Anyone interested in hearing new Sonic Youth/old demos should go here. This was the perfect start to my morning.

Best Songs of 2010

Note: these are all songs that were not from my favourite albums of the year. Only fair, I think.

"Cold Storage" - Aloha

One of those rare moments that a song title kinda perfectly captures the feel of a song. An icy chill wind off of snow blows throughout the cool post-punk arrangement and the lyrics. "Pay no mind I'm more dead than I'm alive," could have been written by Ian Curtis before Joy Division was signed to Factory and the music sounds like Matt Pond PA covering the boys from Manchester with all the zeal they have. It's a great, sad but ultimately uplifting song and it just sounds so cool and detached, like a drive through Bar Harbour in the dead of winter. "Blackout" is also a delight.

"What Tomorrow Brings" - Badly Drawn Boy

Damon Gough's latest album is so reverb-heavy it sounds like it was recorded in a YMCA. The songs by and large are great but they're definitely mood pieces, which is why I couldn't put it on my best of. I rarely found myself sad enough to connect with them. But the clearest sounding and, strangely, the most devastating is "What Tomorrow Brings" which is one of those great big-picture songs that only Gough can write. Like the Berlin Philharmonic playing along with the sadness of a dejected film character, it sneaks up on you and breaks your heart.

"Mama Taught Me Better" - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

It's hard to quantify just how amazingly Leah Shapiro fits in to and makes Black Rebel Motorcycle Club better. Really it can be summed up in the drum fills in "Mama Taught Me Better," which is in the top two or three songs the band has ever rocked. Before each chorus she punishes her snare and it sounds like nothing less than a machine gun. The chorus and verse are all Robert Been and Peter Hayes of course, between the guitar-in-its-death-throes and that fucking sound that they get out of the scraped bass and guitars, this is one for the books. How they manage to get that sound in the last verse has been killing me because not since "Creep" have I heard anything that fucking cool come from a guitar being played like a guitar. The whole thing has that indefinable sense of cool that these guys have been selling since the start.

"Detroit Has A Skyline" - Cymbals Eat Guitars

AV Undercover was a mixed bag. 25 Songs sung by 25 bands who didn't write them in a tiny room capture for posterity and not much else - they can't sell them or even make them downloadable thanks to the cost of a song. The best of them were really something to behold and I can think of none better than the initially ramshackle and loudest of the bunch, New York's buzz band Cymbals Eat Guitars doing Superchunk. Joseph D'Agostino does a great job shredding his way through the minor classic, and the rest of the band makes a suitably powerful rhythm section, but I think the song wouldn't quite work if D'Agostino didn't murder the vocals with his impassioned warcry-like performance. The chorus is the real game changer, though. He just kills it and it makes this something I've listened to a hundred times since stealing it off a pirated youtube video. What? Just because they won't give it to me doesn't mean I have to like it.

"Get Frostied" - Deastro

Techno music and the technology behind it has totally left me in the dust, which is both good and bad because while I'm out of the loop I can also occasionally be totally wowed by some thing I can't explain. Take for instance this song by Deastro off their Mind Altar EP (essential listening, Dan Deacon and Animal Collective fans. Get off your wallet's ass and buy it). It's this pulsing, whirring environment; a whole club to get lost in. It reminds me of what it's like to listen to a song that perfectly captures the feeling of the movie Enter The Void, without the homophobia or creepy incestuous undertones. This all just the flashing lights and colours and for four minutes you too can vanish into an idealized electric womb space where you simply connect with other bodies and your next life is just a short trip away.

"Midnight Directives"/"Keep The Dog Quiet" - Final Fantasy

If pressed I don't think I could pick which of these songs I like better. And seeing as how they follow each other on the album Heartland and I tend to listen to 'em together anyway, I thought I'd split the difference. Heartland was the album that would have gone on my list if it'd been 21 albums, but tradition is tradition. Plus I wanted to highlight just how spectacular these songs are, worth the price of the album alone. Jittery, hyper-active and just about the catchiest things on earth, the songs make perfect use of the sonic spac Owen Pallett has made for himself as well showcasing his gift for orchestration. He is more a conductor than a mere songwriter and he turns indie songwriting into something closer to preparing Brahms for The Hidden Cameras. He's got such an ear for little things that all combine into a beautiful whole. Both songs also benefit from the fact that they rising, undeniable choruses that have stayed with me since I first heard them. Urgent and wonderful and the highlights of a great album.

"Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man" - Grinderman

I think I was so psyched about this album because the memory of how awesome it's opening track is stayed with me even as the record lost momentum. But there really is no beating how awesome this song is. Seriously. There's nothing Nick Cave can't make amazing.

"Lights" - Interpol

Yeah, this record should have been better, but I'm still such a sucker for Interpol. They're first album probably changed my life (initially for the worse, but that wasn't they're fault) and I've still found things to return to in every subsequent release and their self-titled fourth album is no exception. Case in point, ostensible single "Lights" which is the kind of echo-filled dark side of the parking garage dweller they do perfectly. Also the chorus, the build-up in Paul Banks vocal performance has me singing along too soon everytime, so excited am I to hear him reach the apex of the song, which is just as galvanizing as anything they've yet done.

"England" - The National

The National have been trying to out-sombre Leonard Cohen for some reason. I don't get it. They're best songs are the one with the lightning fast drumming, the distorted guitars and maybe a hint of piano. The best of the best have Matt Berninger out-and-out screaming. "Mr. November" and "Abel" prove my point. Everyone who likes how sad their output has become probably has a reason but I'm kinda glad I haven't been able to identify with it for awhile. The end of their incredibly austere High Violet does have one of their most catchy (if also perversely most dire) songs to date. Changes in intensity set in motion by a blast of horns, the song turns from a sadsack drinking alone into a drunk screaming at passing cars and the whole world in turn, which is what these guys do so well. The less I can tell what Berninger's saying, the happier I am singing along and this one just about takes the cake on that score. I could have used more guitar a la Alligator, but coming at the end of an album as grey and rainy as High Violet, it may as well have been "Voodoo Chile". And this song is just as awesome as far as I'm concerned.

"Mermaid Parade" - Phosphorescent

Ok, this is mostly here to make my girlfriend mad, but I do really love this song. Beautiful americana via a tired New Yorkers state-of-mind.

"Who Are You New York?" - Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright is just one of the best songwriters in the world. And one of the best singers on that same planet. It'd be ok if he were one or the other, but he's both and that's fiercely unfair. This song, the standout from his arresting and devastating All Days Are Nights, is perfect because it's both the misery of realizing your coffee is cold and almost gone, but also the feeling that down the block is another one and it'll be served by the cutest server in the city. It's sad and ecstatic and Wainwright's playing has the ferocity of Philip Glass' "Mad Rush" and he does it all while impeccably and tear-jerkingly singing one of the best songs I heard in a period of 365 days. It's just not fair. Luckily I can listen to this song to commiserate.

"1999" - Shout Out Louds

Another slick and cool post-punk from the masters of spitting the hits of the early 80s back at a grateful public. This one, indeed the whole album, is a bit more inspired and original than their last, and "1999" is great in that it could conceivably have been written by Paul Weller 30 years ago. But it's also pretty perfectly suitably suited to today and the malaise of existing now.

"Threshold" - Sex Bob-Omb

How I wish there was a proper album coming from this band because these guys rock as hard as BRMC and Grinderman and they were just the fevered imagination of Bryan Lee O'Malley, Edgar Wright and Beck. The best and catchiest of the crop of songs composed for the movie's house band, it works out of context, but in the film it's like the manifesto for rock music that movies have attempted to give us since Elvis' film debut. Scott Pilgrim is the worthy heir/successor of Rock And Roll High School, Phantom of the Paradise, Rock and Roll Nightmare and every other creaky "You just don't get it!" music movie of the last half century. And Sex Bob-Omb are the first band I bought outside of the context of a fictional story. These guys could and should be real because they're fucking awesome.

"Got Nuffin" - Spoon

Not much to this but it was the best song on their last album and it's quite good to blast in a car.

"A More Perfect Union" - Titus Andronicus

Like Dinosaur Jr. meets Against Me! Titus Andronicus is a no-win proposition. Pretentious, simple rock music with a raspy barking lead singer. I wouldn't ever have bothered if I'd had it described it to me like this. So why do I love them? The post-hardcore, shoegazing Iced Earth, Titus Andronicus make the most of exciting riffs and even though I'll never quite get used to the lead vocals or lyrics, there is no denying how fucking awesome these guys are during the instrumental parts. Their guitarist sounds like J. Mascis playing for the Strokes.

