Monday, January 02, 2006

5 Movies That Mattered in 2005
I'm not one for making lists. Never have been. I don't think it's possible to quantify appreciation. I think it's an exercise in stupidity to attempt to rank greatness in art. Something's either great or it's not. You either love it or you don't. There's not "I love this movie as a 5" or Citizen Kane is slightly better than The Magnificent Ambersons, so it ranks higher on my list.
I personally think the AFI can kiss my ass. Well, so can the Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and every other group that gives awards for movies, music and whatever else they're giving awards for.
I do, however, see a veritable truckload of movies. So, I do know a bit about what I like. For me, five movies defined the year cinematically. I could throw in some other movies, like Good Night, and Good Luck or Syriana or maybe even last year's In Good Company (which I didn't see until January, a week or so after it opened). Hell, I could bring up War of the Worlds (but another Spielberg movie made the list...). But, five is a nice, easy number.
Here they are, in no particular order:

Munich: Probably the best movie I saw all year, but not one of the more fun things to watch (much like the other intensely political films, Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck). In fact, it's a pretty intense downer. Then again, two of the best movies of last year were brutally depressing (Taegukgi and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). They weren't my FAVORITE movies (that would have been the delightful Garden State), but they were amazingly well made and intensely moving.
Munich is all that, and then some. I've long said that I wasn't a fan of Steven Spielberg, but one day he was gonna knock me on my ass.
Steven Spielberg FINALLY has a set of cojones and faith in his audience. He's not only the most talented guy making films on the planet, but now he's showing that he's actually ready to become our Greatest Living Filmmaker.
The movie is tense and gripping and full of amazing performances. And, dammit, it's well made without seeming artificial at all. It doesn't preach its message. It doesn't beat you over the head with contrivances. It's just fantastic.

King Kong: Peter Jackson is just a damn fantastic director. So many of my favorite directors (Jackson, Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg, etc) came out of horror. I enjoy a horror movie as much as any other genre, but it's nice to see people break out of low-budget slasher stuff and make good.
At times, Kong is a bit much. But, it needs to be. It has to fit a sprawling, epic tale into a mere three hours (he had almost 12 hours with the extended versions of Lord of the Rings). The action is large, intense and breathtaking. After the first 40 minutes of story and character development, you don't get a chance to blink. The movie moves with a relentless abandon.
While you're on this wild ride, you're also taken by the simple and heartfelt love stories, between Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow -- and also between Ann and Kong. It helps that Jackson had fantastic actors like Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis in those 3 key roles.
Speaking of Serkis, without actually appearing on screen in the title role, steals the movie. His Kong is exactly what he's supposed to be...the lonesome king of his fantastic island. He's powerful and mighty, yes. But he's also very much alone in the world, and the physicality of Serkis' mo-capped performance conveys it even more than the amazing computer animation.

Serenity: Yeah, Star Wars was fucking great. But the best sci-fi movie of the year was a little movie based on a show that couldn't get a break on Fox. (Fuck Fox. Fuck them up their stupid asses).
The movie contains the best Wolverine moment that'll never see the light of day in an X-Men film. And the irreverent dialogue is some of the best Joss Whedon's ever written.
It was exciting, it was funny and (in spite of two MAJOR surprises for fans of the Firefly show) it was just one of the best damn times I had in the theater all year.

Walk the Line: The music bio-pic seems to be having a resurgence lately, with the average-but-anchored-by-a-remarkable-Jamie-Foxx-performance Ray and this little gem that eschews the full life of Johnny Cash in favor of the part that mattered most to Cash himself: his courtship of his wife, June Carter.
Had I not learned just before the movie came out that Joachim Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon did all their own singing, I'd never have noticed. They might not ape the voices of Cash and Carter perfectly, but they had the mannerisms so damn close you couldn't notice you weren't listening to recordings.
You'd think with all the attention to the music that the script might suffer, but it certainly didn't. They don't sugar coat any of the pertinent events of Cash's life (unlike certain other movies about music artists released this year coughfittycentcough). I enjoyed the movie even more with multiple viewings.

Hustle and Flow: My favorite movie of the year. Really. Also, the best movie I've ever seen about hip hop as a culture and an art form.
The performance of Terrance Howard was just simply the most electric thing I've seen on screen in ages. I've seen him in dozens of things before and never been all that impressed. But let me tell ya, I'm a fan now. Add his performance in Crash to his resume this year (and the possible award buzz for both films), and his future in the business seems pretty damn assured.
His wasn't the only performance that stood out. Both Tarajii Henson and Taryn Manning's performances were hopefully a career-makers; and Anthony Anderson and DJ Qualls have never been better.
There was a palpable energy to the movie -- you could FEEL the music happening right before your eyes. Perhaps the best movie about the creation of music since Performance...and a damn sight better than the OTHER hip-hop movie out this year...


Jamieson McGonigle said...

Drop me a line buddy, I'll be submitting my top 10 (or whatever) of the year soon, too long since we've spoken!


Jamieson McGonigle said...

ps YOU should do a podcast too, i'd listen!

Adam said...

I AM going to be doing a podcast soon...
Not to give anything away, but it's gonna be movie-themed.

Another one you should listen to...really sick the Distorted View Daily.
Oddly, it turns out, Tim Henson is a friend of a friend. It's a small fucking world.