Thanks to heavyweight stars and rather wacky criticism from conservative pundits, Million Dollar Baby became a genuine water-cooler movie. As is the case with many controversial films, the event that becomes to focus of discussion is secondary to the themes presented. In the case of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) and Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), euthanasia is the extreme continuation of a relationship based on deep love and unconditional loyalty. The subject of redemption receives special treatment as well. Spectacular acting and Eastwood’s more-than-capable direction produce a personal air in which the audience grows genuinely attached to the film’s characters. It’s a shame how Million Dollar Baby has been discussed in its infancy. Years from now hopefully it will be seen in a different light, as a film far more remarkable for its gravity than its supposedly devious message.
[Kevin Worrall]



45. Amores Perros
PETA members beware: Though a disclaimer in the opening credits states that no animals were harmed during the production of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 2000 art-house hit, it would, nevertheless, be understandable to feel a tad skeptical when watching the grittily depicted dog-fights staged in the three-part film’s first segment. If you can stomach the canine-on-canine violence, however, there are some interesting ideas about love, in various forms and facets, scattered throughout here, as well as a vibrant portrait of life in contemporary Mexico City. Innaritu’s film, along with Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien, also represents a significant U.S. breakthrough for Mexican cinema. Just ask Hollywood: Flash forward a few years’ time, and Innaritu’s directing Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in an Oscar-nominated studio release, while Cuaron is at the helm for a Harry Potter sequel.
[Josh Timmermann]

44. Best In Show
“And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten.” The secret to Fred Willard’s hilarious turn as dog show commentator Buck Laughlin is that he doesn’t stray far from what most audience members want to say while watching dog shows. Best In Show, however, revels in the comedic possibilities inherent in the obsession necessary to reach the heights of a national dog show, torquing the quirks of dog lovers to a heightened state of situational insanity. Guest’s usual cast of improvisers is here, tweaking the formula established in 1996’s Waiting for Guffman, but here it simply works better, perhaps because the targets are far wider ranging, even though they share the same obsessive characteristics. Luckily, unlike the contest there’s no need to pick one over the other.
[Todd Burns]

43. The Best of Youth
After seeing The Best of Youth earlier this year I told everyone I knew about it. Many of them acted interested, a few expressed intentions to go out and see it themselves. However, none maintained their initial level of enthusiasm after I revealed that it was six hours long. They didn’t feel confident they could endure something so expansive. Take it from me, after sitting through all six hours of this, I’d gladly sit through it again. The dense narrative and lively direction supplies the film with a breezy pace. By the end of the third hour I became so absorbed in its story, which tracks the lives of two brothers across nearly five decades, that I simply lost track of time. Any film can be grand in length, but it takes true talent to construct a film grand in emotion as well.
[Dave Micevic]

42. The Station Agent
Although he’s found himself in a number of acting roles, you can tell by his self-assured directorial debut that Thomas McCarthy was born to be a director. Or a writer. Or both. A tale revolving around Peter Dinklage’s Fin and the two friends that he begrudgingly allows into his solitary life, the story is almost secondary to what the cast and McCarthy craft, which is a bewitching mood piece that adroitly describes the ebb and flow of small-town life where every day brings the possibility of enormously meaningful encounters or deafening isolation. Connecting, in the end, is the goal, but it’s the road that Fin, Patricia Clarkson’s Olivia, and the irrepressible Joe (Bobby Cannavale) take in getting there that’s the true appeal of one of the most charming films of the new millennium.
[Todd Burns]

41. Kill Bill
No, that wasn't worth the wait. Look, Tarantino was to the 90s as Thatcher was to the 80s, so it's no surprise that when their respective new decades came around their respective fanbases were split between wishing they'd progress, wishing they'd do the same things they used to do, wanting to keep them as their leader, and wanting to get rid of them as quickly as possible. But it's a Good Movie. Tarantino always gets the best out of Thurman, who puts across the correct mix of pissed off and ice maiden and honestly, at the end of the day, when Santa Esmerelda are in the house with "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," very little can be wrong.
[Dom Passantino]

