My usual speeches to the effect that good movies arestill being made, that mass aidiences are for the mostpart not seeing them, and that the national obsession with which movies won the weekend box office is hurting our understanding of which movies might be actually worth seeing, are all beyond my patience level right now; if you want to read those rants again, check out my previous best-ten lists. They're still relevant. I'm tired.
Nor will I go into my usual length, detailing all themovies I haven't seen. One year I established that I'd missed hundreds. This year the films I missed, and would have liked to consider, include THE SQUID AND THE WHALE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. And, unbelievably, I haven't seen WALK THE LINE. Me, the Johnny Cash nut. Just haven't.
I have seen some films on the following list on cable or video, but they are all 2005 releases.
RED EYE. Thriller of airplane passenger who finds a murderer in the next seat. Most effective when the two are just sitting next to each other, interacting in a Hitchcockian manner, less so when it becomes a standard action movie at the end.
WAR OF THE WORLDS. A nightmarish ground-level view of planetary disaster, marred only by some odd backstory involving the aliens. (And the anticlimax built into the story, which Spielberg does not help.)
THE RING TWO. Ecch. Eccch Ecch ecch ecch.
NORTH COUNTRY: Charlize Theron as put-upon lady coal miner, dealing with ingrained sexism of employers, and co-workers. It stacks its deck, dramatically, to a downright ridiculous degree.
SIN CITY: Visually arresting, this adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels nevertheless failed to work for me. The quality that translated was not the noir kick but the sickly sadism.
SYRIANA: On many, many 10-best lists, this tangled skein of global realpolitik failed for me as well, as I failed to connect with any of its many storylines. I thought Clooney and Alexander Siddig were very good in it, but am not among the film's admirers at all.
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER: Joan Allen as a very angry woman who does not become any easier to deal with as an easy-going ex-ballplayer (Kevin Costner) enters her life. It's a character comedy-drama of the best kind, establishing how much work it takes to get through the skin of some people. Costner, who can be intolerable when he plays icons, here proves again that he's very likeable playing hapless ordinary joes.
SERENITY: Best skiffy of the year.
SPIDER-MAN 2: Astonishing that one superhero movie was better than this.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS: A nature documentary. Very well done, but the best of the year? Come AWN.
THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN: You can skirt the edges of good taste and still be very, very affecting. Very, VERY funny.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13: Not very good at all.
CINDERELLA MAN: A diverting boxing drama, with a good performance by Russell Crowe; downright libelous toward Max Baer. A potboiler, but an entertaining one.
TIM BURTON'S THE CORPSE BRIDE: Also, alas, not very good at all, except visually.
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE: The Harry Potter movies keep getting better and better, even as the stories behind them get darker and darker. I dealt with some relatives who were scandalized that kid movies would *dare* show such things.
IN GOOD COMPANY: An effective, but very, very slight comedy-drama with Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid. Better than you would expect, but that's not saying a hell of a lot.
THE INTERPRETER: Another attempt at Hitchcockian intrigue, this one centered on the U.N. and starring Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman. Both principals are very good, and the movie is diverting enough on the screen,but nothing about it is memorable at all.
KUNG FU HUSTLE: Ha ha ha ha ha! Whoah!
LORD OF WAR: One of two unusual, quirky Nicholas Cage movies this year, this one's about the life and times of a global munitions dealer. Contains this year's absolute best shot, following a bullet from its anufacture, through shipping, to loading, through the orehead of its victim; a black comedy indeed, that ight have been somewhat better had it omitted a ouple of jarring lectures, seemingly inserted because wrter/director Andrew Niccol couldn't think of any etter way to get the information in.
THE WEATHERMAN: The other very good Nicholas Cage performance, as a total jerk who can't quite seem to get his life together. Michael Caine is his more with-it Dad. Best bit involves the Cage character's attempt to help his teen daughter, who has a bad bad case of Camel-Toe.
THE PRODUCERS: Funny.
