My Favorite Films of 2005: Not Quite a "Best of"...

I don't watch films the way everyone else does. No two people watch films the same way. Everyone brings to the theatre all of the knowledge and pain and memories and weightiness of their lives, and when they view a film, all of this baggage ricochets around the cargo holds in their brains as they process the imagery before them. Their opinion will depend entirely on their previous life experiences. Some people don't like to think at all when they go to the movies, and would like to deny this behavior, but they are wrong. All forms of art, including film, are dependent upon the understanding and opinion of the observer, and that opinion is formed by the individual's personality, which, in turn, is forged by their life experience. Because of this, no two people agree about everything.

Jen and I don't agree on every film. We agree on a lot of them, but not all, and we sometimes agree but for entirely different reasons. I know that some of my favorite films of the year are hers, too; but not all of them. Since we are unlikely to get her to post a list of her favorite films of the year, this means that you, dear reader, are left with my humble list. You may not agree with all of them, and if you don't, feel free to comment. I will listen to your opinion, as long as it is reasonable, but my list is not changing. Unless I forgot something...

In alphabetical order, since I don't like numbered lists, are my choices:

BATMAN BEGINS - Christian Bale and Christopher Doyle give me renewed hope for the franchise containing my favorite comic book character of all time. And by this, I mean Bat-Mite... Great villains, gloomy and sometimes scary atmospherics, the right Bruce/Batman (finally), and Michael Caine's perfect Alfred sum up the experience: sublime. Still can't buy Katie Holmes as a D.A., unless it means "Dumb Ass," but you can't have everything and she's cute. Comic book movies are supposed to leave you wanting more, but this is a case where it is completely warranted. I am almost literally drooling over the possibilities that this series could yield up on the screen; unfortunately, wrongheaded rumors are driving me crazy almost daily, and I have had to cut off my pipeline of these mumblings. I will simply wait, be patient, and watch this film endlessly for the next three years. Hope the disc holds up...

CAPOTE - Read many of Capote's works growing up; seen Capote in a lot of interviews and a couple of movies, too. Still not prepared for the voice that Phillip Seymour Hoffman brought to the role. (I don't mean his literal "voice", but that is terrific, too; it is far more than mere impersonation.) A mind-blowing, painful performance, but everyone in this film gives one, including Catherine Keener, justly nominated for playing Capote peer and assistant Harper Lee. But Hoffman is the real show, and he proves this throughout, especially in the later prison scenes where his guilt slowly eats away at him.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN - The funniest film of the year, and the second most romantic on my list ( has that title, but only by the narrowest of margins. (Brokeback Mountain is probably the deepest and most painful romance story, and it is very good, but it is not on my list because it has little second viewing power over me.) It seems at first, like the similarly wacky Wedding Crashers, to be just a gross-out guy's movie, but like that other swell comedy, this one is really a romantic comedy in disguise. I just liked this one a bit more than Crashers. Virgin never downplays Steve Carell's geekiness, but neither does it allow him to become the butt of the joke, either. His geek is an engaging, cheer-worthy hero; likewise, a very sexy Catherine Keener plays the hell out of her MILF role. This is the sort of film that could make the world safe for R-rated comedies again.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK - Would have been my favorite film of the year if I hadn't already been entranced by the Cronenberg flick below. I grew up with a tape of Edward R. Murrow's London recordings, and they fascinated me as I listened to them at night before bedtime on countless occasions. (The cadences of his voice still ring as very fresh in my mind.) Having read a couple biographies of the man, and being ashamed of our government's behavior in not just the McCarthy era, and fully agreeing with the ties that director George Clooney is making to our current corrupt administration and gutless news media, I might seem like I am a ready-made target audience for this film. And you would be right on all counts, but you can also throw in that I am a sucker for black-and-white films, too. Guilty as charged.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE - David Cronenberg knocks one of the park, and it's a tape measure shot. That this film is not up for Best Picture, and that D.C. won't be riding home with the Best Director award under his arm are vicious slaps in his face from the Academy. As much as Capote begins with Murder in the Heartland, this film internalizes that concept to the point that the protagonist, played with surface-bubbling intensity by a stellar Viggo Mortensen in the best role he will ever get, doesn't either know, remember or wish to remember that he was once Murder's most adept spokesman. Cronenberg has always been about mankind's evolution into a sleeker, crueler beast; here the New Flesh is grown on the inside, and growling and waiting for its call back to action.