40. I Heart Huckabees
The search for identity is something that has obsessed philosophers, poets, artists and politicians for as long as the human race has existed, so it’s no surprise that, excluding sex, it’s probably the basic driving force behind most popular cinema. Not that there’s ever been a film quite like I Heart Huckabees before, because cult director David O. Russell (best known for the equally fantastic Gulf War satire Three Kings) has crafted as unique a film as you’re likely to see. The premise is simple—is everything connected, or is everything separate? It’s the method with which this is explored that makes the film so oddly compelling; it’s an existential comedy mystery film about the mistreatment of the environment by big business, if you will. There are marvellous performances from Dustin Hoffman as an “existential detective,” Mark Wahlberg as a philosophically troubled fireman, Isabelle Huppert as a nihilist writer and Jude Law as a heartless businessman (among others), plus there’s an array of fantastically quotable lines and bizarrely comedic set pieces, and even if the actual characters lack a little something compared to the concept (and despite the fact that it’s not quite as clever as it thinks), I Heart Huckabees zips along with such irreverence that one can’t help but thoroughly enjoy it.
[Nick Southall]

39. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
After the culmination of the trilogy, it's difficult to go back and view them separately. They work so well together, why take them apart? Yet, if only one of the films had to make the list, I'm glad it was the Fellowship (my favorite of the books). This is the film that started the whole phenomenon, transforming Peter Jackson from cult horror director to international sensation. Rarely do films share this degree of acclaim amongst critics and audiences alike. Even the typically hard-nosed of us eventually caved in to its charms. And how couldn’t we? Jackson’s vision breathed new life into what we perceived as high-concept filmmaking, proving that superb special effects could be forged without sacrificing exceptional storytelling.
[Dave Micevic]

38. Fat Girl
If a conservative social critic was out to make a case illustrating contemporary European or, specifically, French amorality, they needn’t look much further than the cinema of Catherine Breillat. What, at first, seems a frank study of sibling rivalry (the direct English translation of its title, For My Sister, further suggests as much) morphs abruptly into a discomfiting, unsparing examination of sexual manipulation. And if Breillat’s provocations, thus far, have made you squirm, Fat Girl’s seemingly out-of-nowhere final act should leave your jaw sagging somewhere on the floor.
[Josh Timmermann]

37. The Triplets of Belleville
Think animated, accessible French absurdism. And by �accessible,’ what we really mean to say is that it’s easy to enjoy—actually understanding the thing is something else altogether. But that’s just fine: The Triplets of Belleville is fresh, sweet, and bizarre. And with just a single line of dialogue, it is, above all else, an extraordinary visual experience. There’s a young bike racer, his loving grandmother, their dog, the Tour de France, a mafia kidnapping, and the titular trio, aging cabaret-type singers whose songs are a perfect combination of indulgent and hooky nonsense. The one sure thing is those brilliant stylized images, hypnotic, surreal, and sharp-edged, that overflow from every scene.
[Rob Lott]

36. Far From Heaven
The color-drenched middle-class domestic melodramas of the 1950s might seem like strange fodder, today, for any angle other than parody, farce, or a Family Guy non sequitur. But Todd Haynes’ movie becomes both a loving homage to the grand films of Douglas Sirk and an honestly touching, finely wrought human tale. While set half a century ago, with that era’s idyllic look and tone, Far From Heaven is nonetheless replete with a few new, once-unmentionable social twists—Julianne Moore’s faultless wife in love with Dennis Haysbert as her black gardener; Dennis Quaid’s secretly gay middle-management husband. Suddenly, we’re circling through realities odd and dissonant, but arresting and, yes, picture perfect.
[Rob Lott]



35. Spiderman 2
With great marketing opportunities comes great sequels, and let’s face it: We were one purist intervention away from getting a close-up of the Spidey-logo every time Barry Bonds walked to first base. But despite its tendency to swat aside “saturation point” warnings like so many gnats, there’s little wrong with Spiderman 2, arguably the best superhero film since Batman Returns. Tobey Macguire, Hollywood’s milquetoast it-boy, has Peter Parker in his back pocket, but Spidey’s always had the everyman angst locked up, right? In Alfred Molina’s wonderfully overwrought Dr. Octopus, Spiderman finds something his less-pubescent hero-peers have had for decades: an intellectually worthy villain. Oh, and if you don’t turn 13 years old and fall completely in love when Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) finally realizes the importance of being Spiderman and gives Peter a winking, “Go get �em, tiger,” at the end of the film, then you and the rest of the varsity football team were probably rooting for Doc Oc all along. Traitors.
[Andrew Gaerig]

34. Spider
At the beginning of David Cronenberg’s Spider, Ralph Fiennes creeps out from behind an exodus of train travelers with such timidity, it is as though the director has forgotten who this film is about. Like the recent A History of Violence, Spider (and, more specifically, its climax) is couched in a certain traditional cinematic framework, but one which catapults into something more strange and poignant than a series of refitted conventions could supply. The result is a murder mystery, a careful study of schizophrenia, and an episode of “Coronation Street,” all personified by a never-better Fiennes and a remarkable supporting cast. As always, Cronenberg’s gaze is like that of a fastidious surgeon, with one eye on the scalpel, and the other, directed with both sympathy and scorn, turned toward his patient’s family.
[Bob Kotyk]

