Best and Worst of 2005
I saw a little over 170 movies in 2005 (and it's 180 when you count the 2005 releases that came out in Nashville this year). That's every major release and more. I've seen just about every Oscar nominee (damn you, Transamerica!) and I've definitely seen every terrible flick--those overlap in badness so much, it's a challenge to come up with definitive rankings for them.
The Best of 2005
After the count was done, I saw 32 films out of the total amount that I felt were good experiences overall. Counting down:
32. Good Night, and Good Luck, 31. Red Eye, 30. Wedding Crashers, 29. Hustle & Flow, 28. Hitch, 27. Syriana, 26. Millions, 25. Star Wars Episode III, 24. Broken Flowers, 23. Capote, 22. War of the Worlds, 21. Munich, 20. Kung-Fu Hustle, 19. The Matador, 18. The Squid and the Whale, 17. Jarhead, 16. March of the Penguins, 15. Layer Cake, 14. Sky High, 13. Pride & Prejudice.
12. The New World
Terrence Malick returns with a movie that's not going to get most people excited, but for me, I watched this agape at the beauty of it. Q'Orianka Kilcher, Colin Farrell, and Christian Bale all brought their best to the table for this telling of the founding of Jamestown.
The reason Oldboy doesn't make it into the top 10 might be a ridiculous one, but it's one that bothered me enough--it's a 2003 film that finally made it here in the summer. If I had seen this in 2003, it would have made the top 10 for 2003. As it is, it does qualify as a movie I saw on the big screen this year, finally getting an American release (just in time for this year's remake!), and I decided to include it on the list. Anyway, Chan-wook Park's film is filled with great moments, a fun performance from Min-sik Choi, and an ending you will never forget.
10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Nick Park's signature characters finally got their big movie in 2005, and it was one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year and certainly was the best animated film of the year.
9. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Steve Carrell makes a big jump to leading comic actor in Judd Apatow's very funny comedy that toed the line between sweet and raunchy. He had a great amount of help from Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco as his newfound worker buddies trying to get him laid, and a performance from Catherine Keener that I thought was better than her nominated one in Capote.
8. Walk the Line
Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon do a great justice to Johnny and June Carter Cash in this biopic that was able to shake off the normal conventions of biopics in general. James Mangold's direction is phenomenal, especially when it comes to the music and the bookended Folsom Prison sequence.
7. Batman Begins
The best big-budget movie of the summer was this restructure of the Batman series, Christopher Nolan's "let's forget that any of those other movies happened" entry into the world of comic books. Christian Bale is a kickass Batman. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman fleshed out Bruce Wayne's world nicely.
6. Match Point
Woody Allen blew me out of the water with this thriller, an old Hitchcock-style narrative that winded up making me hold my breath as the spectacular finale unfolds. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in one of the great unsung performances of the year.
The next five movies I probably considered as "Best of the Year" many times in the course of knocking them around in my head. This is the most difficult challenge of the ranking process. I'll give it a shot--it's almost a blindfold dart-throwing exercise, but I'll explain reasons for my choices.
5. King Kong
The night I watched this, and subsequently reviewed it, I considered this the best movie of the year. It's certainly the best big-screen experience of the year, and maybe in some circles that's all that should count. But in later years we're not going to be able to see this on a real big screen, condensed onto video. Luckily, Peter Jackson didn't make a movie of pure spectacle; he put in many human touches that are going to translate well down the road. King Kong's fight with the dinosaurs was the most thrilling experience I had in a theatre this year, and his death was one of the most heartbreaking. It's fifth, and I can deal with that.
4. A History of Violence
Now that I'm at fourth, it's getting even harder. Why only 4th? Well, I was a little put off by the whole William Hurt ending. I have nothing against his performance, he's good, and it's an important element to the story, but it seemed just a bit out of place. Maybe further viewings will prove me wrong. Anyway, David Cronenberg's film might be the best all-around of the year, with nary a misstep on its way to a necessary end. William Hurt gets a nice nomination and all, but this movie and its other performances (Viggo Mortensen, and especially Maria Bello, and how about Ashton Holmes as Viggo's son?) were ignored. Oscar always seems to have one movie that slips through the cracks, and this is just one of them. Read on.
