so we meet once again as the new year dawns. Time (past time,
really) to pick out the ten movies of the year I enjoyed the most.
And while I've been doing these things for quite a little while now,
this is the first one under the spiffy Jahnke's
Electric Theatre banner. Hey, if Hollywood can celebrate
the biggest Arbor Day weekend opening of an animated non-sequel,
then I can make up my own milestones too.
Incredibly, 2005 turned out to be one of the best years for movies
I've enjoyed in a long while. Ironic that it just happened to
coincide with the dreaded box office slump that you've probably
heard about. Too bad for those who decided to stay home, although
they've got some swell DVD's to look forward to now. For my part,
2005 was one of the rare years where I considered expanding the top
ten list in order to accommodate all the movies I enjoyed. But in
the end, I figured that would be (A) lazy and (B) cheating. Keeping
the list at ten forced me to seriously reflect on what I'd seen over
the past year.
It also turned out to be one of the more contentious years I've seen
lately. I heard dissenting opinions on practically every movie I
loved this year... and more than a few about movies I didn't love
that other folks did. These are my favorite kinds of movies. Sure,
it's fun to talk about movies we can all agree are great. But it's
even more fun to argue about movies we disagree about and chew over
what we either loved or loathed about em.
In the end, the main factor uniting all these disparate titles is
repeatability. These are the movies from 2005 that I've either seen
more than once already or most want to see again in the very near
future. That doesn't necessarily make a movie great, of course, any
more than not wanting to see a movie again makes it bad. I'm not
exactly counting the days until I can watch the brilliant but
draining 8-hour documentary Shoah again, for instance. But in 2005,
it did seem as though the best movies had images, stories, moments
and performances that stayed with you, replaying themselves in your
mind's eye, making you long to see them again for real.
However, while it's cheating to expand the list beyond ten, I'm
perfectly within my rights to add on a rider. So before we get
started, let's take a quick look at 2005's...
Michael Haneke's Caché
weaved an elegant spell of suspense and dread; Tim Burton's remake
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
outdid the original with its eye-popping visuals, great Danny Elfman
score and another bizarro world performance from Johnny Depp; Werner
Herzog's fascinating documentary Grizzly
Man emerged as the most mesmerizing nature doc of the
year; Hustle & Flow
boasted one of the most mesmerizing performances of the year in
Terrence Howard; the documentary Inside
Deep Throat captured the brief era of mainstream porn
chic, telling tales so outlandish they had to be true; the epic
visual essay Los Angeles Plays
Itself made me look at the city I live in with new eyes; Steven
Spielberg's Munich was the
best of his recent mature films and his best movie in
decades, period; Chan-wook Park's Oldboy
had more than a bit of the old ultra-violence and wiped the floor
with every American action movie of the past ten years; Shopgirl,
with a reinvigorated Steve Martin adapting his own novella
beautifully; Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's visually dazzling
Sin City, which my lovely and
talented spousal unit says is the best movie of the year and that
I'm making a huge mistake by leaving it off my list; George Clooney
led a huge cast through the complex global conspiracy thriller Syriana;
Joaquin Phoenix eerily channeled the Man in Black in the Johnny Cash
biopic Walk the Line; and
Australian tourists are menaced by a killer in Wolf
Creek, the scariest horror movie of the year.
Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. And now, without further
ado, may I present my choices for...
The Best Films of 2005
Remember, as always, this is only an exhibition, not a competition.
Please, no wagering.
10. The Aristocrats
From a purely aesthetic, cinematic perspective, this documentary
may be barely competent. But I found it impossible to care about the
on-the-fly camerawork when I was laughing so hard. Paul Provenza and
Penn Jillette took a bar bet of an idea, a movie about 100 or so
comedians telling variations of the same beyond filthy joke, and
turned it into the funniest non-fiction movie you're likely to see.
What can I say? I like to work blue.
9. Batman Begins
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight revamp is the superhero movie I
always wanted to see but never in a million years thought I would.
Dark, brooding and above all, remarkably serious about its
characters. In 1978, Superman
made me believe a man can fly. In 2005, this movie did something
much harder. It made me believe a guy would dress up like a bat just
to beat people up.
Movies about writers usually aren't interesting unless they show
the writer doing anything in the world other than his job. Bennett
Miller's meditation on Truman Capote's research and writing of In
Cold Blood is a brilliant exception. With Philip Seymour
Hoffman giving the performance of a lifetime, Capote
taps into that inner world and shows us the razor's edge that
separates an author and his subject.
7. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Last summer's most pleasant surprise, a raunchy sex comedy that
actually feels like it's about real human beings. Judd Apatow and
Steve Carell created a smart, observant, and sweet comedy that's
much better than any movie with this title has a right to be. Bonus
points for including this year's best end credits sequence. Let the
sun shine in, indeed.
6. Good Night, and Good Luck
David Strathairn commands the screen as Edward R. Murrow in this,
the best of George Clooney's two excellent 2005 films. Does this
tell the whole story behind McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade? Of
course not. It doesn't pretend to. But it does capture the
electricity of live television, the flavor of the period, and most
of all, the importance of a free and vital press. The smoky
black-and-white cinematography also helped to elevate this on the
list, making it one of the best-looking movies of the year.
