1. The Innocents (Jack Clatyton, 1961): You know that thing that happens when you’re talking about a movie, and then a few days later, it’s on TV? I love that thing. It’s really not a surprising thing in this case, because it’s a movie about ghosts and it was on last week, but still. 
This though? Is amazing. It’s from 1961, but it feels like it could be much newer, from the way it starts out with a lone child’s voice singing over the studio logos to the way it ends with a grown woman kissing a little boy. A lot of that might be how heavily it influenced The Others, though. The story is a bit different – the period is a lot earlier, it’s a governess instead of a mother, her fear is of a religious as opposed to a health-related paranoia, and it’s actually kind of creepier since the danger is sexuality, kind of. The wiki page is actually pretty useful and well put together, noting cinematographer Freddie Francis’s use of deep focus, which is one of the things that made it seem so modern. 
It also paraphrases from Christopher Frayling’s DVD commentary:
 “Frayling attributes the Freudian subtext to screenwriter Truman Capote, whose contribution gives the film a Southern Gothic feel – with the governess’s repressed erotic sensibility counterpointed by shots of lush and decaying plants and rapacious insect life. Reportedly, when first screened. Twentieth Century Fox executives were disturbed by the scene (which doesn’t occur in the novella) where the governess kisses the boy Miles directly on the lips.” 
So that pretty much sums up how great this movie is.
  2. Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Jamie Babbit, 2007): I don’t know how to feel about movies like this. See, the actual story is a pretty average coming of age story, but with added radical feminism tied in, as for Anna, coming of age involves joining a Guerilla Girls-esque gang called Clits in Action. There was some stuff I really liked, like how Melonie Diaz’s character’s mom was totally okay with her being gay and actually turned out to be pretty cool, having interned at Ms. back in the day. I like Diaz a lot, think she has a lot of promise. And I loved Carly Pope’s ridiculous bangs and huge glasses, as Shulie, the most humourless of all the feminist gang. Oh, and the soundtrack was great, full of music I like by bands like Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Heavens to Betsy, and Sleater-Kinney. But I’m not really sure who the audience for it was. It’s not that I object to radical feminist activism being the catalyst for someone’s coming of age, but as someone who’s you, know, completed college, the politics felt kind of naïve and, while the whole thing was entertaining, it didn’t totally work. The cinematical review isn’t very patient with the movie but ultimately concludes: “it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s now, and it subtly packs a powerful message into what’s, essentially, just another light, breezy night out with the girls.” Thing is, I don’t think it is all that new or fresh. All those hip bands on the soundtrack? Still great and hip, but all presently defunct. (And Le Tigre still rocks, but I can’t really feel the same way about them after hearing “Deceptacon” used to sell skin cream. I realize radical feminists gots to get paid, but this movie certainly doesn’t.) And a lot of the inspirations are even older: The Guerilla Girls (about which cinematical is wrong on two counts: not from the ’70s, and actually still active) started in 1985; Shulamith Firestone (after whom Shulie named herself) published The Dialectic of Sex in 1979; and the zines ‘n’ punk culture that the movie draws on so much is pure ’90s. So less than new or fresh or now, the whole thing felt nostalgic for a different kind of activism. The Clits do have a website, but they realize it’s not really working when they install a tracker and find out no one reads it. In 2007? Seriously? There is a totally robust feminist blogosphere that would love things like putting a statue of Angela Davis in a public park, and link to the website of the group responsible. Awareness? Raised!
  3. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008): I find it really interesting that this is coming out the same year as Twilight. I haven’t read Twilight, but I have it on good authority that it’s about a teenage girl who falls in love with a creepy stalker vampire who looks teenaged but is actually way older and that they have teen angst but without any of the moral problems of even Buffy, because he’s a good vampire who is never really evil? See, Let The Right One In has some of the same storyline — there’s this sad disaffected 12-year-old boy, who falls in love with a 12-year-old vampire girl — but the whole thing is not just played as starry-eyed angst, it is really really creepy from start to finish. It’s set in Sweden, so the whole thing is played out against this grey-skyed background of ice and snow and visible breath. But of course there’s killing of actual people and it’s actually really dark and violent and you wind up kind of rooting for the child vampire, but also being deeply horrified by your rooting for them, like any good horror movie.
  4. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008): This is the kind of movie that’s really hard to do well, with the artsy handheld camera work, the family drama where the bad sister comes home from rehab for the good sister’s wedding and they all deal with the horrible thing that happened before, and the emphasis on people’s feelings. But this one was done really well — the acting is great across the board, the story’s powerful and emotionally affective, it’s really intelligent about class and race — and that makes it really hard to write about critically. I could talk about the never-ending carefully multicultural wedding celebration and how that’s really modeled as this happy world that Kym can’t be a part of; I could talk about the way weight issues are handled and/or not handled; I could talk about the way Demme appears to use on-set musicians for the whole soundtrack and how amazing it is when Kym’s finally like “are they going to play all weekend?” and Rachel’s fiance is from TV On The Radio; I could talk about how I kind of still felt like crying hours after the movie ended. I don’t really know; I do think Anne Hathaway should win an Oscar. This was so far from anything I’d seen her do — and I have generally liked her in other stuff — and it would hopefully keep her out of doing Kate Hudson movies.
  5. Zoot Suit (Luis Valdez, 1981): I really thought this was going to be good. It’s about the prejudice faced by young chicanos who wore zoot suits in World War II, culminating in the famous “zoot suit riots” where a bunch of sailors went to a Mexican neighbourhood and beat up a bunch of dudes for wearing baggy pants. Also, it’s a musical. In which Edward James Olmos dances and sings! How could it be bad? But it’s terrible. And I am someone who kind of loves The Wiz, so you know my standards for postmodern musicals about racial identity are vanishingly low. But seriously, it’s just painful. It’s an adaptation of the play that gave Olmos his big break — as the representation of the conflicted chicano identity of the hero, a kid who was just about to ship out to war, but gets railroaded on a false murder charge and winds up spending two years in jail because of a disgustingly racist judge. (Based on a real incident, but heavily altered for the film, from what I understand.) Unfortunately, it’s a really direct adaptation of a really…theatrical play. So it opens with an audience coming into a theatre, is obviously all shot on a soundstage, and cuts to the audience reacting to stuff at key moments. Even Olmos lets me down, giving the biggest, most ridiculous performance ever (despite the rather low-key work of Daniel Valdez as Henry Reyna, resulting in a situation where Olmos is kind of playing the dark alter-ego of a brick, as Alex put it). I don’t really blame him though, I blame the director, who adapted his own play and obviously just instructed Olmos to give his stage performance on film. The raw material — the Sleepy Lagoon trials, the defendants’ relationship with the white activists who worked on their appeal, the racial tensions leading up to the zoot suit riots — this stuff is all really rich, interesting material, that you could totally make an amazing movie out of, and I think someone should. Maybe EJO! He directs, BSG’s over now, and he’s really big on Chicano issues, so I bet he’d do a good job with it.