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1. Everyone Else (Maren Ade)
The virtues are those of the "small" film: naturalistic writing, well-served by invisible directing and unselfconscious acting, attuned to the subtle gradations and microbial mood swings of interpersonal relations. But the small-bore filmmaking renders intimate and subjective the biggest possible subject: the distance between any two human souls, dramatized here as a note-perfect study in the uneasy, unresolved heterogeny of coupledom.
2. The Social Network (David Fincher)
Something for every kind of critic: There's the mediocre HBO-style amusing drama and Fincher's airless formalist thing, and even critics skeptical of both those styles can appreciate the brilliant way the two are constructed together in a closed loop of insecurity in which the go-nowhere diversion is the point of the film itself.
3. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
Fast-moving at five hours plus, Carlos is a portrait of a narcissistic fame seeker whose medium of choice was violence. In this intimate epic, Assayas uses the (true) story of Carlos the Jackal to trace the rise and fall of terrorist chic in the mid- to late-20th century.
4. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
Yes, Greenberg was droll, witty, tender and insightful, especially for disaffected, male creative types approaching middle age. But we enjoyed it most for the one million feature profiles it spawned about Greta Gerwig, garnering greater exposure for our favorite actress and showing her off to the larger audience she deserves.
5. Mother (Bong Joon-ho)
Genre is like Playdoh in Bong's hands. Fusing the Devoted Mother Melodrama and Vigilante Amateur Detective, Mother embodies everything we've come to love and expect from Bong—gleefully perverse, tonally diverse, with spontaneous flourishes of violence and comedy—but in Kim Hye-ja as the titular matriarch, he's found his most compelling and unpredictable main character yet.