"Teen Age Riot" - A Truncated Congregation

Oh, you guys didn't hear Ginny sing "Teen Age Riot?" Well ask me for it, I'll email it to you and it'll go right on your list too. I had fun playing it, but Theo Blasko makes it. She was born to turn Thurston Moore's anomic poetry into something akin to Martha Reeves.

"With You In My Head" - UNKLE

Wouldn't be a complete list without a begrudging acknowledgement of how good the songs on the Twilight soundtracks are. It sends shivers down my spine, mostly of shame, but goddamn it there are great songs on these fucking soundtracks. And this is by far my favourite. With a perfect vocal and instrumental accompaniment by The Black Angels, UNKLE show how effortlessly they can turn something good into something unforgettable. Also, dig that this song has two choruses. Both of them amazing.

Bonus: Discussion about relative merits of The National's High Violet, sadness as a record's sole emotion. Beccah Ulm's first comment is in response to the above mention of The National's song "England"

Beccah Ulm - OK, fair enough. But I like the gray and rainy Leonard-Cohen-ness. Matt Beringer, Bill Callahan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen...Don't get me wrong, happy music is splendid and necessary...there's just something about a really devastating baritone that totally obliterates everything else

Scout - True but with Tom Waits at least there are options. He didn't only write sad songs. In fact he's better known for his not-sad ones.

I just wish they'd have the variety they used to. Alligator was sad in parts, but it rebounded splendidly.

BU - Yeah, and I love that. But even at his growliest the sad still creeps in ("All the World Is Green" on Blood Money; like half of Mule Variations; Heartattack and Vine, etc. etc. etc.)

Scout - True. I guess I fell in love with his oddball side and his love songs were silver lining. "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" for instance, is as good a song as was ever written by people ever. But it's a love song and those are a dime-a-dozen, pulverizing voice or no. "Underground" "Hoist That Rag" "Pasties and A G-String" "Shore leave" "Kommienezuspadt" "Murder In The Red Barn" "Jesus Gonna Be Here" "In The Colosseum" "What's He Building In There" "Shake It" "In The Neighborhood" and the others make him him. Love songs pay the rent, but I always got the feeling that these things just tore their way out of his subconscious. The balance is crucial, to be sure and I can't imagine a world without "Downtown Train" or "Bad Liver" or "Tom Traubert's Blues", I still think he's Tom Waits because of his more aggressively weird songs.

BU - I'll give you that. I think "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" or "The Piano Has Been Drinking" (Small Change as a whole is an album of just outstandingly-executed whiskey-drenched love songs) are the meeting point of both of his strengths--the sadness and the gravelly howling weirdness. You definitely need both though. I danced around my room like a hysterical fool to The Suburbs and I also stared at my ceiling in wistful sorrow to High Violet. I regard both experiences as highly fulfilling.

Scout - I can see the need for both sensations, and I'll concede that I've been in a pretty good mood lately. But I think that there's both crushing lows and ecstatic highs on The Suburbs? The lows aren't as articulate as the highs but the whole thing has "Malaise with a capital 'M'" spraypainted all over it. Like "Month of May" and "Ready to Start" are the rockers and they've got dark undertones. "We Used To Wait" got that minor chord staccato thing going on. And then there's "The Sprawl 1", which is a little too sad for me during a casual listen. But yes, the screaming highs are the highlight (Puns all around!) like "Sprawl 2" and "Empty Room" and "City With No Children".

Also, I'm glad you were fulfilled by the record even if I didn't care for it.

BU - Oh yeah, definitely. The Suburbs is the whole package (I listened to is while reading Johnathan Franzen's Freedom, and I almost kept waiting for them to just synch up or something. Malaise all around)

And I totally respect that you didn't care for it--I'm glad you're in happy moods, accompanied by happy music

Best Films of 2010

*Note: I (Scout) forgot Fair Game by Doug Limon. I liked it as much as Carlos.


Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1
Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Toy Story 3


Fair Game
Winter's Bone
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World


The Secret In Their Eyes
Harry Potter & The Deathy Hallows, Part 1


Black Swan
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Believe it or not, I actually managed to see 100 movies released/distributed this year that I really enjoyed. Granted once you get to about 80, they shift from anything I'd strongly recomend to genre films and docs that I had a fun hour and a half watching, but I will say that I was treated to some amazing horror and sci-fi this year. Also, I tend to watch a lot of documentaries about film, as it has been my favourite subject of study since I was about six. So for the first twenty or so I will get into why these films outstrip most others made this year, why they're exemplary, why they renew my faith in originality of approach with regard to both style and content. For the ones a little further down I will list the title, the director and if there was such a thing, one scene in particular that really grabbed me above all else that might account for why it made the cut.

1. A Lake - Philipe Grandrieux
-Sometime last year while searching for French horror films (there aren't many) I stumbled across the promising-looking Sombre. It was unprecedented; a horror/thriller whose closest spiritual relative was the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski that managed to scare and unnerve me while remaining the whole time a detached mystery. I was hooked and immediately went a hunt for everything the genius behind the camera had ever done. It wasn't easy. His only other two fiction fims were unavailable on DVD everywhere in the world. It wasn't until apparently some deity smiled down on me in the beginning of this year that I discovered that the Harvard Film archive would be hosting its director Philipe Grandrieux for a week, screening everyone of his films and ending in a Q&A with the man himself. After watching with slack-jawed ardor his second feature Un Vie Nouvelle, a film that has no equal on the subject of post-war life, save maybe the work of Roberto Rossellini, I readied myself for his latest, which went by the deceptively simple title Un Lac. Starting instantly after the trademark font Grandrieux introduces his films with, I knew this was to be a unique experience.
The plot you could sketch on a napkin: a family lives alone in a forested area where a traveler comes to collect wood. He and the eldest sister of the family start a romance that encroaches on her only brother's mental well-being. That's really about it. The genius is in the delivery. To date the most beautiful film shot on mini-dv I've seen, Grandrieux confessed to often not looking into the viewfinder while filming, rather he would simply feel the space and so long as he knew the action was going on (they'd rehearsed beforehand) he needn't worry about precision. He was after something else entirely. The scenes outside are chilly and abrasive and often feel life-threatening, for it's there that the breaking down, arriving and departing occur. Inside the family's cabin, Grandrieux constructs a Rank-inspired womb space that feels like the kind of boundless area you'd only encounter in a dream. The house seems to go on forever and it's impossible to get a fix on where you are inside of it. Where we are is a collective mindspace, where physical contact melts away the anguish of the outdoors and where you the viewer feel a part of their family unit, amorphous and ambiguous as it is. Grandrieux's films feel like the nightmares of a diseased psyche burned onto 35mm and Un Lac is the closest he's come to a pleasant dream. It has an effortlessness of presentation and a sensuous flow that seem to attack all of the senses; Un Lac is a totally unique cinematic experience.

2. Winter's Bone - Debra Granik
-If Monte Hellman had John Hillcoat or Tim Burton's eye for the visual or their flare for romantic storytelling, he might have made something as profound and beautiful as Winter's Bone during his golden years. Winter's Bone proves itself the godchild of Hellman and the best of the 70s character films and features a cast of wringers who would do Warren Oates proud. Winter's Bone has the despairing, existential nature of something like Ride In The Whirlwind or Two-Lane Blacktop but Debra Granik is such an accomplished storyteller, that rather than simply revel in the messy existences of her creations she manages to set up their world in a few static shots and then delivers one of the more compelling narratives I've ever seen. More engrossing than No Country For Old Men and more engaging and heartfelt than anything Warren Oates actually starred in, Winter's Bone is as beautiful as it is dark and fatalistic, as touching as it is harsh. Set in the roughest part of Missouri, we follow Rhee Dolly on her relentless if laconic quest to find her bail-jumping dad whose never been much of a father. She suspects he's been met with foul play,but if any of her murderous kin had anything to do with it no one's talking. Out there you keep your secrets to your fucking self. That and every other microscopic, authentic detail Granik gets 100% right. Her authorial vision is so strong and genuine that you simply feel along for the ride, the exception being a deliberately overblown, Chris Doyle-in-Hong Kong chase through a cattle auction, but it pales in its distracting quality to The Social Network's regatta. Granik's camera simply exists in the same space as the drama and there isn't a moment you don't believe these people or the simple yet dogged desire of a girl who's lost everything but her family and her home and who doesn't plan on losing either.

