The Best Films of 2005
Film article by: Witney Seibold
Once again, it’s time for the best part of my job as a film critic: the year-end list. My chance to scour the vast pool of films I saw (I think I saw nearly 200 this year; yipes), and let people know which ones made my life worth living and kept me coming back to the movies. It did take a number of these to offset the terror that was “Son of the Mask:”
Batman Begins: A superhero flick that finally gets to the heart of superhero-dom. One that finally explains both the tragedy and the practicality of being Batman, which never failing to be a wonderful entertainment. I think because director Christopher Nolan actually took the Batman ideology seriously, he was able to exploit the philosophy of the comics, rather than just paying homage to an ICON. See “Superman” for that.
Brokeback Mountain: So much more than gay cowboys eating pudding; a grand emotional love story. Ang Lee has made a romance that moves past the curse of political queer-dom and into to the vast emotional landscape of having to deal with a hidden love. The characters are all real and feel real pain. Rest in Peace, Heath Ledger. You were a fine actor.
El Crimen Ferpcto: A slight Spanish comedy about a man who, after accidentally killing his rival in a department store, is blackmailed by an ugly woman into marriage. It was small and silly, but you know what? I had a very good time watching it. It surpassed any American comedy I saw for sheer fun and entertainment value. It was solid.
Me and You and Everyone We Know: Deals with teenage sex, internet affairs, frustrated artists, and awkward first meetings, and yet is joyous, peaceful, sweet, open-hearted. We all are strange, backward people, and we can all be profoundly happy. What a great film. Each of us, no matter how nihilistic and depressed, still has a shred of hope that we subtly broadcast to the universe at large, hoping, hoping that it will respond. This film shows that, well, sometimes it does.
Millions: An English children’s film that does not make childhood into a colorful idyll, but exists on the real world. Two little boys find a suitcase of money. The lead boy receives advice from real saints (like they appear to him and chat conversationally), and, out of the goodness of his heart, begins distributing money to the poor. Not saccharine, but earthy.
Oldboy: A Korean tragedy on the scale of Titus Andronicus. A man finds himself inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years in a hotel room. When he is freed, now a little bonkers, he must charge about town finding the reason why. The denouement cannot be foreseen, and is more horrible than one can possibly imagine. Visceral, wicked, hurtful, wonderful. Plus there’s a scene where he eats a live squid! Like for real!
Saraband: Ingmar Bergman returns with his final film about a broken family. Bergman, now an old man, has lost none of his sense of observational human ironies, spite, and quest out of the void of loneliness. Not only a great film, but a final celebration of Bergman’s long and illustrious career. Seek it out.
The Squid and the Whale: Divorce, American style. And, more importantly, that most important first stage in becoming adult: the final realization that your parents are not gods, but flawed, human assholes. Hurtful, brutal, frustrating and funny. Jeff Daniels perfectly captures that certain breed of intellectual that is impressive when one is a teenager, but is the kind of boorish knowitall that we’d rather not talk to as adult.
Three good documentaries:
Grizzly Man reveals madness in the face of humanity, and humanity’s folly in thinking it can tame nature, all through the portrait of enthusiastic bear-lover Timothy Treadwell, who visited grizzly bears at an Alaskan reserve over the course of 13 summers and was finally eaten at the end of the 13th.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room reveals not only the minute, often difficult-to-follow details of the Enron scandal, but begins to dissect the problems of the American economic structure in general.
In the Realms of the Unreal reveals the inner mind of a brilliant reclusive madman, Henry Darger, and his 15,000 page epic about a battle between a septet of magical little girls and an army of adult intellectuals. Brings us partway into Darger’s mind, an odd place to inhabit.
Three good animated films
Howl’s Moving Castle: Hayao Miyazaki can do little wrong, and this sprawling magical adventure, while not as good as “Spirited Away,” does a marvelous job of transporting us. I’m just sorry I missed it in Japanese.
Corpse Bride: Tim Burton is in fine form with his second animated film, a gorgeous and wicked little fable about marrying the dead by accident. Tim Burton is at his best when he’s being original, as his best films have been “Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He needs more films like “Corpse Bride.” Tim Burton is probably singlehandedly responsible for the Goth fashion movement, so it was no surprise to see numerous Corpse Brides wandering the West Hollywood parade on Halloween.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: A film more good-natured and sweet there isn’t. Lively British characters, silly situations, and one honking huge bunny. That Wallace and Gromit are not beginning to seem tired is a credit to Nick Park’s creation. They are fresh, and funny, and I can’t wait for their next film.
Oh, and the year wouldn’t be complete without the worst films I saw:
“Doom” (Thank you, Richard)
“The Island” (Thanks again, Richard)
“Dangerous Men” Which was horrible, but oddly brilliant.
“Son of the Mask” Now one of the worst films EVER.
“39 Pounds of Love”
“Asylum” Dull, dull, dull. Despite the presence of Ian McKellan