33. Almost Famous
It was unlikely that the unincredibly glamorous world of music criticism would ever be immortalized on film, much less in one as exquisite as Almost Famous. Did the fantastic, boundary-expanding, state-trotting journey of Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous set up unrealistic expectations of life as a teenage music critic? I don't think any of us at Stylus are on Franz Ferdinand's speed-dial yet, and I doubt too many of us are holding our breath for any Faruzia Balk-Anna Paquin three-ways in the immediate future either. But the love and enthusiasm (for music, among other things) that's evident in every frame of Almost Famous, against reason and against better sense and in spite of everything—that's for real. That's us. So is Philip Seymour Hoffman, thankfully on the other end of Patrick Fugit's panicked phone call—"Of course I'm here, I'm uncool." That's us too. We're there for you. We're uncool.
[Andrew Unterberger]

32. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Ron Burgundy is no Charles Foster Kane and Will Ferrell is no Orson Welles . . . we got it. However, everyone needs an easy laugh once in a while, and if a single dumb comedy can fulfill that need repeatedly, it deserves to be considered a great movie. Many of our readers probably expected Old School to occupy the “token-mainstream-comedy-that-gets-included-to-prove-how-not-stuffy-we-are” slot, but the unabashed silliness of Anchorman won over enough of our hearts. Dreamworks’s thought process behind Anchorman probably got no further than the, “Will Ferrell is funny, let’s see if he can carry a movie,” stage, but thankfully that was enough. Ferrell and his writing partner/director Adam McKay surrounded the project with a ton of talent and simply let funny people be funny. Yes it’s stupid, yes it’s barely coherent, but Ferrell and co.’s willingness to “go for it” at the expense of keeping the movie together is precisely what makes Anchorman so endearing.
[Kevin Worrall]

31. 24 Hour Party People
24 Hour Party People tells the story of Factory Records, the most visionary, iconic, slapdash, and badly-run record label in the history of the British music industry, and it does so by telling the story of Tony Wilson, Oxbridge graduate, local newsreader, and hapless svengali. The fact that it’s shot on digital video keeps Winterbottom’s fabulously self-aware film from ever wandering too far into colourful farce. And so Vini Reilly from The Durutti Column makes a cameo as his own roadie, Paul Ryder of Happy Mondays briefly plays one of the drug dealers / gangsters who managed to bring The Hacienda to its knees, Tony Wilson talks to God while off his head on a rooftop, and all the other assorted myths, rumours, and historical anecdotes about Manchester’s music scene between 1976 and 1992 are told without the film ever seeming like a dull documentary or a boasting buffoon’s twisted recollection. Andy “Gollum” Serkis makes an inspired Martin Hannett, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris (as an uncanny Ian Curtis) and John Simm are all wonderful, but it’s Steve Coogan’s remarkable turn as the pompous, idiotic, passionate, well-meaning Wilson that steals the show. One of the best films about the music industry ever—because first, and foremost, it’s about people and the stupid things they do.
[Nick Southall]

30. Memento
It was the Viz Profanisaurus that first defined the term "Tarantino Hangover" as being when the various humourous incidents that occurred on the prior night's drinking come to you in a series of random flashbacks that don't make any sense until you've sat through them all. Taking that into consideration, a "Christopher Nolan hangover" must be one received after a three-day period constantly hooked up to a Poteen drip. Memento may have caused word of mouth based on that non-linear narrative gimmick, but you came for the time-frame shifts, and stayed for the top line editing, assured noir direction, proof that Guy Pearce is actually an actor to bother with, and Joe Pantoliano proving that nobody on this planet can play an asshole quite like he can.
[Dom Passantino]

29. Spellbound
The most suspenseful thriller of 2003 was a movie whose plot description would probably put people to sleep. But yes, believe it or not, this documentary (strike one) that follows a group of precocious and/or annoying kids (strike two) at the national spelling bee (do I even need to say it?) is as totally spellbinding as the title would have you believe. Like any great movie about a totally nerdy subject, you don't have to be a vocab obsessive to enjoy Spellbound—in other words, you might not care about how to spell the word "autochtonous," but I guarantee that you will care about whether or not that poor Neil kid is going to disappoint not only his parents but countless families in India, or whether that snotty Emily girl is gonna get her come-uppance, and of course WHO'S GOING TO WIN DAMMIT. And regardless of who you're rooting for to win, whenever that wrong answer-indicating bell is rung, if your heart isn't in your throat then congratulations at being the first person to ever skip youth entirely.
[Andrew Unterberger]

