***NOTE: I was going to wait until Friday before I finalized this list, as that’s when I’ll be seeing THE NEW WORLD for the first time, but then I realized that Terrence Malick's work doesn’t really belong in a list, anyway. For better or worse, it's on another plane. It's not really cinema. It's not even art. It's pure spirituality. And so I'm content to proceed accordingly.***
1. KEANE – I’ve said it before and before and before and I’ll say it again and again and again: Lodge Kerrigan’s KEANE is the most harrowing tale of redemption ever committed to celluloid. How Damian Lewis didn’t get nominated for a Spirit Award--let alone an Oscar--makes me want to abandon all hope whatsoever for challenging, invigorating cinema. Fortunately, the film exists to keep me hopeful. Great art will continue to be made even if nobody else seems to care. KEANE is exhilarating proof of that.
2. CACHE – Michael Haneke’s masterful film works on about thirty different levels, all of which are equally painful to digest. First and foremost, it’s one of the most shockingly visceral thrillers to arrive in recent memory, a film that makes you scared to swallow. Yet it’s also a deeper attack on bourgeois guilt and the insidious racism that continues to exist in modern day Paris. I know subtitles are really hard to read, people, and non-American films are really tough to follow, but if this film can’t rise above its “foreign-ness” to impact audiences everywhere, nothing can.
3. OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND – Ian Olds and Garrett Scott deliver this year’s CONTROL ROOM, a powerful critique of America’s occupation of Iraq. Without succumbing to mere sensationalism and frustrated obnoxiousness (how’s that new film coming along, Michael Moore?), Olds and Scott allow the situation to expose itself as the confused, unfocused mess that it is. Humane, heartbreaking, and filled with a much-needed dose of humor, OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND is must-see viewing for everyone, no matter your pathetically limited political ‘label.’
4. MATCH POINT – An absolute masterpiece. It’s strange, but the stilted, stagier moments of this film only added to the overall impact for me, whereas that now totally distracts me in a film by Mamet or Labute or whoever. Somehow, the overall ‘offness’ of the proceedings--the strangely conflicting acting styles, the artificially created world, etc.--is what makes it even more intriguing. I walked into this film with high expectations and it completely obliterated them. The film’s resolution is one of the most ingenious twists I have ever seen. MATCH POINT isn’t of this era; it’s like a lost classic from who knows when. Welcome back, Woody. It’s about goddamn time.
5. GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK – A small-scaled work of perfection by George Clooney, who has somehow become a true American Hero. Who’da thunk it? Ray Wise should be a lock for Best Supporting Actor, though we all know how that goes. Like OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND, Clooney’s film didn’t feel like some bitter liberal tirade, it felt like the work of a man who realizes that the only way for this world to work is through open-minded, thoughtful questioning of the powers that be. Not just to spark shit, mind you, but to make sure that goodness and decency hasn’t been swept under the rug--which, my sources are telling me, has actually happened once or twice before. No!
6. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE – This is the film that I wish THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS had been. Using the verite style to his advantage, Baumbach’s portrait of a disintegrating Brooklyn family in the 1980s is elevated even higher by outstanding performances and an excellent script. Owen Kline is another worthy Best Supporting Actor, though that won’t happen either. But I would be surprised if Jeff Daniels isn’t at least nominated. The miracle of THE SQUID AND THE WHALE is that you find yourself rooting for one character one minute and hating them the next. Just like life.
7. KINGS AND QUEEN – Arnaud Desplechin’s breathtaking work is one of the most dizzying, life-affirming films of recent years. Throwing caution to the wind and combining a screwball comedy with a bleak drama, the result is a film that feels more like real life than most documentaries. Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric are staggeringly brilliant as individuals who are trying to figure it all out, with less than stellar results. I can’t wait to see what Desplechin comes up with next.
8. OLDBOY – I hate to keep comparing these films to those that left me underwhelmed, but this film is exactly what I wish FIGHT CLUB had been. Whereas Fincher’s juvenile locker room circle jerk was seeped in homoerotic testosterone, OLDBOY had a sense of humor and a justification for its violent behavior. But more than that, it was simply the most operatically electrifying two hours I spent in a theatre this year, and for that alone it deserves a high ranking.