3. A Single Man - Tom Ford
-Every now and then I'll watch a movie and immediately call my girlfriend to let her know that I appreciate everything she's done for me and that if I get hit by a car or some such thing that the last thing I said was "I love you." A Single Man is such a film. A beautiful subversion of a just-ok novel, A Single Man follows what may or not be the last day in the life of George Falconer in the most picture perfect depiction of the early 60s since In The Mood For Love. A movie as much about realizing the simple beauties of life as coming to terms with death. After his insanely beautiful life partner Jim dies in a car crash, George quickly runs out of reasons to convince himself to keep living, and we get to see every devastating interaction with humanity he has between waking up and closing his eyes. Amazingly photographed by Eduard Grau, A Single Man is a compact and unendingly thoughtful and gorgeous work.

4. Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
-Mouths agape, Tucker Johnson and I rushed to list everything we loved about Black Swan the second we left the theatre. The cinematography, flawlessly capturing every movement of the gorgeous choreography. The acting, every performance delightfully over the top, save poor Natalie Portman at the mercy of Darren Aronofsky's cruelest, wildest vision yet. She wears her torment on her face as clearly as her doubt. The pure and literal theatrics, Black Swan is easily one of the greatest in-theatre experiences ever designed. Every angle promises horror, every sound promises the destruction of our heroine's dream, every cut promises a twisted face. The stakes are high from the get go and they only get higher as the film bores deeper into a traumatizing nightmare a la Suspiria. Terrifying and beautiful, Black Swan grabs you by the collar and doesn't stop its dance until it's shown you what lies inside it's black heart.

5. Red Riding: 1974 - Julian Jarrold
-This was Andrew Garfield's year. Starting with Red Riding 1974 he starred in four of the year's best films and even though the others were more high profile, his strongest performance was here. As a determined, struggling journalist he storms about the most depressing northern English town in history trying to smash the facades in front of every house and getting thoroughly battered at every stop, mentally and physically. He knows that there are dead girls with swan's wings stitched to their bodies and that a corpulent capitalist (played mirthlessly by a never-better Sean Bean) has evidently paid off every pug-faced cop in town. He has the facts but he can't do a thing about them. A tremendously beautiful policier and the best of the roadshow trilogy it kicks off, Red Riding 1974 has the authorial vision of no crime film since Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge. Brute injustice flexes its muscles and even if the little guy makes it to the top, he'll never win.

6. White Material - Claire Denis
-The narrative of White Material might seem a little tough to piece together; it's fragmentary, out of order, and the details of the ending will be fuzzy by the end of the movie. Luckily the style is so confident that it hypnotizes those concerns out of you. A stunning evocation of any number of colonial conflicts in modern Africa, White Material follows a few days in the life of a doomed family of coffee growers led by the iron-willed Isabelle Huppert giving another of her wonderfully enigmatic performances. When her workers flee, fearing that rebels will reach and destroy the plantation, she tries to drum up some help, but when the revolutionaries send out a broadcast and mention the place by name, the new guys are equally anxious to leave. Meanwhile her ex-husband is trying to secure safe passage out of the country, her son is dealing with the conflict in his own self-destructive way, her father is trying to pretend nothing is happening and a rebel leader is dying in the guest room. A film of loaded glances and futile words (not to mention Stuart Staples best soundtrack to date) and above all breath-taking imagery captured by Yves Cape, White Material is a film that I could watch about ten or twelve more hours of.

7. Inception - Christopher Nolan
-Though the backlash has started, I'll go ahead and say that everyone who remains unimpressed is missing something. I loved the breathless storytelling, the layers upon layers, the rogue's gallery of terrific character actors (this film shall forever be Pete Postlethwaite's epitaph and though he has precious little screentime, he does himself more than justice), the sturdy and silky cinematography, the hounding score which sucks you in even further, the typically astounding Chris Nolan set design, and I love that he's clearly worked out every inch of this thing and left in the capable and handsome hands of his cast to sell it, which they do and then some. I love that beneath the million dollar special effects, there's a brain and a beating heart. I love that everyone in the world went to see it and somehow it still feels like an intimate conversation between old friends. I think it's no coincidence that Dicaprio's hopeless dreamer looks more than a little like Chris Nolan. He got lost in the world he created, too and getting lost with him is one of the more invigorating pleasures I've had this year.

8. Never Let Me Go - Mark Romanek
-I love dystopian sci-fi; it's among my two or three favourite genres. And as hugely admirable as well-executed post-or-pre-apocalypse/disaster films are (Children of Men, Mad Max) I think I like the quiet ones a little better. Following in the soft footsteps of The Road, Time of the Wolf, Innocence and adding the Michael Chricton-y touches of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, Mark Romanek's lovely adaptation is a tribute to the modern sci-fi of the 60s, coming off like David & Lisa meets Parts: The Clonus Horror, except a thousand times better than that implies. Romanek's soft focus and drab colours make the a suitably dreary world where a seemingly hopeless love story can take center stage, propelled by great performances, the highlight once again being Andrew Garfield whose rudderless dreamer steals the film's heart and the audience's sympathy from flighty Kiera Knightley and too-nice Carey Mulligan; both excellent, to be sure, but if Garfield's hapless innocent didn't play as well as it did, their battle of wills wouldn't seem worth it. His naivete and hope stretch as far as they can go until reality simply pulls too hard and he snaps in the film's most compelling scene (and it really shouldn't work at all). In Never Let Me Go the terrifying idea of death has nothing on survival.

9. Lourdes - Jessica Hausner
Sylvie Testud is the greatest living actress and I yield to no one in my love of her. So I suppose it's fitting to have said ardor tested by the fact that she was in the worst film of the year, the misbegotten french cowboy epic Lucky Luke. She's an actress who takes risks and that was certainly one of them. Perhaps an even greater one than a win-win-on-paper-Western based on a popular French graphic novel was to confine herself to a wheelchair in the uber-minimalist Lourdes about a woman who may or may not experience a miracle on a trip to the titular shrine. Let's just say this one paid off handsomely. Testud is at her most riveting since maybe her breakout turn in Jean-Pierre Denis' Murderous Maids as a woman paralyzed from the waist down whose frequent trips to miracle meccas are just a way of getting out of the house these days. She may have believed at one point, but she lets the massive crowds do the praying for her. So when she gets the feeling in her legs back, it causes more problems than it solves. Lourdes is quiet and gorgeous like its lead and finds time to be absolutely heartbreaking when it isn't simply depicting the daily routine of the terminally hopeful. Jessica Hausner loads the mundane with a jaw-dropping colour scheme and loads every feigned pleasantry with meaning. Nothing is what it seems here, and even after a miracle your problems have only just started.

10. Mr. Nobody - Jaco Van Dormael
-The sci-fi films of elder statesmen are easy to spot. If instead of tackling a simple subject (cloning, genetic engineering, space travel), they meander around the possibilities of existence and tackle questions of absurd complexity while maintaining a sombre tone. And underneath the inter-dimensional mishigas is inevitably simply a matter of lost love. Mr. Nobody starts simply enough, sorta, as we follow the last mortal, now 118 years old, in a society full of people with artificially extended lives. He recollects his life or lives, as a man married to three different women at exactly the same time. And as if that weren't complicated enough, Nobody will occasionally rewind his own story or hop from one to the next until he gets an outcome he likes. But anyway he looks at it, it's not great. He is dying after all and the cameras will be there when he goes. Or is he? Or is some or all of it a dream? Like another late-in-the-game sci-fi masterpiece, Francis Ford Copolla's Youth Without Youth, Mr. Nobody was completely ignored and has a lot on its mind. It was made by a director whose been around a longtime (Belgian Jaco Van Dormael who I've loved since I saw his segment of Lumière and Company; the still image of him bowing to his short-statured stars has stayed with me ever since) who's got death on the brain and has had plenty of time to think about the many decisions in his life that he might have made and that's really what Mr. Nobody is. The endless possibility of life. And with that comes the many, many things to love about life, even one that doesn't go as planned. I made a decision in the first few minutes of the movie that even though it has enough ideas for four or five movies and probably can't support them all, I was going to let its endless stream of ideas was over me like a piece of baroque modern music. And it's not hard if you're in the right mood. A meticulously planned and sprawling epic of physics and the many ways you might end up, the film might be byzantine but it's also got several heartbreaking love stories to enjoy. Van Dormael's had a pretty amazing career and even his worst decisions led him to make some of the best films of the last thirty years and Nobody is no exception. A beautiful piece of filmmaking that shows that no matter what we choose, we can still make the most of what happens.

11. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - Edgar Wright
-There may have been stepping stones, but Scott Pilgrim is in a class all it's own. The ultimate nerd movie, its a dizzying collection of borrowed sound effects and comic book visual cues, delivered through the syringe of Edgar Wright's madly original authorial vision and lightning fast writing and Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss' kinetic editing. Leaving its source in the dust, Scott Pilgrim outstrips its hero's boring, conceited problems and instead tells the story of everyone within five years of my age finally having to get the fuck out of the basement and get a life. But not before one kick-ass last gasp.

12. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - Apichatpong Weeresethakul
-I remember Mike D'Angelo being surprised that the film he thought deserved the Palme d'Or, actually won. That film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, may not be the most conventional, but of the films I've seen that competed at Cannes, it's the most original and also the most joyful, humanistic and lovely. A lazy day turns into a lazy night at Boonmee's farm. His kidney is failing and he's asked his nephew and his sister to come look after him. When Boonmee's dead wife shows up for dinner, you realize that the character's connection to the afterlife is more than just hopeful. When Boonmee's missing son Boonsong shows up a few minutes later in the form of what he calls a Monkey Ghost, that's where Uncle Boonmee leaves its peers and indeed the rest of the director's oeuvre behind. Apichatpong Weeresethakul is a genius and has a very particular style of which this might be called the best and at once most peculiar and accessible example. Between its flirtation with ghosts, a lovely diversion involving a woman's dalliance with a catfish (which is almost too amazing to describe), and its protagonists welcome attitude toward death, Boonmee doesn't purport to understand the afterlife but eyes it with wonder and admiration. It asks questions it doesn't want answered; that's not for us to know, but if we could, I think we'd all go home. A film like this deserves any award you could throw at it and I think its director greets them like guests at the dinner table. Glad they could stop by.

13. The Social Network - David Fincher
There is quite literally nothing I could say that you haven't heard. A topical film with a script by Aaron Motherfucking Sorkin, shot by David Motherfucking Fincher who makes the most attractive and rich places on earth seem like a dirty basement with powerhouse performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Motherfucking Garfield. Beautiful, brilliant and hilarious, The Social Network is the effortlessly sexy girl who sits in the front of the class who you want to impress. I like to think only Aaron Sorkin could make someone threatening to get a lawyer seem like the ass-kicking of a lifetime. Incredibly well-realized and intensely satisfying.

14. Micmacs à Tire-Larigot - Jean-Pierre Jeunet
-Micmacs isn't as deep as its ostensible villain would imply. Even though it takes on arms dealers, who really do deserve all the shit poured on them we can dump, it's really a love letter to cinema and a summation of its directors best work. So, to me, it's just as important as if it were played straight because I do think that it's important to look at our history and show an appreciation for the films we take from just by virtue of the fact that we still make movies. And Micmacs is a really sweet and touching tribute to classic films, from the borrowed Max Steiner music, to the sweeping cloudy opening credits to the little visual treats scattered throughout. And all this would be enough but Jeunet is a master of the form whose timing and odd imagination allow him to erect Rube Goldberg like setpieces that go off splendidly. Funny and prescient, Micmacs is Jeunet's most sumptuous and smile-inducing film to date.

15. The King's Speech - Tom Hooper
-It starts with Danny Cohen and his kooky cinematography. There is not a dull angle in The King's Speech. Whether through quick focus changes, fisheye perspective shots or that awe-inspiring overhead of the Duke of York's house on the last day before moving to Buckingham Palace, Cohen and Tom Hooper found innovative and quirky ways of telling the story before the actors utter a word of dialogue. Their work pays off: we feel like we're in the claustrophobic yet seemingly endless world of obligation of Prince Albert as he becomes King George VI. We are in his shoes and we too speak with his stammer as the very walls seem to shout at him to speak clearly. The plot screams "too polite" and "public radio audience" but by the end of this wonderful movie I was on the edge of my seat hoping for a figurehad to get through a speech explaining that the country's going to war. Not every film can get me to sympathize with people in positions of power; as much as I liked Emily Blunt, I wasn't convinced that Queen Victoria was really anyone who deserved a movie based on a few years of her life by the end of The Young Victoria. Hooper turns the most mundane problem imaginable and made one of the most compelling films of the year. Of course he was helped immeasurably by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Colin Firth deserved the Oscar for A Single Man, but only got the BAFTA. This year, he'll take both or I'm burning Hollywood down. He's a genius and this might be his best performance. He makes you love and feel sorry for a king; he and Hooper make you believe that he really is speaking for the common man even though history tells us otherwise.

16. 127 Hours - Danny Boyle
-Anthony Dod Mantle has earned his cinematography oscar a hundred times over. Between the staggering tableaus of Antichrist and the way he seems to will the desert to do as his camera needs it, the man is unstoppable. There's one scene in particular that keyed me into how great 127 Hours would be. James Franco's Aron Ralston stands at the top of a hill with the sun over his shoulder in the middle of the morning. His shadow passes down a 30 foot hill down between two girls standing at the bottom and around him is maybe 50 feet of vacant space. The camera looks past him from a 45 degree angle. It seems impossible that the camera's shadow isn't in the frame but Mantle worked magic here and elsewhere as he makes every crevice and crag of the death-trap that almost claims Ralston's life seem like an Ansel Adams photo in colour. The tiny setting made for a distillation of both Danny Boyle's directorial style and James Franco's acting. Trapped under a rock, Boyle's many devices have to move for us and render the inside of a man's hyperactive subconscious visually. Similarly Franco plays Ralston as a man with no cares and a bit of a prick, but on day two he's learned his lesson. The following days are him simultaneously making peace and trying like hell not to give up in case his situation gets the better of him. On day three, Tucker leaned over to me, "how the fuck does he get out of there?" How do you make a movie about a guy trapped under a rock? They had to.

17. The Army Of Crime - Robert Guédiguian
-For whatever reason the films that depict the horrors of war don't often see wide release. I don't mean gore and PTS, those are a dime a dozen. I'm talking about movies that show what it was like for everyone whose daily lives became the front. Since the re-release of Army of Shadows in 2006, European films have begun to examine the many forms of resistance during World War II that went unnoticed by the rest of the world. Like last year's excellent Flame & Citroen, Robert Guédiguian's The Army Of Crime looks at a specific chapter of the resistance, in this case a group of jewish kids and foreigners led by the poet Missak Manouchian who went on a mission of secret attacks on the Nazis after suffering at their hands for the years before the war. Operating on faith and held together by love for each other and the need for retribution, they railed from the inside. Guédiguian's film is a no-frills account that hones in on a few charismatic members. Through vignettes concerning their few operations that made headlines and the things that brought them together, The Army Of Crime is touching but grim. If not for the people they loved, they would never have fought so hard; hopefully the world will remember why war is so futile.

18. The Killer Inside Me - Michael Winterbottom
-I may not like everything he does, but Michael Winterbottom has earned a life-pass where auterism is concerned. Like the British Steven Soderbergh, Winterbottom's roster is like a list of dream-projects. A contemplative, dour western tribute to McCabe & Mrs. Miller, a movie that consists of nothing but his favourite bands in concert and two hot people having real sex, a profile of Factory Records, a film-within-a-film about the hazards of ambition; he's gotten away with murder over the years but with The Killer Inside Me he really outdid himself. An unflinchingly straight adaptation of one of Jim Thompson's brutalist novels, the movie focuses on Lou Ford, sheriff's deputy and secret sociopath who decides one day that he's sick of the little lies that make up his days. He's sick of everyone smiling, pretending to be put-upon, feigning innocence, acting haughty but most of all he's tired of everyone assuming he's just one kind of man. Using their naivete against them, he turns his masochistic relationship with a local prostitute into a get-rich-quick scheme that involves an oil magnate, his none-too-bright kid, and punching someone in the face until they die. That scene is as horrible to watch as they come, not strictly because of the physical violence, but simply because they don't deserve it. A lot of people, in fact most of the characters in The Killer Inside Me are all pretty oblivious and could benefit from a wake-up call, but none of the folks who wind up on the recieving end of Ford's murderous mood swings even slightly earns their fate. Winterbottom's pitch-perfect set design and period evocation simply sell the cruelty all the more. The Killer Inside Me is so well-made that it's tough to look past it's harshest moments, but when you do, you'll see one of the most assured and edifying works of art ever to be denied an audience.

