1yi yi (Edward Yang) In a year when style trumped substance time and again, Yang's tale of a fractured Taipei family was the closest pure life got to the big screen. Deeply affecting and unerringly made. A masterpiece.
2in the mood for love (Wong Kar-wai) Emotional crack, sensory ecstasy -- this film is addictive. In one slow torrent of longing, Wong distills desire to its telling gestures and shameless beauty. Never should it end.
3the decalogue parts 5 and 6 (Krzysztof Kieslowski) Kieslowski always struck me as a dry-eyed humanist, an excellent position from which to make films. These two episodes of his monumental Decalogue -- about killing, and about love -- are the height of his achievement, before he tilted toward mannerism.
4memento (Christopher Nolan) Designed like a Swiss watch (that ticks backward), Memento yearns to impress. But it's not the trick plot that does it, or Guy Pearce's chiselled performance. It's the way Nolan's manipulation of time creates such a stark sense of tragedy.
5ghost world (Terry Swigoff) It's easy to make a loser chick charming or a geek obsessive poignant. Ghost World goes one better. It finds a sure path between shame and empathy. In an alternate universe, Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi win Oscars.
6A.I. (Steven Spielberg) As the sole defender of Spielberg's abject confessional, let me just note the startling achievement of turning blockbuster spectacle toward probing private pain. Better yet, Spielberg led Haley Joel Osment to the year's most committed, most terrifying performance.
7Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) The whimsy runs out before the film does, but Jeunet brings a stunning imagination to both the story and its telling. Sure, its feel-good success is a "now more than ever" phenomenon, but that takes nothing from Jeunet's dizzying craft.
8george washington (David Gordon Green) A slow film from a fast-food wasteland, George Washington irked me at first (Terence Malick just called; he wants his aesthetic back). But the film's chance epiphanies and Green's human curiosity kept it with me all year.
9the uncles (Jim Allodi) Allodi's feature debut is unmistakably Toronto -- the tone, the quirks, the budget -- but in his hands, these things are virtues. Written, directed and performed with rare skill, it has a far freer style than we're known for west of Quebec.
10Amores perros (Alejandro González Iárritu)Too flashy for deep feeling, too familiar for comfort, Amores Perros has the itchy grace of a young man's first film. But that image of blood on the grill is a keeper forever.
Rings, Potter, Ali, Eleven -- this was the year even ambitious Hollywood movies surrendered to convergence. When it comes to movie marketing, chain bookstores are the new McDonalds, which means we now like movies best when they confirm our expectations. My top three movies made the year worthwhile, but it's clear our jobs as critics are finished.