Friday, January 20, 2006

Top 10: 2005

The true test of a film is how it stands up over time - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would certainly jump up a slot or two on my 2004 list at this point. But year-end lists are interesting to me because they stand as a record of where I was at a particular place and time. It was hard whittling down this list (I was certain that The Devil's Rejects would end up on here), but then, difficulty is kind of the point. Along with the titles are the moments when I realized that each film was a great one.

1. Munich - Avner (Eric Bana) breaks down and weeps during a phone call with his infant daughter. More than being a typical tearjerker moment, the scene brings the moral and emotional turmoil of Avner's mission into sharp focus.
2. A History of Violence - From the very first shot, which echoes the opening of Blue Velvet in its cryptic suggestion of darkness hidden beneath a banal surface, A History of Violence is a sustained, tense journey from which Cronenberg never falters.
3. Grizzly Man - Werner Herzog covers his face in horror while listening to the audiotape of self-proclaimed bear expert Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amy Hugenard's last moments. All the gallows humor of the first hour is quickly replaced by Herzog's terrified peek into the abyss.
4. The New World - The sight of Pocohontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) swaying in the wind, repeating the word over and over, is perhaps the most lovely, heartbreaking moment in cinema from 2005. All of Malick's reasons for retelling this familiar story can be found in that moment.
5. King Kong - I wish I could give a highbrow answer for this one, but really, it was the dinosaur fight. Just the pure glee of witnessing a filmmaker make the movie of his dreams - it really shines in the bloody spectacle of Kong curbing a T-Rex.
6. The Squid and the Whale - In the last moments, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) confronts the titular scene that has frightened him since childhood, and in a subtle, slight moment, we see a boy on his way to becoming a man. It's a sweet, funny moment that is characteristic of the entire film.
7. Brokeback Mountain - Many, many great moments. This one deserves the hype. The moment that sealed it for me is the the confused, wounded look on the face of Alma (Michelle Williams) when she accidentally discovers the truth about her husband Ennis (Heath Ledger). More than being a "gay" movie, it's a film about people afraid to speak aloud what they feel; Ang Lee is an expert at such films, and Williams deserves all the credit in the world for perfectly conveying the pain of unrequited love.
8. Last Days - Blake (Michael Pitt) finally performs a song, "Death to Birth." We have watched Blake wander, alone, for over an hour, barely conscious. Suddenly we are reminded that this depressed, strung-out person is also an artist, and the tragedy of Van Sant's version of Kurt Colbain sinks in deep.
9. Broken Flowers - Bill Murray can do more in a gesture than many actors can do with a three-page monologue. As he sits alone on his couch, barely moving, looking at a glass of wine but not drinking it, he speaks volumes about Don Johnston's emotional inertia without saying a word.
10. Sin City - When Marv (Mickey Rourke) finds out that his beloved Goldie was a prostitute, we see Rourke's face register a range of bittersweet emotions. The miracle of Sin City is that it is at first so defiantly one-dimensional, only to transcend its pulpy origins to uncover the emotional truth beneath the surface. It's the kind of moment that, as with all the moments on this list, could only happen at the movies.


Dr. Criddle said...

Hey hey hey!
Jack Criddle here. Very nice list - very nice blog for that matter. My most enjoyable filmgoing experience this year would have to be King Kong. Thanks to Mr. Jackson, for three hours, I was seven years old, and in dinosaur heaven. Sadly, I didn't get around to seeing a lot of the things I wanted to yet, but thanks to the technological wonders of DVD, I should have my definitive Best of 2005 list assembled by around this time in 2020.
This week I am trying to squeeze theatrical screenings of Munich and Brokeback Mountain inbetween the writing of college essays and other obligations. More fun than a barrel of monkeys. I'll talk to ya later.

Max said...

I saw Brokeback Mountain last night - I thought it was very good. Really a visually beautiful film and a very good script with great characterizations, but the Williams audience I saw it with were simply unbearable. They laughed at everything! They've just been conditioned by films like Napoleon Dynamite and Rushmore to laugh at anything dramatic that's heartfelt - somehow every serious dramatic movie turns into a delightful comedy of errors.

Dr. Criddle said...

Hmm, I'll take that into account...maybe it's worth the extra trip to Brattleboro to go see it at the Latchis theater.

Those Williams kids were pretty annoying at The Shining, too, especially the scenes with poor Shelley Duvall running around the hotel looking for Danny. I'll admit she does look kinda funny when she waves her arms around when runs, but c'mon, how would you feel if your husband tried to kill you with an axe? Especially since I'm sitting over there, on the verge of soiling my underpants in sheer terror, and these schmucks won't stop giggling.

Andrew Bemis said...

Yeah, I'm proud to work at Images but also wish the audiences were better. There are also the middle-aged and elderly couples who act like they're entitled to anything and are generally irritated at the prospect of having to think. Ah well, still beats mall audiences.

It is really nice that the Best Picture frontrunner this year is deserving. When it's something middle-of-the-road like Chicago or A Beautiful Mind, it takes a lot of the fun out of the whole thing. I could complain about Munich and the dozen or so other movies that aren't getting enough attention, but I guess that's par for the course.