Top 10 Movies of 2005

Number 10.  –  Crash

Other than the Sandra Bullock/Brendan Fraser storyline (which didn’t really go anywhere), this is basically a fantastic series of soap operas. It’s the type of movie where in the beginning of the film you recognize who’s you’re routing for and who you’re against, but towards the end, those role reversed because each of them show their true colors of who they really are. It’s both harsh and heartwarming to see such a film like this. Then you’ll understand why this movie is title “Crash” because of it. Some scenes will bring you to tears, others will leave you shaking, and one made me howl with (highly inappropriate!) laughter. These are all reactions that it’s the film’s goal to provoke as it asks the characters (and the viewer) to confront their prejudices. And sadly, for this (expertly plotted) group of (loosely) connected characters, this is all in a day’s work in contemporary Los Angeles. People say that Robert Altman’s Nashville did this first, and did it better. I’ll watch that one and see. For what it’s worth, after years of thinking Brokeback Mountain might have been ripped off at the Oscars, I can see why Crash won. A very, very good film.

Number 9.  –  Lord of War

A great thing about Lord of War is how the film is complex, well balanced, and is never overly preachey (or preachey period) in a general way or for either side of the issues being displayed here. It shows the difficulty of staying neutral to sell guns to both sides of the war. It resents both sides in a fair and balanced way, and does so in an entertaining and smart manner that blends a strong script, tons of wittiness, sharp direction, great music, intelligence, and lots of creativity. No matter how you feel about guns and genocide, you owe it to yourself to see tyhis film. It is important, touching, stylish, and just a joy to watch. It does the difficult task of blending technique with importance in an accessible fashion. My only real complaint (and the thing keeping it from getting another half star) is that the film just gets a little draggy in the middle from time to time.

Number 8.  –  Serenity

Thanks to the popularity that Firefly gained, we were able to get a finale to show that ended unfinished. Just as good as the television show that preceded it, “Serenity” grasps all the characters you know and love from “Firefly” and gives them all one last time to shine, and boy is it fun! This film offers some awesome action sequences, that obviously would not have been possible on the small-budgeted television show, and the dialogue is just as snappy as ever, while always taking itself serially when it needs to, which is why Joss Whedon is such a good writer. It may not be the best sci-fi flick out there, but it sure as hell is one of the most fun, and the visuals are fun to look at too, because they do the best with what they have. “Serenity” is great entertainment at it’s finest, but just look at who is at the helm. Great way to end the series!

Number 7.  –  Batman Begins

Batman Begins re-established the Batman franchise as something that can deliver the blockbuster goods while also delivering a grounded and human story that connects with everyone. This is not as gothic as Burton’s take on the franchise, but it does a decent job in showing us this “realistic” side of Batman. This is not wall to wall action, but it holds your attention from the get go and the pacing is just right. This is a total revamp of the Batman lore and showed us what Bruce Wayne had to go through in becoming the Dark Knight of Gotham City. Unfortunately, the whole film could have been better if they didn’t make the first half of the film in not only becoming an origin story, but describing every one of the tools that Batman uses. It’s one of those things that ruins the magic & mystery of seeing Batman if you know way too much of him. But I do appreciate that this origin story tells the tale of Bruce Wayne joining  the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul to learn his combat in ways that the movie-going audience never seen before. Add in Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Gary Oldman as Gordon and you have the pieces in place for something special. Katie Holmes is awful that her performance almost ruined the movie. This is one of those superhero movies that spends way too much on the origins and we just wait for the good to come in the sequels.

Number 6.  –  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

A movie that barely anyone has seen, yet it was Robert Downey Jr.’s greatest comeback to movies before he officially became Iron Man. While Downey, Kilmer and Mognahan all deliver spot on, nuanced performances the real star here is director/writer Shane Black who’s knowledge, vision, and insight power this neo-noir past the usual fish-out-of-water detective cliches (Downey as a small town petty burglar and nicest guy in the film posing as an film actor posing as a private detective posing as the narrator of the film in big city L.A. for the first time) into a compliment/indictment of the movie community (like hating the one you love or loving the one you hate or something like that). Well informed and absolutely riotous. The story ceases to make sense or even to matter and I didn’t care. It’s a lovingly cynical film by a cynical guy about a cynical town in that most cynical of film motifs, the noir. I actually don’t think Downey has played any other character but this one since this has been made.

Number 5.  –  A History of Violence

Never in a million years will you ever see that this was based on Vertigo comic book, but even despite the fact that it was a fantastic gangster film. This is, like all Cronenberg’s work, a mythic movie. It occupies the world of “monsters” that Tom Stall’s daughter dreams about at the start. It’s as if we get to see the little girl’s nightmare as the film unfolds. It’s because of this poetic, super-real quality that criticisms from the “this isn’t real life” brigade have no relevance. The screenplay is exceptionally tight and well-woven – no image is wasted. The subplot of the son’s troubles with a school bully parallels the main plot. The very existence of the son is there to show the inheritance – the history – of violence. The sex scenes are there to show the proximity of lust and violence. It’s about the inexhaustible rage of humans. It couldn’t be more relevant, it couldn’t be more timeless. It is well acted and beautifully photographed. I have some minor reservations – did we really need so much of Howard Shore’s music? – but on the whole I think this is a a superb film. Not for the kiddies, however.

