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Rental Unit: Year-End Wrap

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The explosion of documentaries was not limited to politics. Paralleling the current vogue for nonfiction books and television, such stories as "Touching the Void" gave viewers real-life (though mostly re-enacted) cliffhangers. "The Weather Underground" and "The Boys of 2nd Street Park" grooved on different versions of the hippie generation. And "Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator" recounted the bogus fall of a high-flying '80s skateboarding icon.

Though they took a back seat in the press, traditional, lower-budget drama offered several strong showings, such as "Buffalo Soldiers," "The Secret Lives of Dentists" and "Shattered Glass," and atypical, provocative fare like Lars von Trier's "Dogville" and Gus Van Sant's "Elephant."

Movies like these last two — including "The Saddest Music in the World" and "The Dreamers," listed in our Top 10 — are especially important. It might be cliché to say they push boundaries, but it's not cliché to actually push them. Film is in general a popular art, but it always needs its innovators and agitators to keep it from becoming stale. — Wayne Melton

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