Neil Morris’ Top 10
Steven Spielberg’s chronicle about the aftermath of the terrorist murders of Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich games is a poignant character study encapsulated within a 1970s-style espionage thriller. Moreover, it’s a daring political tome that manages to castigate Israel, Palestinians and, more deftly, post-9/11 American foreign policy.
2. King Kong.
Director Peter Jackson’s big-budget labor of love is a Hollywood throwback that melds the bombast of DeMille with the artistry of David Lean offered by our current epic filmmaker laureate.
Philip Seymour Hoffman channels not just the mannerisms of Truman Capote circa the In Cold Blood years, but also the author’s brilliance, vulnerability, amorality and cruelty.
4. Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight returns in sublime fashion, compliments of indie director Christopher Nolan. Buttressing the stunning set design and visual effects is a comprehensive character arc about the driven but compassionate savior of Gotham, a city recast here as a religious and post-9/11 America allegory.
5. Hustle & Flow.
The pimp-turned-rapper premise seems contrived, but writer/director Craig Brewer manages to craft an engrossing drama that intermingles moments of levity without veering into parody. It also boasts Terrence Howard in one of the best performances of the year.
The subject of race gets a sweeping overview in writer/director Paul Haggis’ multi-pronged opus. Those who found the theme of this May release passé were reminded of its import in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
7. Grizzly Man.
Werner Herzog assembles a transcendent documentary about bear-lover Timothy Treadwell that is part panorama, part tragedy.
8. The 40-Year-Old Virgin/Wedding Crashers.
The evolution of crude comedy takes a Darwinian step forward with these two farces with a heart, especially the slightly superior Virgin.
9. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Ridicule me if you like, but this cinematic lynchpin appreciates and exploits the Greek tragic underpinning and operatic verve of the six-part space saga.
10. Walk the Line.
The sterling performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are enough to elevate this entertaining Johnny Cash biopic to a must-see.
Laura Boyes’ Top 10
Bunty aur Babli.
This exuberant caper stretching along India’s railway lines has everything: an engaging plot, sympathetic characters, memorable music and the star power of father-son team Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee.
El Crimen Perfecto.
A sleazy department store manager’s retail fiefdom comes undone after he accidentally murders his rival in this black comedy.
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Crisp black and white cinematography, a claustrophobic setting and moral backbone tell Edward R. Morrow’s story.
This movie is a sharp meditation on nature and civilization by a genius who had 100 hours of pointless camcorder footage to work with.
Independent films sometimes lack compelling characters, but Amy Adams’ poignant, pregnant chatterbox is unforgettable.
Look at Me.
Agnes Jaoui’s subtle ensemble piece focuses on a mousy young woman anxiously seeking her father’s approval and fearing that his fame is her only attribute.
Ostensibly an historic patriotic rabble rouser, there’s an intentionally subversive political message about the price of colonialism in Aamir Khan’s epic.
Our Brand is Crisis.
My favorite from Full Frame Festival 2005 shows James Carville’s political consulting firm learning a hard lesson about manipulating Bolivan elections.
An elegant Indian fable with feminist undertones, in which a ghost’s most enchanting power is asking the heroine what she wants.
Pride and Prejudice.
Keira Knightly is the best Lizzie Bennett ever in this sumptuously photographed version of the Jane Austen warhorse.