#1. American Splendor

I didn't care about seeing this movie until I read some of Harvey Pekar's comics in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Then I had to see the movie. A film about a man's life and how inspite of himself he ended up being great...like we all are. This is the kind of film people should be cheering in the aisles about. From top to bottom everything about this movie is excellent. The best film of the year and one of my favorite films EVER.

#2. The Hunted

When was the last time you saw two men fighting in the streets, blood going everywhere, mano a mano and making no apologies for it's actions? With an opening line from Bob Dylan's "HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED" recorded by Johnny Cash, I was instantly keyed into this film. There is no need for these characters to be "redeemed". To be "likable". To have the "character arcs" or any of the other things people try and homogenize screenplays with. This is just a tale of father, his surrogate son and the violence that is born out of a violent world. Listen to the director William Friedkin's director's commentary that comes on the DVD. He is man who has lost none of his kick over the years.

#3. 21 Grams

I got a moving violation ticket for $189 the night I went and saw this movie. I never thought about it once during the movie. There is nothing difficult about this film. It is told in a nonlinear way but anyone with any interest in the film can follow it. I am tired of people trying to dumb things down. More often then not, this is talk you hear from the suits in charge who are paying the people around them to be "up" on a reality they have ceased being a part of. This film is awesome. Benicio Del Toro should get another award.

#4. Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

I loved DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS but STOKED is the film for me. It is my film. Maybe because it deals with the 80s skate scene and I was around for more of that(even though I was never a skater). This movie starts off in a very eery way and it just continues. Mixing things up with Jason Jesse's bit of humor, I found myself engaged from the opening frame. Rumor has it the women who made the film is a stripper and she funded the film with money made from those endeavors. Now that is passionate film making!!

#5. School of Rock

I don't like Jack Black. I hate TENACIOUS D. I think his and all the other thirty-something's concept of "rock"(which I think TENACIOUS D represents) is akin to those bands that were in the "underground" punk scene and they just didn't quite get it. Sometimes, musicians just stop being relevant. It is a testament to this Richard Linklater helmed film that I can completely get past all that, because this film is awesome. It should be shown in every school. The story of Black's character and his relationship to a bunch of young kids is genuinely touching. Now, if he would only focus on his acting and stop playing his one trick pony music everything would be fine.

#6. Tupac: Resurrection

I thought I had seen all I needed to see with THE RISE AND FALL OF DEATH ROW. This is a fantastic documentary about DEATH ROW RECORDS. Well, TUPAC: RESURRECTION is a truly compelling character look at one of the worlds most famous personalities. One needs to have no interest in rap music. One can know nothing about Tupac Shakur. This film has that much crossover appeal that I still find myself amazed at what a truly magnetic personality Mr. Shakur was and still is.

#7. Mystic River

Clint Eastwood knew exactly what he wanted to do with this film yet nothing about his surefire directing makes this film feel dyspeptic or stilted. It looks at friendships among people in a small neighborhood on the east coast. It shows us that the greatest enemy to anyone or anything is time. It isn't going to be surprising when this is the film that sweeps the academy awards. No science project, special fx pap here...just a movie about real people, with real problems in an all to real world.

#8. The Human Stain

Nobody saw this movie. It came out and came off like a Nicole Kidman throwaway movie before COLD MOUNTAIN. Well let me tell you something my friends, this is the only "special interest" film that came out this year that really had something to say. No other film addressed the topic of race and double standards like this movie. I could go into why people stayed away, why MIRAMAX treated it like BIRTHDAY girl but I am not going to do that. I am just going to say that when this movie comes out on video and the world finally discovers it, I hope that all those who ignored it are willing to face the errors of their ways.

#9. Thirteen

A film about young girls that is much more scary then any teen-queen, horror/slasher, scream-fest could ever hope to be. This story is very similar to an animated film that the Mush happens to be working on(titled 1985-1986), but there was nothing about this movie that felt forced. And what is really scary is that there is nothing about this film that will really feel unfamiliar. We've all been the two girls in this movie just at different times and in different situations.

#10. Open Range

Kevin Costner has still got it and when he really cares about a movie he shows that he can pull it off. I don't think he can just make westerns but when he does he makes them with more heart then anyone else. He's not afraid to get a little dirty and he certainly doesn't mind dirtying up the characters, or slowing things down so we have all the time we need to absorb them. In a time when we have leaders that would like to restrict various aspects of our lives, this film celebrates the fact that the most un-American thing would be to let that happen.

~ Mushy

Brian B.