And so my most-favorite, least-favorite task of the year rolls around again. I never call it a "10 best" list -- meaning the unequivocal 10 best films of the year -- because I'm fully aware of how subjective it is. Yet as frustrating as it usually is to pull together just the right 10, I found the job surprisingly pleasurable this year. So many movies to love! How could this have happened? Let's not even address the fact that two 3-D movies made it onto my list -- that surprises me as much as anyone. The remarkable thing is that year after year, no matter how much samey-sameness Hollywood (or even so-called indie cinema, for that matter) seems to give us, there are always pictures that resonate, movies that stand apart as if to do so were their God-given right.
There's a danger in dismissing Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre as lightweight just because it takes the most generous attitude possible toward human nature. Being jaundiced about the world is easy -- it takes relatively little energy to expect the worst from everyone. But it's harder, as the dour Finnish filmmaker has shown us time and again, to allow for the possibility of surprise in the way people behave and treat one another, and the rewards are far greater. Kaurismäki's comedies are characteristically charcoal-toned -- never quite black -- but the unapologetically hopeful Le Havre is more silvery-gray. It's an open-hearted Eeyore of a movie.