3. Cinderella Man
A movie with the most undeserved "failure" heaped on it--marketing mistakes led to a box office misfire, and although it gained a little bit of steam after its video release, this is a movie that typically would be a surefire, can't-miss Best Picture nominee. It's way freaking better than Capote, or Munich, or Good Night, and Good Luck. Paul Giamatti finally gets recognized after at least two snubs, Russell Crowe turns in one of the most dynamic leading performances of the year and is apparently getting punished further for throwing a phone at a hotel clerk, and some of the best boxing scenes you'll ever see. Why third? Possibly the one-dimensional characterization of Max Baer, played well by Craig Bierko for what it is. That's a tiny flaw, for sure, but it's 3rd, and that's very good.
2. Brokeback Mountain
It always seemed to be a fight between this and King Kong for my number 1 slot, and now that I sit down and examine all of these films carefully, neither make it. Ang Lee's Brokeback certainly isn't a perfect movie, but it has awesome dialogue and just unbelievably great performances from Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and the unrecognized Anne Hathaway. It has a lot of memorable moments. The music by Gustavo Santaolalla is gorgeous and the cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto can be called the same. Really, this is only 2nd because I went back and thought about Crash.
Released in May, Crash had an early position into this slot. I knocked it down several times, but it never got any worse than 5th overall. Now, going back and sort of reacting to how I felt about each and every one of these last 5, I found out that I really liked Crash better than all of them. It is, of course, no knock against any of the other films--like I said, all of them could have ended up here. But how amazing is this film to explore complex racial issues, make each member of a huge ensemble cast memorable, and just be dowright exciting throughout? Tons of quotable dialogue and great moments in Paul Haggis's script, in his directorial debut. This had to have been tough to make, and it's brilliant.
The Worst of 2005
After the count was done, 35 movies vied for the coveted "Worst of the Year." Finding the worst movie out of the bunch is probably harder than finding the best, but I'll give it a go.
148. The Brothers Grimm, 149. Land of the Dead, 150. The Longest Yard, 151. The Dukes of Hazzard, 152. The Family Stone, 153. The Honeymooners, 154. House of Wax, 155. The Cave, 156. Undiscovered, 157. Kids in America, 158. Beauty Shop, 159. The Ring Two, 160. The Fog, 161. Miss Congeniality 2, 162. Are We There Yet?, 163. Boogeyman, 164. Cry Wolf, 165. Venom, 166. Domino, 167. Monster-in-Law, 168. Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, 169. Doom, 170. Elektra
171. The Perfect Man
No one does more emotional damage to her mother than Hilary Duff does to Heather Locklear and potential suitor Chris Noth in any movie I've ever seen. The farcical elements that this movie tries to create are way more disheartening and downright ugly than being anywhere near funny. This movie made me squirm, and as my review states, I was about to disregard this movie as a completely inessential kind of entertainment until the meanness started.
Like Oldboy, this was actually released in 2003. But this one miraculously made it to our shores with a somewhat "big" (to put it lightly) release. So I reserve this spot for the 11th worst film of the year. It is, in actuality, probably the worst-made film of the bunch--bleached out colors, horrible story, terrible acting, no scares whatsoever, and even if it's trying to be funny, it's not. I nearly left the auditorium watching this--if anything was wrong with the print, it wouldn't have been noticed.
173. XXX: State of the Union
One of the many big failures at the box office, this flick had more ludicrous scenes than any other in the year. This movie and Transporter 2 vied for "Most Ridiculous of the Year," but XXX 2 wins with its finale, as Ice Cube tracks down a train in a car that has no tires and is riding down the tracks on its rims, and then is aided by a helicopter in getting onto the train and beating Willem Dafoe.
