Thursday, December 03, 2009

My (and only my) best movies of the decade: The 2005 edition

It's kind of amazing (at least to me) and - depending on how you look at it - perhaps kind of depressing that I've been actually been doing this since 2005, but I still like writing it and I hope at least a few people enjoy reading it.

So I, of course, did a Top 10 for that year at the time, but have decided not to look at it before doing this so that doesn't influence what I'm thinking now.

And before I dive into this, a quick word about two movies that almost made the final 10 but just missed the cut. First, Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain." Just for the record, its absence here has NOTHING at all to do with its subject matter. Lee's movie is indeed both a beautiful piece of work about the agony of hidden love and a great portrait of the American West. And if this list went to 11 or 12, you'd see it below.

Secondly, there are few Saturday afternoon movies I love more than Malcolm D, Lee's "Roll Bounce." Silly? Sure. But I defy you to watch this roller skating flick starring still-somewhat-Lil Bow Wow (yes, really) and not a have a big smile on your face by the end.

And finally, before I get to the main event, here are the other movies that garnered honorable mention for 2005: "Millions," "Oldboy," "Palindromes," "Mysterious Skin," "Howl's Moving Castle," "Broken Flowers," "The Constant Gardener," "Green Street Hooligans," "Wallace and Gromit in the Case of the Were-Rabbit," "Breakfast on Pluto," "Pride and Prejudice," "Walk the Line," "The Boys of Baraka," "King Kong" and "Match Point."

So, without any further delay, here are my 10 favorite movies of 2005. As usual, please feel free to add any you think I may have snubbed, and of course to check back on the first five days of this endeavour, if you missed them.

"Everything is Illuminated"
The only movie written and directed by Liev Schrieber is almost as good as the Jonathan Safran Foer novel it's based on, which tells the story of an American Jew's (in the movie, Elijah Wood - not, as I had typed before being politely corrected by always welcome reader Mad Hatter, Tobey Maguire) quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Nazi leveling of the Ukrainian village of Trachimbrod. With a lot of humor, this flick delivers a mystery of sorts about the past and the power it holds over us, and is just a lot of fun to watch.

"A History of Violence"
Viggo Mortensen makes this David Cronenberg movie, which is indeed a meditation on the debilitating nature of violence and both an extremely violent work in parts itself, work as well as it does. It's that contradiction of seemingly both loving and abhorring violence at the same time that have made Cronenberg's best movies so compelling. Though this one is great, my favorite Cronenberg movie is still "Spider," in which the violence is mostly psychological.

Though it earned a well-deserved Best Picture nomination, all the also well-deserved accolades for Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as Capote really overshadowed just how good Bennett Miller's movie itself is. As brilliantly as Hoffman shines in it, this tale which focuses on the writing of "In Cold Blood" is really much more of an ensemble piece, and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee and even more so Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith (two definite favorites around here) deserve almost as much of the credit.

I have to admit I gave up on "Dollhouse" long before Fox killed it off (and for once, I really don't think Joss Whedon has anything to complain about this time), mostly because though it was indeed smart sci-fi it left out all the fun. His even shorter-lived previous series, "Firefly," and this movie which somehow sprung from it, get the balance much better. Sure, it swipes mercifully from "Star Wars," but the dialogue and the performances of Nathan Fillion and his crew make this space Western close enough to an original to be thoroughly entertaining.

"The Squid and the Whale"
I just have a soft spot for movies about dysfunctional families, and few are quite as miserably so as in this autobiographical debut flick from Noah Baumbach. Heck, I even liked "Margot at the Wedding" quite a bit too, though I think I'm the only person in the world who did. In "The Squid and the Whale," Baumbach deals deftly with many of the same issues that Wes Anderson does with more fancy, specifically how intellectualism can and cannot be a proper replacement for love and engagement with the world. Laura Linney is spectacular here and, for better or worse, this flick unleashed Jesse Eisenberg on the world (I'd say mostly better.)

"Good Night and Good Luck"
I can remember that I somehow managed to be the only person at a matinee of this George Clooney movie, which just made the suffocating feel of it and the sheer terror of Joseph McCarthy even more effective. You're already gonna get me with a valentine to journalism of any kind, and Clooney just imbues this black-and-white flick with a style and pace that make it constantly engaging. Grant Heslov, the co-writer of this movie, directed this year's "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which I found to be a whole lot more satisfying than most critics did.

"Diary of a Mad Black Woman"
I'll make no excuses for including Tyler Perry's feature debut on this list, because it established the formula for most of his movies before it became one. It really does make you laugh, cry and all those other things you hear in that old joke about "Cats," and like his best movies, is just full of humanity and deals with the real issues of life and love with genuine humor.

This flick from directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro follows many of the conventions of the competition documentary but separates itself from the pack when it dives into the off-field lives of its stars, members of a quad rugby team competing to make it to the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. The sport itself, played by men in wheelchairs, is certainly full-contact and sometimes harrowing to watch. You connect with the main players and get a true sense of what their lives are really like, and that's what makes this flick a real winner.

"Hustle & Flow"
I considered calling this post "Come back to us, Craig Brewer," because even though it's buried deep on this list, "Hustle & Flow" was and still is my favorite movie of 2005. Though the music may be different, this is a genuine rock 'n' roll fable that tells the rise (well, sort of) of Djay, a pimp who just wants to be a rap star. On paper it sounds cheesy as it can possibly be, and perhaps it would have been if not for the performance of Terrence Howard as our hero and the extremely strong sense of place that Brewer gives this flick set in grimy Memphis. It's just a movie I've watched more than once every year since it came out and never gets old. And Taraji P. Henson is great as well as Shug, Djay's long-suffering lady who gets to sing the infectious "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" hook.

This little Southern flick probably would have gone mostly unnoticed if it weren't for Amy Adams, which would have been a real shame, because it has a lot to say about family dynamics and the strains that distance put upon them. It teeters perilously close to caricature at several points, but in the end, director Phil Morrison and writer Angus MacLachlan manage to pack this flick with genuinely colorful characters.

And there you have it. Like I said, please feel free to hammer me for any glaring omissions, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.


Nell Minow said...

Outstanding list. You know I share your love for "Roll Bounce" and Tyler Perry. And "Goodnight and Good Luck" will certainly be on my best of the decade list.

Reel Fanatic said...

I wanted badly to put "Roll Bounce" in the Top 10, Nell, but just couldn't bring myself to do it ... I look forward to seeing your final list, which I'm sure won't be as painfully drawn as this ten-installment one already is!

The Mad Hatter said...

Great list...especially glad to see love for EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED and GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. Now that I think about it, this was a pretty darned good year for movies.

Psst... The Collecter in ILLUMINATED was played by Frodo himself, Elijah Woods.

If yer curious, this was my post for '05, with lots of titles in common...

Reel Fanatic said...

ACK ... What an egregious error on my part, Mad Hatter! ... I'm gonna correct it now (and give you credit for calling me out politely on it)

The Mad Hatter said...

Correcting posted errors with grace is an art, glad I could do so and not seem like a know-it-all.

Keep the good stuff coming!

Bob said...

So nice to see love for "Everything Is Illuminated." I can't heap enough praise on that movie. One question: Where's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"?

Reel Fanatic said...

Well, it's not here because, sadly, I haven't seen it, but with your recommendation I'm gonna rectify that very soon

Pride and Prejudice said...

if somebody ask me what is the your best movie of the year 2005 then i will go for the film "Pride and Prejudice". It was brilliant movie of that year.