5. Brokeback Mountain
Love stories are a dime a dozen in Hollywood but Ang Lee's
beautifully told story of love found, expressed, repressed and
denied stands well above the rest. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal
give extraordinary performances, not so much aging on film through
costumes and makeup but maturing, growing into older and possibly
wiser characters before our eyes. Brokeback
Mountain is a heartbreaker of a movie that lodges inside
your consciousness and refuses to let go.
4. El Crimen Perfecto
Although it doesn't seem to help any, I'm just going to keep raving
about Alex de la Iglesia's brilliantly funny, one-of-a-kind movies
until the rest of America catches up. El
Crimen Perfecto is right up there with his most enjoyable
work, a madcap Hitchcockian thriller laced with surreal humor,
vibrant colors, and bouncy, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head music.
I've seen this three times now and each time I'm left with a big
grin on my face. Iglesia's movies are genuine crowd-pleasers, folks.
So where are the crowds?
3. A History of Violence
David Cronenberg's latest sneaks up on you, taking a B-movie (or,
more accurately, comic book) premise and turning it inside out. The
movie invests its time on scenes we're not supposed to see in movies
like this, moments between husband and wife or father and son that
resonate far deeper than any action or suspense setpiece ever could.
Viggo Mortensen delivers a powerhouse performance, matched beat for
beat by Maria Bello. This is great filmmaking from a director that
even non-horror fans must now acknowledge as one of the best working
2. Match Point
Woody Allen pulls up stakes, heads for London, and delivers his
best film since 1992's Husbands and Wives.
It might not look or sound much like what most people expect from a
Woody Allen movie, but long-time fans will immediately recognize
recurring themes that couldn't be handled by anyone else in quite
this way. The movie examines the fine line between ambition and
greed, between love and lust, and between skill and pure dumb luck.
There's not a false note or a misstep in the entire film and a good
sign that Woody Allen's best isn't entirely behind him.
1. Wallace & Gromit: The
Curse of the Were-Rabbit
At their best, animated movies capture more love, care and passion
on film than any other type of feature. Nick Park, Steve Box and the
rest of the folks at Aardman Animations demonstrate that in spades.
With painstaking attention to detail, Aardman brought Wallace and
Gromit from short films to features with wit, style and dignity, a
feat that's eluded just about every other cartoon character from
Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny. The Curse of
the Were-Rabbit was every bit as funny and charming as
I'd hoped it would be, whipping by in a cascade of puns, gags and
visual delights. And when the end credits rolled, I was ready to
pony up another admission and watch it again right that second. I
haven't felt that way about a movie in ages. Mark my words, Wallace
and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is going to be
entertaining children and adults for a long, long time. Long may
Here endeth the top ten list and if you want to go to sleep happy,
thinking only nice thoughts, you'd better stop here. Because you
can't have the good without the bad and that means it's time for...
2005 at The Hell Plaza
These aren't listed according to rank (as in how rank each movie may
have been). Just an alphabetical march of shame. As always, I'd like
to think that I managed to avoid the very worst movies of 2005. Some
of these eight are simply those that let me down the hardest. The
rest... well, they're just bad by any definition.
Dear teenagers of America. Stop going to see horror movies! Your
demographic is causing studios to release a big steaming load of
PG-13 fright flicks. You're ruining my favorite genre and you're
single-handedly causing the proliferation of Unrated
DVD's. Knock it off.
The Brothers Grimm
I've seen worse movies but coming from Terry Gilliam, this was
beyond disappointing. The screenplay was dreadful, the visuals were
uninspired, and the performances... well, let's just say that if
you'd told me after seeing this that Heath Ledger would also be on
my ten best list, I'd have called you a bald-faced liar.
I hated every second of this.
Maybe, just maybe, not everything that works in comic book form is
going to work equally well on film. The FF never seemed like a
logical choice for Hollywood superstardom to me. Of course,
miscasting every single role didn't do the world's greatest comic
magazine any favors.
Hide and Seek
Do you remember when Robert De Niro was a great actor? More
importantly, does he?
If this movie had gotten stuck in my DVD player, I would have
thrown it, my TV, and probably the table they sit on out the window.
My ears are still ringing from this movie's assault on them. But
oddly enough, I can remember none of the songs.
Star Wars Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith
Sorry, all you Jedi-in-training. I tried watching this again on DVD
recently, thinking I must have missed something. Nope. If anything,
it's even worse than I thought it was. If you liked it, more power
to you. But my Star Wars
trilogy can kick your Star Wars
And that, friends n neighbors, is that. As always, I
look forward to your angry, accusatory e-mails explaining why all of
my choices are moronic. I hope you saw more good movies than bad in
2005 and wish you nothing but the best in both life and art in 2006.
To those of you who are regular readers or subscribers to The
Electric Theatre, I'll talk'atcha next week. To the rest,
thanks for stopping by.
"Electric Theatre - Where You See All
the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to
Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"
- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900