Top Ten 2005 Films

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  • 1) The New World - Britain discovers America, and Malick makes a masterpiece the masses will hate with a passion. This is not pop music; this is a symphony made up of subtle motifs and unhurried movements. Despite its intentions to be an American epic, it, with its fully fleshed characters still operating as symbols launching internal monologues that melt, merge, and intertwine throughout, is closer to Resnais than anything the average American moviegoer can handle or hope to understand. Proof will be seen in the lack of award nominations for Q’orianka Kilcher, who gives a finer performance than Reese Witherspoon dreamed of last year. With narratives rushing and mixing like rivers throughout the country, this runs lyrically through American history without oversimplifying matters or motives; the complexity gained leaves this film richer than most historical narratives. The meditative style is very effective, mixing realistic material with stylized editing to weave a moving web of the realistic and the poetic. No, if you are already scared by Malick’s past work and the film’s two-hour plus running time, or by anything not strictly conforming to the formulas and conventions Hollywood has fed you a steady diet of, or if you are a genre-addict who shuns drama and anything lacking clichéd conventions, you should run from this film as if from a falling sky. If that last sentence hasn’t set you on your heels yet, though, there is a fantastic film waiting for you.

  • 2) King Kong - Most of our culture’s most valued dramas are remakes of a sort; the Greek tragedies were nearly all re-workings of traditional material, much of which was transformed into plays many times before the classic versions we treasure, and of all of Shakespeare’s virtues, his originality of plot is never a highlighted one. Purists may grumble and complain, but our cinema is the closest our civilization has to such a unifying dramatic medium as the classical folks enjoyed; events are dramatized, people across the nation watch, and we often take it for granted that most people we converse with over the age of twenty-five have the Star Wars trilogy or several of the Spielberg constructions as a point of reference. If we roll our eyes at remakes, it is only because Hollywood cynically cranks them out, all too often as camp. Peter Jackson’s King Kong, however, is not this type of product; it is closer to reworking already classic material, and if the special effects are dramatically enhanced in this presentation, so are many of the dramatic elements. The bizarre love story between Naomi Watts and the large ape is epic not only in sheer size, but in emotional impact as well. Kong here surpasses the director’s previous Gollum as an incredibly expressive computer-animated creation. This drama occupies the spotlight, but other interesting strands weave a rich web in the background. Jack Black’s obsessed director notes the dichotomy of our struggle with art, romance, and the other beautiful things we love; too often, we either strangle these valuables or are strangled by them. If we love, we jump, but that guarantees no happy ending. Nearly upstaging the characters in this film is the deliriously delicious attention to detail; Broadway of the 1930 comes to lucid life, and the Empire State Building demands all the awe it commanded in its glory days. Did I mention how thrilling this film is? A protracted segment involving dinosaurs is one of the most riveting, adrenaline-saturated montages captured on film, and the climatic scene will speed your pulse regardless of whether you know how it all ends. On top of the thematic richness many will miss upon viewing this, Jackson’s epic has more popcorn value than any other film of this decade. In fact, while the box office threatens to label this a disappointment, let us fall in awe before this beast. Critics were much too quick to label this director’s Middle Earth trilogy as his masterpiece. This film surpasses that work by quite some degree, at the risk of breathing heresy, I’ll even whisper a more astonishing truth. Peter has pulled off the impossible here; he topped the classic original. If cinematic decades are remembered more for their blockbusters than their art offerings, this ten-year stretch may well be the decade of King Kong; if the public refuses it that title, it will go on to be Jackson’s Vertigo, shunned on release and later worshipped as a missed masterpiece.

  • 3) Heading South - I seem to be one of the few people who enjoyed Time Out rather than leaving the film bored stiff. Still, I wasn’t expected a follow up from director Laurent Cantet nearly this strong. Using a cast of complex, subtly colored characters, this script recalls the best of John Sayles; the penetrating character studies somehow, through a few thoroughly believable twists, end up saying at least as much about an entire society as it does the few people hogging the limelight. Dumb guys should stay far away; nearly all the main characters are women past fifty, and not an explosion goes off anywhere in the film. Smart people, on the other hand, are in for a rare treat - an intelligent, penetrating, and revealing adult movie, one that heralds the full arrival of a previously promising director to boot.

  • 4) Brokeback Mountain - "I'm not queer," Heath Ledger's cowboy whispers during his first romantic encounter with Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist, and that is a key to this film. Neither man is queer in the original sense of the word. They are two normal men who discover they are homosexuals and in love with each other. Ang Lee, whose track record with English-language films has been over-praised, finally finds a story fitting to his style; his wide-angle solemn shots of wild country illustrate Ledger's character and his silent struggle with raging forces within himself. All the public focus is on the "radical" idea of gay cowboys, as if Kenneth Anger never existed, but even more odd is Proulx and Ossana's screenplay refuses to set up any major characters as huge heroes or villains; this story does not deal in such obvious stereotypes. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to prove he is a talent to be reckoned with, giving Jack a sensitive pining soul behind the crazy rodeo spirit of youth. Anne Hathaway does not age very convincingly, even if her acting is fine, but Michelle Williams is terrific in a vital role. Capping this measured, moving study is one of the better final scenes of the year, one that summarizes and amplifies the rest of the film without straining for a false over-cooked climax. Finally, Lee has created an English-language film worthy of the rest of his oeuvre.

