Over on Roommate Mark's blog, he's running one of his Best Picture Expansion Projects on the 2005 Oscar Race. That year's lineup:
Good Night and Good Luck
In addition to those, Mark added Transamerica, A History of Violence, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, and The 40-Year Old Virgin. You should go read it, it's some good stuff.
Of course, I was right up in the comments with my own list. My feeling since back then has been that 2005 was a weak year for movies, with only Brokeback Mountain (and give or take a Cache) really blowing me away. Even the stuff I very much liked, that was in my Top 10 even -- The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Goodnight and Good Luck, Munich, Capote -- were more admired than loved. I haven't seen one of those movies a second time.
But as I was offering my alternate choices, the really good offerings kept popping up. Maybe 2005 was just a bad year for Oscar-style movies. Perhaps my Top 10 needed a second opinion and a broader glance at the film landscape that year. (That's kind of my point in posting this. Rather than a glimpse up my own ass, I'm saying that oftentimes we get lost evaluating the year's best movies by only considering awards-style movies, as if they were a genre. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.)
So here's what my list did look like:
BEST MOVIES OF 2005:
1. Brokeback Mountain
3. The Constant Gardener
5. A History of Violence
6. Good Night and Good Luck
7. The Upside of Anger
8. The Squid and the Whale
10. The 40-Year Old Virgin
Now, those top two stay exactly where they are -- they're the cream of that year's crop. And I'm standing by Upside of Anger and 40-Year Old Virgin, both of which have stood the test of time. Munich and A History of Violence have left a strong enough impression on me that I'm standing by them as strong films if not ones I'm scrambling to see again soon. But honestly, Constant Gardener, Good Night..., and Capote have really receded from my mind. And while there was much in The Squid and the Whale that I loved (Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels, for the most part), it had been built up far too much before I watched it and I was underwhelmed.
So how can I fill those four slots more creatively?
Junebug: Great, kind-hearted indie comedy. Just as bouyed by a strong supporting actress performance as The Constant Gardener but has proved more enduring as a story.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: It's just this side of too clever-clever, but I think it stays inventive enough to support the smirking attitude.
In Her Shoes: Totally underrated on any number of levels. Remember when Cameron Diaz kept getting great critical notice for playing ugly (Malkovich) or psycho (Vanilla Sky)? But this might be her best performance and nobody noticed because she was playing the typical Cameron Diaz role. And she's not even the best, or second-best, performer. Awesome Toni Collette/Shirley MacLaine work.
Grizzly Man: I tend to let documentaries slip through the cracks when I'm remembering my favorite movies from a given year, and I shouldn't because this movie rocked my shit eight different ways.
*Note: I'm not including The Descent for 2005 because it didn't make its U.S. non-festival premiere until 2006.
Neither one of those movies ended up anywhere close to the Oscar discussion that year (save Amy Adams), and it's too bad, because these are the movies that make me think 2005 had some real hidden gems.
Consider also some strong runners up (Mysterious Skin, Pride and Prejudice, Match Point, Happy Endings), interesting failures (Rent, Jarhead, King Kong), and valuable junk (Constantine, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wedding Crashers, Green Street Hooligans).
Okay, movie fanatic readers of mine. Give me your 2005 re-assessment in the comments.