The big, bloated action picture failure of the summer, at 2 hours, seemed longer than King Kong. There was a whole bunch of unnecessary, mishandled bullshit in this flick. The point at which Jessica Biel's plane crashes behind enemy lines and Josh Lucas has to team with the evil HAL-like airplane, which has learned the error of its ways, to save her, was the most egregious foul of filmmaking in 2005, followed closely by the "shore leave" scene that bloats a movie that could have been an hour and a half of pure ridiculous action over the line into just plain bad.
175. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D
Robert Rodriguez really lost a lot of my respect this year, after the disappointment of Sin City and then especially this hard-on-the-eyes 3-D kiddie flick, in which his young son Racer gets a writing credit. This movie is just wrong in so many ways. The adventure isn't all that fun, George Lopez seems to play every character and wildly overacts, and well, most of the characters are extremely unlikeable.
176. Saw II
The original Saw was OK fun, and I thought maybe the sequel would have been able to avoid the trappings that weighed down the first one. Instead, this hastily-made follow-up actually makes the whole movie moot with one pretty good surprise--but movies aren't just one surprise away from making the whole experience good, just watch The Village. Before this momentous occasion, though, we see a whole bunch of terribly stupid characters trying to make their way out of a puzzle-box house, puzzles that really can't be solved and therefore aren't any fun.
Todd Solondz has made some very funny, if controversial, movies in his day. But they've never been boring, and this is terribly boring. Having the main character played by 8 different people adds nothing. It seems to try to make some sort of statement--but what? Hell if I'll ever know.
178. Son of the Mask
New Line has done a lot of good things since their inception--taking a chance on Lord of the Rings, making different kinds of genre pictures. They're kind of like the Fox TV of the movie world. But they've been horribly inept about just saying "no" to sequels that don't make any sense. Like Dumb and Dumberer, which they decided to do without Jim Carrey and turn it into an unfunny prequel. Well, here's another movie they just couldn't turn down. It's wildly excruciating on the nerves. There's a reason why you make cartoons instead of making them live action. This tries to be a live-action cartoon, and it just sucks.
179. King's Ransom
One of the unfunniest movies ever, filled with a lot of characters you want to hire a hitman for. Some really, really, awful dialogue--some of the worst you'll ever hear, and the real funny thing was, they used those lines in the trailer! Like those were going to get people to watch. Thankfully, they didn't.
Wes Craven made two movies that were on opposite ends of the spectrum this year. This long-delayed horror flick, in which he re-teamed with Kevin Williamson and tried to re-create some of that Scream magic fell with a violent thud when it finally got its release. Imagine if you made a movie about innocent people turning into werewolves, and never turn them into werewolves! The lack of excitement doesn't stop there--we get Jesse Eisenberg howling at dogs and a werewolf who flips the bird, on top of all the other painful crap.
181. Alone in the Dark
This is the Thank God For...Award, the Second Worst film of the year. Uwe Boll is certainly filmdom's worst director going at the moment. He followed up House of the Dead with this ineptly-staged action flick, starring late-night punchlines Christian Slater and Tara Reid. The thing you get with Boll is that complete lack of focus. He'll take you in all sorts of directions like a psychotic school bus driver and never stage an action scene with cohesion or tension. There's a lot of time spent in this movie with scenes that have no bearing on the outcome. And yet, even though Boll has now made my Worst List twice, and Bloodrayne is an early candidate for 2006, he has yet to have made the worst film, in my opinion, of any given year.
182. A Sound of Thunder
Nope, that belongs to Peter Hyams and this absolutely dreadful adaptation of Ray Bradbury's awesome short story. First off, I'm not going to mention them one-by-one, but completely paradoxical time-travel logic reigns supreme in this. Second, production values may be among the worst of any major studio release I've ever seen. Are you scared of a video game dinosaur? Then, just lend those factors to a stupid story, one that doesn't even explain, as Bradbury's story does, why it's even called A Sound of Thunder. It was long delayed, and now we know why, and due to contract considerations, the movie had to be released. There should have been a court order to interfere.
Last year, I included all the other stuff, like memorable moments, most disappointing, most underrated, etc. But that would make this post extremely long and I'll put that in another post later.