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The American Film Institute's movies of the year

End of year lists are always fun. This one represents the selections of the American Film Institute, which does not rank its selections. A panel of 13 filmmakers, critics, scholars and AFI trustees picked the flix.

In alpha order…

* Babel. Didn’t see it.

* Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. My brother took us to see this over Thanksgiving. Kate and I suffered from PTSD for hours afterward by the nude wrestling scene between Borat and Azamat. The scenes with Borat interviewing former Rep. Bob Barr and Alan Keyes were priceless, as was the dinner scene with the Birmingham high society folks.

* The Devil Wears Prada. It’s hard to like a film that glorifies stick figure women, but that’s what you expect with a film like this. Meryl Streep, as usual, brings up a film many more notches than it deserves.

* Dreamgirls. Haven’t seen it yet. There is a lot of buzz about Eddie Murphy’s and Jennifer Hudson’s performances.

* Half Nelson. Didn’t see it.

* Happy Feet. Didn’t see it.

* Inside Man. Spike Lee scores on this mainstream (for him) flick, a hostage/heist drama. Jodie Foster gets to wear high heels and play cool and calculating. Lee picks at religious and racist ignorance in post-9/11 NY, as an innocent Sikh hostage is released and the bigoted NYPD cops grill the poor man, profiling him as “Arab,” taking his turban away and withhold the religious garment, trying to extract information from the poor guy.

* Letters From Iwo Jima. Didn’t see it.

* Little Miss Sunshine. I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Easily one of my favorite films this year. Such an original, well-written, well-acted film with a great cast. Steve Carell gives a standout performance as the gay uncle to child pageant finalist Olive. That child pageant at the end is a surreal horror — they actually cast little beauty queens as the contestants.

* United 93. Director Paul Greengrass’s tense docudrama (released when other TV documentaries and dramatic interpretations of the same event) left me feeling like a wrung-out dishrag. Whether the events were portrayed accurately or not (will we ever know what really happened outside of Shanksburg, PA?), it works as a film.

If you’ve seen the ones I haven’t seen that made the list, do you think they were good enough to make the cut?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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