Alright, here it is. These kinds of year-end lists are tough because they are (usually) based on having only seen the film once, meaning second viewings can certainly change my opinion of the order of this list. This list will be changed continuously throughout the month as I watch more films.
1. Synecdoche, New York dir. by Charlie Kaufman
Kaufman takes his examination of the creative process to incredible lengths, offering an intriguing, complicated, and often times profound film that warrants repeated viewings. My head was spinning after seeing this and I almost immediately wanted to see it again.
2. Wall-E dir. by Andrew Stanton
I dare anyone not to love Wall-E. It has been said many times before, but the first half of the film chronicling Wall-E's existence on Earth by himself with his cockroach and then courtship with EVE was the most enjoyable 40 min. I've had all year.
3. Rachel Getting Married dir. by Jonathan Demme
I feel this film has not been given enough love (except from A.O. Scott at the Times), but it affected me in a very direct way. I certainly appreciated the Altman-esque atmosphere. And Anne Hathaway can act! Who knew?
4. Let the Right One In dir. by Tomas Alfredson
Probably the most fun (besides Wall-E) I had in the theater all year. Equal parts terrifying and funny (mostly at the same time), I was constantly glued to the screen: either for its wonderful compositions, interesting characters, or to see the unexpected.
5. Frozen River dir. by Courtney Hunt
An incredibly original low-budget thriller with solid performances and convincing story. There are moments in this film in which I was almost overwhelmed with sadness.
6. Wendy and Lucy dir. by Kelly Reichardt
A quietly poignant film that resonates on several emotional levels (most immediately with my love for dogs). Michelle Williams is absolutely lovely and controls the film's tone with her fantastically engaging performance.
7. Flight of the Red Balloon dir. by Hsiao-hsien Hou
A wonderful, meditative film that quietly pulled me along with Simon, the son of separated parents. The floating, detached nature of the red balloon seen throughout the film reflects the established mood -- through long takes and shots through windows and glass. Reminded me of Yang's Yi Yi in its quiet power. Binoche is great.
8. Vicky Cristina Barcelona dir. by Woody Allen
It's the Woody Allen I love -- sardonic humor, intellectual snobbery, moral conflicts -- paired with lovely cinematography and an intriguing cast: Hall channels Woody, Bardem acts the way you think he would, Cruz absolutely burns up the screen, and Johansson is Johansson: attractive and unlikable.
9. Milk dir. by Gus Van Sant
Harvey Milk was the most inspiring screen figure of the year. The unabashed optimism and assertive claim on life (underlied with a slight sense of doom) that Van Sant conveys through Penn's Milk was sincere and effective. Strong performances all around, especially by Penn and the smoldering Brolin.
10. Happy-Go-Lucky dir. by Mike Leigh
I didn't think I would like this film at first. Poppy was too annoying and her "happiness" wasn't contagious. After a while, however, I realized that Leigh was going after something more nuanced and balanced than "we should all just be happy." And the colors are lovely.
Runners Up: Man On Wire, Encounters at the End of the World, Dark Knight, In Bruges, Gran Torino
This list excludes some films I haven't seen (Che; Soderbergh, The Wrestler;Aranofsky, Waltz With Bashir; Folman, among others) which might very well replace some on this list when I do see them.