28. The Pianist
With The Pianist, it finally felt like Roman Polanski was getting closer to acknowledging that the manifest horrors of some of his films had anything at all to do with the manifest horrors of his childhood. No one could fault him for trying to avoid the Holocaust throughout his career, instead allowing for his subconscious to attempt the unenviable task of exorcising the trauma that lay bristling below the surface. But in this film, the anxiety that made Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant so unsettling is dug out at the root. As the musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, Adrien Brody will never be this good again, while Polanski finally gets to enjoy the kind of adult life befitting a cinematic elder statesman of his talent—at last, peace.
[Bob Kotyk]



27. Gosford Park
Before Meetup.com and flash mobs existed, there were Robert Altman movies. For the last 35 years the director has been bringing together some of the funkiest most impressive groups of people imaginable and pulling off some pretty incredible cinematic stunts. He’s still got it: at the age of 76, he gave us a stunning, nimble movie that calls on the post-WWI British aristocracy and some Agatha Christie-type murder-in-the-drawing-room dramatics to set the stage. But it is when the nearly two dozen characters, upstairs and downstairs, begin to step off that stage that Gosford Park takes on greater more jolting dimensions. Altman engages us in a subtle examination, and sometimes skewering of class and celebrity, love and betrayal, so delicately that we hardly notice it amidst the hunting party, afternoon tea, and luscious dinner.
[Rob Lott]

26. A.I.
Leading up to its summer release, Steven Spielberg’s filmization of the longtime Stanley Kubrick project inspired by the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” seemed as nervously anticipated as any Hollywood offering since, well, Kubrick’s own mystery-shrouded swansong. Is it really any surprise, though, that A.I., like Eyes Wide Shut before it, basically landed with a resounding thud at the box-office? Moody masterpieces rarely play well to mass audiences, at least initially, and possible expectations of another E.T. definitely didn’t help matters. A.I. is, instead, the most ethically unsettling, emotionally devastating science-fiction film ever made. It’s the troubling product of Spielberg’s famous sentimentality gone sour, with the movie’s much-disputed, in-some-circles down-right maligned coda his self-reflexive answer to 2001’s iconic “star-child.”
[Josh Timmermann]

25. Kill Bill 2
Full disclosure: I’ve never been that big a Quentin Tarantino fan. With the Kill Bill movies, however, Q basically just mashed up all of his favorite things. Q and I? We ain’t so different after all: We both love pulpy action flicks, Lucy Liu, the RZA, and anachronistic sword use. Famously the movie in which a legion of critics mistook, “more dialogue than Volume 1” for, “plot driven,” Volume 2 turns the great American western on its head. Bill’s (David Carradine) “Uma, I am your baby’s daddy” admission is quickly turning into “Luke, I am your father” for a generation of literate, educated film geeks. Hell hath no fury like a woman shot and left for dead, something of which Tarantino’s no-bullshit ending leaves little doubt. Tarantino’s made a career out of turning gorefests into epic humor-dramas, but in the Bride, he finally finds a lead who shares his perverse pleasures.
[Andrew Gaerig]

24. About Schmidt
I realize the whole “playing a real-life schlub instead of your sickeningly glamorous self” gimmick’s a well-worn path to easy Hollywood cred (take a bow Nic Cage, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Sly Stallone), but since I didn’t have much truck with Mad Jack before (especially with him being the world’s most insufferable sports fan and all), it was nice to see Nicholson defiantly, indisputably not playing Nicholson for a change. As an Alexander Payne primer on shiftless white men past their sexual peak, Schmidt’s better than Sideways if not quite as squirmingly truthful and tragically desperate as Election. All this, and Kathy Bates’ best work since Waterboy!
[Josh Love]

23. Traffic
There's nothing particularly innovative or even that decade-definitive about Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, and I'd be foolish to pretend like I knew if it was a truly accurate look at the drug trade in America at the moment. More importantly, though, the movie is thoroughly engrossing for every minute it plays (which, though you might not notice, is actually a lot of minutes)—from Erika Christensen cooking up for the first time to Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman swapping virginity-losing stories, from Catherine Zeta-Jones being surprisingly level-headed at her first big coke deal to Topher Grace explaining the reality of street drug dealing to idealist Michael Douglas, it's extremely unlikely that something won't resonate with you personally and even more unlikely that all of it won't entertain you thoroughly. It's Goodfellas with a heart, at 45 instead of 78 RPM.
[Andrew Unterberger]



