As I explained last year when I did a similar list, this is not a "best films of the year" list. For all my film fascination, I don't make it to the theater for first-run features all that often. Blame the kid. But, in no particular order, here are my favorites from the films I did manage to see this past year, regardless of their particular release dates.
Because of the aforementioned kid, you'll notice that all the new films on this list are also kid-friendly. I'm fortunate enough that there were more than a couple genuinely great films that my daughter could also enjoy this past year. I don't think I liked Up altogether more than WALL-E, but it had moments of amazing brilliance.
I was extremely apprehensive about this one, because I've long loved the source book and that type of thing always worries me. Plus, I was overly concerned about introducing the tale to my daughter as a film rather than a book - my mind relies so heavily on visuals that any exposure to a film's story before its printed source cements the film's interpretation there with no hope of prying it out - but I gave in. She loved it. I liked it. It's very beautiful. Although I still wish the movie didn't introduce a completely new character - a boy - who ends up saving her at the end, wherein the book she resolves everything through her own wit and intelligence.
If it weren't for Pixar and Miyazaki, my daughter would be watching many, many fewer good movies - for which I am extremely grateful, for both her sake and mine. Ponyo was definitely one of the Miyazaki films that appeal especially to younger children, unlike the slightly more intricate and sophisticated films such as Howl's Moving Castle or Spirited Away. But it's typically gorgeous and charming.
A documentary that follows the experiences of four girls at a rock summer camp where they form bands and learn to play over the course of a week. It's heartfelt and touching and I loved watching it.
Stylish, polished and literate. It's no surprise to me that director Gary Hustwit has of late focused on documentaries about design. His own films are as careful, complete and packaged as his subjects.
I'm a David Lynch fan. But even I didn't expect to like Inland Empire. Even as I was watching it, I was surprised by the fact I did like it. It riveted and fascinated me. I'm not sure if I can articulate why. In fact, I'm sure I can't. But if you're up to the challenge, I recommend you don't delay as I did and instead watch it at once.
Me and Orson Welles
As you might have expected, more thoughts on this film are forthcoming. Probably more than you need.