Friday, January 20, 2006

Top Ten Films of 2005

This was something I wanted to do last year, but for whatever reason did not. So I went for it this time around. As far as I’m concerned, this was a fantastic year at the movies. I adore all the stuff in my top 10, and the 10 past that are pretty damn good, too, deserving of inclusion in someone’s list. But The Ten are the kind of movies that remind me why I love movies. I just love ’em. And reply away...what good’s one person proclaiming the best of the year?

HONORABLE MENTIONS – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Good Night, and Good Luck; The Constant Gardener; Shopgirl; Walk the Line; Thumbsucker; Syriana; Jarhead; Sin City

10. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – That’s right, the gay cowboy movie! Only not really. At all. This is a love story, through and through, with all the joy and heartache and tragedy that comes with it. The best description I heard, for those who are nervous, is that it’s a 130-minute movie, and 129 of them are about men not having sex. All are fantastic; it’s just a beautiful, complex, layered film. Heath Ledger gives as good a performance as has been reported.

9. WAR OF THE WORLDS – Spielberg had a great year, in my opinion the best of his career. This is all the awe and wonder of the Spielberg of yesteryear with “Close Encounters” and “E.T.” with all the human drama that redefined him with “Schindler’s List.” It’s much less a summer blockbuster than it is a full-on war movie. Dakota Fanning deserves Best Supporting Actress; she’s incredible.

8. KING KONG – I think I’ve pretty much said everything I could about this. I saw it three times, and every time after the first I thought to myself “Can I really do another three hours?” But it doesn’t take long; by Jack Black’s introduction to the audience, I am hooked full-on. This is entertainment at its finest. Oh, and Kong himself really is the Eighth Wonder of the World.

7. MATCH POINT – Like “Brokeback Mountain,” this probably would’ve rated higher if I hadn’t known so much of what would happen. With “Brokeback,” I predicted most of where it would go, but in spite of that it still moved me and worked so completely for me. With this, I was simply spoiled on it, and had ended up seeing the trailer way too often (a major problem of going to the movies a lot). Maybe on second viewing I could watch it with fresh eyes, but for now it rests comfortably within me as a fantastic film, but one I was unable to be caught up in. Easily Scarlett Johansson’s best work since “Lost in Translation,” and Woody Allen is my pick for the best original screenplay for the year.

6. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE – Existing on one level as an entertaining pulp thriller, and on another as the most complex, introspective film noir since “Memento,” it’s always a great film. It’s a fantastic example of why I don’t believe that longer is necessarily better: it clocked in at a mere 96 minutes, it’s a quick-moving but never rushed, thrilling film. Far as I’m concerned, Viggo Mortensen should take every actor award they give for his introspective, complex performance, and David Cronenberg should be picking up more directing nominations.

5. CINDERELLA MAN – Criminally under seen. Ron Howard's film was a victim of a poor release date, early June, when audiences are looking for thrills and escapes (and rightfully so). Also the title really turned off a lot of people. But even watching it again a few weeks ago, I was deeply moved and inspired. You’d have to go back to the classical era of movies to find a lead character as noble and flat-out good as James J. Braddock. Some might find that kind of goodwill and love cheesy or fake or whatever. I find it inspiring.

4. OLDBOY – If you would’ve told me, back in June, that this would not remain as my favorite movie for the year, I would’ve said you’re crazy. That nothing could ever outdo this. Nothing could be as epic, as heartbreaking, as moving, as original, as tense, or as riveting as this. And yet. Nonetheless, that this is number four is a testament to the final three, because this is a truly incredible piece of filmmaking. It twists and turns and wraps around your brain and dives into your heart, never once feeling forced or making you question the depths to which it plunges.

