The Educator's Top 10 (Updated!)

Peg Aloi kicks off with a pretty controversial #1 film, then settles in to some Chlotrudis favorites.

  1. THE LIBERTINE -- a gritty, smoky mise-en-scene enshrouds this sweepingly grand but often intimate biopic about one of history's most notorious scoundrels: a whipsmart orator, political firebrand and decadent voluptuary, played by Johnny Depp in one his most exciting performances, and supported by a lightning-bright British cast.
  2. HARD CANDY -- a surprisingly-assured chamber piece which brilliantly exploits what is normally an impossible filmic conceit: a story centered entirely on two actors. Page and Wilson are dynamite.
  3. BROTHERS OF THE HEAD -- haunting, authentic, and clever, with wish-I-wasn't-here intensity in its fake-archival photographic styling (courtesy of the art's newest Michelangelo, Anthony Dod Mantle) and impressively realistic performances by actors who do indeed seem to be in a documentary.
  4. INLAND EMPIRE -- a mesmerizing three-hour tour de force, a brutal, terrifying, incandescent candyland borne of the troubled mind of cinema's greatest post-modern surrealist, and all the more satisfying because it has been so underviewed at this point.
  5. NOTES ON A SCANDAL -- Judi Dench here proves without doubt she is the grande dame of anti-glamour. Her icy, obsessed and ultimately unhinged portrayal of a desperately-lonely spinster school teacher is a stunning foil to Cate Blanchett's smoldering, spoiled, bohemian wanna-be. This is a character-driven thriller that is not the least bit predictable, and utilizes that often-risky literary device of voiceover narration with perfect pitch, which is in and of itself an achievement.
  6. SHORTBUS -- an imperfect but bold and enlightening look at post 9/11 sexuality from the city that invented urban angst. The pieces are more than the sum of its parts, mainly due to a somewhat uneven distribution of acting talent, but filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell has crafted a film well ahead of its time that draws its power from his innovative theatrical sensibility and fine-tuned attention to small moments (such as when TARNATION's Jonathan Caouette slinks through the frame carrying a small stack of hash brownies which he insists "aren't for me.")
  7. A SCANNER DARKLY -- adapting Philip K. Dick to the silver screen is a Herculean task and this hopped-up dreamscape does so with real skill. Rotoscoping is still a fresh-looking animation technique and lends itself beautifully to stories such as this, where paranoia, self-doubt, dreams, nightmares, and unfathomable human evil are the main characters. But the actors also make this work: Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, even Keanu Reeves manage to imbue this thinking man's stoner-saga with intelligence and subtlety, even when their painted personae are screaming and smashing up entire rooms.
  8. GARCON STUPIDE -- I can't pinpoint any one thing that makes this nomination-worthy, but months after seeing it this French film has stayed with me; the portrayal of a promiscuous, seemingly-sociopathic teenager by newcomer Pierre Chatagny is at its heart, but director Lionel Baier is to be credited for his unusual cinema verite treatment and unabashed depiction of gay sex in contexts that manage to be shocking and banal at once.
  9. THE QUEEN -- Stephen Frears manages to treat this easily-exploitable topic with restraint and artistry (a real feat for a director who often relishes dramatic excess), but Dame Helen Mirren makes the film her own with a spot-on, very human performance of a woman most people view as an automaton with a handbag.
  10. BEOWULF & GRENDEL -- although Chlotrudis favorite Sarah Polley seems miscast in this Scandinavian epic, the jaw-dropping locations and letter-perfect performances by Stellan Skaarsgard and Gerard Butler make this version of one of humankind's oldest stories one worth seeking out.

Gems Worthy of Note: Hand of God, C*R*A*Z*Y (not eligible!)

What I have not seen yet but want to: The Wind That Shakes the Barley

I bet you were Michael!

Oh and I notice a lot of typos in my list; can I fix them somehow???

(wringing of hands)

Oh, and I wasn't as good looking either...

I loved C.R.A.Z.Y. as well. It really brought me back to my teen years growing up in the 70's. At least I didn't have an older brother quite like that!