Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Years in Review: 2005

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004]

2005 unfortunately but swiftly boiled itself down to "Crash beat Brokeback Mountain for the Oscar," and you were either cool with that or you were ever so pissed. As passionately as I still feel about that (admittedly kind of inconsequential) decision, I'll certainly express some sadness that it eclipsed a whole year's worth of movie product. It wasn't my favorite of years, but there were some definite high points. I fell for Brokeback Mountain as hard as anyone, but there was plenty else to cozy up next to on those cold mountain nights.

So what else happened in 2005...oh, right, I started this blog! Shit, you guys, we're coming up on five years. I should put a "shopping days" countdown clock in the corner here. Well, somebody might want to buy me something! Anyway, it's funny to look back at the sketchy early Low Res days, back when the blog was supposed to have something to do with books and baseball (...I know). I'm alarmed to remember just how much of a debt this blog's existence owes to Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. Anyway, back then, I was still writing movie columns for a wrestling site, so the film coverage here was somewhat scant. I did do some 10-word movie reviews, which thankfully improved from meager beginnings. (On that forgettable Jennifer Connelly "horror" movie Dark Water: "The stark, sheer terror . . . of apartment hunting in New York.")

So besides my own personal entrè into blogging, the year was also notable for a truly bizarre box-office year, at least in terms of what succeeded. I know we should be used to movies making an assload of money and then vanishing almost completely from our collective imagination, but honestly, these movies were Top 20 hits in '05: Hitch. Chicken Little. Robots. Fun with Dick and Jane. Flightplan. Most of us enjoyed Wedding Crashers, sure, but would you have guessed it topped two bills and pretty much reigns as the top Frat Pack movie of all time?

This was also the year that big movies brought big celebrity scandals with them. Brangelina, for one. Remember when Nicole Kidman was originally set to star in Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Ever think how many things would have gone differently if she hadn't dropped out? And of course this was the summer that War of the World dropped, and Tom Cruise revealed his prodigious crazy. That was seriously the best summer. Every day was something new and Scientology-y and bizarre.

The Year in Tilda Swinton: Busy, busy, busy! In an odd development for such a non-mainstream actress, I found myself much more impressed with Tilda's scene-stealing work in big-budget studio fare Constantine and The Chronicles of Narnia than in the more indie-fied Thumbsucker and Broken Flowers. Truly inspired casting in those first two, particularly Tilda as an androgynous angel Gabriel in Constantine.

The Year in Matt Damon: Good and not-so-good year. Good: Syriana, where George Clooney may have gotten the attention (and the Oscar), but Damon gave the more impressive performance. Not-so-good: The Brothers Grimm, a movie where everything was somewhere on the scale from forgettable to irritating, but for one intriguing performance. That performance was Heath Ledger's.

Best Theater Experience: Let's trade in "best" for "most embarrassing." I don't know what the fuck was going on with me when I sat down in the middle of Christmas shopping to watch The Family Stone, but whatever it was, Diane Keaton's cancer brought it all out of me.

Click below for the best movies of 2005...

My Top 10
1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Cachè
3. Grizzly Man
4. Munich
5. A History of Violence
6. The Upside of Anger
7. Junebug
8. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
9. In Her Shoes
10. The 40-Year Old Virgin

Those top three feel pretty solid, though I've been meaning to rewatch Cachè pretty much since the first time I watched Cachè. And I feel equally sure that, in whatever order, any Top 10 list I make should include the perpetually underrated In Her Shoes, the tiny-budget diamond Junebug, and the still-not-topped The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The problem comes in this giant mass of Important Movies that I found to be good but continue to wrestle with whether they're enough. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the absolute best movie it was ever going to be, executing a tricky balancing act of winking tone and twisty plot. But can I say the same for Munich? A History of Violence? The Constant Gardener? Good Night and Good Luck? Capote? They all have some serious virtues, and some nagging flaws. This week, I prefer Munich. We'll see next week.

Best Director:
David Cronenberg – A History of Violence
Michael Haneke - Cachè
Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain
Werner Herzog – Grizzly Man
Steven Spielberg - Munich

Best Actor:
Robert Downey Jr. - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
Viggo Mortenson – A History of Violence
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
David Strathairn - Good Night and Good Luck

Best Actress:
Joan Allen – The Upside of Anger
Juliette Binoche - Cachè
Toni Collette – In Her Shoes
Kiera Knightley - Pride and Prejudice
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

Best Supporting Actor:
Clifton Collins, Jr. – Capote
Kevin Costner – The Upside of Anger
Jeff Daniels - The Squid and the Whale
Peter Sarsgaard - Jarhead
Donald Sutherland - Pride and Prejudice

Best Supporting Actress:
Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener
Amy Adams - Junebug
Maria Bello – A History of Violence
Laura Linney - The Squid and the Whale
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

Five Films That Have Endured
Mysterious Skin
Sin City
Batman Begins
Happy Endings

Beyond the aforementioned genius casting of Tilda Swinton as Gabriel, Constantine did the Revelation-themed comic-booky actioner thing perfectly. Happy Endings was inconsistent, but the good parts are serious bright spots. The same could be said for Sin City, plus I'm in love with that production design. Mysterious Skin gets to be mentioned every time Joseph Gordon-Levitt climbs another rung up the "Actor of His Generation" ladder, and with good reason. And Batman Begins, despite not really being beloved in any circles, was regardless a tremendously influential reboot.

Five Films I Should See Again
The Constant Gardener
The Squid and the Whale
Green Street Hooligans
King Kong

Here's what The Constant Gardener needs to tell me : whether my immense love for the Rachel Weisz performance was the only reason I loved it. I keep trying to re-watch Kong when it's on TV, but I never make it past the first commercial break. That's a problem. I think back on Capote awfully fondly and am actually more eager to experience the visuals and composition rather than Hoffman's lauded performance. A second look at Green Street Hooligans would help me decide if it's just dumb fun with Charlie Hunnam to look at, or if it's as skilled and overlooked a movie as I recall. As for The Squid and the Whale, I do think it was doomed for me by too much praise before I saw it, but I'm not entirely optimistic a second viewing will lift the fog of misery enough for me to really engage the story.


Kelly said...

THANK YOU for mentioning Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger. I thought that was one of her best, if not the best performances ever.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be such a nit-pick, but as a francophone reader it pains me to see you use the wrong accents on the "e"s in Caché and entré. :S

Joe Reid said...

Ha! Yeah, I knew I was 50/50 to get those wrong.

Roommate Mark said...

I would submit that Transamerica was woefully underrated in 2005. It was on my ten-best list for the year, and I would've given Huffs the Oscar.

Like Kelly, I'm also glad to see you show love for The Upside of Anger, which I really enjoyed.

Scott said...

Your "Endured" list is great. And I really like that you have 7, 8 and 9 in your top 10 since there seems to be a backlash against Junebug, Kiss Kiss came out of nowhere to be brilliant fun, and In Her Shoes is sadly largely forgotten by many.

jessica said...

I agree, Munich was the best of that particular bunch.

Teev said...

Oh, I love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I've seen it on some best of decade lists, which doesn't surprise me since it's great. What's weird, though, is why Shane Black isn't doing anything these days (besides the completely unnecessary Lethal Weapon 5). I guess he has enough money and I know he had withdrawn from movie-making prior to KKBB because he was tired of action blockbusters but why nothing since KKBB? I think he should do a show on HBO or FX or somthing where it would be about the writing and the characters and not the blowing up stuff he says he doesn't like now. Wouldn't it be great if he had a show?