By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Determined little whatsit saves Earth and rocks the vote. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
Great Chinese filmmaker remakes a 50-year-old French kiddie classic. Paris has never seemed more gloriously strange—nor has puppeteer Juliette Binoche.
Insanely cheerful little earful teaches kindergarten kids (and the rest of us) how to work and play with others in normally dour British filmmaker's greatest crowd-pleaser.
Part archaeological dig, part science fiction, this is a documentary with actors—and Jia's latest report on China burying its past and entering the future.
Dysfunctional French family clusters around matriarch Catherine Deneuve. She's gravely ill and in need of a compatible transplant— the real infusion is the film's superabundance of cinematic brio.
War is treated (and "treated") twice removed in Folman's animated documentary of the nightmares, memories, and fantasies suffered by Israeli soldiers a quarter century after invading Lebanon.
Van Sant goes straight . . . for the heartstrings, that is, in this wildly affirmative biopic of the San Francisco activist Harvey Milk, played with a controlled enthusiasm by Sean Penn.
Boxcars, hobos, no money for gas—the Great Depression happening today: Stranded somewhere in Oregon, Michelle Williams is so lonesome she cannot cry.
Bullied 12-year-old boy falls in puppy love with the androgynous 200-year-old child vampire next door, in this gritty, wintry, bloody adaptation of Sweden's equivalent of the Twilight novels.
First-time director wrestles with the convoluted script he wrote for himself—it's self-reflexive to the max and beyond, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Kaufman's alter ego.
2003 Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
1999 Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonz)
Sean Penn, Milk (86 votes): Reining in his mannerisms, Hollywood's moodiest male star triumphantly vanished into the role of community organizer–political martyr Harvey Milk—and could well emerge brandishing an Oscar.
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky (83 votes): Erupting out of the Mike Leigh ensemble, Hawkins riffs an indelible character into existence—a London kindergarten teacher, at once grating and irresistible in her boundless good nature.
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy (60 votes): Williams performs a virtual solo as a young woman who loses everything when she loses her dog. No one this year held a close-up better.
Juliette Binoche, The Flight of the Red Balloon (55 votes): Encouraged by director Hou Hsiao-hsien to invent her own character, Binoche broke new ground playing a professional puppeteer as eccentric as the movie in which she found herself.
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (75 points): A no-brainer. Even had the release of Christopher Nolan's Batman sequel not been preceded by Ledger's untimely death, his turn as the anarchic Joker in Louise Brooks eyeshadow would have immortalized him among a generation of moviegoers and aspirant Method actors.
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky (43 points): As the dyspeptic yang to Sally Hawkins's ebullient yin, this pug-faced Mike Leigh regular proved a formidable test case for the limits of positive thinking and gave a bad name to driving instructors everywhere.
Josh Brolin, Milk (30 points): After playing Dubya for Oliver Stone, Brolin stepped down the political hierarchy to render an even more chilling impersonation of San Francisco supervisor and avid Twinkie consumer Dan White.
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (42 points): Woody Allen's sun-drenched Spanish ménage à quatre is chugging along pleasantly enough, and then Cruz enters the frame as Javier Bardem's homicidal ex—and sets the whole thing ablaze like a raging comic fireball.
Viola Davis, Doubt (35 points): As the pragmatic mother of an allegedly molested boy at a Catholic high school, Davis has just one major scene, but it is the kind that stops an audience dead in its tracks and colors the absolutist logic of John Patrick Shanley's modern morality play with much-needed splotches of gray.
Rosemary DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married (30 points): Although Anne Hathaway has commanded the lion's share of press, it's DeWitt's less showboating performance as the titular betrothed that provides a welcome oasis of calm at the center of Jonathan Demme's big, fat U.N. wedding party.
Man on Wire (16 points): A nonfiction film with the heart of a Hollywood caper, James Marsh's wildly entertaining docudrama revisited French provocateur Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center and turned it into an eccentric valentine to imagination, risk taking, and creative self-expression.
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