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Sunday, December 30, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movies

Top 10 movies: From 'Amlie' to 'Sound and Fury,' the year was full of magic moments

Seattle Times movie critic

Top 10 lists come once a year, like the World Series, Woody Allen movies and really good tomatoes. And, like all of these things, some years' lists are more intriguing than others. Sometimes you get "Manhattan"; sometimes you get mushy tomatoes.

2001 had its share of tomatoes, but also a worthy assortment of good movies — so good, in fact, that it took quite a while to winnow my list down to 10. And, in reducing a couple of hundred films to 10, the whole exercise became rather personal. It wasn't so much deciding which ones were "good" — dozens of movies were — but which ones, to me, really mattered.

Which movies captured my imagination, moved me to tears or laughter, and haunted me for days, weeks, months after I'd seen them? Which movies, after seeing them at press screenings, did I happily pay to see a second time, in the company of someone who hadn't yet had the pleasure of going? Which movies just made me glad to be in a world where such a movie could get made?

So, nothing here that I respected but didn't love ; no fleeting guilty pleasures; no "well, I liked it, but. ... " Just a short list of films that — often in a very quiet way — thrilled me.

Here, then, are my 10 favorite movies of 2001, listed alphabetically because I couldn't possibly rate any of them higher than any other.

"Amélie." Lighter than air, and as sparkling as Audrey Tautou's huge brown eyes. Comedy is harder than tragedy, so they say, and effortless comedy is the hardest of all. Jean-Pierre Jeunet made it look easy.

"Innocence." An immensely moving meditation on late-life love and death, fueled by a trio of remarkable actors (Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris).

"In the Bedroom." Todd Field's first feature is one of the most remarkable debuts in years: a beautiful, elegantly wrought story of tragedy and grief. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson deserve every accolade they've received.

"In the Mood for Love." Wong Kar-wai's exquisite, melancholy mood piece came and went quickly in February, but its music, its colors and its words unspoken still haunt me, as do Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung's soulful performances. Gorgeous.

"Memento." Christopher Nolan's twisted-backward tale of revenge and failed memory was the year's freshest thriller and a well-deserved word-of-mouth hit.

"Monsters, Inc." Proof that $115 million can indeed buy a terrific Hollywood movie, as the geniuses at Pixar once again meld technical savvy with heartfelt sweetness.

"Moulin Rouge." Some loved Baz Luhrmann's splashy kaleidoscope of a musical; some hated it. I adored it, right down to all those top hats sailing into the Paris sky. Ooh-la-la.

"Mulholland Drive." David Lynch's absolutely mesmerizing tale of love and ambition in the City of Dreams also had its detractors (and, yes, "Memento" was straightforward by comparison) — but oh, what a dream of a movie. Naomi Watts, welcome to the A-list.

"Our Song." A quiet coming-of-age gem about three 15-year-old Brooklyn girls, with so little fanfare it was probably missed by most moviegoers during its brief run in late summer. Director Jim McKay beautifully captures that poised-on-the-edge moment of adolescence, and the three young actresses are remarkable.

"Sound and Fury." Breathtaking film (very briefly in theaters, early this year) about how the possibility of cochlear-implant surgery affects an extended family, some of whose members are deaf. The real-life drama is riveting; the issues troubling; the story as suspenseful as any thriller. Documentary filmmaking at its best.

A second 10: "Ali," "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Ghost World," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "The House of Mirth," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Ocean's Eleven," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "With a Friend Like Harry," "Yi Yi."

Ten worst: Well, I managed to miss "Tomcats," "Saving Silverman," "Say It Isn't So," and a few other putrid-looking films from the early part of the year. But nonetheless, I'd love to have back the time I spent watching "American Pie 2," "Angel Eyes," "Black Knight," "Bride of the Wind," "Corky Romano," "Domestic Disturbance," "Hardball," "Not Another Teen Movie," "Original Sin" and "Town & Country." ("Pearl Harbor" is saved from this list because I kind of liked looking at Kate Beckinsale's outfits, and because a lot of the dialogue made me laugh, although not intentionally.)

And if I had that time back ... well, I'd probably watch "Mulholland Drive" again. Or "Moulin Rouge." Or "In the Mood for Love." Or ...

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

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