Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Top Ten Films of 2005

Happy new year! Don't know about the rest of you, but I have to say 2005, while not a bad year for me personally, pretty much sucked nationally and globally. I really can't think of another year in recent history where so many people died senselessly, whether by an act of God or men who like to play God (incompetently).

So perhaps it's only fitting that 2005 should be a banner year for intelligent, politically minded films with something to say---usually indirectly rather than directly, but no less powerfully for that---about the current state of affairs in Africa, the Middle East, and the American media, and, by extension, throughout the world. But even as 2005 films thought global, they also acted local. It seemed like every other indie or quasi-indie film to get any press was about a maladjusted and/or dispersed family in a small community. There were so many of these I didn't see half of them, and still don't have my Chumsuckers and Thumbscrubbers straightened out. However, at their best ("Junebug" being the exemplar, as the film that slowly crept up on me the more time passed), these smaller-scale features depicted such family dynamics with a nuance and sensitivity that rendered them no less memorable or "significant" than the pictures that took a wider canvas.

So here they are - my top ten films of 2005:

1. 2046
Hauntingly beautiful dream of a film about the emptiness of broken hearts and the persistence of memory; nominal sequel and perfect companion piece to director Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love."

2. JUNEBUG
So quiet you don't realize its depths until some time after viewing. Lovely, truly understated exploration of the silent connections that draw a family and a community together, and keep the outsider out. Funny and sharp-eyed, yet tender and compassionate rather than satirical, not a bit snarky - unlike so many other movies that tackle similar subject matter.

3. SYRIANA
A whip-smart and despair-inducing study of the forces that perpetuate the world's dependence on oil. Those who yammer about the film being liberal propaganda probably didn't understand it. Well, to be fair, it *is* complicated.

4. GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Spare, well-made movie about media courage and integrity in the face of paranoia propaganda masquerading as patriotism. Ring any bells, anyone?

5. BATMAN BEGINS
I know I'm an outlier on this one, but for me it really *was* the perfect myth of superhero origins. What stuck with me wasn't the action sequences (which were fairly mediocre) but the atmosphere of moody, broody intensity that surrounded Batman's genesis, and the icy eyes of Cillian Murphy as the best Batman villain in years.

6. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Ineffably poignant tale of love repressed and denied, it's also a stark depiction of the society that helped suffocate it - a society that, alas, still exists today.

7. CAPOTE
Thoughtful and disturbing examination of the cost of prying open a soul to scoop out its story - and the fundamental mystery of human evil.

8. MUNICH
Taut yet somber story of revenge and its ultimate incompatibility with peace (individual or international); probably the best Hollywood treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we're likely to get in a while.

9. KONTROLL
This Hungarian movie about a ragtag subway crew and the mysterious assailant who terrorizes them is a bit half baked, yet something about it - its subterranean imagery, its vaguely existential and metaphysical vibe, its loopy juxtaposition of angelic and infernal motifs - still lingers with me, long after more fully conceived films have begun to fade.

10. KING KONG
Peter Jackson's latest labor of love may not require quite as much of the viewer's brain as the other movies on this list, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is 187 minutes of pure escapist entertainment. Depends a little too heavily on CGI, but uses it twenty times more fluidly and effectively than any other action/adventure film in recent memory. (Ahem! Paging George Lucas!)

Caveat: I have not yet seen "Caché," "Match Point," "The New World," or "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," and I regrettably missed "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Grizzly Man," among many others, earlier this year.

Footnote: Curious how much dirtier "Chumsucker" sounds than "Chumscrubber," or maybe that's just my inner 14-year-old thinking aloud.

3 Comments:

Blogger echan said...

You need to watch WKW's The Days of Being Wild to round out the 2046/In the Mood for Love thread.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Yeah, movie-wise, you and I would get along a blog, except on Syriana, which is less a movie then a polemic. I'd like some "interesting" with my "movie" please. Jesum Christu, Syriana is interesting in concept, but it should be _fascinating_. It needs to floor people. That it isn't/doesn't is fine, but it doesn't appear to have any other purpose at all. As with sinners, I love the idea but don't love the Stephen Gaghan <- though if we're giving out free blowjobs to guys that make movies that are very liberal, I prefer Andrew Niccols' Lord of War< which is similarly great but much more painful.

10:17 PM  
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1:32 AM  

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