Beautiful Girls (Ted Demme, 1996)
Man, this really wanted to be the Diner of the '90s, didn't it? I'm a sucker for these "aimless twentysomethings sit around and deconstruct their lives" type of movies, so I enjoyed this one, but it's not the best example of the genre. Everything works out just a little too well, characters are over-articulate and eloquent at just the right moments, and it's just too upbeat and rosy for my tastes. Still, after being so impressed with Natalie Portman in Closer and Garden State this year, it's nice to see that even at 15 she was a remarkably good actor. Her character is the most overly articulate of them all - a 13-year-old would never speak in those kinds of fully-formed literary-allusion-heavy sound bites - but she really sells the lonely little girl who desperately wants to be a grown-up.
Bob Le Flambeur (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1955)
I've been wanting to see this ever since I saw Neil Jordan's remake, The Good Thief, which was my pick for the best film of 2003. The two are bookends to the French New Wave in a way, Melville's film influencing the movement, Jordan's paying tribute to it. Melville's Bob, unlike Jordan's, is more debonaire and restrained, not a drug addict and not as close to the edge of breakdown. But both are magnetic, charismatic cads, and both films are brilliant character studies. You can really see how influential Melville was on the New Wave in this movie - the camera is much more steady, and the plot more subdued, but the love of B-movie style, the grit, the criminals as complex characters, all that is there. The relationship between Bob and Anne is sweet but rough, and full of unexpected nuance. I still was more entertained by Jordan's version, but of course it couldn't exist without Melville.