9. DALLAS 362 – Scott Caan’s directorial debut isn’t perfect, but there’s so much great stuff that it’s easy to forgive the lesser moments. It’s clear that Caan is a fan of 1970s cinema, and here he uses that template to deliver a genuinely affecting portrait of two troubled friends (one of which is fellow Linganore High School alumni Shawn Hatosy). Like THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, DALLAS 362 is populated with actors who brought the top-notch script to even topper-notch life. Netflix this motherfucker, I’m serious.
10. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS – Another film that shattered my (admittedly low) expectations, Rob Zombie proves with THE DEVIL’S REJECTS that he’s one of the last remaining hopes when it comes to the horror genre. Incredibly assured, the film is creepy, unsettling, and unexpectedly powerful. While films like HOSTEL and the SAW series are embarrassingly cartoonish, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is firmly rooted in the real world, which is where things get truly terrifying.
WHY NOT TAKE IT TO TWENTY:
11. THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED
12. FORTY SHADES OF BLUE
13. THE WHITE DIAMOND
15. DOWN TO THE BONE
16. OR (MY TREASURE)
17. THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN
19. GAMES OF LOVE AND CHANCE
20. WALK THE LINE
BEST OF THE REST (Which proves just how good a year this was for movies, seeing as almost all of these could have made the Top 20):
BREAKFAST ON PLUTO
HUSTLE AND FLOW
LOOK AT ME
ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
TURTLES CAN FLY
Best Actor: Damian Lewis KEANE
Other Great Performances: Philip Seymour Hoffman CAPOTE, Mathieu Amalric KINGS AND QUEEN (and MUNICH--this guy is amazing!), Heath Ledger BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Romain Duris THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED, David Straithairn GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, Daniel Auteuil CACHE, Jeff Bridges THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, Cillian Murphy BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, Joaquin Phoenix WALK THE LINE
Best Actress: Vera Farmiga DOWN TO THE BONE
Other Great Performances: Reese Witherspoon WALK THE LINE, Emmanuelle Devos KINGS AND QUEEN, Juliette Binoche CACHE, Charlize Theron NORTH COUNTRY, Dana Ivgy OR (MY TREASURE), Sara Forestier GAMES OF LOVE AND CHANCE, Dina Korzun FORTY SHADES OF BLUE, Sibel Kekilli HEAD-ON
Best Supporting Actor: Ray Wise GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Supporting Actor Special Mentions: Owen Kline, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, Heath Ledger LORDS OF DOGTOWN, Mickey Rourke SIN CITY
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams JUNEBUG
Supporting Actress Special Mention: Michelle Williams BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Best Original Screenplay: Noah Baumbach THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Woody Allen’s MATCH POINT is a verrrry close second)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan SYRIANA
Best Cinematography: Harris Savides LAST DAYS
Best Editing: Juliette Welfling THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED
Best Score: Gustavo Santaolalla BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Worst Movie of the Year: THE BOOGEYMAN
Comeback of the Year: Woody Allen (MATCH POINT)
Letdown of the Year: Jim Jarmusch (BROKEN FLOWERS)
Best Unintentional Comedy: CRASH
Best Opening Shot: THREE TIMES
Best Final Shot: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Best Moment: The kids dancing to The Kinks’ “This Time Tomorrow” in REGULAR LOVERS
Best “Holy Shit” Moment: CACHE (if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about)
Best Previous Year Films That I Discovered in 2005:
1. LILYA 4-EVER
2. EYE OF GOD
3. SHOW ME LOVE
4. SOMETHING WILD
5. SHERMAN’S MARCH
7. TIME OF THE WOLF
9. DEAD END
10. SEX AND LUCIA
Best Unreleased Films of 2005 (Which Promises to Look Like Next Year’s List):
1. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU
2. DUCK SEASON
3. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON
4. REGULAR LOVERS
5. THE SUN
7. TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY
10. COCAINE ANGEL!!!
1. NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN
3. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT