Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best Of/Worst Of 2005

BEST OF 2005

Despite the lackluster box office, and the criticism that the movies just weren't that good this year, I have to respectfully disagree. I thought this was a great year for movies. So much so that I can't limit my Top 10 to just 10 films. I found fifteen movies in 2005 worthy of being included in this year end list. I admit that I haven't seen a few noteworthy movies: Mrs. Henderson Presents, The New World, Transamerica, and The Matador. Who knows how the final list will look? For now though, here are my Top 15 movies of 2005 (in order):

1. Batman Begins. Kudos to Chris Nolan and David Goyer for brilliantly retooling the Batman franchise and creating the most engrossing character study of the year. Christian Bale is the perfect Batman: brooding, complex, and believable. Although a comic book movie in theory, it certainly doesn't play out that way. If anything, Batman Begins sets the standard for all comic book movies, and all action movies as well. Cast your picture with actors (not stars), explore the characters, keep it real, and, above all, entertain. This is my favorite movie of the year.

2. Munich. Steven Spielberg's most adult movie is also one of his best. No other movie this year made me think as much as this one. It's powerful stuff. Timely, provocative, and one hell of a thriller. It has the look and feel of some of the best films from the 70s. Since most members of the Academy won't be able to look past the comic book roots of Batman to name it Best Picture, my vote goes to Munich.

3. Cinderella Man. After all the boxing movies and underdog sports movies in the world, I was amazed that Ron Howard and Russell Crowe could pull off such a wallop of a movie. Cinderella Man is a brilliant example of mainstream, audience-friendly filmmaking that's made with great intelligence. It's heartfelt, inspirational, and has the power to make you stand up and cheer. That 's usually hyperbole. Not the case here.

4. Match Point (****) Unpredictable and amazingly intense, this is the best thriller of the year. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the last 45 minutes. A congratulatory return to form for writer-director Woody Allen.

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I loved the previous installment, Prisoner of Azkaban, but darn it if the Harry Potter films don't keep getting better and better. With Goblet of Fire, the franchise has its strongest story yet, and thanks to the deepening acting talents of the young cast, and director Mike Newell's ability to maintain a variety of different tones (It's a comedy! It's a thriller! It's a special effects extravaganza!), what we're treated to is, indeed, pure magic.

6. Crash. One of the best screenplays of the year. Brilliantly written and directed by Paul Haggis, the screenwriter behind Million Dollar Baby, Crash is like a mini-Magnolia that's more concerned with race than character quirks. Although sometimes showy and knowing, the events and characters unfold and intersect in a hypnotic, and often moving, manner. This is one film that seems like it'd be hard to watch again, but one that really does reward multiple viewings. Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard are standouts among the amazing cast.

7. Sin City. It's been a great year for comic book adaptations. Robert Rodriguez risked his Director's Guild membership to work with the comic creator, Frank Miller, and the result is the best eye candy of the year. Mickey Rourke is fantastic in this film as Marv, and is deserving of awards recognition. This is probably the most visually arresting film of the year, with a smart, funny, hard-boiled script to boot.

8. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Nobody saw this one in the theaters, but it's destined to become a cult classic on DVD. Writer-director Shane Black has written some of the most influential buddy action movies of the past three decades, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is like a master's thesis in the genre. It's whip-smart, and features a bravura return to form for Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. I only wish I could have written a movie like this.

9. Kung Fu Hustle. To label this some dumb Kung Fu flick would be a gross misunderstanding. Make no mistake, this is smart, energetic filmmaking that's directly in tune with pop culture. Director and star, Stephen Chow, is the best Asian export since Chinese food. Fun, fun, fun. Get past the subtitles, and check this one out for yourself.

10. Murderball. Audiences stayed away from this documentary and flocked to the penguins instead, and I feel that's a tad unjust. This movie plays out like both a great sports film, and an emotionally charged father-son drama. The characters in this movie fascinate because they're real, they're confined to wheelchairs, and that's probably the least interesting thing about them. Certainly the best documentary of the year.

