Regardless of what they say, every year is a good year for movies. Here are ten films you don't want to miss. They all teeter on the edge between pure lush escapist entertainment and topical, political films.
1. Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki's animated Alice-in-Wonderland fable, as fierce and true as it is gentle, is a feast for the eyes, the heart, and the imagination. The mature work of a master storyteller, I cannot praise it highly enough.
2. Bloody Sunday
Gripping, visceral, and relentless, Peter Greengrass's reenactment of the Irish Trouble's worst day is a film of rare immediacy and power.
3. The Two TowersPeter Jackson reinvents the fantasy film (and out-battles Kurosawa) in the breathtaking middle of his Tolkien trilogy.
4. Russian Ark
Alexander Sokurov's entrancing one-shot flight through the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is a bravura filmmaking stunt that left me hypnotized.
5. 8 WomenOzon's musical crime farce starring the most beautiful of French actresses plays like the giddy, ironic lovechild of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "Murder by Death." Utterly delightful.
6. Read My LipsThis smart, moving thriller from France about a deaf woman and her shady lover didn't get half the attention it deserved.
7. Das Experiment
Moritz Bleibtreu, Germany's hottest leading man, stars in a powerful blend of action thriller, psychological drama, and cautionary tale about the monster in all of us.
8. About Schmidt
Alexander ("Election") Payne's latest looks into the tormented soul of a retired actuary, masterfully played by an uncommonly subdued Jack Nicholson.
9. Sunshine State
John Sayles returns with the most satisfying ensemble drama in a long time, featuring Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, and Timothy Hutton.
10. Bowling for Columbine
Loud, obnoxious, in-your-face Michael Moore is a divisive figure, but his relentless self-promotion does not obscure that he profoundly cares about his topic, gun violence in America.