Number 4.  –  The Proposition

Western films have always been set in 1800’s wild west of America, but The Proposition shows that any country with a desert like Australia can do the same, in fact, there were cowboys in that country in that era. Not only do I love how refreshing this western feels, but the story and atmosphere was truly breathtaking. Guy Pearce stars as Charlie Burns, one of three notorious outlaw brothers, who has just been caught, along with the youngest and most innocent brother Mickey, by a police captain, played by Ray Winstone. The captain gives Charlie an ultimatum; he can save his younger brother’s life and be set free if he finds his older brother, Arthur Burns the most vicious of them all and played wonderfully by Danny Huston, and kills him. Charlie excepts this offer and makes his way to find his brother. During this time Charlie encounters a bounty hunter, played by John Hurt, as well as an unfortunate encounter with some of the aborigines. Using the Australian outback as a setting is a wonderful choice in terms of the film’s cinematography. The actors are all in top form, particularly Huston, who adds a strange soul to his ruthless outlaw, despite knowing full well that he is as ruthless as people know him. Its very much an ensemble film as well, making use of all of its characters.

1-1Number 3.  –  Star Wars Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith

The Star Wars prequels have been so godawful, but the last film of the series turned out to be a worthy installment to the Star Wars originals. Part of it is because for those who says Empire Strikes Back is their favorite is because they still love the ending where the villain won. We haven’t had a Star Wars film since Empires that brought the victory to the villains we admire to watch. You couldn’t have it any other way in making a bridge to Episode IV: New Hope because it was finally time for Anikin Skywalker to finally become Dearth Vader. In fact, you can even say that previous two films ever existed and just start with this film because it was about time to get it through George Lucas’s head on what film we wanted to see with the Star Wars title on it. For me, since I love Empire Strikes Back so much, I can stay I want to start with Revenge of the Sith and end with Empires Strikes Back because having the villains win is what makes Star Wars different than any other science fiction franchise. The emotional weight of the characters and the Shakespearean tragedies that unfold contribute to George Lucas’ best storytelling to date. Add in some of the best special effects you’ll ever see and some of the best action blockbusters can provide, and you get a masterclass in film-making vision and execution. The occasional clunky dialogue not withstanding (clearly the one deficiency most prevalent by Lucas), there’s little diehards and casual fans won’t love. The acting is the best of the series and all of the little nods and throwbacks to the original trilogy make for a seamless transition to Episode IV. You’ll want to pop it in the player as soon as this is over.

Number 2.  –  The 40 Year-Old Virgin

If you never seen this movie, you might think that this list is a joke, but I assure you that there isn’t a better movie that came out in 2005 than the 40 Year-Old Virgin! Throughout your first experience of this film, you will be rolling on the floor laughing, and watching it a second time, you will be as equally enthralled. It’s the type of movie that will inspire you to become a better person, if not man. If you fell like Andy (Steve Carell) where your life is boring and you need romance to change it, you’ll feel welcomed to this movie. At the same time, if you lost your virginity and have a decent sex life, you’ll still enjoy this film as you’ll rediscover your need of finding the one.  I really like how a film that runs solely on sex jokes can be so damn original. This film is very complex for a comedy, which is a huge payoff in the end, and I was left completely and utterly satisfied. Anyone who complains about this film being bad, must have a problem with the plot or something other than the comedy, because the writing is absolutely gut-splittingly hilarious. The plot is a comedy laugh riot, maybe its just me but it started to have some sweet moments mere the end and I didn’t like that, but its still managed to make me laugh my ass off all the way through. If you have ever been a nerd or didn’t get laid for a long time, this movie will relate to you and you will love it, if you haven’t you will probably laugh even harder because you will enjoy watching the hilarious moments. This is THE movie that made Steve Carrell one of the most inspirational people of the 2000s and it’s just wonderful to watch again and again, unlike most comedies.

Number 1. – Brick

This film is a hard-boiled detective mystery (complete with period slang) which is already cool, but made even cooler by the fact that it is set in contemporary times at an unnamed high school somewhere in California. Awesome.  This film isn’t merely just a nod to a genre though. It stands on its own and is a very compelling and really well made thriller that, if nothing else, could at least get people interested in the stuff that inspired it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is at the center of this tale about an everryman thrust into a situation that quickly sees him in over his head and on very unstable ground as he tries to piece together the truth surrounding a phone call that got him in the mess to begin with. The film has a great sense of style, look, and atmosphere. The material, which involves drugs and murder, is suitably grim, but thankfully there’s some wry humor sprinkled throughout to take the edge of (slightly).  The film seems a bit hard to follow at first, but that’s kinda the fun of it. For those who can’t keep up though, it all gets answered in the end, so there. This might be a sign that the script could have been better at clarifying things, but I prefer to see it as a way of making the viewer engage with it and think, instead of just sitting there. ‘Brick’ is a fluid film that strikes all the right chords. The idea of a noir-type film set in a high school was brilliant to me, and Rian Johnson did not disappoint. The acting is subtle but assured, the music is purposeful and haunting, and the cinematography is awesome for such a small budget. The plot isn’t always easy to follow and some of the dialogue can be confusing, but Johnson handles the whole production with a steady hand.
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