  • 5) Pride & Prejudice - Joe Wright had to know he was entering impossibly treacherous waters. The BBC miniseries based on Jane Austen's incredible novel has grown a deserved cult, and to adapt the work of Ms. Austen is to expose one's self to a bizarrely insular group of fans who make the strangest demands upon films based on the novelist's terrific work. No doubt, this situation explains why Mr. Wright frankly directs the hell out of this film. Where that 1995 version was an excellent transfer of the novel to television, this is simply an excellent film, graced with a dancing camera that glides between revealing tableaux, capturing each group of conversations at the perfect, most revealing moment and sliding off to the next. It is an Oscar worthy performance behind the camera, a calling card of a filmmaker of extraordinary talent. When you realize that this waltzing lens also captures terrific performances from a stellar cast that, yes, includes a magical lead turn from Keira Knightley, who never looked lovelier or performed so wonderfully, then you know you are watching magic. Yup, it is a tough fact to fathom, but Joe Wright has created the definitive cinematic version of Pride & Prejudice, one that will both thrill film fans and delight open-minded lovers of the novel.

  • 6) Brick - The idea sounds like another horrible Hollywood high concept destined to run the rails - attempt another neonoir, but meld it with the trendy teen genre by letting the tangled dark doings go down in a southern California high school. Instead of a Frankenstein monster of mishmashed parts, Rian Johnson's mad scientist genre transplantation proves ingeniously exhilarating. After the shock of the jarring juxtaposition, the world of lockers and classrooms proves the perfect setting for a contemporary crime caper, with its polished upper crust dependent on a shady underworld for its kicks, its multi-tiered social system, and its susceptibility to stylized conventions and fast speech. It is an insightful splicing, and it jazzes this well-written mystery with a zippy juice the direction refuses to let go to waste. The ending will surprise no fan of the genre, and on a rare occasion, the attempt to walk the wire between earnestness, tribute, and humorous takes a perilous dip, but this low budget affair deliciously delivers the goods in a truly wired, wild, and witty way. This is bizarre beast is one of the more elusively delightful and exciting films of the decade.

  • 7) Good Night, And Good Luck - I've praised Clooney for some time, and I've entertained pretty high expectations for his future. Any thoughts that he is more interested in stardom than art really should begin to evaporate here. His second film, a black and white drama with little in the way of explosions or sex, takes on politics while covering it in the guise of an exercise in journalism history a la All the President's Men, and he scores. Not every element is perfect here; in particular, a few subplots seem meaningless. Still, David Strathairn will probably join Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the Best Actor category this year, and with great reason. He shows the cracks of worry and anxiety through Murrow's stoic armor with the slightest glance and eyebrow twitch, and the performance is terrific. The choice to only have Joseph McCarthy play himself works very well, and when the political roundhouses come, they are grounding in story and character and thus integral to the fabric of the story. Despite its flaws, this is one great film; it deserves the applause it gained at my local theater.

  • 8) Syriana - I’ve always had a hankering, hunkering hunch that if you take away a few brain cells, that scene with Jennifer Lopez in the trunk of the car in Out of Sight is more George Clooney’s true self than acting. He is a huge, certified star, but one of the few that seems actually to love films as much as fame. This year, he has been a force behind two attempts to revive the classic political thrillers that have not really thrived since the seventies, and if his self-directed Good Night, and Good Luck was an excellent success, the Stephen Gaghan written and directed Syriana is even better. Using Gaghan's template from Traffic, this newer films does an even better job interweaving disparate narratives on different continents that despite distance are tightly interwoven beneath the surface. You have to stay awake, and even then, one or two events do not quite add up, but all the elements combine to create an excellent political thriller that does not sacrifice the thrills for the politics. Conflicting viewpoints fly, and each one is stated with some intelligence and force, leading to a more even-handed treatment of complex issues than you’ll find on an average hour of cable news. Still, blow that all aside; the engrossing story and living characters alone will absorb you, and if Hollywood films are too often made for teenaged boys, this is one smart, adult film I pray finds its intelligent audience. Syriana is one original, impressive film.

  • 9) Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - AJ and I recently discussed how long it has been since an excellent comedy earned critical and commercial acceptance. The answer to that quest is simple now. This is not only the funniest recent animated movie, it is the funniest film in quite some time. The animation is terrific, Nick Park continues to direct his clay figures with more skill behind the camera than most live-action filmmakers, and the endless allusions and puns never wear thin or steal from the originality of the final product. Sorry, Tim Burton; you no longer deserve the Oscar for Best Animated Film. In fact, looking at the year so far, you can probably scratch the word Animated from that statue.

  • 10) Sin City - Any one watching this film after first reading the graphic novels will have no doubt why Frank Miller scored a co-director credit; the books are storyboards for the finished product. That certainly does not take away from Robert Rodriguez’s work; those szme people will also know that transferring Miller’s vision to film is an impossible feat. Sometimes, though, the impossible happens, and in this case, Hollywood has blessed us with this masterpiece of twisted vision, hard luck life, and the gritty individuals who suffer both. The casting, even the choices that at first had me worried, is inspired and precise; Rourke’s career may not get quite the boost Travolta’s did from Pulp Fiction, but if so, it won’t be because the actor faltered here. The screenplay practically lifts its entire body from the excellent source material, and the technology and the artistry to imagine and realize it both soar breathtakingly. Somebody obviously has pictures of the ratings board in compromising positions, as even the darkest, grisliest, and most explicit portions of the original somehow manage that R rating. The result is a joy ride the likes of which we see on screen once or twice every half-decade. I honestly did not realize Rodriguez had this in him. You will think of Pulp Fiction, and this is not quite up to that level of glory, but it is no small praise to state that it is not that far below. Fans will delight in the miracle of seeing the comic live; newbies might run for cover. What can I say? Welcome to Sin City.






  • Honorable Mentions

  • Me and You and Everyone We Know - Todd Solondz’ Happiness is the obvious touchstone for Miranda July’s debut, but July stomps Solondz and wipes the floor with his flawed film. This starts a bit shaky, and the viewer requires a few minutes to make the difficult transitions into July’s slightly skewed world, but her films works so well because of the intimate degree in which it wraps its troubled characters about us. Oh, it is funny, truly funny, not simply hoping to evoke laughter from uneasy shocks but from genuinely humorous material, no matter how disturbing it may be. This winning film indeed did win me over, and while its audience is no doubt a limited one, it should be a quite pleased one.

  • Grizzly Man - What fool would want the responsibility of drawing a line between genius and madness? Werner Herzog constantly studies that divide or, possibly, overlapping territory in his films, but who could have guessed this documentary would be one of his finest studies? I remember reading an article on Yahoo about the life and death of Timothy Treadwell and his unfortunate girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, a day after their death. This film backtracks more than it focuses on that actual death. Herzog tries to understand why a man felt the need to become a bear and cross a line that experience sadly proved we cannot fully leave behind. He makes a strong argument for the aesthetic desire, in Treadwell expressed in his videos, composing part of that urge. He interviews family and friends about Timothy’s early life mired in lack of purpose and drugs, and he examines Treadwell’s desire to not only study but also to join the lives of the Grizzly. Reading over what I so far typed, I see how cerebral this entire exercise sounds, and it is. It is also, however, emotionally involving, almost as much so as any new film I watched so far this year. In the end, this is a rare wonder, an intellectually stimulating film that spurs our deeper feelings, and a documentary that leaves most contemporaries seeming as crass publicity stunts.

  • A History of Violence - If the Coen brothers in their prime decided to remake Hal Hartley's masterpiece, Amateur, the results might well closely resemble this film, Cronenberg's most mainstreamed attempt since The Fly. The odd twist here is that inside this moody, stylized film, the very elements that most Hollywood films handle artificially, namely sex and violence, are represented with stark realism alternately awkward and shocking. As the film examines questions of identity, history, and the banal effectiveness of violence, it resolutely centers the themes around a strong if simple narrative brought to grave life by an exemplary cast. William Hurt will almost certainly nab a supporting nomination for his turn here, but he simply shines brightest in an already luminous constellation of performances. Cronenberg’s risky strategy works, and from the gasps of the large audience watching the film, the realism of the extreme elements did the job intended. It is a triumph, and easily one of Cronenberg’s finest.

  • Munich - Steven Spielberg is doomed to carry a bad rap among the hipsters. This happens to many great artists who create a style so effective it dominates a field. Young aspiring directors (such as ol’ Dawson) claiming him as an idol over, say, Godard, sets eyes rolling to the heavens in split-seconds. We hate it when our friends are successful. His hoard of hacks who spun careers out of emulating him (Why, hello, Chris Columbus!) does not help the situation. It is not fair, of course, especially when in a year where the popular accusation became that he makes films for kids, he released two of his most adult films ever; in fact, Munich may well be his most mature film so far. If he shares the bad rap I mentioned above with Alfred Hitchcock (who certainly had a similar accusation leveled against him by contemporaries at times), he also shares one of the director’s flaws; they both have troubles with ending their films. For the first two hours or so, this film is fantastic. Spielberg has never been so subtle and yet so shocking with his images at the same time. He explores his characters’ psyches without resorting to lame speeches or other poor devices. He builds suspense like a political thriller while at the same time questioning the very premises behind such plots. He creates stunning, unconventional visuals, some even in glass reflections, which will stay with the sensitive viewer for weeks. When he stumbles in the home stretch, it is surprising; the scenes become heavy-handed (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Why have a dramatic breakdown ending in a night in the closet when a simple pan over an empty bedroom into said closet would have been much more appropriate and moving? I know he is new to the territory, but did anybody bother to tell him that the sex scene toward the end starts off well enough but sadly slips into goofiness? And while the flashbacks to the Munich hostage event are excellent, they are as illogically placed as the ones in Ray...
    ) and sloppy. Throughout it all, though, Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is stellar without being flashy, Geoffrey Rush continues to prove he is one of the most versatile actors around, and Eric Bana delivers a performance every bit as worthy of an Oscar nomination as Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash. The final shot, while hardly subtle, clears any doubts a dense person might have about why Spielberg wanted to do this film now; it may be a wallop, but it is an effective one nonetheless. In the end, Munich in one of Spielberg’s best films since the early 80s; it is simply frustrating because with a slightly better ending (and luckily, this one is not nearly as bad as the finale of War of the Worlds), I would not need to put any time qualifier on that statement.

L, I'm glad to hear that you liked it. I know that you and I are sometimes at odds, i.e. you strongly disliking movies that I strongly like, so it's nice to have someone place their mark firmly in the Positive column for this film.

I'm also very happy to hear you dig the film! I think our tastes are often more at odds that we are (which is what I think you meant), but it is nice to see both line up pretty close here, especially on a film that seems to be more polarizing than any other released so far this year.

Any chance we'll see a review from you, or have you already posted one I've missed?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Hmm...L...this may be our biggest disagreement on a movie ever. I gotta say, Revenge of the Sith is probably gonna be my least favorite movie of the year.

Hoever, your review is one of the only ones I've read that helps me understand why anyone liked it. So, I won't hold it against you.

;)

I was quite shocked, as I seem to have liked the first two prequels even less than most folks did. I still wish Lucas had cast somebody other than Hayden in that lead role, however...

I guess I can make it as long as you don't hold it against me. ;) Have I missed your review for the film, or have you not posted one yet?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

No, I haven't yet...but when I do, it will be long and detailed.

Cool; I look forward to it! Perhaps you can sway me; I feel like I shouldn't have liked it as much as I did...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm gonna be the guy who trashes highly acclaimed films again, and I say this alot, but I'm VERY dissapointed in this list, specially since 2005 has been, in my opinion, a VERY good year for seeing films, definitely the best I've seen since i started going to the theatre 4 or 5 years ago... but this list is pretty damn close, as usual, to a list of movies I wasted money on, even if the theatre had only charged me a dime.

Sin city- sucked, robert rodriguez was supposed to redeem himself in my eyes with this one and all the great reviews it got, but hey, maybe I just hate comic books as much or more that RR himself. and I'm curious how a movie got so many TERRIBLE performances, even a few from decent actors, rourke was horrible, owen was horrible, all the women were average at best but most horrible, madsen was horrible(although he's known for it occasionally), even RR managed to get a horrible performance from Willis.

Me and You... I saw this when I was in a very good mood, I told myself that was the only way I was going to see it for obvious reasons, and I was trampled, because it was horrible, I don't know why, I couldn't tell you why I left the theatre unsatisfied, it's like a cookie-cutter quirky romantic comedy where the cookie cutter was taken to with a hammer, usually that seems like it'd help a film, but it only detached it from it's insanely idiotic storyline in my opinion.

War of the Worlds... there is good spielberg and bad spielberg, this was bad, i need not say anymore.

The constant gardiner... only saw because it was at the drive-in on a double-bill with charlie and the chocolate factory, and i took some kids to see that... otherwise I would have rightly refused to see it, let's just say I left after 20 minutes, I just couldn't handle it, and i don't even want to talk about it. it is one of many reasons I have decided never to see a film with rachel weisz in it again, and ralph fiennes is working his way onto that list.

Cinderella man i didn't see, but i'm sure it's at least alright.

star wars was alright, but it's star wars so it's overrated and overhyped, everyone knows that, plus i have friends who are star wars freaks and they completely ruined me liking this film because they were crying at the end, and said it was the greatest film they'd ever seen.

my summer of love I obviously didn't see, i mean its a 'awkward teen coming of age film' about lesbians, bad, don't even need to see it.

I hold my ground that batman begins is possibly the most overrated movie of the all time, ok thats a stretch but definitely of the last decade. I am ashamed that I cracked under pressure and broke my boycott of all serious-toned batman movies... what was I thinking?

Land of the Dead was fantastic and almost makes up for the rest of the list, just by mentioning it.

btw if you'd like to see the only 7 movies I actually enjoyed enough to put on my list of movies seen in 2005, it's only fair you are given a shot to bash mine, if in fact that is how you feel... here it is... My Favorite Films Sorted By Year

Fair nuff! I could mount a defense of each film, but I am not sure that I wouldn't basically be repeating what I wrote in my write-ups above, so I'll spare us all.

I wouldn't put too much weight on the films toward the bottom of my list, however, since a mere three-stars on my scale is enough to make a flick eligible for the big board, and autumn usually washes out many of the lower films.

I enjoyed checking out your list, although I would have enjoyed a few comments even more. I was very disappointed with Broken Flowers, I actively disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I have yet to see Grizzly Man (it is still working its way to Tulsa, but it is on the 'Coming Soon' list), The Devil's Rejects (honestly? I'm not interested...), Hostage (same as Rejects), or Mr. and Mrs. Smith (I'm actually hitting this one tomorrow night with a group of friends).

So I guess we agree somewhat on Land of the Dead. Sly told me about different strokes.

I enjoyed your comments. Thanks!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

yeah, no need to defend, i did read the reviews and those are basically defenses to everything i said anyhow.

well even if you didn't love land of the dead that much... the fact that you saw it and didn't hate it is enough to be a plus in my book...

and i did do a write up on grizzly man right here(no. 20) ... other than that broken flowers I don't really know how to explain, it's one of those movies where you expect more the whole movie, and then bam! you get hit with a brilliant ending... a lot of people hate the ending, so it's very understandable that many are dissapointed, but thats the difference and probably why I loved it so much, the ending.

Hostage isn't for everyone, even if it is a really good one, it's still a bruce willis action movie... Devil's Rejects I would reccomend to anyone, it's not nearly as gory and horrifying and shit like that as the trailers make it out to be, they are advertising it(which hollywood always does) as house of 1000 corpses taken to the next level, but other than the characters it's got really nothing in common. It may be the most mellow, laid back, relaxing horror movie I've ever seen. And the best part, and the major plot, is the story about the sherriff avenging his brothers death, which is really well done... so i guess if 'a sherriff goes out for revenge on the maniacs who killed his brother and are on the run in a really well done laid back, mellow horror(not at all scary or strenuous to watch)' still sounds like something you wouldn't be interested in than that makes sense(and that would be my guess as well), but it's definitely not what the trailers and ads make it out to be.

Shoot! I knew I should've posted this before pretending to do some work. Darn you! Attention Deficit Disorder. You've made my life a living... where are my socks?

I must say that your particular strain of movie mania is infectious. In spite of being a movie booster I doubt that lbangs will administer a shot... and I can't remember the last time he threw a mean movie bash. Every time that I think he disagrees with me he's kind and supportive to a (de)fault. Even when I deserve a knuckle sandwich the worst I get is an aside of wry toast which serves to butter me up. That's not to say that he waffles but he rarely blows his short stack. (There's an omelet joke to be made here but I couldn't do it without breaking some eggs... You have to believe me when I say that I'm sorry.)

So I will say it: While I appreciate your gentle language I would love to hear more about "bad [the Dread] Spielberg." Although anyone who gives Modern Times and Casablanca the same grade as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Fog needs medical attention immediately. Breakfast Served Anytime.

Aloha, mate!

0. Dysseus

yeah well that's me... I guess I just see movies with(dare I say) too much nuetrality when it comes to their place in history, or their classic status. I liked casablanca and modern times, but given the choice of watching them or the last crusade or the fog, it would basically be a toss up... i guess my rating style simply selfish, i don't care about anything except how much I enjoy watching the film, which has different criteria for different movies obviously. but I will agree with you that my movie tastes warrants medical attention when compared to the norm.

bad spielberg is just about everything he's done with a real blockbuster budget, the last great blockbuster he directed was Jaws... that should give you an idea... Duel, jaws, the indy jones stuff, close encounters and to a lesser extent the terminal, saving private ryan, jurrasic park, and are all of spielberg that I can handle without wanting him banned from ever seeing a movie set again(although most times I get the feeling he never does). The funny thing about him is in my mind he's done enough great stuff to warrant my admiration, but everything else puts him in company with robert rodriguez, I mean it's horrible horrible end of the world can't come soon enough shit. his section of the twilight zone movie, amistad, AI, the color purple, 1941, jurrasic park II, empire of the sun, minority report, war of the worlds, hook, always... I mean just a boatload of crap, until I saw Duel I hated the man and thought he was a hack who somehow churned out Jaws. When I say bad spielberg I also mean he's a jackass, one who won't allow the twilight zone movie to be released because his 'friend' vic morrow died during shooting, which makes no sense what so ever, my personal opinion is that he's sore that his section sucks in comparison to the other three which are great. And he personally led the attack to get 'the last shark' banned from the US because, gasp, it was a shark attack movie and apparently those are all too close to jaws to be released.

The acting in Sin City was very, very stylized, which by some standards may mean bad, but considering what the film is trying to do, the performances fit perfectly. You obviously don't like what the film is trying to do, but I'm not sure why you singled out the acting, as it fit the style of the film quite well.

If you didn't like the quirky romantic comedy aspect of Me and You and Everyone We Know, did you feel the same way about its many subplots?

Knowing how you feel about the Lord of the Rings movies, I'm surprised by your Batman Begins comment. The LOTR films were much more praised than Batman, though maybe you don't have as much animosity towards LOTR as I thought, or maybe you hate Batman Begins more than I can fathom.

hey I love stylized acting as much as anyone, but i just hated this style, and i don't care much for comic books or graphic novels, i just think they are stupid(contemporary ones anyway, never delved into the old timers collection).

I was refering to the many subplots, pointless and stupid, which i usually don't mind, but this time done horribly.

the difference between LOTR and batman begins is that although I despise anyone who says the LOTR is a masterpiece trilogy, or anywhere near the top of the greatest movies ever list is incredibly dumb, I did enjoy watching them in theatres, so that counts for something, although watching them now I'm pretty indifferent, Batman begins, on top of being stupid BECAUSE it's a serious batman movie, it also sucks, the first 20 minutes is some of the worst I've seen in the history of movies, how i made it through without leaving after the first 20 minutes is a miracle... as for the rest it didn't get much better.

man you really boosted this up in my eyes with grizzly man(best film of the year) and a history of violence... which i'm seeing tonight and am almost certain I will at least not hate.