KING KONG - No surprise here. Peter Jackson pulled off the impossible: impossible for anyone else but him, that is... His new Kong will now live happily in my mind next to the 1933 original, not so much as a remake as much as it is a re-visioning. It is not designed to wipe out the memory of its older cousin, but merely to complement it (except for that stupid running down the mountain with the dinosaurs scene). And Naomi Watts? Yet again, robbed of Oscar glory...

SERENITY - This one saddens me, because no one went to it, even with all of the publicity surrounding its revival and release. This is exactly the sort of film that all of the Star Wars geeks have been wanting out of Lucas for the last 20-some years, and the critics loved it almost to unanimous acclaim, and then it shows up... and NO ONE FUCKING GOES TO IT!!! Screw you, American audiences!!! Hope you enjoyed Flightplan in its second week, assholes, because you certainly helped that far lesser movie beat out Serenity on its premiere weekend. I still haven't seen if Serenity has been released in the Pacific Rim areas, because I suspect it will do pretty well there, but the damage is done. The franchise has probably been killed off for good, and if there were a couple of other films to come, they are most likely over now. Serenity is what the original Star Wars would have been if it had made now. So, go ahead and cry that no one makes great sci-fi anymore, because you freakin' missed it...

SIN CITY - Brilliant. Savage. Disgusting. Hilarious. Heartbreaking. Gorgeous. I haven't bought the DVD yet (much like Kill Bill, because I was waiting for a Special Edition, which has now come out for this film but not the Tarantino epic), but when I soon do, I know I am going to watch it about a trillion times over. The acting by the cast is nervy and fun, even Jessica Alba (who is proving to at least be a special effect of her own), and is even better considering just how little the actors had to interact with in filming it. More so than any of the latter Star Wars flicks, this is the film that proves that digital filmmaking can push films in general into exciting new directions. It's not the tools, George, it's how you use them... Robert Rodriguez can make great films, not just fun action films; this film is the proof. And welcome back to Mickey Rourke, whose role of Marv (thanks, Mr. Lowe -- see comments box for proof of my idiocy) went unrewarded by Academic mention. Just another place where they are dead wrong... Kill 'em all, Marv...

WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT - I called The 40 Year Old Virgin the funniest film of the year, which I stand by, but this one sent me into equally dangerous fits of laughter, as well. I haven't seen Howl's Moving Castle yet (a horrible error in timing on my part), but I would give this film the Oscar for Animated Feature simply because Miyazaki already has one (though he should get an Honorary one for each and every film he has ever made). Of course, Nick Park already has three Oscars for animated shorts, so call it a toss-up... just like the bunnies flying about inside the vacuum tube in this film. The film is just too much fun to believe. It's a shame that it will always be labeled a "children's" film... most of the children that I know don't deserve the honor.

That's the list, folks. There are many stragglers that I haven't seen yet, like Broken Flowers, North Country and The Aristocrats, so my list is always up for revision. If there is, you know where to find it. It is only an accident that there are ten films on the list; it could easily hold twenty or more if I felt like sitting here and making it that long. And also if more films deserved it. It's called "The Best Films of the Year 2005" not "All of the Films of the Year 2005". You gotta stop somewhere, but I could add a couple more when all is said and done.

See you at the Oscars...

Comments

Go see Broken Flowers immediately, it was very good. The only complaint I've heard is that Murray's performance is a lot like his work in Lost in Translation, which is true, but in no way a bad thing.

And, not to knock you down in public, but Mickey Rourke played Marv in Sin City, not Frank.
Rik Tod said…
Yeah, that's what I get for writing these things at 5 am sometimes. Brain lock...

Yeah, it's Marv. I had my DVD of Sin City sitting on my desk, and I guess I got Frank Miller's name stuck in my head, and transposed it with Marv's...

Changes forthcoming...

Haven't seen Broken Flowers yet, but it is on my short list. I never said my list is definite for the year, nor actually defined by size, so there are always spots open on it. Also, just because I didn't put a film on the list doesn't mean I didn't like it; it just means that I cut the list off at a certain level of enjoyment or replay value, which is a major part of my excellence list. Some films are terrific, but I don't really need to seem them again, no matter the quality. Brokeback Mountain is just fine as a film, but I don't know if I need to take that journey again; the same applies to Munich. I don't know how the Murray film will work into the list (if it does) until I have seen it. But who knows...

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