Hollywood could take a lesson from this year's best foreign film nominations. Two of the most satisfying movies of the year were the German-made The Lives of Others and Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth . Along with Alfonso Cuarón 's Children of Men and Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel , it would seem that foreign directors are the only ones making movies that have any ideas behind them.

Set in 1944 fascist Spain, Pan's Labyrinth follows Ofelia, a lonely, misunderstood girl, and her single mother who go to live with the mother's new husband, a sociopath army officer. When Ofelia comes into contact with the mythical creatures that live in the woods surrounding the estate, she discovers that she is actually the princess of this fantasy world and must set off on a quest to prove her royal lineage.

The film brilliantly blends Ofelia's quest with the real-world parallels of the Resistance's fight against the fascist government, exploring themes of righteous disobedience that are particularly timely. Along with the director's stunning visual style, impeccably intricate art design and a well crafted, layered script, Del Toro has created one of the most imaginative films in recent memory.

Hollywood could take a lesson: fantasy isn't about eye-boggling digital effects. It's about creating worlds that show us our own.

Extras: video prologue by director, commentary by director, featurettes, “The Charlie Rose Show” featuring director, Director's Notebook, production sketches, storyboard video prologue by director, storyboard/thumbnail compares, theatrical teaser and trailer and TV spots.

Grade: A+