Lone Gunmen

Amid all the year's deadpan beatifications of the contemporary defeated American lumpen-bourgeois male—Adam Sandler collecting pudding, Jack Nicholson pissing sitting down, John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman doing anything—the brazen flashiness and nihilistic verve of Roger Avary's sorta-'80s satire THE RULES OF ATTRACTION was a tonic. But then I thought Killing Zoe was a lot of fun too. —MARK JENKINS

In WENDIGO, Larry Fessenden, presumably up on his horror-movie reading, enacts what might be termed a return of the dispossessed. Nothing casts a pall over American history like the issues of class and land ownership, and few places hum with the fallout from saidissues like the tensed spaces between New England tree trunks. If the casually great performances and cinematography can't quite erase the memory of the hokey titular beast, at least the new Queens of the Stone Age video puts him to excellent use. —NICK RUTIGLIANO

I knew BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF would be a great movie as soon as the handsome blond hero—charged with the urgent task of tracking down a maiden-eating monster—delays the hunt until after he's enjoyed a sumptuous feast and unpacked the 40 elegant frock coats that he's brought with him from Paris. —JUSTINE ELIAS

Return of the dispossessed: Erik Per Sullivan in Wendigo
photo: Magnolia Films
Return of the dispossessed: Erik Per Sullivan in Wendigo

HOLLYWOOD ENDING is an inside-showbiz satire replete with sight gags, zingers, and paranoia. It's vintage Woody and will be appreciated someday when Hollywood gets its vision back. —MICHAEL MUSTO

Suffused with lacustrine beauty, Kim Ki-duk's THE ISLE was as hermetic as it was horrific, suggesting that the two states perhaps go hand in hand. Korean directors might want to swear off mute women for a while (cf. this year's fuzzier peninsular import, The Way Home), but following The Isle's siren (Suh Jung) was an unlikely, exhilarating foray into forbidden pleasures. Kim balanced winces with laughter, drawing lustmord taut along strands of ingested fishing lines, which he then tore free, like some demonic kerchief conjurer, in a string of exclamation points. —ED PARK

My "orphan pick" this year is a literal one: Abbas Kiarostami's ABC AFRICA, which calls attention to the 1.5 million Ugandan children separated from their parents by war and AIDS. Compassionate rather than investigative (but no less political for that), it's a film whose message is simply to remind us of the power of any individual choice—including the choice to do nothing. —ROB NELSON

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