Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Lovers of Asian cinema should love Azumi. A slick, relentless, violent yet beautiful genre piece with breathtaking stunt choreography and impressive wirework by Yuta Morokaji that makes the fight sequence in Kill Bill seem tame.
Directed by John Hillcoat
The spirits of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone are invoked in this superbly crafted, hard-hitting, harrowing and magnificent drama. Directed by John Hillcoat and scripted by Nick Cave with an ensemble cast of pure talent, gorgeous cinematography and one of the best scores in recent memory.
Directed by Shane Meadows
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama
This Is England, the semi-autobiographical tale of writer/director Shaun Meadows, turns back the clock a quarter century and examines a bullied boy who falls under the influence of a gang of skinheads in the early ’80s. A surprisingly, sweet, nostalgic coming-of-age period piece in the tradition of mean-streets. This Is England features superb performances and an infectious musical soundtrack. One of the simplest and best re-creations of the gritty post-punk scene from England ever put on screen.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Bio-pic, Prison film, Drama,
Audacious and cutting-edge cinema that is high in energy, often-funny, violent, very smart, dark, intelligent and disturbing. There have been many films about the prison experience, but Nicolas Winding Refn’s mannered biopic is the first to examine its incarcerated subject not as a monster or a victim, but rather as an artist. Often compared to A Clockwork Orange and Chopper, Bronson is a bizarre and bracing character study that is a touch to surreal for mainstream audiences. D.O.P. Larry Smith crafts a strikingly visual film that underscores its violence with classical music and pop while actor Tom Hardy is outstanding delivering one of the most powerful and commanding performances I’ve seen in a long time.
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Genre: Comedy, Drama
One the best pop-culture pictures of the past decade, Almost Famous is based on Crowe’s experiences touring with rock bands The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd while writing for Rolling Stone magazine at the age of fifteen. A vividly realized celebration of personal filmmaking. Crowe’s script is funny, heartfelt and harkens back to Hollywood’s golden age of sophisticated comedy.
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama
With Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola made a serious bid to claim her last name for herself, with her intelligent, beautifully rendered mood piece. Bill Murray shines in one of his best performances with his trademark passive- aggressive style and Coppola’s mood-setting is pitch-perfect. Low-key, smart, direct and unique.–
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Not a perfect film and some scenes work better than others, but the finished product is a work of art. Magnolia is in many ways is groundbreaking and innovative story telling. An absolutely mesmerizing piece of filmmaking with some fine acting (including Tom Cruise in the best work of his career) that makes holding our interest for three-plus hours seem easy.
Directed by Laurent Cantet
A great achievement in cinema-verite. Director Laurent Cantet refuses to instruct us on who’s right and who’s wrong in a movie that constantly plays against our expectations. Writer-actor François Bégaudeau who adapted his own book for the screenplay, also stars in one of the most authentic and honest films about high school students and teachers to date. Partially improvised, using a real (ex-)teacher and real school kids in pitch-perfect performances, The Class is uplifting and thought-provoking from the opening credits to when the final bell rings.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Genre: Drama, Crime
Six-degrees- of-separation has never looked as good as in this ambitious multi-plotted portrait of overlapping lives in contemporary Mexico City. Amores Perros constitutes one of the most breathtaking and impressive directing debuts in cinematic history. Brilliantly shot, superbly acted and deeply heartfelt.
Directed by Ang Lee
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Defines the term ‘something for everyone;’ with the mix of romance, fantasy, and action that will appeal to all audiences regardless of age or sex, The hallmark of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is its standout action sequences, all of which are eye-popping and flawlessly choreographed by the great Yuen Wo-Ping (Iron Monkey, Kill Bill). One of the best adventure movies of the last decade, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is also beautiful, poetic and moving; something that is rarely seen with these genre films.