THREE...EXTREMES. Three asian horror stories, all disturbing in ways that go beyond mere shock.
WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT: Charming. Also slight.
THE HITCHHIKER's GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: Not entirely devoid of worth, but it misses Adams.
KISS KISS BANG BANG: Now this is a rarity: a not very good movie that, on some levels, is downright brilliant. It's a noirish comedy-thriller with some of the wildest, snappiest dialogue since the days of Bogart and Bacall. As a story, it's not all that good. But, ooh, gawd, those *lines*. And they keep coming, faster than you can possibly write them down. Absolutely a rental. most enjoyable if you don't expect much. But those LINES...!
RUNNER'S UP. These are the films it genuinely hurt me to exclude from the top ten.
THE ARISTOCRATS: One filthy joke, told and deconstructed by dozens of comedians. Ranges from very funny to very shocking to very thought-provoking as an examination of the storyteller's art.
BATMAN BEGINS. The best adaptation of the Batman mythos yet seen on screen. Period. No argument accepted. If I had room for one more movie on the top ten, this would be it.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. A modern-day western, David Cronenberg adapting John Wagner's graphic novel about a small-town diner owner (Viggo Mortensen), who shoots spree killers attacking his establishment and finds old enemies come back to haunt him. William Hurt arrives in the last twenty minutes and happily walks away with the movie. If I had room for two more movies on the top ten, this would also make it.
CAPOTE: Philip Seymour Hoffman's uncanny recreation of the IN COLD BLOOD author, here fame-monster and tormented genius. It failed to make the top ten because it's also...agonizingly...slow.
And now, the TOP TEN.
10) MATCH POINT: Woody Allen enters Patricia Highsmith territory in this genteel thriller about a tennis pro who marries into a rich family and finds that maintaining his new lifestyle might require some extreme measures. The best movie Woody Allen has made in twenty years, which is to say, one of the few good movies he's made in twenty years.
9) OLDBOY. An astonishingly over-the-top thriller of madness and vengeance, out of Korea. Not for the faint-hearted.
8) ENRON, THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. This documentary of the cataclysmic fall of the corporate giant sounds like it would be dull. It is not. It is fascinating, infuriating, unbelievable, and sometimes very bitterly funny.
7) MUNICH. Stephen Spielberg's thriller about the Israeli hit squad stalking those responsible for the murder of Olympic Athletes in Berlin stumbles in its final twenty minutes, when the going gets lugubrious.
But before that, it is a political thriller on a par with THE DAY OF THE JACKAL. One of the best films of a career already overflowing with great movies. I want him to make more films like this and fewer JURASSIC PARKs.
6) THE CONSTANT GARDENER. Is it preachy? In that it addresses some real-life problems, yeah. It's also an incredible globe-spanning story of a bereaved husband,searching for the meaning behind the death of the wife he barely knew. A passionate masterpiece.
5) CRASH. One day in L.A., with interlocking storylines, perhaps the most controversial film on this list (as some despise it beyond the telling).Nobody's entirely good and nobody's entirely bad. Some of the twists are jaw-dropping.
4) KING KONG. Nothing beats a giant gorilla (except biplanes). Flawed, but damn if this isn't the love story of the year.
3) DOWNFALL. Bruno Ganz is Hitler in this recreation of the last days of Nazi Berlin. Most disturbing in that it presents a human Hitler -- no less a monster,but understandably a fellow his underlings would like.
2) GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. A fast-moving recreation of the conflict between Joe McCarthy and Edward R. Murrow, best in its recreation of early '50s TV news, and a newsman who made a difference even as he was being groomed for the trash heap of irrelevance.
and the best movie I saw all year...
1) GRIZZLY MAN. Werner Herzog's astonishing documentary on the life and times of the unstable idealist who lived among grizzlies for thirteen years, but returned one too many times; filled with unbelievable, wince-worthy footage of its hero calmly sitting within reach of the predators who would one day consume him. A thriller, of sorts, detailing madness, obsession, and overwhelming beauty.
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