As I said above, "I wouldn't put too much weight on the films toward the bottom of my list, however, since a mere three-stars on my scale is enough to make a flick eligible for the big board, and autumn usually washes out many of the lower films."

Consider the autumn floods upon us. :)

I loved Grizzly Man; along with Bright Leaves and Tarnation, it is one of this decade's holy trinity of documentaries. (I find it sad that with the explosion of popularity around documentaries, very unfortunately often along idealogical lines, that these three excellent films are not discussed nearly as much as vastly inferior non-fiction films. Alas.)

As you can tell, I thought Violence was very good. Enjoy!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

yeah with grizzly man out there I feel horrible every time I hear people talk about how amazing march of the penguins is, it made me feel guilty that I even saw both of them the same week. After the fact I felt like I'd been castrated and then paid a billion bucks for my pain, I guess I'm just a sucker for people who are considered 'insane beyond hope' and despise anything dealing with nature for the sake of 'awwww thats cute'... even though the only real similarity is that they are documentaries involving animals in the wild, it's still unfair considering how little grizzly man is even mentioned, for my money it's the greatest documentary I've ever seen or ever will see... I mean I've never walked out after experiencing anything with a stronger feeling of 'i will never (blank) a better (blank)' than I did walking out of grizzly man and I've never wanted my 8 dollars back more than after watching penguins fall down for an hour and a half... if documentaries were my thing, grizzly man would be my bible and penguins the ultimate blasphemy.

Re: 1) Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit [and] 2) Sin City
My admiration for your breathless breadth continues. (witless width?) I'm mostly in agrreement with your (current) top two. I just never thought I'd see anyone say it out loud... it makes me laugh out loud.

Actually, looking at your top 4 [with 3) Me and You and Everyone We Know and 4) Grizzly Man] I can't think of four more quadrametrically opposed films this year. (dia-diametrically?) Very tasty taste.

Thank you, I think.

I assure you my width is more witless than my breadth is breathless. Even worse, my height surely is hiteless.

I have no idea where you are located, but it is a very early Monday morning here in Oklahoma... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Wow, I expected Curse of the Were-Rabbit to be awesome, but you've just raised my hopes even more. I actually tried to see the matinee on the first day it came out, but none of my stupid friends wanted to go. I hope to catch that one real soon.

I was very afraid it would be bitterly disappointing. Sometimes, I love it when I'm wrong...

I literally howled, and the moon wasn't even full.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Cool, King Kong climbs to the to the top of the heap! I'm so happy to read your excellent review, as the critical mixed bag had disheartened me slightly.

Ignore the nay-sayers. This is a rare big screen event that does not disappoint.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thank you for a wonderfully worded review of King Kong . You've called attention to things I remember admiring while watching the film (1930's Broadway, the Empire State Building), but had not thought about after leaving the cinema.

One of my most memorable moments of the film was the death of the one-eyed sailor (Andy Serkis) by those horrifying larval-wormy things. Peter Jackson's experience with horror really enhances his work, as it did with Shelob in Return of the King . In both cases the scenes were gruesome, genuinely scary, and contained some truly stunning special effects. I have a dream that one day a gory horror film will be made with a proper budget, but until that day I will have to content myself with Jackson's few gratuitously horrific scenes.

I agree with your observations; this is one of the few films I feel like I could rattle on about, fill up several pages, and still have plenty left over. I was wowed!

Horror all too often suffers from big budgets, as the low-fi vibe often enhances the creepiness, but a big-money scare flick could certainly work, and when it arrives, I'll be cheering! Let's hope!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Don't get me wrong - I love a good low-budget horror film (how else could I watch Night of the Lepus ?). But yeah, seeing what can happen with big-budget effects is properly exciting.

I also wanted to comment on your observations about re-makes. I think you've got it spot on. It's the cynical re-make done with a view to making some cash off a previous success that irks. Thank god for people like Peter Jackson, who do it as part tribute to the old greats and part attempt to update and enhance. You're right about art having ripped off old stories since the beginning of story-telling. The same goes for music - Mozart was certainly a genius, but many of his themes were blatantly taken from other sources.

Anyway, I won't get into the whole artistic argument of it. Suffice to say I agree with your sentiments, and I love to hear someone defend something I love. Particularly when it's getting (unfairly) slagged off by the press. I think maybe people were just expecting too much after LOTR. I hope people look back and change their minds about this one.

Thank you, and I completely agree that this one is being shrugged off by too many people entirely too easily. A shame.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I often use your reviews as a kind of guide for which movies I'm probably going to see next (not only because I really enjoy reading them, but also because the release of most movies for the heart of darkness where I live, is many months after the US-release). At the moment, I'm looking forward to King Kong and The Constant Gardener (which I'll see this Friday).

Oh, and Spielberg's Munich may be better than I expected. At least, Berardinelli likes it. Oops, but he is a "godawful idiot"... :)

Thank you for the very kind words. I'm not shy about my opinions (and, unfortunately, not always polite, although I suspect Sir B. is far too famous to care), but I promise they are always honest!

As far as Munich goes, I'll let you know - I plan on seeing it tonight!