3. MUNICH – It's rare a filmmaker will come out with two movies in the same year. Even more rare they'd both be as good as these two were. You’d never know watching this that this began production in July of this year. You’d think Spielberg had been working at this for over a year, much of which would’ve been spent editing. And for a two-hour, forty-five minute movie, it moves like a train. I had to go to the bathroom from the start to the finish, but there wasn’t a chance you’d get me out of that seat. I was guessing where my chips and drink were, for I didn’t dare looking away. Most of the cast I was completely unfamiliar with, and they all solidified themselves as true professionals. Eric Bana, a guy I’ve liked even from “The Hulk” and certainly “Troy,” is especially good, lending a true soul, depth, and humanity to a movie that is essentially about revenge.

2. ELIZABETHTOWN – Some will agree with me. Some will wonder how this is even on a top ten list. But even if this were a completely objective look at the year, I couldn’t bring myself to take Cameron Crowe’s latest off, because little time has gone by since that day in mid-October that I haven’t reflected on it. Its soundtrack brings me peace every time I start it up. I’m not crazy about this trend the studios are on of releasing movies on DVD four months after their theatrical release, but I can’t wait to hang out with Drew and Claire again on February 7th. I love this movie as much today as I did when I first saw it (and many of you’ll remember that reaction). That’s rare.

1. THE NEW WORLD – Wow. Wow wow wow WOW. I can usually count on a movie coming out, at least once a year, that moves me in a major way. “Elizabethtown” took care of that for this year. If that was as good as it got, it still would’ve been a fantastic year. But then something like this comes along. One that nearly moves me to tears. One so beautiful, so tragic, so breathtaking, so evocative, and so completely a masterpiece that I sit still for some time as the credits roll. For the runtime of the movie, I’m either on the edge of my seat, desperate to further immerse myself in it, or sitting far back in the chair, floored with each moment. This was an edge-of-the-seat movie. I love movies, but “love” is too small a word to describe how this worked on me. I can’t think of one big enough, and that’s justification enough for me that this is the best of the year. I’ll review it if and when I get up the courage to, and can find the words specifically about it, but until then, I highly recommend seeing it. Terrence Malick isn’t a director for everyone, but he’s definitely for me and he might just be for you.


Ben said...

Now I'm going to have to steal a car to go see The New World as soon as possible. The Thin Red Line is in my top three movies of all time, probably number one. Thanks for the list, I've only seen half of them, so I have some work to do.

Ken said...

Dude, nice list! Here in Ithaca I usually don't even know if movies come out. We're seriously isolated. By the way, what's Oldboy about?

Scott said...

Oldboy...dude gets kidnapped mysteriously, put in a prison (not state-run) for 15 years, and then is mysteriously let out. The rest of the movie is him finding out who did it and why, seeking bloody revenge along the way.

Anonymous said...


Scott said...

Ahhh anonymous comments...I really liked "Crash" the first time I saw it, but the second time through there were some major flaws that seemed so clear. That said, Ebert did name it his number 1 for the year.

X said...

i dunno, i thought "The Island" was pretty damn good. It got bad reviews, but what science fiction movie doesn't? It was a solid peice of fiction that deserves more respect then it was given. It was my personal favorite, alongside Star Wars. But of course who wouldn't expect me to say that?

Rachel said...

i still think "elizabethtown" was too cliche...made me feel good but didn't make me feel anything new...aside form the kick ass soundtrack and the arial shot of portland

Scott said...
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Scott said...
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Scott said...

Not only was "The Island" a pretty bad movie, it wasn't very good sci-fi either. The first forty minutes were solid with even a little original thought, but after that it was purely an action movie, nothing more.

If you want to see an incredible modern sci-fi film, rent "Primer." It came out in '04 with almost no recognition, a damn shame because it's the best sci-fi to come out in awhile, and one of the better films of that year.

And I'll cheer for "Elizabethtown" 'til the day I die. One thing I would say is I don't really rate movies on their originality. I love when something new and different comes along (OLDBOY! NEW WORLD! HISTORY OF VIOLENCE!), but if someone can take all the old tricks I thought didn't work on me anymore and make them really work on me, I love it. Same thing happened with "Cinderella Man," "Walk the Line," and to a certain extent "King Kong," but in that case I knew all those old tricks still worked on me.