22. Requiem for a Dream
Famous before its release for containing more cuts than any film in history (approximately 3-4 times that of an average feature), Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to Pi took drug related cautionary-tales to another plane. The subject matter and events of Requiem for a Dream take a back seat to Aronofsky’s manic style and the lead performances. Jared Leto proved more than competent (who knew?), Jennifer Connelly initiated her ascendance to A-List female lead, and Ellen Burstyn’s portrayal of aging widow Sara Goldfarb proves easily the strongest aspect of the film. While the drug scenes and consequences can be nearly cartoonish, Aronofsky’s success in depicting the motivation behind and desperation resulting from addiction makes Requiem for a Dream one of the better films of the decade.
[Kevin Worrall]

21. Capturing the Friedmans
If the documentary was the filmic genre to watch over the last five years, then Capturing the Friedmans is the masterpiece that made good on the promise. Who knew that the proliferation of home video cameras—technology intended to document the special occasions of any family—would lead to such a heartbreaking look at the dissolution of one? There are so many things going on in Capturing the Friedmans that defy easy synopsis, from the unflinching look at the hysteria surrounding pedophilia that afflicts Arnold Friedman’s “victims,” to the bilious relationship between the Friedman boys and their mother. This isn’t your family, but, for better or for worse, it is a family, and the evenhandedness with which director Andrew Jarecki conducts these proceedings could teach any Supreme Court Judge a thing or two.
[Bob Kotyk]

20. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
I know it’s hip to take shots at the Coens nowadays—their nose-thumbing cleverness, hare-brained plots, broad regional signifiers and general wacky-for-the-sake-of-wackiness vibe—but for word geeks and history dorks (and I consider myself both), O Brother’s a bona fide delight. The talk of peckishness, pomade, and the paterfamilias is too richly evocative to resist, while the commingling of Delta blues, backdoor politics, and loudmouth bankrobbers with the looming spectre of Homer’s Odyssey makes Dixie’s myths seem even grander while preserving the region’s keenly self-leveling eye for the absurd. Just because the soundtrack kickstarted a revolution of dully reverent old-timey types, don’t hold it against a movie that flashed more wit and self-knowledge than anything Allison Krauss has ever laid to tape—it’d be the acme of foolishness to do so.
[Josh Love]

19. Mystic River
What if Shakespeare lived and worked today in the shadows of Boston’s grimy, spindly Tobin Bridge? As beantown films go, his comedy of missed connections would probably look like the underrated, airy Next Stop Wonderland. His tragedy, though, would be Mystic River: pummeling us, deftly knocking us down hard, leaving us dizzy and pissed at all its twisted loss and terrible betrayal. Clint Eastwood’s unassuming but purposeful direction and impressive cast, give us three stunted-adults once friends from the old blue-collar neighborhood coming to terms with their own awful demons and cruel reality. Its basic Law and Order-style mystery-to-be-solved plotting pulls you in, but painfully it’s the raw human yearning that gets you. Then it stays with you and, goddammit, won’t let go.
[Rob Lott]

18. The Fog of War
Much has understandably been made of the Vietnam Era’s parallels with our current quagmire in Iraq. Subsequently, the lion’s share of press greeting The Fog of War upon its release two years ago tended to focus on those telling similarities. While Errol Morris’s film certainly offers one hell of a timely history lesson, it works beautifully, too, as a poignant autumnal portrait of a man who not only lived through most of the 20th Century, but, for better or worse, played a pivotal role in shaping it—a true-life Forrest Gump, if you will. Robert S. McNamara’s emotional reflection on determining the burial spot for President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetary is a Bazinian “holy moment” if I’ve ever seen one.
[Josh Timmermann]



17. Adaptation
We’ve watched Charlie Kaufman chase his tale before (Being John Malkovich), but in Adaptation, he finally catches it. Less a movie than a convoluted reflecting pool, Kaufman digs deep into self-denial, obsession, writer’s block, and, um, alligator attacks. Adaptation is so thorough in its narcissism that when twin brother Donald announces he’s writing a script at the end of the film, it takes a moment to realize that you’ve already seen the movie. Nic Cage breaks out of a five-year rut, shedding his cool Con Air image for the nervous burnout he was born to play. Kaufman may have better films, past and future, but he’ll probably never again probe his own psyche with as much honesty, humor, and perspective as he musters here.
[Andrew Gaerig]

