The Edge Of Heaven, starring Baki Davrak (left), was a film that mattered this year.
As Hollywood became more obsessed than ever with action and humourless comic books, films about things that matter took a back seat, and women were almost left off the bus entirely. But some gems, like those below, snuck onto the screen - in some cases, at festivals big and small. Here's a list designed to appeal to your inner feminista.
1. THE EDGE OF HEAVEN
The son of a Turkish immigrant to Germany goes to Istanbul to seek out the daughter of his father's new girlfriend, who's suddenly died. That's just a tidbit of a complex plot. But the themes of compassion and forgiveness are simple enough. Exactly the film the world needs in times of global tension. Bonus: lesbian content woven in seamlessly.
2. THE ART STAR AND THE SUDANESE TWINS
This sensational Hot Docs entry looks at ego, the artist and her good (maybe) intentions. Conceptual artist Vanessa Beecroft tries to adopt twins while creating a major opus memorializing the victims of the slaughter in Darfur. Look for a wider release in January 09.
3. MERYL STREEP
in Mamma Mia!
Laugh all you want - I've been endlessly mocked for my love of this awesome performance, so I can take it. Streep au naturel, without the tics and the tricks. And she sings like a dream.
The beauty salon becomes a hotbed of gossip, yearning and regret in this Lebanon-?set film that sticks to your senses.
5. SISTER ACTS
Some of the most powerful performances emerged out of sister situations - Anne Hathaway with Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married, Kristen Scott Thomas with Elsa Zylberstein in I've Loved You So Long, and Alicia Keys as one of the Boatwright sisters in The Secret Life Of Bees. Expect Oscar to call on Hathaway and Scott Thomas.
6. BEFORE TOMORROW
Marie-?Hélène Cousineau, Madeline Ivalu
In this subtle meditation on first contact - seen at both TIFF and imagineNATIVE - an Inuit grandmother (Ivalu) and her grandson (Paul-?Dylan Ivalu) dry out the village's catch alone on an island. Mesmerizingly beautiful.
7. PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE
Moving back and forth in time, photographer Sebring's doc - shot mostly in grainy black-and-white - works organically to give a full picture of the gifted icon. Not for fans only.
8. THEN SHE FOUND ME
In her feature directing debut, Hunt is superb - brittle and on the brink of desperation - as a woman yearning for a child. Bonus: a terrific Bette Midler as her meddling mother. The year's most underappreciated pic.
Ben Kingsley gives a pitch-?perfect performance as a prof who gets more than he bargains for when he takes up with ex-?student Penélope Cruz. Here's a movie for adults about mortality, friendship and the complexities of father-?son relationships.
10. YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING
Giving YPF a place on this list sounds counterintuitive, and the title completely sucks, but this is a very smart movie about sex. The two writers - director Gero and actor Aaron Abrams - get points for giving me the year's smartest interview.3
Wanted's sly Angelina Jolie; the bedroom scenes in Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress; interviewing Lisa Ray for The World Unseen and I Can't Think Straight.
For a few months, it looked like the industry was actually courting a female audience. But once the plot-?challenged Sex And The City and cliché-?ridden The Women hit the big screen, we said no to this suitor.
TOTALLY HATED IT
The Dark Knight - Heath Ledger's great performance doesn't make this film "art." Get over yourselves, guys.
LOOK FOR IT ON DVD
Inexplicably, Still Lovely with Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau, and Lymelife with Alec Baldwin like you've never seen him, both at TIFF this year, never got distribution. Go figure.SGC