10. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
Director David Cronenberg continues his fascinating streak of quiet genre films with this entry into his oeuvre. Viggo Mortensen plays a quiet, average family man with a dark, mysterious past that finally catches up with him. The film tells its story quite slowly and methodically with shocking explosions of violence interspersed throughout. Mortensen is outstanding.
9. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park/Steve Box)
I have already mentioned in the post below that I love the Wallace and Gromit series by Aardman and Nick Park. The other films are all around half an hour or less long. This is their first feature-length film and it's a great one. Dubbed by its makers as the first ever "vegetarian" horror film, it's about a mutated giant rabbit (the were-rabbit of the title) eating the town's vegetables, threatening their annual Giant Vegetable competition.
8. L'Enfant (Jean Pierre Dardenne/Luc Dardenne)
Following their artistic triumph with The Son, the Brothers Dardenne followed it up with another quiet, thought-provoking drama called L'Enfant ("The Child" in French, a double-meaning title if you watch the film). It's about a young couple who has a baby and involve themselves in a baby-selling scheme with complications of course.
7. Good Night and Good Luck (George Clooney)
This is George Clooney's second directorial effort after Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and it's an even bigger triumph than that film. This one is about journalist Edward R. Murrow (played brilliantly by Oscar-nominated David Strathairn) and his taking on the McCarthy House of Un-American Activities witch hunt hearings. Unapologetically liberal to be sure but you can't deny that it's extremely well-acted and well-crafted.
6. The Squid and The Whale (Noah Baumbach)
This film is about divorce in the context of an artsy, Bohemian family during the 1970's. It is both wickedly funny and also abrasive and kind of dark and sad. One thing that I appreciate about this film is that it makes no effort to create sympathetic characters but are so complex that you can't help but keep watching.
5. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Aureus Solito)
I have written about this film at least twice before. For those of you who have missed them, let me give you the gist. This is a Filipino film and one of the biggest, most famous films from the digital New Wave of Filipino films that emerged during the 00's. It's about a 12 year old gay boy from a family of petty thieves who falls in love with a rookie policeman. It's a sweet, funny but heart-breaking film and one of the best of the year.
4. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
This is documentary from German auteur Werner Herzog that chronicles the life of Tim Treadwell, a man who has a love and some say obsession with bears and constantly camps and documents them and speaking for their welfare. This eventually leads to his and his girlfriend's deaths in the hands of a grizzly. The film is largely made up of footage shot by the man himself where you see him rant and talk about bears. It's not just nature documentary, it's also a fascinating character study.
3. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
When this film was surprisingly beaten by Crash at the 2005 Academy Awards, charges of homophobia within the Academy rang loudly for a good few weeks and for good reason. It was controversial when it first came out and became a pretty huge box-office hit and one of the first truly successful and mainstream films that tackle gay love in a straightforward manner. The quartet of young actors: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway all give amazing performances. I've said it once and I'll say it again: This is film, though not my favorite LGBT-film, did make the world a less homophobic place.
2. The New World (Terrence Malick)
The Disney animated feature Pocahontas may have been more a straightforward narrative but this one is kind of more historically accurate portrayal of the relationship of John Smith and Pocahontas. Like with all of Terrence Malick's works, this film is slow, hypnotic, beautiful and mesmerizing. It's definitely not for everyone. Q'Orianka Kilcher is a genuine discovery as Pocahontas.
1. Cache (Michael Haneke)
After I saw this film, I kept on thinking about it for days on end, pondering and debating it online for all its hidden secrets, riddles and ambiguities. It is a cinematic triumph of a mystery thriller which give its audience no easy answers. It's basically about an upper-middle-class French family who begin to receive a series of videotapes which simply contains hours and hours of footage of their house. That's all I'm gonna say. There is an uneasy tension throughout the film despite its slow pace with many, many layers underneath. It eschews any form of conventional resolution which I believe elevates it to one of the best cinematic achievements of the new century.
Runner-Up: Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki); Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright); Munich (Steven Spielberg); The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow); Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton).