10 Best Films: Luisa F. Ribiero
Croupier (Mike Hodges, France/United Kingdom) As low-keyed and sizzlingly cool as its protagonist Jack Manfred (a crackling performance by Brit Clive Owen), a would-be novelist who slums as a casino dealer, this smart film twists, turns, and dazzles with surprises, proving that real entertainment can be had without swollen budgets or mind-blowing effects.
You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan, United States) An unexpected, revealing, humorous yet poignant exploration of the convoluted bonds of family via the messy adult lives of siblings Sammy and Terry (brilliantly portrayed by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo), who, drawn together by childhood tragedy, aren't nearly as opposite as they seem.
Aimee and Jaguar (Max Färberböck, Germany) Based on a true story, this prickly tale set in Berlin in the last year of World War II rumbles with erotic passions and tragic tensions as ballsy Jewish German lesbian Jaguar (the dynamic Maria Schrader) "passes" as Aryan while indulging in an explosive, reckless affair with imprudent German housewife Aimee (an equally impressive Juliane Köhler).
One Day in September (Kevin Macdonald; Germany/Switzerland/United Kingdom) A searing documentary on the 1972 Munich Olympics and its horrific hostage siege, highlighted by a chilling interview with the sole surviving Libyan terrorist. Graphic, unrelenting images of the violent tragedy and a merciless condemnation of the role of the media overcome a sometimes vociferous soundtrack and not-unexpected pro-Israel bias.
Chicken Run (Peter Lord and Nick Park, United Kingdom/United States)* Eccentric inmates of a chicken farm, led by determined hen Ginger (voiced by Absolutely Fabulous' Julia Sawalha), seek the assistance of a brash Yank rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson) to bust them out--before the evil Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) can turn them into pot pies. This arch, jolly claymation gem from the creators of the loveable Wallace and Gromit tweaks every loony British stereotype, not to mention The Great Escape.
Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh, United States)* A pure star vehicle for Julia Roberts, who sparkles and captivates in this comedy-drama of a real-life pink-collar crusader against a big, bad industrial giant. Uncharacteristically foul-mouthed and belligerent on screen (and backed by an equally tart Albert Finney), Roberts provides legit laughs and credibility, whether staggering around on stilettos or popping out of her Wonder Bra.
Chocolat (Lasse Hallström, United Kingdom/United States) A light, yummy pleasantry that leaves a savory aftertaste, Chocolat finds a mysterious stranger (Juliette Binoche) and her young daughter drifting into a stodgy country village in 1959 France and tempting the locals by opening a chocolate shop. Director Hallström infuses the film with marvelous ambiance, aided by his strong ensemble cast and the gentle story veils a more ominous fable about the darker side of the '50s. (Opens Dec. 22.)
Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry, United Kingdom) This charming story of an 11-year-old Northern England coal miner's son who discovers ballet is a buoyant, pleasing little film that delightfully demonstrates the freeing powers of dance. Echoing famous musicals from Singin' in the Rain to Flashdance, Billy Elliot nevertheless has its own distinctive flavor, thanks to an enchanting debut by Jamie Bell in the title role.
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, United States--re-release)* This visually stunning restoration invigorates what might be Hitchcock's greatest film, a riveting, familiar story of a daredevil photographer (James Stewart), grounded by a broken leg, who spends his time gaping at the neighbors across the way--despite the urgent nudges for attention from the luscious dish in his lap (Grace Kelly at her loveliest)--and convinces himself that he's witnessed a murder.
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