Last year, it was pretty easy to nail down a Top Ten list. I knew pretty much what was going to be in there after Toronto, and while there was a little shuffling, it didn't change all that much. This year was another story entirely ... so many good films from which to choose, so many films I loved for different reasons. Culling that down to ten films was hard this year, and I agonized over my endlessly shifting list, trying out different films in my top ten like a woman hunting for the perfect little black dress for New Year's Eve. I finally managed to get it molded into a Top Ten which, if I wasn't ever going to be completely satisfied with, I could at least live with. So, here they are, the ten films. There are some excellent films from the fest circuit that could have just as easily ended up there, had I been in a different mood or had one more (or one less) cup of coffee while I was writing this. I'll be talking about them in my last Film Clips column of the year.
The Top Ten
1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly -- The top two films on my list shifted back and forth at least a dozen times before I finally settled on Julian Schnabel's moving piece about a vibrant man paralyzed by a stroke. The film is based on the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 42 that left him completely incapacitated by "locked-in syndrome." Bauby dictated a book about his experience one letter at a time by blinking his left eyelid to assistants. There are no car chases or gunshots, no serial killers or abortions in this film, but it is so full of heart and the redemptive power of the human spirit, and so beautifully made, that it deserves to be in the top slot of my list.
2. Juno -- As far as comedies go, Juno was executed to almost perfection from its sharply written script by newcomer Diablo Cody to the tight direction by Jason Reitman. It's harder than most people realize to make smart comedy, and Reitman does comedy very, very well. From his earlier short films (especially Consent) to his first feature Thank You for Smoking, Reitman has set out to prove that good comedy can also be good filmmaking, and with Juno he exceeds his freshman effort and ups the ante for what comedic films should be. In a year heavy with serious dramas and an abundance of depressing Iraq war flicks, Juno was the leaven that lightened it all up a bit, and it's one of the few films this year that I can watch repeatedly and never tire of.
The rest of the Ten, after the jump ...