19.The Fighter - David O. Russell
-Thanks to a series of losses and a crippling drug addiction, respectively "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother Dicky Eklund were in desperate need of a win. After a few years of lingering resentment over their meltdowns on set, David O. Russell and Christian Bale needed a win. It's hard not to see the resemblance between the two, especially because Bale and Russell work the hardest they've ever worked to make sure that their mistakes were just that and that beneath their tempers and bad choices were two artists of incredible ability. You say the same for Amy Adams, whose years since her oscar nomination have been spent in the wilderness of ever-cheapening romantic tosh have removed the burden of expectation from her performances. Anyone expecting the bubbly star of Leap Year and Sunshine Cleaning will be in for a surprise the minute her Lowell bartender rings the morning bell. Looking like a real person instead of a poster-adornment, Adams is a live-wire, a raw, imperfect woman in thrift store cut-offs. Needless to say this is her best performance and she's never been more attractive. Similarly Bale hasn't been this good since the days before Batman Begins and it's tempting to say that this is the performance of his career. He couldn't be a less attractive person but you can't take your eyes off of him. Of course it would have been in vane if Russell hadn't been at the top of his game. Not just an incredible story told in startingly realistic detail, The Fighter is also hysterically funny. Russell started with comedy and he clearly hasn't lost his touch. From the banter between Ward and his harpy-like sisters, to his mother's (Melissa Leo in top form) blindness to her own ridiculously overblown greed and smothering, every new low has the potential to be both scary and hilarious. Adams, Bale and Russell were fighting for their careers and they put naysayers and doubt on the floor in the first round.

20. I Am Love - Luca Guadagnino
-The story and the colours are borrowed from Douglas Sirk, the style echoes Hitchcock, the performances and elements are straight out of Bertolucci or late-period De Sica. So why does I Am Love feel like a bolt from the blue? There's nothing novel about the story of a woman falling for a younger man, not even if he's in business with her son. Nor is there a stone-unturned where Italian class politics are concerned. Luckily, Luca Gaudagnino isn't interested in their lives or problems. He's interested in capturing little details, glances, nods, loving embraces, moments of realization, half-aborted ideas brought on by infatuation. Inevitably they happen in lavish settings, below intricate buildings or inside impeccable, shiny homes or in impossibly beautiful countryside vistas. And once he's got them, he turns up the John Adams score and plays them for all their worth. The actor's faces are treated like the buildings his camera captures so dynamically, like monuments of hidden emotion where tragedy, love and infidelity have transpired. Gaudagnino's is a style that speaks louder than even the brilliant score (easily the best applied soundtrack of the year, trumping even Robbie Robertson's beginner's guide to avant-garde collection for Shutter Island) and it makes the slightest things seem fascinating and bizarre. The script for I Am Love is so slight but Gaudagnino treats it with no less gravity than if he were making Vertigo instead of Hitchcock. Everything is urgent and new and breathtaking and I can't quite explain why. If this is what he manages with a story that almost doesn't exist, imagine what he could do with more.

21. A Prophet - Jacques Audiard
-The crime stories have all been told. You can still find a new one if you look really hard, but on the whole the genre's got narry a fresh idea left. My dad struggles with this all the time; how do you do something different when every angle has been covered before? You've got two options: keep looking until you find something totally original or just do one of the old ones, but do it better than they've ever done it before. A Prophet is in the latter camp and takes the old, unspoken rule about prisons, you come out worse than you came in, and gives it an edge and a hero with a deeply embedded through line. Tamar Rahim plays Malik, an illiterate muslim crook in jail for a long time who gets thrust into prison politics against his will when the corsicans who run the place tell him to kill a guy in his cell with a razor blade or they'll kill him first and use someone else for the job. So begins his ascent to the top of the heap, one fraught with death, ghosts and betrayal. Jacques Audiard brings his violent kitchen-sink realism into the grubby world of a French prison. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and you'll run out of fingernails to chew before he's played his last card. Playing flights into the otherworldly against the bitter disappointment that greets Malik every morning when he wakes up in his cell, still alive with a job he hates that might get him killed. Inside or outside, he's still in jail unless he does something about it. Just as Audiard may be trapped by a genre in which every trope has been laid out and played a hundred times, he breaks free from the specter of the world he's stepped into and made a haunting testament to his convictions.

22. Sweetgrass - Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Ilisa Barbash
-Sweetgrass, like it's most obvious influence, Robert Gardner's Forest of Bliss, is nothing short of poetry. But thanks to Lucien Castaing-Taylor's beautiful mini-dv photography, they outdo Gardner visually and humanely. Instead of relying on the sensational Taylor and Barbash, husband and wife anthropologists on their days off, let the course of events speak for themselves, holding takes for several minutes to illustrate the absurdity of man mixing with and trying to best nature. Taylor captures the intense and arduous last exodus of sheep from their farm to their grazing spot on a mountain a few dozen miles away led by not nearly enough cowboys to keep bears and coyotes away day and night. The pressure gets to them but whining aside they do what they're supposed to. Lead rancher John Ahern sits on his chair like Jesse James in the autumn of his years, silently doing what men do. He refused the offer to see the completed movie; men like that don't need to look in the mirror, they might see that they too are just men. Sweetgrass doesn't set out to make anything more of them than that but it says so much more with its silence. Taylor and Barbash are the Gardner and Wiseman and Maysles of their time and Sweetgrass is both the start and end of an era.

23. Shutter Island - Martin Scorsese
-A quick note: in nearly every review I've encountered, critics have name checked Shock Corridor as among this film's primary influences. I believe that they are wrong and that quite clearly the film Martin Scorsese got his prison angle from was Bedlam. Scorsese didn't so much set out to pay tribute to anyone of Val Lewton's films as he set out to combine them into one giant colourful nightmare that also has the fingerprints of Michael Powell, German Expressionism and David Fincher's Zodiac all over it's scarred and charred body. A wonderfully over-the-top work of art with one of the most exhillirating opening half-hours of any horror film, Shutter Island is stupendously directed even when its script can no longer support it's manic director's mad vision. With the theme of loss lingering somewhere at the bottom of the mystery, it's also a potent and shattering depiction of grief that is more terrifying than any burnt ghosts, escaped lunatics or crazed scientists. The scariest part is when you put yourself in the hero's shoes and take away the bad dreams. All you've got is a reality too horrifying to live with and next to that, the nightmare would be welcome.

24. Rabbit Hole - John Cameron Mitchell
-Speaking of loss, here's a film with no alternate reality to plunge into when an escape is needed. The lives of its heroes are broken and they cut their hands everytime they try to pick up the pieces. After a neighborhood kid accidentally kills their son with his car, Howie and Becca Corbett have to now figure out if it was their son that kept them together or if they're strong enough to whether his loss. There's nothing new, per se, here but the acting is so potent that you forget that the guy who directed it started his last film with a guy trying to blow himself. Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard and Jon Tenney are all great but the best performance and biggest surprise was Aaron Eckhart. Used to seeing him as a suave man on top, given only to comic fits of rage when needed, it was refreshing to see him play a man with nothing. It was downright shocking to see him totally lose it. When he snaps, when he really gets frustrated and you can tell it's really him shouting and crying, there's no better moment in this excellent film. Eckhart's cool collapsing into a helpless anger and sorrow is jaw-dropping and it makes believing the madness that his son's death has caused. The harder they try to forget the more they remember, the further they push themselves from each other and down, down, down they go.

