Friday, February 10, 2006

Crazy John's best of 2005

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Various critics have called 2005 a good year for movies. For me, it was a year of needless remakes, double dipping DVD releases, and overrated art films. Mark asked if I would do a 10 best list for 2005, even if it is already February. There were not many contenders for these ten spots.

1 - GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog)

The most fascinating film of the year was this documentary, which was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Timothy Treadwell lived with grizzly bears for thirteen years and then was killed by one. Was he a naive naturalist, an eccentric egotist, or just plain nuts? This is really a portrait of two unique individuals: Treadwell and director Herzog. "I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony but chaos, hostility, and murder."

2 - 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)

His fans thought this was one of Wong’s best. Non-fans were disappointed. The visuals are gorgeous as always. The character of the Lothario who can only find love in a dream is haunting in a way Wong’s last few films were not. The film played most everywhere else in the world in 2004. I saw it in 2004 via an import DVD (and called it one of the best of 2004). Nonetheless, I am placing this on my 10 best list for 2005; if I have to, I’ll put it on the 2006 list as well.


(Steve Box and Nick Park)

"Beware the Moon!"

4 - SIN CITY (Robert Rodriguez

w/ Frank Miller and

Quentin Tarantino)

After 2046, the most visually striking film of the year and one of the most faithful adaptations of a comicbook(s) to date.

5 - SERENITY (Joss Whedon)

Since I had never seen any of the Firefly TV series, expectations were low. I came away with the most entertaining, best realized, piece of space opera in a long time. Serenity kicks the galactic ass of Star Wars Episode Three.

6 - TRILOGY - THE WEEPING MEADOW (Theo Angelopoulos)

Hated by almost everyone else and clearly not up to the controversial auter’s best, this was my favorite true art (with a capital A) film of the year. I will never forget the sight of the herd of sheep hanging from a tree. The tracking shot through a distressed wedding party, making for a living canvas, is another keeper.

7 - THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (Rob Zombie)

The best nihilistic, completely unredeemable, Southern fried horror film since the 1970s ended and Sid Haig deserves an Oscar. "Why don’t you like clowns? Don’t we make you laugh?"

8 - MILLIONS (Danny Boyle)

Who would have thought that Danny Boyle’s best film would have neither zombies nor heroin addicts in it? Instead, the focus is on two British kids who lost a mother and ended up with millions in pounds just weeks before the country’s conversion to the euro. Cheers to Boyle for consistently wrestling with ideas and keeping a dark edge throughout, no matter how whimsical the film becomes.

9 - BROKEN FLOWERS (Jim Jarmusch)

For Bill Murray. . . and the best Vladimir Nabokov reference in some time.

10 - NO DIRECTION HOME - BOB DYLAN (Martin Scorsese)

One of my favorite living directors and one of my favorite musicians meet for an always interesting documentary. Better than either The Last Waltz or Don’t Look Back.

Three art movies, two documentaries, two family oriented movies, a comic book adaptation, an escapist sci-fi fantasy, and a grueling horror film, I will give 2005 credit for its variety of good films. They almost forgive the rest. Here is another list, not the worst films of the year but the most overrated, films that produced indifference (which some might argue is worse than being actively bad).

Crash - Alright, this is a good film.

I liked it. . . but the well-meaning quality was dished up so heavily that I almost choked. John Sayles did it better ten years ago in City of Hope.

Land of the Dead -

It wasn’t bad, but all of us horror fans waited twenty years for that?

Good Night and Good Luck -

David Strathairn captured Murrow and as a history lesson, the film makes its point. So what was with the bizarre decision to have a lengthy secondary plot with the two least interesting characters (Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson)?

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride -

A far cry from A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Star Wars - Episode 3 -

It was better than the last two films, but is that saying much?

Jarhead -

It may not have always been set during the first Gulf War, but I have watched this story many times before.

Me, You, and Everyone We Know -

Annoyingly quirky characters meet and fall in love.

The Constant Gardener - A dull love story and a heavy handed political tract masquerading as a thriller.

The New World -

Lots of pretty pictures and absolutely no drama, the whole Eden of unspoiled nature theme seemed kind-of silly. Sort of like Dances with Wolves all over again (that’s not a good thing).

A History of Violence -

The film I was most excited about turned out to be the one of the most tiresome. The futility of violence was shown much more powerfully back in 2003's Mystic River (a film which just missed my 10 best list that year but which would have been #3 had
it been released in ‘05). As dark thrillers go, the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke was far grittier.

Taken as a whole, these overpraised films, combined with the annoying audiences I saw many of them with (a problem getting worse each year), made me just want to stay home. Here is to 2006 being better!