11. Good Night, and Good Luck. Tied with Munich for the best directed film of the year. George Clooney's sophomore effort is a tidy, focused, and flawless little film. It's shot in luscious black and white, but the characters and drama couldn't be more colorful. It sucks you in, makes you care, and before you know it, it's over. A big achievement for Clooney.

12. Jarhead. A superb war movie that's been unfairly maligned because it's not your typical war film. There are no big action scenes. There isn't a lot of gunfire. It's all build-up with no payoff. And that's exactly the point. Subversively funny when it wants to be, Jarhead puts you in the company of soldiers and makes you feel what they feel. Jake Gyllenhaal has been in a lot of films this year, but Jarhead has his best performance.

13. King Kong. Alternately flawed and fantastical, King Kong is epic filmmaking that brings out the nine-year old in everyone. Although it starts slow and is corny at times, when the movie clicks, no more so than with the T-Rex fight on Skull Island, there isn't anything to rival it. The character of Kong is brilliantly realized by Andy Serkis and the Weta visual effects crew, and Naomi Watts gives one of the great performances of the year as Ann Darrow. You care about the relationship between Darrow and the giant monkey. That's impressive.

14. Hustle & Flow. Picture Rocky. Now add a pimp. That's Hustle & Flow for you. To describe its story as simply, "pimp becomes a rapper," would do a disservice to the amazing performance of Terrence Howard, and the uniformly excellent supporting cast. When Howard's character, DJay, gets in the recording studio and unleashes his pent up frustrations on the microphone, the viewer is in moviemaking nirvana.

15. The Upside of Anger. If only more dramedys could be as funny and effective as this one. Joan Allen has the best role for a woman this year, and she capitalizes on it and then some. She's great here, and so is Kevin Costner, in the performance of his career. He's so at ease with his character, you can't even see him act. This is another well-written, character-based film, and it has an ending that's both interesting and surprising. A movie where you can't guess the ending? Count me in.

Honorable Mention: Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Squid and The Whale, Brokeback Mountain, Walk the Line


So there you have it. The top 15 films of 2005. But what's a "Best of" List without a "Worst of?" I see so many movies each year. Sometimes it's a bit rough on me. But this is the fun part, where you get to tear these movies a new one. Herewith, the Worst films of 2005 (in no particular order):

1. The Ring Two. CGI deer attack a car for no apparent reason. 'Nuff said.

2. Alone in the Dark. Tara Reid plays a scientist. Stephen Dorff is also in it. Christian Slater plays a character named McCabe.

3. In Her Shoes. Chick lit bullshit with no apparent plot. Cameron Diaz is Jewish in it. Watch it if you need a primer on the importance of both offense and defense in basketball.

4. Stealth. It's like being stuck for two hours watching a mentally retarded person play a video game.

5. The Pacifier. There are three fart noises in this movie. Remarkable restraint. Was Kindergarten Cop this bad?

6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Should never have been released in theaters. It's like a Hallmark mini-series, along the likes of Merlin or The 10th Kingdom. Worst CGI lion ever. Animals talk.

7. Kingdom of Heaven. Bloated, boring epic that's made even more disappointing by the fact that Ridley Scott directed it.

8. XXX: State of the Union. Ridiculous action sequences, and that's putting it lightly. The President escapes using a Monorail Force One. The unintentionally funniest movie of the year.

9. Flightplan. Like Panic Room on a plane. Only not good.

10. Son of the Mask. CGI baby sings and dances like the Warner Bros. frog. And you thought Ally McBeal was bad...

11. Must Love Dogs. Must hate cliched romantic comedies.

12. Robots. A new low in CGI animation. A pimple on the butt of anything Pixar creates.

13. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. A woman with a penis for a nose sneezes semen into another person's soup bowl. Classy.

14. House of Wax. Paris Hilton acts and dies. Prophetic.

15. Elektra. Comic books had a very good year. See Batman Begins or Sin City. They also had a very bad year. See Elektra. Or rather, don't.


At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Prinsciple Sciple said...

I'm sad that Jessica Simpson's debut film didn't even make the worst films list. I think you are just unable to look beyond the tabloid covers and court documents claiming she and Nick are divorcing.


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