25. La Rafle - Rose Bosch
-The only people who can be compared to the Nazis during World War II were the occupied French who strove to impress them. La Rafle hasn't made it overseas yet, probably because it takes one of the hardest look at collaboration of any modern film. Proving they have range that extends beyond staring and delivering over-wrought dialogue in Inglourious Basterds, Denis Menochet and Mélanie Laurent star as two people with jobs on opposite sides of the round-up of more than 10,000 jews in France. Laurent is one of a tiny handful of nurses who volunteers to see to the thousands of new patients that Dr. David Sheinbaum acquired on the morning of July 17th. Menochet is the hugely flawed police captain in charge of the same people and he has nothing but contempt for them even as Laurent tries to tug the humanity out of his hulking frame. Laurent is as caring as Menochet is cold and they illustrate the two kinds of people who emerge during crisis and warfare; those who want to help, and those who follow orders. There's no way that everyone who claimed involvement with the resistance did their part; history has shown otherwise and La Rafle is a sobering examination of what happens when people are viewed as anything less than people, never more so than in one amazing shot in particular. Laurent reports for duty and Rose Bosch's camera follows her on her walk into the velodrome where the 10,000 Jewish have been placed temporarily. She leaves the idyllic and quiet summer day behind her for the dank reality of people treated like cattle. The sight of ten thousand people about to executed just about stops your heart and the story just gets worse. But through it all, there is humanity and hope in the eyes of the few people who tried to help.

26. Please Give - Nicole Holofcener
-The rich are funny. We will forever be entertained by them even as we slip further and further into debt and away from the dreams we had as kids. For that reason Please Give really stacks the decks against itself before even it's opening sequence, a montage of average naked breasts receiving mammograms. The film follows people who range from vapid and horrible to guilty and fragile. The minute all the characters were introduced I was convinced that this film couldn't affect me and started running out the clock. But something like a half hour into it, that all changed. The story follows two families, one headed by married antiques dealers (Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener) who primary supplier is dead people, the other the children (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet) of their neighbor, the ancient and very unpleasant Andra, played by veteran actress Anne Morgan Guilbert. I had no real reason to care about these people even if Keener and Hall are the nicest of them. The heart of this film is Keener and Platt's daughter Abby, played by Sarah Steele. She's at the mercy of her parents respective guilt and callousness and has grown to resent her mother's constantly trying to give back to the unfortunate and her father's cynicism. Of all the things I never thought I'd care about, it was the children of yuppies wanting her parents to buy her a pair of expensive jeans. It meant more than just something to wear of course. It came down to people seeing past their hang-ups and seeing how important their families are, and how money is just money but the people around you are who you form bonds with that last as long as you live. We can't help everyone is director Nicole Holofcener's thesis, but we have to do everything in our power to show those closest to us that we love them. That's a potent note to end on, even if these people are more wealthy than I'll ever be, Holofcener made me care about them and that's nothing to laugh at.

27. True Grit - Joel & Ethan Coen
-The Coens are extraordinarily gifted filmmakers so when they screw up, they do it hard. True Grit is among their best films until the conclusion totally misfires and erases all their hard work. After watching their most endearing creation learn hard lessons from men four times her age and melt their hearts while she's at it, we jump forward twenty five years, which is all it took to turn a precocious and adorably anti-social fourteen year old girl into a craggy, horrible old bint. It removes the freedom from the equation, the joy of the viewer in predicting the life she had ahead of her, of seeing what she could now do with her life given its dramatic start. Instead the Coens predict a pointless and mean existence for someone who'd given no indication of turning out like that. It's the inverse of their saving the horribly tedious and unfunny Burn After Reading into a masterpiece with a single, thirty second exchange just before the credits roll. Before their last-minute misfire, True Grit is a laconic, earthy masterpiece featuring riveting, excellent performances from Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, top-notch work from DP Roger Deakins, composer Carter Burwell, production designer Jess Gonchor and one of the Coen's best scripts. Turn off the film before the epilogue and you'll be treated to the Coen's most touching film.

28. Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkich
-Fire belches out of a trash pit and the glow of death strikes the faces of a dozen toys on their way to incineration. If you're my age, or thereabouts, you literally grew up with these toys. Their a pop-culture staple even if you didn't take to the films right away. Between the excellent first installments of the series, Pixar had shown itself capable of jerking tears just as potently as any live action or hand-drawn cartoon. And they'd done it with complete grace. But this sequence is something new entirely. Here was death and it was staring down a cowboy, a spaceman, Mr. Potato Head, a slinky-dog, a pig and other toys. Children's toys, once beloved, now inches from oblivion and they know it. What do they do? They take hands, look each other in the eyes and prepare for what happens when things that were only ever alive when we turn our backs die. It's a scene of such emotional impact that I could scarcely believe my eyes. Kids have to learn about death somehow and the peaceful resignation on the faces of each toy says as much as a beloved pet's death could. They may be headed toward the unknown, but at least they're together and whether it's death or simply being forgotten by the kid who used to play with you, if you have a hand to hold it's not so scary anymore.

29. Dogtooth - Giorgos Lanthimos
-It's the sex that sells it. The story of three children in adult bodies, kept away from reality except for weekly visits by their father's secretary. They're old enough now to wonder what the hell goes on beyond the walls that close off their estate from reality and mental stability. But no part of their cordoned-off existence says that things here and irreperable quite like the fact that when the secretary is let go their father decides that the only choice of action is to have their daughter provide sexual satisfaction for their son. Until now the film has been scary as hell but also blackly hilarious. When brother and sister are led into the same room at night, the laughter stops and your hands start shaking with anticipation. And then it happens and you'll never forgive the father and mother. Like The Village localized in one modern Greek household, Lanthimos has such formal control that it feels like it's namesake biting your arm and it doesn't let go until you've watched everything.

30. Fish Tank - Andrea Arnold
-Andrea Arnold all of a sudden emerged as the newest purveyor of Kitchen Sink realism a few years ago with Red Road whose incredible build-up led to a not wholly original catharsis. Fish Tank is something else. It starts strong, gets soft, delivers a hard blow and then bandages itself up. Arnold has an amazing way of building momentum through what feels like improvisation. After finding out she's been harmed by someone who deceived her, the hero (the electrifying Katie Jarvis) reacts by taking a child for a walk away from her parents. Arnold and Jarvis both seem to be improvising but by the time it's over you realize that at least one of them was in total control. Jarvis makes for a fascinating lead with her thick accent and childish desires conflicting with her need to behave like an adult. Or at least like the adults she knows, her mom and her boyfriend, who are still adolescents. So it's both a little silly and totally heartbreaking when Jarvis decides that the way to get through to her mom is through the blaring hip-hop music they both like. Everyone in this film is a child raging like hell at their inability to understand what it means grow up. It's funny that a fifteen year old girl might beat the adults to it.

31. The Disappearance of Alice Creed - J Blakeson
-One of the greatest B films of all time, Alice Creed is like The Desperate Hours confined to two rooms. Martin Compston is great because you're never sure whether he's smarter or dumber than he lets on. Gemma Arterton is great because you're never sure how willing she is to go along with any of what's happened to her. And, of course, Eddie Marsan is great because he may be the scariest actor alive and every contortion of his face, every word (they're few and far between), every movement could be the thing he does before he goes off the deep end. Marsan has mastered every form of anger and frustration an actor can show on screen and yet he still manages to be both the hero and the villain of this piece. Alice Creed is almost like theatre (Three people, one space, changing allegiances, no easy solution. And Hell is other people, to boot) but J Blakeson makes every frame seem like a piece of futurist art. A ridged world full of shape-shifters who have everything to lose; it's a waking nightmare with tension that never lets up.

32. The Front Line - Renato De Maria
-After watching Carlos I remarked to my dad that thanks to a recent crop of well-made, slow-burning suspense films, I'd been basically been given a history of violent political activism that made up the 70s. While Americans were tripping on acid out of spite and voting for fucking Richard Nixon, the rest of the world was in a constant state of siege. The Baader-Meinhoff Complex, Che, Carlos, Munich, Good Morning, Night and Renato De Maria's pulse-racing The Front Line all examine the lives of people who believed in what they were doing, even if it meant killing dozens of people whose ties to the evil organizations they were at war with were tenuous at best, totally ambiguous at worst. The Front Line is named for one of the more violent Italian anti-fascist groups who ended in disgrace in the 80s, long after they'd become relevant. By the end their attention was almost solely on keeping each other out of prison. No one was listening anymore and that was the hardest realization of all. The eyes of Riccardo Scamarcio and Giovanna Mezzogiorno say it all; fornlorn and empty and too tired to be scared. Their life's work has been ignored by the people they claimed to be fighting for and ahead of them they have a lifetime spent either in hiding or in jail. The fire that we see burning so brightly in each of them, that made them dangerous and endlessly sexy to each other has started to dim and the world is given over once more to crooks and mediocrity. To know how the story ends, watch Il Divo. Then remind yourself not to go out and buy a gun. Do volunteer work like the real leaders of La Prima Linea do today.

