The Top 10 Films Of 2005

I had never read Frank Miller’s Sin City comics, but I was well aware of the abilities of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez pushed his talents in every department (and brought in Miller as a co-director), creating not only a film geeks dream project, but a film so skillfully imaginative even critics had to take notice (if they could get past the gratuitous ultra-violence.)

While there are some bad apples in the all-star cast (namely Michael Madsen and Brittney Murphy), SIN CITY revived the career of Mickey Rourke, playing the most brutal tough guy (with a big soft heart) you will ever meet, and featured Elijah Wood as the town’s creepiest psycho. Plus, there’s dueling banjos of cool between Clive Owen and Benecio del Toro, and a solid Bruce Willis matching up against the gleefully hideous Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl).

Rodriguez is one of the pioneers of digital filmmaking, and SIN CITY benefits from the format, allowing for stylized sets and camera tricks that would have looked terrible on film. This is the year’s most striking film to watch. Rodriguez pushed himself, and made the best film of his career so far.

9. 2046
I’ve written so much about this film already, I can’t think of anything new to say. Since this is Humby’s favorite film of 2005, I’ll borrow from his review:
“2046 is the most raw and purely emotional film I have seen in a long time. Beautiful in its pain, it never flinches when looking at the consequence of love. This is a love story, but not one that we are used to watching. It is, however, one that most everyone has experienced... You fall in love, but it ends and you are left alone to pick up the pieces and start over again.

Before you see 2046, I recommend that you go out and rent IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, the unofficial prequel. Here, we meet Chow and experience the love that eventually destroys him. Having seen and loved IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, I came into 2046, knowing and caring about Chow. It is important to understand who he is and what he has gone through, because he is a total bastard here. He is destroyed emotionally, so he inadvertently destroys the women that come into his life. Because Chow can’t get over the events of his past, he cannot achieve the happiness that he so desires. There is no hope that he can see.”

I’d like to add that 2046 is one of the best looking films you will ever see.

Chan-wook Park is the man Part 1. The 2nd film in his revenge trilogy tells the story of a man kidnapped and imprisoned. 15 years later, he’s mysteriously released, and begins to hunt down whoever’s responsible, and find out why. The answer questions the very nature of revenge. Can a punishment truly fit the crime?

Choi Min-sik, in an electrifying performance, runs the gamut from Lee Marvin-like dirty heroics to the spectacular implosion of a broken man. His quest becomes an introspective look at his wasted life up to the moment of his imprisonment.

The diabolically talented Park shows more intelligent flair than most Hollywood directors. He fills the frame with shots that are ingenious, interesting or (at the very least) eye-catching. As a writer, he really, REALLY knows how to give the knife an extra twist.

This is not a film for everyone. OLDBOY is a little on the strange side to be sure, and some of the material ventures into uncomfortable territory. It’s both emotionally charged and coldly manipulative, walking a fine line between entertaining and artistic. David Fincher would be proud to have it on his resume.

What happens when you make a highly entertaining movie for the masses only to have your distributors dump it with a minimal release? (Answer: Prey for DVD sales.) Now I have a lot of entertaining films in my Top 10, but for sheer pleasure this would be my #1. Shane Black, the master of the buddy, action comedy, returned from a long hiatus with a…well a buddy, action comedy. But KKBB is a worthy follow up, a tribute, and a kick in the ass to buddy films, action, comedy, Hollywood, actors, detective movies and everything else he takes aim at. (Except for a terrible pot shot at Drew Barrymore, his script obliterates everything it guns for.)

As a small time crook thrown into the Hollywood scene, Robert Downey Jr. shows how good an actor he can be. He squares off against Val Kilmer’s tough but gay detective and Michelle Monaghan’s sweet but daffy aspiring actress. Handed bulletproof parts, all three of them still bring their own special quirks, making Black’s script even better. (Only in a Shane Black script will characters fight over correct grammer.)

The film is so confident in the moment, it doesn’t even care about it’s spinning top of a plot with characters appearing at just the right time to keep things moving. (Hell, the film even stops 20 minutes in to tell you who the surprise bad guy is going to be.) Shane Black’s movie is in love with the craft of film, and in love with its actors, who sparkle like freshly polished jewelry. Most of all, KISS KISS, BANG BANG in love with the art of wise-ass conversation.

The Warner Brothers marketing team (who also screwed up KKBB) asked America the question, who wants to see a movie about a woman abused by sexual harassment. (The resounding answer was “not me.”) Charlize Theron is not a movie star, but she is an amazing actress. Teaming up with Niki Caro (WHALE RIDER), NORTH COUNTRY is a deeply complex and thoroughly absorbing drama.

The issue here is sexual harassment, and there are some uncomfortable scenes. You can’t avoid that. But there are also a lot of really detailed characters and the dramatic push and pull between them is tensely exciting. Caro does an excellent job of focusing the drama on how the people are effected, not just making an issue picture, but a film about people forced into a crisis situation.

