1. The Interrupters (2011)- If I had seen this film last year, it would have ranked very high on my favorites of 2011. Documentarian Steve James takes a fascinating approach to gang violence through the people who once lived the life and now try to be stop the violence along Chicago's South Side. Truly moving and heartfelt filmmaking.
2. Silent House (2012)- I really, really love Elizabeth Olsen and believe she'll amount to one of the best actresses of this generation. And all of this based on just two films now. A tepid subject- gimmicky idea of one continuous shot as a woman roams a darkened house in search for bumps and noises in the night- all held together by Olsen's riveting performance.
3. Of Time and the City (2009)- Currently working my way through a majority of British director Terence Davies films, and this is a poetic, if not hermetic, look at his hometown of Liverpool. There's little history or insight here... all mood and tone as Davies orchestrates lush music over archival images. It seeps under the skin, though, and commemorates a city like no other piece of work.
4. Onimasa: A Japanese Godfather (1983)- Hideo Gosha's epic rendering of a young girls' introduction into the home of a yakuza mobster. Spanning some thirty years, "Onimasa" feels like a precursor to so many later films. Moving, violent, unexpected... it's simply one of the best films of its time. See this one!
5. Texas Killing Fields (2011)- The daughter of Michael Mann tries to imitate dad, but this murder mystery is all over the place. There are times when director Ami Mann captures a stirring image, especially at night, but the poor performances by Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan elicit little sympathy and the mystery itself is so plodding and unrealistic that it made me check out pretty early. Sad since the original idea this film is based on is one of great Texas lore.
6. Mother, Jugs and Speed (1976)- Terrific, fast paced comedy-drama starring Harvey Keitel, Bill Cosby and Raquel Welch as Los Angleles ambulance drivers. Immensely funny in parts, disturbing in others (see the performance of Larry Hagman), Peter Yates' film turns on a dime and jams so much into this energetic farce.
7. The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995)- I just don't quite understand the fanaticism for cult director Philip Ridley's films, including this one and "The Reflecting Skin". It does prove that, from 1994-1997, Ashley Judd was one hot thing. This tale of gothic religious confusion gone horribly wrong in the backwoods suffers from an alternating tone between fantasy and surreal commentary as Brendan Fraser stumbles out of a religious sect into the caring graces of Judd and mute lover Viggo Mortensen.
8. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)- More of the same. I think I'll go re-watch "The Changeling" or "The Stone Tape".
9. We Are the Night (2010)- A female version of "The Lost Boys", or "Near Dark"... pumped full of house dance music, chic European clothes and beautiful people everywhere. For a guilty pleasure, Dennis Gansel's superficial film does the job, but don't look for anything more than that.
10. Two Men In Manhattan (1963)- Very hard to find Jean Pierre Melville film about two reporters (one writer and one paparazzi) searching for a missing French UN delegate in New York. Starring Melville himself, it's a very touristy film, full of the New York skyline and long-lost locations that would probably make any native New Yorker cry. There are some of Melville's themes, but its a very minor work in his illustrious and moody career.