33. The Concert - Radu Mihaileanu
-A shaggy dog of a film with a totally impossible and convenient chain of events and a fairly middling middle section, The Concert pulls it out at the end for one reason: we love to see the underdog win. And by god does The Concert ever give us something to cheer for. The titular concert, concerning a bunch of forgotten musicians who were fired for either being or hiring jewish people, would be tear-jerking enough without the use of flashback and fantasy to augment the performance. We see all the things that were and will be thanks to a performance that won't leave a dry eye or unbitten nails or unclenched fists or unshaken feet. The performance alone makes up for every failing the film had, but it's a pretty endearing watch until that point anyway. Also, if the actors in the film, especially another awesome Melanie Laurent performance, aren't actual musicians, they fake it better than anyone I've ever seen.

34. Buried - Rodrigo Cortés
-And here I thought The Disappeance of Alice Creed was claustrophobic. Taking place entirely in a coffin, Buried proves that Rodrigo Cortés is a name to watch. Granted he has total control in this space, so I'm dying to see what happens when he goes outside. But considering he has nothing but Ryan Reynolds (the best he's ever been) and a cellphone, Cortés works a minor miracle by making Buried one of the most suspenseful thrill-rides of the year that never leaves a space of about seven feet.

35. The Square - Nash Edgerton
-A dog gets eaten by a shark. That's the level of heartbreak this film operates at. I was almost lost by the despair that overcomes the hapless lovers at the heart of The Square but then I remembered, since when did film noir ever have to have a happy ending? That in mind, it's tough not to think of The Square as one of the best modern films noir since...well Blood Simple I guess. The brothers Edgerton are hugely passionate about film and it shows through here. Every characters seems doomed from the get-go no matter who you love and how much you love them. As the fuck-ups pile up and the stakes get higher, the chances of survival get slimmer and the movie becomes hella gripping (the kids still say hella?). The Square takes you for a ride. Whether you want to go on it is up to you.

36. Outrage - Takeshi Kitano
Formalism and cleanliness were the order of the day at the 2010 Cannes Film festival. With few exceptions the films in competition were all about people operating in clean, often well-decorated and expensive, spaces. The cameras barely moved except in well-planned tracking shots or the odd frantic POV. Takeshi Kitano's latest, the hyper-violent Outrage is the second best example I can think of, The Housemaid by Im Sang-Soo is the best. Outrage is the more exciting of the two, however and a much more gut-wrenching experience. The film starts with a slow track across the faces of every character we'll come to know as they leave what I think is a funeral. Pay attention to these faces because they're all going to be violently killed. In the film's best scene, Kitano's boss tells one of his closer underlings to lay low. Ha ha, laughs the screenplay. Two guys come for him in the middle of the night, drive him out to a disused road behind a factory, put a bag over his head, tie a rope around his neck, tie the other end to a pole, put him in the back seat of a car and floor it. In a film full of creative and zany death scenes, that one takes the cake. It's also terrifically done. Death and beauty go hand in hand in Kitano's world. It's how he started and if I know him it's how he'll finish.

37. The Certified Copy - Abbas Kiarostami
-Like L'Avventura or La Commare Secca in the 21st century, The Certified Copy is a good old-fashioned, cerebral, ambient romance. You're never sure of a thing, which is how it should be. Kiarostami is a chameleon and this is just another impressive shade.

38. Of Gods and Men - Xavier Beauvois
-Let no one tell you that expectations aren't important. I had two reviews in my head that took precedence over everything that happens in Xavier Beauvois' excellent Of Gods And Men; Mark Kermode saying he was extremely moved by the film and Mike D'Angelo saying it was worthless award bait. I was determined to hear them both out, which never worked. In the end it's a film that I greatly enjoyed filled with excellent understated performances. The problem was that though I knew the ending, Beauvois did nothing to build anything like the suspense required for his most moving scenes to actually get around to moving me. It is very pure filmmaking and I greatly admire it even if I wound up in between D'Angelo's ambivalence and Kermode's enthusiastic affection.

39. Centurion - Neil Marshall
-Turn Neil Marshall loose on history and the result will be as bloody as possible. The surprise: the result was also gripping, cogent and romantic. Like a far less self-important Gladiator, Centurion is one of the better and certainly one of the most watchable revisionist history films of its type.

40. Get Low - Aaron Schneider
-Charming as hell.

41. Armadillo - Janus Metz Pedersen
-Terrifying. Seeing soldiers collecting the corpses of their victims will change you forever if you've never seen The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eye.

42. Visage - Tsai Ming-Liang
-There's almost nothing I found as interesting as watching Lee Kang-Sheng and Mathieu Amalric masturbating each other in a dark, artificial forest. The film is an installation, like the best of of the Taiwanese master's films, but hugely affecting in its artistry and long takes. Truth emerges from his hand-painted frames.

43. Monsters - Gareth Edwards
-Gorgeously executed. Y Tu Extranjero Tambien.

44. Predators - Nimród Antal
-If comparing Predators to Tsai Ming-Liang is wrong, I don't want to be right. Yeah, it's not as good as a lot of the films on here but thanks to nostalghia, a fun cast and efficient direction, Predators was hugely entertaining. Thanks to it and Machete being filmed simultaneously, I was reminded fondly of the old New World Pictures or Hammer Films working model. They were equally fun but this is the better made and more engaging of the two.

45. Valhalla Rising - Nic Winding Refn
-One of the most beautifully shot films all year, if not the best. Nic Winding Refn is an artist who sculpts with muscle and sinew. His characters make the earth shake and Valhalla Rising is maybe his most Kubrickian to date (and I'm counting Bronson). A seething, haunting work of art that takes its time working its way into your subconscious and like a dream, it'll come back to you when you least expect it.

46. A Town Called Panic
-Hysterical and manic; one of the most original animated works ever made. Period.

47. Somewhere - Sofia Coppola
-Incredibly sweet. You'll either love or hate this film and I'm definitely in the former camp. Stephen Dorff's descent from the lymelight has basically turned him into the character he plays here in the public's eye, so to see him wake up and be a dad is just too perfect. Sofia Copolla has a way with loneliness and wasting time that I really like. This may hit almost exactly the same beats as Lost In Translation but the desperation with which Dorff tries to clean up his act rings truer than anything in her earlier works. I really, really enjoyed this, but know before you go in: not a lot happens on the surface.

48. Red Riding: 1980 - James Marsh, Peter Mullan, Paddy Considine
-The Wicker Man, but scarier.

49. The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec - Luc Besson
-After the genuine and heartfelt Angel-A Luc Besson owed everyone a crazy-ass sci-fi film and here it is. Following the devilishly cute journalist, who, like a more resilient and sexy Tintin, goes on a quest to steal a mummy who her psychic friend can resurrect so he can reveal ancient medicinal secrets to cure her sister who's paralyzed thanks to a hat pin lodged in her brain, the movie never sits still. It's fun and silly, but also very sweet and very exciting. What other movie has mummies and pterodactyls? That's what I thought. Add to that the winning and adorable Louise Bourgoin in the titular role, and there's nothing not to like. Unless you're a stick in the mud.

50. Hadewijch - Bruno Dumont
-The opening and closing scenes of this movie, in which the title character wanders tearfully through the outskirts of the cloister she's locked herself in. Her love of god is so all-encompassing that even the nuns don't know what to do with her. These moments before and after the plot unfolds are inexplicably moving and troubling in equal measure. Dumont wordlessly conjures mountains of feeling for his poor heroine to navigate and we seem to guess the problems before we know what they are. The moments before he spells it out are masterfully handled and he couldn't have chosen more enigmatic locations or a more perfect actress in Julie Sokolowski. The movie that unfolds is well-handled and thought-provoking, but those early scenes are too good for words.

51. Carlos - Olivier Assayas
-In a five hour movie, a sense of momentum was greatly needed and Assayas was too fascinated by the little details of his hero's life to move things along when he should have. So consequently historical figures are only given cursory introductions and many important characters remain cyphers. But there are set-pieces and individual scenes that are such brilliant examples of editing and pacing that they stand out more than any one point in Carlos The Jackal's life. The best is the smuggling scene in part 3. Explosives are being driven across country borders by many of Carlos' agents to be at a bombing on time. There are stops and false-starts and all the while Wire's "Drill" pounds away on the soundtrack. It's hugely engrossing and it's one of the few times Assayas got me nervous about whether their operations would succeed. He's a skilled filmmaker and I liked Carlos, but I liked parts better than the sum.

