Top 50 - 11 through 15

11. The Science of Sleep (Gondry, 2006)

You know the feeling that you get sometimes when you wake up from a particularly engaging dream and the world looks fake afterwards? This film, messy and sometimes incoherent as it is, is like such a dream. It's so full of imagination and creativity that after seeing it you immediately feel like making something. Part of why it works so well is that Michel Gondry doesn't like CGI, so all the effects - and there are many - each have to be made in their own, innovative way. Gael Garcia Bernal has never been better as Gondry's alter ego, a young man who misses out on his life because he's so lost in his dreams, but at the same time, if I had dreams like his, I wouldn't want to wake up either.

12. The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001)

I don't generally discuss the private lives of movie stars here, and I try to separate the real life people from the characters on screen, but since Owen Wilson helped write this movie, his recent suicide attempt makes this movie all the more poignant. I love Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, and the first hour of the Life Aquatic too, but this is his masterpiece: every frame has a dozen perfect little details, all the performances are on the same plane, and I still want to write a book someday with the lovely dry tone of the narrator.

13. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)

I hesitated a long time between this film and Reservoir Dogs. The latter movie is, I believe, better constructed and tighter, and originally I liked it better, maybe because it was the first Tarantino movie I saw, but Pulp Fiction grew on me. It's just so innovative and brash, and much more satisfying than it has any right to be. Of course there are things that could have been left out, like Christopher Walken's watch monologue, but on the other hand, the sheer absurdity of that scene makes it worthwhile. Favorite scene? Not a particularly original pick, but there's nothing like watching Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace do the twist.

14. The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)

The first film noir according to some - one of my favorites, in any case. "I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble", "I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck", the dialogue here truly is the stuff that dreams are made of, one witty line after the next, and I don't think anyone could have delivered them any better than Humphrey Bogart does here. His Sam Spade is tough, without mercy, but not without humanity, and after 66 years, he's still the epitome of cool.

15. A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005)

This high? Yes, this high, because under its deceptively simple exterior, this is a ruthless deconstruction of our baser urges. Cronenberg takes it slowly, so deliberately that you long for something to happen, only to regret your desire when it does. It can be read in a handful of different ways, and can be used to support opposite standpoints, and maybe most importantly: it's a movie that gets better and better the more you think about it.

Next time? #10, which has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...

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