Top Ten of 2005 and other bits of love, hate and confusion:
Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2005 (in no order):
My Summer of Love—A movie to swoon over. Writer-director Paul Pavlikovsky films with a style that's both picaresque and rough—like a Dogme film done by photographer David Hamilton. And the beguiling leads, Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt get teenage girls, or rather, overly intelligent, confused, weird teenage girls. And incredibly cute experimental lesbians.
Dear Wendy—I love how borderline insane Lars von Trier has become when dissecting his vision of America and yet, oddly true and fiendishly funny. And if you don’t see the humor in his films (especially his masterpiece Dogville) then you’re really missing out. Dear Wendy (which von Trier scripted, Thomas Vinterberg directed) is another great outsider perspective, looking at America’s love affair with firearms with such fetishistic detail that the movie could win over both a left wing pacifist and a “proud to be an American” patron at a gun show. He’s not simply judging guns—he clearly gets why people like them so much. When the film's kids--"The Dandies" (led by the uber talented Jamie Bell) reveal the names and specifications for their guns, it’s filmed with such wonderful punch (all the songs are by The Zombies) that I became ridiculously giddy. And I love when Bell proclaims that a Glock has no soul. He's right. “Dear Lars von Trier, I love you so much it almost hurts.” How many times can I write "love" for a movie about guns?
Capote—So smooth and precise, the film almost makes one wonder if it’s indeed, “great”--chiefly because it refuses to make a spectacle of itself (a good thing). But thanks to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s take on Truman Capote, what could have felt like an HBO TV movie is enlivened by a brilliant performance that manages to show the range of sadness, exploitation, superficiality, self loathing and genius--sometimes all in one scene.
Old Boy—Old Boy goes over the deep end more than once. And at times you think, why would anyone go to these lengths? But the film isn’t a bit of gritty realism a la Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, it’s a pulpy blast of B-cinema made so artfully you can’t possibly call it B. It just is what it is. Director Park Chan-wook’s kinetic style and way with revenge (also see Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance—which is even better than Old Boy) is stunningly energizing, absurd and deeply sad.
Sin City—Sure, its terribly self conscious neo-noir. And no, it’s not Detour or Out of the Past or Born to Kill or Double Indemnity, it’s something else—a true graphic novel come to cinematic life. Frank Miller’s vision and Robert Rodriquez skills with digital filmmaking recreate the shadow world of Miller's graphic novel with such stunning faithfulness to Miller’s look that it’s bloody gorgeous art. And Mickey Rourke is absolutely sublime.
Grizzly Man— In the words D.K. Holm, Werner Herzog is a “location masochist.” Here he gets to feed off another’s masochism (which makes him a sadist as well) with the story of Timothy Treadwell, a guy who wanted to mutate into a grizzly. Instead he was mutilated. Herzog always paints a compelling portrait, warts and all (and there are some serious warts here) as Grizzly Man showcases the weirdness of a guy who wanted to be some kind of C-list Jane Goodall.
Last Days—Hypnotic, visually stunning and charged with a powerfully somnambulant performance by Michael Pitt (it’s not just all the back of his head here); Last Days becomes more than a film about the tragedy of Kurt Cobain but a meditation on the reality of depression. I don't think I've ever been this mesmerized by a junkie mumbling to himself while fixing cereal but Last Days is so beautiful and weirdly uneasy, that I felt like I could watch this moment for hours. Many moments. And Gus Van Sant has the balls to make real art films—real art films—without coming off as merely precious or pretentious.
A History Of Violence—Violence could be viewed alongside Brokeback Mountain as another aspect to the, uh, uniqueness stirring underneath the Norman Rockwell veneer of of Americana. Never one to simplify his “message,” David Cronenberg’s take on violence is so oddly perverse yet sweet, tense and unrelenting (admit it, you liked it when Viggo Mortenson rips that guy’s nose off) that it leaves one stunned and jumbled. Or, really just feeling like you want to kill someone.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang—A wonderful explication of the tarnished dreams of Hollywood, a loving ode to pulp detective fiction and that other gay movie that depicts a homosexual without sashaying stupidity and cheap jokes, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of the funniest most entertaining and enlivening Hollywood pictures to come out in a long, long time. In his directorial debut screenwriter Shane Black (whom I revere for writing The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight) knocks this one out of the proverbial park with an infectiously jazzy rhythm mingling with the layered yet hilarious leads (Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer as the bad-ass “Gay Perry”). This is the film Get Shorty wanted to be but so, so wasn’t. For those who missed it—What the hell is wrong with you?
King Kong— I’m going to be real mature on this one but, to all those who told me this was a self-indulgent, boring, Peter Jackson nerd fest, “Fuck all y’all!”
The Worst of 2005:
Rent—Whaaaattt? I know it’s a beloved, award winning musical but, one, WHY is it a beloved, award winning musical? And two, how could they make this after Team America: World Police?
Tie: Gus Van Sant, Last Days/Peter Jackson, King Kong
Shane Black, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Heath Ledger—Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress: Tie:
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line/Robin Wright Penn, Nine Lives
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Walk the Line
Most Underappreciated Film:
Tie: The Lords of Dogtown/Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Biggest Guilty Pleasure:
The Skeleton Key
Best Documentary that Should Have Been Released in Theaters:
No Direction Home
Best Newcomer Breakout:
Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt, My Summer of Love
Best Non Newcomer Breakout:
Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow
Mickey Rourke, Sin City
Tie: Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis/Kong, King Kong/ Joaquin Phoneix and Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Vince Vaughn’s “I felt like Jodie Foster in The Accused” scene in The Wedding Crashers
Best Horror Movie:
The Devil’s Rejects (almost made my top ten)
The Longest Yard
Director best emulating cinematic cocaine:
My beloved Tony Scott, Domino
Best Sex Scene:
A History of Violence
Most Touching Moment:
Brokeback Mountain--When Heath Ledger’s tortured gay cowboy responds to lover Jake Gyllenhaal’s postcard with “You bet.”
Worst Age Makeup:
Still an Interesting Actor No Matter How Personally Insane:
Tom Cruise, War of the Worlds
My Favorite DVD Releases:
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
No Direction Home
Val Lewton Box Set
Bringing Up Baby
The Devil’s Rejects Unrated Edition
Night and the City: The Criterion Edition
L'Eclisse: The Criterion Edition
Raging Bull Special Edition
Movies I regretfully missed/didn’t screen in time:
Munich, The New World, Good Night and Good Luck, Murderball, The Best of Youth and Syriana.