Again, thanks!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, even if J.B. (Jim Beam?) would care, as a critic he SHOULD know how to handle with opinions.

BTW, Otto von Bismarck said that an opinion is a human being's greatest luxury.

I like that quote; thanks for sharing it.

I wonder, though, if he considers Ben & Jerry's ice cream as a luxury... : )

I do try to be polite most of the time; if said critic ever visited this board, I would re-word that in a flash! I don't wish to hurt anybody's feelings over such slight and subjective matters as taste...

Well, actually, let me think about that last sentence a little bit...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ha, many thanks for your review on Munich. I'm happy to hear that it might be Spielberg's best movie since years, especially because his recent work IMO sucked.

Alas, an official release date for Luxembourg has not been announced yet. :( Well, maybe in 2010...

P.S.: Hmm, if you are interested, take a look at the three cinemas I generally go to (also to get an idea what cinemas look like here around):
1: The first one is pretty shabby. Awful sound quality, and it regularly happens that the film just tears during a screening. Plus there is only one single screening room.
2: The biggest cinema in the country, mainly for blockbusters.
3: My favourite cinema: generally they show movies that attract a rather small audience. That is also where I'm going to see The Constant Gardener tomorrow.

I liked The Constant Gardener. An interesting movie.

It certainly is. I still remember many of the haunting flashbacks informing the story (a much better use of such memories than Ray or Munich managed)...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

King Kong was better than I'd ever have expected.
Still I think the finest film for 2005 I have seen till now is Jarmusch's Broken Flowers which I found G-R-E-A-T. It would top my list of the "10 best films of 2005", if I had one, and if I had already seen 10 movies from this...oops...last year. In fact, I have only seen Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (urgh!), Batman Begins, Wenders' Don't come knocking, The Constant Gardener, Broken Flowers and King Kong.

Oh, and they also showed the trailer for Munich. Unfortunately without a release date, but it's at least that...

Excellent! I'm thrilled you both enjoyed King Kong and may soon get a chance to watch Munich...

I probably should rent Broken Flowers and give it another shot. Like The Squid and the Whale, it was an indie film I expected to love but ended up feeling pretty mellow about.

I haven't seen Don't Come Knocking, but I don't think it has played here, so perhaps it is one I'll have to keep an eye on via Netflix.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I admit that Broken Flowers could be a matter of taste, but Jarmusch is one of those few directors that delight me with anything they do. Along with Scorsese and Cassavetes, of course. Oh, and David Lynch and Woody Allen have made pretty good stuff too. Wow, what an understatement!

As for Don't come Knocking, it is very beautifully done, well acted, but maybe too talkative. I had the same problem with Wings of Desire. Instead of using the great visual power of his film, Wenders prefers endless dialogues. But otherwise a pretty good flick. I think the US-release date is set for 2006.

BTW, if everything goes well, I'll see Good Night, and Good Luck. next week.

Thanks for the photos! I enjoyed them.

And you're certainly welcome for the review. I hope you like the film.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yes sir, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Brokeback Mountain. I was waiting for that (and now I'm waiting for the film's release...).

Thanks for reading it. I hope you like the film as much as I did.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

You've seen quite a bunch of 2005-movies. But I'd be interested to hear which acting performances you'd say are the best.

So far, I'd go with David Strathairn who is terrific in Good Night, and Good Luck. (but unfortunately I think he won't get much credit at the Oscars or anywhere else).
[Edit: Actually it'd be a tie with Bill Murray in my beloved Broken Flowers.]

But I found Adrien Brody in King Kong pretty cool too. Yet that is rather based on my personal sympathies for Mr. Brody and his great acting skills. Ditto for Christopher Lee in Revenge of the Sith (even though his part was so small).

I've seen too many 2005 films! If I get bored, I may actually use these lists to count up how many times I went to the theater last year, but that may be too depressing...

When I voted in IMDB's poll, I gave best acting nods to David Strathairn :) and Ziyi Zhang (for 2046; the poll counted it as a 2005 film). Honestly, though, with the males, it was a tough race between Strathairn, Ledger, and Bana (completely cheated this year), with Hoffman only a few steps behind both. Michelle Williams, Keira Knightley, and Maria Bello also turned in terrific performances. Naomi Watts convinced me in a love story with an ape, and Rachel Weisz was enchanting in The Constant Gardener. (People complaining about the lack of great female performances this year have their head in the sand.) All the roles in this paragraph are leading roles to me, regardless of what category they compete in for Oscars.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

King Kong, what an interesting choice.

Honestly, it shocked me. I did not expect to like it very much. Boy, was I wrong...

Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Great lists and I am so glad you liked New World. I want that movie to do so well. I am a bit of a history buff, so there is some bias. But it seems so smartly written and made. The cinematography looks as beautiful as Days of Heaven's did.

Thank you!

To be honest, I did not really expect to like The New World very much at all, based on the few reactions I heard to the film. A guy leaving the showing before mine was laughing and called it the most boring film he had ever seen. I'm sure he loved the recent Underworld sequel.

Anywho, I was mesmerized and loved the film. I'm currently considering where to put it on my decade list!