16. Ghost World
"I just hate all these extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-bohemian losers." With the exception of Mean Girls, this is the quintessential teen movie of the decade so far, because it pulls at the nerve of what being in your later teens is actually about: you hate everything, you think you're better than everything, and you're always wrong. Thora Birch as Enid (brain, criminal, and basket case combined) and Scarlett "when it was still cool to fancy her" Johansson as Rebecca (princess, there is no athlete in the movie) turn in stunning performances, Illeana Douglas kills it in her role as dippy feminist art teacher Mrs. Allsworth, Steve Buscemi does the "Hi, I'm Steve Buscemi, and I'm in an indie movie" thing, and you walk out smiling at the fact that a character has just committed suicide in a slightly oblique metaphor. Like I said, it's a teenage movie.
[Dom Passantino]

15. The Son
As important to our generation as Au Hasard Balthazar was to its own, The Son tells a deceptively simple story in the most complex manner about a carpenter’s strange obsession with his young new apprentice recently released from juvenile detention. Contemporary films often approach cinema as nothing more than a means to filter words into images without fully utilizing the true craft. By contrast, the Dardenne brothers take that which belongs exclusively to cinema and allow their narrative to dwell within. It’s a film in love with processes, be it the finer points of carpentry or its obsession with seemingly mundane activities. There’s a delicate mystery to it that I dare not spoil for first-time viewers for where this story ultimately leads becomes something far more profound than I can allude to here. Despite pessimist outlooks from filmmakers like Godard, cinema is not dead, and films like The Son offers hope for its salvation.
[Dave Micevic]

14. Russian Ark
I must confess, the first time I saw Russian Ark, I wasn’t prepared for it. The film doesn’t pretend to provide pure entertainment. It’s an intricate experiment and demands to be approached as such. Beginning with a vague narration involving a mysterious accident and potential time travel, it immediately evolves into a spellbinding tour of Russian art history as observed through the halls of the Hermitage Museum. Not quite compelling until you realize that it’s done in one graceful, unbroken take lasting 96 minutes, it’s a conscious rejection of Russian cinematic heritage (the montage editing tricks of Eisenstein). But as with Andrei Tarkovsky, Sokurov understands that to chop up a scene robs it of truth and in its own peculiar way Russian Ark represents a superlative cinematic truth that’s hard not to respect.
[Dave Micevic]



13. Mulholland Dr.
Close to half-way through David Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholland Dr., Naomi Watts, playing Betty, an aspiring actress auditioning for a lame-duck role, delivers an awe-inspiring performance, cutting directly to the core of her (multiple) characters’ and the film’s (until now) opaque air of inscrutability. Lynch claims to write his films in a state of semi-conscious dreaming, and the results can be, to say the least, disorienting, but with Mulholland Dr., there is the sense that outside of his productive reveries, the director has done his homework. I can think of no other film that so successfully approximates the act of dreaming: there is a cohesive plot if you’re willing to tease it out, but, like most memorable dreams, it is hardwired to avoid easy interpretation.
[Bob Kotyk]

12. American Splendor
Everybody hates popular guys. The number of people who claim to revel in mass popularity are either liars, members of KISS, or ex-geeks. The story of comic writer Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti), the protagonist of 2003’s splendid American Splendor, romanticizes geeks with an insouciance that gives the lie to the purported agony of iconoclasm. In a steel-gray Midwestern landscape that served as a backdrop for the industrial wheezes of Pere Ubu songs, Pekar lives in a shitty apartment. He has great taste in jazz and literature (quick: name the last person who recommended Theodore Dreiser’s Jennie Gerhardt to you). Robert Crumb illustrates his tart scripts, ostensibly autobiographical. Pekar works as a file clerk at a hospital until fellow misanthrope Joyce Brabner flies out to meet him. As played by Hope Davis, Braber matches Pekar scowl for scowl; her dreary, enervated bangs droop over a face permanently scarred by cynicism. The film’s self-reflexive shenanigans are tiresome, but learning that Pekar finds the mass success he won’t admit he craves adds a dose of corrective irony.
[Alfred Soto]

