1. Lost In Translation
I think what I wrote in my original review best sums up what’s so extraordinary about this one: “Have you ever seen a film where you’re utterly sad to leave the two main characters behind? You’ve been granted just a peek into their lives, but it's enough to leave you transformed, to feel your life has changed just for briefly knowing these people.”

2. American Splendor
Blurring documentary and fiction to an unforseen degree in narrative film, this unlikely adaptation of unlikely comic book auteur Harvey Pekar’s work is the year’s most innovative film and at times, its most rapturous and life-affirming.

3. Raising Victor Vargas
And Peter Sollett’s coming of age tale about a Dominican family in lower Manhattan is the year’s most unexpected delight. Working with non-professionals, the results favorably recall Jim McKay’s great Our Song, eavesdropping on everyday life as it unravels.

4. The Station Agent
What could’ve been painfully quirky or insufferably arch is instead a exquisitely nuanced, immensely likable tale about three societal misfits who really aren’t misfits at all. And four-foot-five star Peter Dinklage is a revelation, and the most multi-dimensional dwarf ever to appear onscreen.

5. The Triplets of Belleville
Certainly unlike anything you or I have ever seen, this surreal, witty slice of animation brims with intelligence, invention, clever sight gags, and most importantly, a beaming heart (albeit one that's slightly, engagingly warped).

6. Spellbound
The year’s most enjoyable documentary is much more than just a profile of the National Spelling Bee finals; it’s an essay about this country’s socioeconomic diversity, seen through the thrilling, oft-heartbreaking journey of eight children united by a distinctive, undervalued talent.

7. Morvern Callar
Lynne Ramsey’s second feature shows her to have mastered a fearless, far-seeing, almost hallucinatory approach to filmmaking, structured much like the mix tape that the titular heroine (a compelling Samantha Morton) finds solace in.

8. Lilya 4 Ever
Lukas Moodysson’s “feel-bad” opus about teenage abandonment and prostitution in the former Soviet Republic contains some of most painfully honest and delicate scenes with child actors that I’ve ever witnessed. And, despite its grim nature, it’s totally watchable, and pretty damn moving too.

9. Lawless Heart
I instantly loved this underrated triptych, a sweet comedy/drama about how one man’s death affects those he's left behind. The cyclical plot structure here hasn’t been executed with this much ingenuity since Pulp Fiction, and it often reveals interesting little facets that add up to a series of marvelous character studies.

10. The School of Rock
Richard Linklater subtly injects his indie sensibility into a studio picture, and with screenwriter Mike White, gives Jack Black the role of his career. Funny, smart and genuinely uplifting, it exudes the joy of playing air guitar while listening to your favorite album on headphones with the volume turned up to eleven.


Dracula: Pages From A Virgin’s Diary
The incomparable Guy Maddin transforms a ballet into a bold cinematic collage that’s as innovative as it is seductive.

The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King
The final chapter is the best, with emotional payoffs more vast than Mount Doom.

Gus Van Sant’s controversial telling of a Columbine-type massacre could use more of a narrative center, but it’s still unshakable, and maybe a decade or two ahead of its time.

Delphine Gleize’s ambitious, dizzying debut boasts a startlingly original screenplay and a rich, evocative set design and camerawork.

Shattered Glass
Structured like an intense thriller, this biopic about ousted New Republic reporter Stephen Glass has a spectacular cast, with a great performance from Peter Sarsgaard and a surprisingly good one from Hayden Christensen.

All The Real Girls
David Gordon Green’s sophomore feature is just as unique and beautiful as his first (and a heck of a lot more focused), and it has one of the most honestly rendered romances ever depicted on film.

OT: Our Town
Moving documentary about Compton high school students who put on a performance of Thornton Wilder’s famous play as if their lives depended on it, and by the end, you really sense how much it does.

The Man Without A Past
Aki Kaurismaki’s gentle fable about an amnesiac businessman living amongst the homeless is full of quirky charm and a humaneness that’s all too rare in a lot of quirky films.

Abbas Kiarostami reinvents cinema yet again, practically cutting out the director entirely while getting at the world in a grain of sand, or in this case, passengers in a car.

In The Mirror of Maya Deren
Martina Kudlacek would have had to try very hard to make an uninteresting doc about this legendary avant-garde film artist; fortunately, it’s a striking, illuminating portrait that even Deren herself might have appreciated.

(Good, if not particularly great films worth your time and attention):

Cold Mountain
Capturing The Friedmans
Kill Bill: Volume One
Russian Ark
A Mighty Wind
Friday Night
My Life Without Me
The Secret Lives of Dentists
Finding Nemo
21 Grams
Owning Mahoney
Swimming Pool
Bus 174
Big Fish
In America


The Company (There’s a great documentary hidden in this mess of a vanity project.)


Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham, Mystic River


Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation)

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor)
Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas)
Peter Jackson (LOTR: The Return Of The King)
Lukas Moodysson (Lilya 4-Ever)
Gus Van Sant (Elephant)


Bill Murray (Lost In Translation)

Paul Giamatti (American Splendor),
Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Jack Black (The School of Rock)
Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent)
Campbell Scott (The Secret Lives of Dentists)


Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation)

Samantha Morton (Morvern Callar)
Sarah Polley (My Life Without Me)
Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Freaky Friday)


Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass)

Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams)
Eugene Levy (A Mighty Wind)
Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent)
Bill Nighy (Lawless Heart)


Hope Davis (American Splendor)

Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Nemo)
Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent)
Holly Hunter (Thirteen)
Olympia Dukakis (The Event)
Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain)


Performance: Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent), Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Direction: Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas), Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville)


Crystel Fournier (Carnage)

Harris Savides (Elephant)
Robert Richardson (Kill Bill: Volume One)
Lance Acord (Lost In Translation)
Alwin H. Kuchler (Morvern Callar)
Agnes Godard (Friday Night)


Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor)

Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation)
Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson (LOTR: The Return Of The King)
Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent)
Billy Ray (Shattered Glass)
Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter (Lawless Heart)