And I see the headlines clearing space for Reese Witherspoon, but Charlize deserves that Oscar if we are truly voting for the Best Performance by an Actress.

On one hand, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE is a particular look at one divorce within one family. But never has a film about divorce so clearly shown the terrible things that happen to a family when a husband and a wife separate. This film can illuminate us all.

I’ve mentioned in previous articles how terrible things happen to the family. I probably haven’t mentioned how these events spring up under the most benign of circumstances. This isn’t a vicious look at divorce a la CLOSER. The cringe moments always appear under a blanket of calm, but their unmistakable. The beautiful screenplay always finds the most simple and effective way to explain what’s happening.

The small ensemble (including Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) contribute their finest performances and the final moment is quietly heartbreaking.

Yeah, that’s right. Why is it that every Top 10 is expected to contain only prestige pictures? I made my list of the year’s 10 Best and the newest HARRY POTTER is the 4th best movie to come out of 2005. Besides the return of a bunch of people whose company I haven’t grown tired of yet, GOBLET OF FIRE had some new faces (in particular Brendan Gleeson’s “Mad Eye” Moody), the Tri-Wizard Tournament, dragons, and a much better sense of humor.

Most importantly, GOBLET OF FIRE gave us the first appearance of Lord Voldemort, and it did not disappoint. Played by Ralph Fiennes in some wonderful make-up, Voldemort lived up completely to three films worth of hype.

GOBLET also showed our three heroes entering their awkward adolescence, with the age-old question of “Who will you take to the ball?” (Hermione’s lashing of Ron is a surprising little face-slapper.) The entire cast hums along in their parts nicely, just in time for evil to shake things up. Dark times lie ahead for Harry, but this chapter in the saga is the most nimble adventure yet.

Chan-wook Park is the man Part 2. After the success of his first feature, Park was given the freedom to make whatever he wanted. He delivered this tale of kidnapping, desperate people pushed outside their morality and sour, sour revenge. Some people were turned off by the film’s subject matter. It’s an extreme movie to be sure, but its point is not to sicken you, but to show that violence solves nothing. Unfortunately, in some cases, it’s the only choice we have.

The film follows two intersecting revenge plots, methodically taking you step-by-step down the dark tunnel. The film is fairly pessimistic at the start, and only grows more savage towards the end. The violence is well-shot, but never stylized to look cool. Park’s control over the material is hard to shake, and impossible to look away.

A rare and special picture that had a lot to say, said it very well, and wasn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers. The film was very successful through word of mouth, and viewers are still arguing the issues about race that CRASH brings up. You can pick your moments (and I keep doing it with each article I write), but where else will you find a movie where a rap star rails against rap music and Sandra Bullock will startle you with a great moment of anger.
CRASH sets its sights on racism and how it infiltrates every part of our lives. The story is an Urban Fairy Tale (set in L.A. but it could be anywhere) where characters collide, only to meet again in scenes of astonishing impact. Especially today, we let our fear get the better of us and use racism as both a defense mechanism and a weapon. It makes no difference what color we are.

God bless the great Don Cheadle. Through his involvement, a stellar cast was assembled, and everybody does some of their best work. Cheadle himself, opted for one of the film’s less showy roles, not that there are any small parts in CRASH. Even Tony Danza excels as a squirmy television producer. I hope when the Oscar tornado blows through, CRASH walks away with an armful.

BATMAN BEGINS is not simply a fresh origin story for the Dark Knight. The film goes back to the beginning and irradicates everything we’ve seen before about Batman, as if to say “here’s how it REALLY happened.” The brilliant screenplay creates a logical reason for millionaire Bruce Wayne to dress up in a bat costume and chase down the criminals of Gotham City. It all makes sense.

Unlike THE HULK or KING KONG, BATMAN BEGINS is so gripping right from the start, we don’t wait impatiently for Batman to appear. There’s plenty to chew on just building the intricate population of Gotham, and following Wayne (expertly played by Christian Bale, the best Batman there ever was) on his journey of personal discovery.
Bale is surrounded by classy actors the caliber of Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. (While Katie Holmes is easily the weakest link in the cast, she’s not nearly as bad as you may have heard.) Cillian Murphy makes a great bad guy (one of several), but he never upstages the journey of Bruce Wayne.

While it’s based on one of the most well-know comic books ever written, the film feels more like an adaptation of a great novel. It’s denser, darker and smarter than any other film in its genre. BATMAN BEGINS could point in a new direction for comic book movies, if you can find another cast and crew as superlative as the one assembled for BATMAN BEGINS, the best film of 2005.


Blogger Marian The said...

Yes! Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of the most overlooked movies of the year, and by far my favorite.

3:15 PM  

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