11. City of God
Fernando Meirelles’s directorial debut served as a reminder that great films need not be stuffy nor filled with artificially heightened drama. Upon its release, City of God was greeted with an avalanche of Goodfellas comparisons. In turn, Meirelles was alternately maligned and lauded for his stylistic similarities to Martin Scorsese. Despite their shared genre and some familiar camerawork, City of God and Goodfellas’s most significant likeness is the fact that each tells an excellent story in wildly entertaining fashion. Flashy camera tricks, a spirited soundtrack, indelible characters, and more than a smattering of humor provide Meirelles with enough ammunition to abduct his audience’s attention. By rendering its viewer at once exhausted and exhilarated, City of God is the one film in recent memory that actually lives up to the critical cliché, “thrill ride.”
[Kevin Worrall]

10. Lost in Translation
It is a wondrous mystery that a movie so careful, so unrushed, and deliberate, so basically uneventful, so little and quiet, can also be so intensely engaging and so incredibly endearing. It has to do with confidence: director Sofia Coppola, little and quiet herself, and a confidence, not only in the emotionally intimate performances from her two actors Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, but also in the sly, only-hinted-at implications of their characters’ undefined relationship. It’d be easy to pigeonhole this movie as a charming, genuinely funny, strangers-in-a-strange-land tale of alienated Americans, forlorn in Japan. After all, that would accurately describe about 98 percent of Lost in Translation’s actual running time. But that’s all just seductive background against which two disconnected souls confront their own loneliness and softly search to understand each other. Lost in Translation is that rare treat—a small story about big stuff.
[Rob Lott]

09. Before Sunset
Richard Linklater’s 1995 Before Sunrise is both the quintessential Gen-X flick and the decade’s most perfectly realized romantic comedy. Its nine-years-later real-time “sequel” is something richer and deeper, retrospectively lending the original film a new sense of weight and meaning. This is unmistakably personal filmmaking. Co-writers (along with Linklater) Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do not merely inhabit Jesse and Celine in the usual sense of acting—Jesse and Celine are Hawke and Delpy (see: the former’s Hollywood success and disintegrated marriage, the latter’s career problems and musical aspirations). Starring opposite the star-crossed former lovers are Paris (who’s never looked better) and Time, both in the form of the past brought back to wistful life by the pair’s recollections of their night spent together in Vienna and the clock constantly ticking before Jesse’s plane departs. The final scene in Celine’s apartment might just be the most sublime romantic movie moment since the kiss that stops traffic in Sunrise (Murnau, not Linklater).
[Josh Timmermann]

08. Donnie Darko
Can we not bother with the "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" philosophy student debate that some people want to reduce this film to (look, there's two universes, and homeboy has to destroy one in order to save the other), and instead just focus on "Sometimes, I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion." On Swayze throwing himself full force into the camera every time he appears on screen. On somehow turning Michael Dukakis into a catchphrase for emo kids. On how Gyllenhall nearly matches the strength of his resemblance to kd lang with the strength of his performance. And on launching Gary Jules's awesome recording career! So nearly perfect...
[Dom Passantino]



07. Punch Drunk Love
St. Peter probably doesn’t do double-takes very often, but when God issued the memo about erasing Adam Sandler’s transgressions—Little Nicky, The Waterboy, etc.—Ol’ Pete probably felt the whiplash for a week. Forget atoning for past sins; before Punch-Drunk Love dropped, all we knew about Sandler was that he outlasted Pauly Shore and chose marginally better scripts than Rob Schneider. Sandler’s Barry Egan is the type of bumbling neurotic we curse dealing with, but Paul Thomas Anderson turns his violent outbursts and weird sex into pure empathy. There is no magic for Egan: nagging family, failing business, and punctuated silence jar his life. That Egan finds joy in simple things others don’t understand—a nice suit, an old harmonium—is what truly makes his story our own, how Sandler and Anderson make a sore-thumb out of everyone in the audience.
[Andrew Gaerig]

06. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jim Carrey’s hangdog charm was never put to better use than in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Although director Michel Gondry and writer/meta-fabulist Charlie Kaufman don’t give him much to do except pine soulfully for his daffy girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet, also working miracles with a character who’s Cute and Quirky and nothing more), they come the closest to evoking the hazy shade of winter caused by the intersect of dreams, longing, and terror than any filmaker since Luis Bunuel did with Belle De Jour and, better, the exquisite prankster of The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie. Director Michel Gondry grounds this exquisite nonsense in a cast of pranksters that understands how to unearth the surreal in the quotidian: Mark Ruffalo’s uber-nerd, Tom Wilkinson’s exasperated pathos, and Kirsten Dunst’s stoner shenanigans. Best of all, the otherworldliness of Kaufman/Gondry’s conceit is best exemplified by Elijah Wood’s eyes, whose opaque blue nothingness suggest desires he’s not willing to articulate—until the film’s devastating denouement.
[Alfred Soto]

