Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Twenty Oh-Five Revisited

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:

Brokeback Mountain
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:

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Cache
3. The Constant Gardener
4. Munich
5. A History of Violence
6. Good Night and Good Luck
7. The Upside of Anger
8. The Squid and the Whale
9. Capote
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.


Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I'm gonna throw Wong's magnum opus 2046 into the ring, which technically was a 2005 US premiere.

I personally love this, but critical opinion swayed between love and 'meh'. I haven't found anybody that outright hated this movie though, so maybe it deserves a spot up there?

JA said...

Good call on In Her Shoes Joe; I totally agree with you on Cameron in that one. She was swell. Even though I wanted to laugh at her with the whole "I can't read!" schtick - I wanted to laugh so hard - she won me over.

I'm too lazy to exactly sort this list out but my top ten would look something like this I think:

Brokeback Mountain
Grizzly Bear
Mysterious Skin
Oldboy (didn't get released here til '05 according to Ebert)
Me and You and Everyone We Know
The New World

Something like that, I think. Probably.

Vance said...

I pulled out my list from the files and it looked like this:

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
3. Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
5. Junebug
6. A History of Violence
7. Transamerica
8. The Constant Gardener
9. Match Point
10. The 40-Year Old Virgin

Yes, for me, it was the year of the "kids" movie with Harry, Wallace and Charlie taking top spots.

I actually hated Squid and the Whale. It felt like a cliche of every indie movie out there.

The Vegetarian Virgin said...

I just want you to know I appreciate your remembering and celebrating "The Upside of Anger." I LOVE that movie, but either people I know have never heard of it or as in the case of my boyfriend, never heard of it, then hated it after seeing it. I will defend this movie always!

Joe Reid said...

Upside of Anger is still, for me, one of the biggest awards-season fumbles of my lifetime; at least in the acting categories. How do you manage to not get anything for a tour-de-force performance from a thrice-nominated actress in a super-weak Best Actress year OR a comeback "sorry your career crashed and burned for a bit there" Kevin Costner nod in an also-weak Supporting Actor field?

(The answer, by the way, is by not campaigning at all, even a little bit.)

Scott said...

If 2046 counts, I'd say it definitely deserves a spot. I'd go Brokeback Mountain, 2046, Mysterious Skin, Good Night & Good Luck, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (excellent suggestion), Junebug, The Constant Gardner, In Her Shoes, Munich and Constantine. And hey, maybe Constantine should be higher on the list if enjoyment counts.

Roommate Mark said...

Hey Joe --- Good call on The Upside of Anger and Junebug.

At the time, a lot of critics dismissed Upside's ending as contrived, but I thought it made the film really beautiful. Roger Ebert agreed with me, as I remember.