52. Amer - Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani
-The perfect collection of the many time-worn tropes of the Giallo and even divorced of its meaning it's still scary. A more winning and ethereal horror film you'll likely never find.

53. The Housemaid - Im Sang-Soo

-The craziest end imaginable in a film this contained and pretty. Potent rage against the wealthy.

54. Chaw - Jeong-Won Shin
-Razorback by South Koreans. I liked it better than The Host. A laundry list of monster movie tropes done playfully and gorily.

55. The Time That Remains - Elia Suleiman
-Tati during wartime.

56. Splice - Vincenzo Natali
-Cronenberg's heir strikes again. Wonderfully awkward and creepy.

57. The Crazies - Radha Mitchell
-Radha Mitchell is the genre film's best friend. She elevates even the most predictable fare. Luckily The Crazies is legitamately frightening and extraordinarily paced. Watch it next to Restrepo and then you can understand why Afghans don't trust the US military. Imagine if the army dropped into your town and started barking orders at gunpoint. You'd go crazy, too.

58. Four Lions - Chris Morris
-"That was a wookie, not a bear." Comedy with one bullet in the chamber. Chris Morris is a genius.

59. Bluebeard - Catherine Breillat
-Touching, odd and dark. And also pretty cute.

60. Exit Through The Gift Shop - Banksy
-No one knew a thing about Banksy until this movie. Turns out he's the Stephen Merchant of street art.

61. Do It Again - Robert Patton-Spruill
-Amazingly affecting documentary about hero worship and failure. The ultimate midlife crisis film. Nice job, Rob.

62. The Town - Ben Affleck
-Solid and exciting. Jeremy Renner is a bulldog on two legs. Ben Affleck also pulls his weight; that voice he puts on is killer. Pete Postlethwaite proves once more that he was a jaw-dropping performer and I miss him dearly.

63. The Hole - Joe Dante
-Few people understood what 3D was supposed to be used for. Going the throw-back and endearing tribute route, as usual, Joe Dante crafts a horror film meant to scare kids and entertain adults with its nods in their direction. Thanks to Dick Miller and Bruce Dern's presence in The Hole we know he has his old fans in mind even if he's really trying to scare a new generation and introduce them to the joys of the loving nostalgia film. Hopefully kids will look up everything this pays homage to and then pick up cameras of their own. For further 80s-tinted 3D fun, look up The Child's Eye by the brothers Pang.

64. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus- Terry Gilliam
-Gilliam is Parnassus. There is so much to love about this film if you can get over yourself and be a kid for a little while. Johnny Depp gives one of his best and briefest comedic turns, Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits are equally great and Lily Cole is irresistible. Terry Gilliam is a world treasure, the Cocteau of our age.

65. Black Death - Chris Smith
-Sean Bean was born to carry a sword in armour. Chris Smith knows his horror films and delivers a burst of nihilistic violence and pestilence.

66. The Ape - Jesper Ganslandt
-Inexplicably gripping after an abrasive start.

67. The Secret In Their Eyes - Juan José Campanella
-Makes you believe in second chances.

68. Camerman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff - Craig McCall
-A fitting tribute to a legend.

69. I Love You, Phillip Morris - Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
-Jim Carrey's best work since Eternal Sunshine. And dig how fucking pretty Ewen Mcgregor is. He's just as good even if he's been overshadowed.

70. L'enfer D'Henri-Georges Clouzot - Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea
-Surprising and heartbreaking

71. Terribly Happy - Henrik Ruben Genz
-Quirktastic crime film.

72. Cemetery Junction - Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
-Turns out Ricky Gervais can navigate convention as well as free-floating awkwardness and humiliation.

73. Perrier's Bounty - Ian Fitsgibbon

74. The City Of Your Final Destination - James Ivory
-A very nice movie full of beautiful people doing beautiful things.

75. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky - Jan Kounen
-Kubrickian cool.

76. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man - Shinya Tsukamoto
-Tsukamoto's still got it. It's got nothing on Iron Man's craziest artistry, but it's still quite a trip, and one that makes a good deal of sense. I had a blast.

77. Howl - Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
-Needed to be just the trial or just the character study because both are hugely interesting. In one film you can't do either justice.

78. Tuesday After Christmas - Radu Muntean
-So stressful and scary.

79. Film Socialisme - Jean-Luc Godard
-Godard still has a lot on his mind at 80 even if he's fallen from grace. The socialism of the title refers to his liberally stealing footage from different sources without crediting them, which makes this as problematic as it is hypnotic. Once a trouble-maker, always a trouble-maker.

80. Heartless - Philip Ridley
-All of a sudden Eddie Marsan knocks on the door and steals the film. He has ten minutes on screen, tops, but when he walks out the door, he takes the movie with him.

81. White Lightnin' - Dominic Murphy
-Edward Hogg's toally comitted performance, Dominic Murphy's harrowing directorial style and Nick Zinner's amazing score combine like a tornado in a bottle.

82. The American - Anton Corbijn
-It takes it's sweet time but for whatever reason I really enjoyed it.

83. Machete Maidens Unleashed! - Mark Hartley
-I'm glad that Mark Hartley's name has become synonymous with documentaries that are better than the films they cover. His use of sound effects and editing, not to mention the breadth of his interview subjects make him the film-about-film guy and this happens to be one of my favourite little corners of film history.

84. American: The Bill Hicks Story - Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas
-Dynamic approach to documentary that already had a fascinating subject.

85. Salvage - Lawrence Gough
-A great low-budget shocker with an excellent creature.

86. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 - David Yates
-I had fun. Also, dig those fucking scenery shots.

87. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest - Daniel Alfredson
-When Lisbeth Salander gets her chains and studs on and puts her hair up in that sharp mohawk, I just about stood up and cheered. Here was the momentum generated by the other two films that made them worth watching.

88. Agora - Alejandro Amenábar
-Sweeping, thoughtful and highlighted by excellent performances.

89. The Dead Outside - Kerry Anne Mullaney
-Charming and dark.

90. Red Riding: 1983 - Anand Tucker
-Too pretty for its own good, but I was happy with the conclusion to this remarkable series. The addition of Mark Addy was a wise choice. And David Morrissey shines, as usual.

91. Siege of the Dead - Marvin Kren
-Great low-budget zombie film that still finds an innovative way to kill/treat zombies. The ending, though grim, is brilliant and kinda nice.

92. The Ghost Writer - Roman Polanski
-Not his best work, but it's always fun to watch a master at work.

93. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done - Werner Herzog
-So blessed strange. Michael Shannon is a force of nature. And any film with Udo Kier, Willem Dafoe, Grace Zabriskie and Brad Dourif among its ranks is ok by me. The other half of Werner Herzog's warped genre cycle.

94. Vengeance - Johnny To
-An existential gangster film that proves Johnny To might write himself into silly corners but he knows how to film a shoot-out like no one else.

95. Around A Small Mountain - Jacques Rivette
-Quirky and sweet, if confusing.

96. American Grindhouse - Elijah Drenner
-Love hearing from this crop of people about the trash I happily serve myself day after day.

97. Machete - Robert Rodriguez
-Too funny. As usual Jeff Fahey emerges as VIP and he even gets the best line in the film: "I just got a text from Machete..." Fahey makes a meal out of that line and it's just the greatest thing ever uttered.

98. Trash Humpers - Harmony Korine
-More art gallery than drive-in, Harmony Korine makes a banquet of hillbilly nightmare fuel.

99. The Reef - Andrew Traucki
-Best scene involves a girl, a tiny surfboard, and a giant-ass White-Tip Shark.

100. The Lost Skeleton Returns Again - Larry Blamire
-A lot of fun and of a humour style that's mostly fallen out of favour over the years, I really liked it's encyclopedic knowledge of the conventions of the many film styles it lovingly lampoons.

Honorary Award: The Complete Metropolis
It isn't fair to compare a film made nearly a century ago to anything made today (not only because it fairs better than half the films made this year. Zing! Suck it, Tron!) but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the painstaking restoration of Metropolis to the form closest to Fritz Lang's vision we may ever get. Finally here are not just a few tighter scene constructions but a greater insight into Lang's new world and it's one that still works 88 years later. A bountiful sci-fi epic and masterwork of expressionism, Metropolis is a film that doesn't seem like it will ever fall from relevance; no less a world-shattering force than Inception seems to bow in its direction. It will certainly never stop being adored.