05. In the Mood for Love
A husband suspects his wife of having an affair. The woman living next door to him suspects her husband of the same. Observing that their spouses are away on “business” during precisely the same periods of time, the cuckolded husband and his neighbor meet to discuss the apparent situation, role-play as the adulterous pair and, in the process, fall in love with each other. This, in a nut-shell, is the plot of In the Mood for Love, but it doesn’t so much as hint at why Wong Kar-wai’s film is one of the new millennium’s finest. It’s Wong’s meticulous attention to detail—from hypnotic slow-motion rhyming shots set to Nat King Cole to the cut and fabric of a dress and the print of wallpaper—that elevates potentially turgid melodramatic material to the heart-wrenching level of tragedy.
[Josh Timmermann]

04. You Can Count On Me
The brother-sister relationship has never fared all that well in movies. Put loosely, the brother, commonly reduced to a kind of Sonny Corleone guardian figure, seldom gets to know the sister outside of his knuckleheaded attempts to police her sexuality, while the sister (see Punch-Drunk Love) generally comes off as either weak or as a meddlesome harpy. You Can Count on Me made up for that in 2000, offering an unfailingly sensitive, funny, and deft portrayal of two siblings, Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo), who are orphaned as children and left to grope their way through adulthood without the benefit of an exemplar. The cast (including a superbly melancholic Rory Culkin) is extraordinary, and the writing and direction by playwright Kenneth Lonergan dodges cliché with consummate skill.
[Bob Kotyk]



03. In the Bedroom
Given the film’s subject matter (a middle-aged couple losing their son to an act of violence), I find it miraculous that director Todd Field never resorts to sappy melodramatic techniques. Field approaches the grief in understated natural tones, providing an air of authenticity to the brilliant performances. In the Bedroom never falls victim to the more hackneyed indie clichés: no character sinks to heavy-handed monologues and the director rarely forces lofty poetic language into common situations. The misery emerges subtly, replacing garish theatrics with a far more honest realism. Much of the film remains impartial in its observations, and instead of forcing out an awkward conclusion; the end strikes a peculiarly ambiguous note. Has justice been served? Or are our protagonists no better than the anonymous evil they sought to eradicate from their lives?
[Dave Micevic]

02. Talk To Her
Our lone entry from Writer/Director Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Live Flesh) is, as is common in much great art, simultaneously crushing, heartening, and beautiful. The story of two wildly different men whose lives become linked by comatose love interests sounds more like the subject of an ill-fated WB sitcom than a great film, but Talk To Her’s rich characters and unrelenting tenderness far outstrip its premise. Javier Aguirresarobe’s magnificent yet unobtrusive cinematography frames two world-class performances by male leads Javier Camara and Dario Grandinetti. Camara, as slow-witted Benigno, shines brightest; his portrayal so deft as to not only infatuate the viewer with innocent warmth but also foreshadow ruinous weaknesses. Benigno’s personality, conduct, and impact on other major characters drive Talk To Her’s narrative, and the result is immensely stirring without sacrificing an ounce of complexity. A true masterpiece.
[Kevin Worrall]

01. The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is of another world. It might as well begin with the phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...” Instead, we get a glorious eight-minute prologue that outlines the many wonders—the exceptional skills, the special interests, the well-earned fame—of the once great Tenenbaum family, a clan so utterly precious and impressive that they become instantly enchanting and entirely unreal. That’s the ingenious hook, and then, just as suddenly, to the soaring strains of “Hey Jude” our narrator ties up the sequence and kicks us in the balls: “Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster.” As if conflicted, or manic, the movie shoots off in two sharply different directions. In finely honed Wes Anderson fashion, its quirky, stylized tone, pace, look, and sound rockets straight ahead at warp speed. Meanwhile, its story—a tender tale of family, forgiveness, lost ambition, and stubborn renewal—imbues the movie, scene by scene with ever more genuine pathos. Though no less peculiar or animated, what began as a cartoon has become a deeply felt human tale. What began on another planet, ends right here at home.
[Rob Lott]


Contributing Writers/Voters
Andrew Gaerig
Bob Kotyk
Rob Lott
Josh Love
Dave Micevic
Dom Passantino
Nick Southall
Josh Timmermann
Andrew Unterberger
Kevin Worrall


By: Stylus at the Movies
Published on: 2005-10-03
Comments (103)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
buy viagra online
online casino