1. Chicken Run -- In the tradition of Babe, this hysterical piece of plasticene animation from Nick Park and Peter Lord probably gave me more pleasure than anything else I saw this year. Simply by being a feature, it is less compactly perfect than Park's shorts, but it's still pretty damn good.
2. Wonder Boys -- It took me a second viewing to appreciate just how good this is. The combination of this gentle comedy and Curtis Hanson's previous film, L.A. Confidential, mark him as a truly great director of ensemble performance. Everyone in the film is doing the best work of their careers.
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- If Ang Lee's film were the first Chinese swordplay I had ever seen, it probably would have been my top film this year. Having been immersed in the genre for a decade now, I'm a little too aware of how derivative it is. But that shouldn't stop you from seeing it.
4. Suzhou River -- The debut feature of mainland Chinese writer-director Lou Ye feels like a cross between the minimalism of the French New Wave and the lush romanticism of Alfred Hitchcock. Intriguing and mystifying, it continues to fascinate after multiple viewings.
5. Best in Show -- Once again using the improvisatory technique of his previous Waiting for Guffman and This Is Spinal Tap (the latter directed by Rob Reiner), director-co-writer Christopher Guest once again provides a perfect context for a bunch of brilliant improv talents.
6. Croupier -- This complex, almost cerebral thriller from the interesting but spotty director Mike Hodges sat on the shelf for two years without American distribution. It finally gets a tiny booking and -- guess what? -- it's way, way better than almost anything out of Hollywood.
7. Dancer in the Dark -- Okay, so it's the most depressing musical ever made, and I don't want to ever see it again. But I still thought it was brilliant, and combined with Lars Von Trier's other 2000 release, The Idiots, this gives him the award for Best Total Output for the year, edging out Steven Soderbergh with Erin Brockovich and Traffic.
8. High Fidelity -- As insightful a romantic comedy as we've seen in the last couple of years, from the talented Stephen Frears.
9. Chocolat -- Yeah, Lasse Hallström's movie is almost too sweet, but I was totally charmed by this American knockoff of Latin American magical realism. Wonderful cast.
10. Cast Away -- I'll probably regret this one down the line, but I was deeply moved by parts of this yuppie Robinson Crusoe story and was impressed by how well director Robert Zemeckis resisted his inclinations to go for the obvious slick Hollywood satisfactions.
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