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TOP FIVE

Current movies recommended by the Times

1. House of Sand and Fog _ Ben Kingsley, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, and Jennifer Connelly are extraordinary as rivals for a piece of seaside real estate, a situation symbolizing tragic elements of the American Dream.

2. In America _ The best tearjerker of 2003, a story of Irish immigrants coping with grief in a strange land during the 1980s. Sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger are the real deal among child actors, unlike automatons such as Dakota Fanning. Nominated for two Golden Globes.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King _ The concluding chapter of Peter Jackson's epic trilogy is nominated for four Golden Globes, including best dramatic film. Finally, the story and emotions match the spectacular special effects.

4. Monster _ Charlize Theron's extraordinary portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos almost makes viewers overlook the sympathetic slant of Patty Jenkins' film.

5. The Cooler _ A born loser (William H. Macy) changes his fortunes by falling in love, and the casino manager (Alec Baldwin) who uses that bad luck to fleece gamblers doesn't like it.

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