The cinematography is amazing, and the sound design is perhaps even better. What can I say? I love it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yes, tomorrow waiting is finally over. I'll see Munich!

Excellent! I await your reactions!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh no. I'm sorry, but I completely forgot about this. So, here briefly what I liked and disliked about Munich:
Positive:
- It is greatly acted [Bana illustrates surprisingly well the changes in his character's mentality]
- Spielberg tries to see the conflict from both sides, and wants to remain neutral, where he mostly succeeds.
- A highly interesting study about paranoia, vengeance, violence, pride, patriotism, etc.
- The film is not focussed on the happenings in Munich 1972, but rather it uses them as a basic point upon which the plot is developed.
- For Spielberg, it is pretty subtle.
- Spielberg succeeds in showing the absurdity of fighting terror by using terror.
- Some scenes are very intense, and thrilling. All are greatly directed.
- Wrong sentimentality is left out.
- It's Spielberg's most ambitious work since Schindler's List (and the first one I have seen in the theatre since 1997.)
- All the characters in the movie are actually shown as victims, and not as killers. They are human beings, which however doesn't justify their deeds.
- You don't forget it easily. It sticks to mind for quite a while. For the first time since Million Dollar Baby, I witnessed absolute silence in the theatre when the end credits started.
Negative:
- Some dialogues appear a little superficial.
- At times, the movie seems unbalanced between character study and the study of terrorism.
- Certain scenes didn't seem to fit. Especially some scenes at the end of the film (alternating between sex scene and the events in Munich. This is really goofy, as you said.).
Conclusion:
All in all, this is IMO Spielberg's best film since many years. I'm glad to have seen it. An important document (not necessarily from a historical point of view, but rather about terrorism) that should be discussed more than it currently is.

Sorry, I wrote now as the thoughts came to my mind. I'll definetly post a review soon, which will however contain the same ideas as explained here.

Thanks! It seems we had very similar reactions to the film!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Hopefully, I'll see The New World this weekend. But it was shredded by Luxemburgish critics...

I believe it. As I noted, I do not think it is a film many will like, but those who do might well love it! I certainly do.

If you go, let us know.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm sorry I didn't appreciate the New World as much as you did. I had different expectations. I watched it with some teenage relatives of mine, and they were somewhat impatient with it.

I think on home video, I would have had more patience with it. I loved the voiceover bits. It's a beautiful movie. I just don't like anyone messing with the American myth.

Oh, by all means, please don't apologize! You don't offend me or do me harm by liking what you like! I'm glad you gave the film a shot.

As I noted, it is one of those films I hardly expect anybody to like as much as I did. You didn't even hear me grumbling about its lack of representation in the Oscar nominations; like Mulholland Dr. before it, I recognize it has an extremely limited appeal.

Although I am still a bit baffled by the lack of public love for King Kong. I thought it was a great film that had crowd-pleaser written all over it!

I appreciate you trying it out, and as always, I love to hear your reactions!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

You're funny :).

I liked King Kong, but bits of it gave me a headache. Maybe I sat too close to the screen :).

What I mean when I apologize, is that I regret I didn't appreciate it more, now that you've pointed out its virtues. I wish I had seen what you saw.

:)

Gee, if I sat too close to the screen during that finale, I think I would develop vertigo!

"Let me off this plane!"

Beside, I think this just makes us even, since I obviously missed the qualities you love about Crash... ;)

I am recovering, however, from the equal ratings you gave The Squid and the Whale and 2046, a film I loved even more than The New World. Ouch! :)

But don't offer no apology, cuz I ain't takin' none...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm not apologizing, just explaining. I think I do not consciously rate relative to other films. I see films like people. Each one is unique, with its own faults and virtues. Almost all of them deserve a chance.

If I use that analogy for my rating system, 5 stars means I would marry you. Four stars is I would date you for a few years. Three stars is a dumping ground for films which left me ambivalent, otherwise known as "just friends." Two stars mean something about you creeped me out, and one star means I'm afraid if I talk to you, I'll end up in pieces in the landfill.

This is not a comment about your post, Rosie, even though it made me laugh.

No, but what about the time indication for the post? Am I blind, or what? How can I reply to a comment that has (officially) not yet been posted, at the time I write this? I'm confused (which reminds me of that weird Terminator-time-travel-discussion some months ago).

Apparently, Jim's system converted your date to his date, if I understand correctly.

How odd. Must have been some kind of hiccup on the server's clock.

That makes sense, and since I often fall for women nobody else thinks twice about, that analogy may be very telling...

Too telling.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

This is the best interpretation of the 5-star rating system yet!

I do consciously rate relative to other films, but I think that's largely a product of the organization of my lists. When I'm trying to figure out what tier to put movies on for a given year, I often look to see which group of movies they fit in with best, in terms of how much I liked them. It gets easier to place movies as I see more from a given year.

That's high praise! Thanks.

I used your technique when I was composing my 99-best list, because each title had to be as good as the others, had to "belong" on the list.

I find myself thinking, on occasion, "this is the best Western I've seen, for the Fifties," or "this is a very good talkie for 1932." I try to keep in mind the historical-cultural context for films, so I guess I'm sort of judging them relative to the other films of the time, but not relative to specific films.