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The Top Films of 2005

The Top Films of 2005

By Anthony Kuzminski

The world’s most popular art form is the movie. No other medium can reach so many people on a worldwide basis year after year. I take so much away from films whether it be easing my mind for a few hours or teaching me a valuable life lesson. More times than not, it’s the later that stick with me, shelter me and comfort me. People continually complain about the lack of quality movies, however, as you can see by the list below, large numbers of first-rate films are released every year. There are probably at least another two-dozen films that are just as great which I unfortunately did not get around to seeing. The key is to seek out and research what is playing before going to see “The Dukes of Hazard” because you don’t feel anything else is out. You may have to read up on them, but if you do, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The list below are movies that did more than entertain me…they rocked my world in every way imaginable. The made me smile, laugh, cry, scream and more times than not, they stuck with me long after the lights came on. Top-ten lists are incredibly difficult to come up with, however, in the end, I picked a random 29 movies (for those of you wondering why 29, well, I turned 29 in 2005), and those in the top-ten stirred me and made me reflect. I hope you each can find one film on the list below that shook your soul the same way it did mine.

#1 “Millions” Danny Boyle made his mark almost a decade ago with “Trainspotting”. Ever since then I’ve admired his films more than I loved them. Regardless of what I felt about them, I always loved the style with which he would paint his canvas. With “Millions” he found middle ground mixing his manic style with an incredibly sweet and surreal story. Two brothers in England have recently lost their mother. Their father moves them to a new neighborhood and the youngest, Damien (played brilliantly by Alex Etel), is fascinated by the lives and deaths of the Saints, so much so he see’s them guiding him through life. Add on a lost baggage of money and you have the plot point that drives the story. When I saw this movie last spring, it had me in near tears as the story is essentially one of faith. Through the good times, the bad ones and the times where we are searching, it is faith that will pull you through. If you don’t like this film, I’ll refund your money, that’s how strong I feel about it.

#2 “Syriana” Most people who may see this film will walk away confused. That’s OK, because writer/director Steve Gaghan’s film is so intricate and complex, you will not pick up everything you need to know in one viewing, which is why this film is damn brilliant. It puts the state of world politics upfront and I can’t think of another film in recent memory that made me think more. You see how deals are made, plans are carried out and how those who want to change things are handled. The film is brutally honest.

#3 “Batman Begins” This is the best comic to ever be adapted to the big screen. It’s better than “Spiderman”, “X-Men” or any of Burton’s “Batman films. After the dreadful “Batman & Robin” the franchise went into hibernation for eight years. This past year, director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer created the darkest version of the caped Crusader yet. A more brilliant move was to show the creation of Batman and how he came to be. No comic has even gone into this much detail. The direction, pacing, script and top notch casting made this film the greatest comic to ever grace the silver screen.

#4 “Elizabethtown” Cameron Crowe’s wonderful film about self examination and family received lukewarm responses when released last October. I haven’t a clue why as it’s a touching and truthful film about what it’s like to be in your 20’s when you’re not sure what your next step in life should be. We all too often find ourselves working so hard that we overlook the important things in life. Crowe’s film cuts to the core of what it feels like to be lost and disillusioned with a soundtrack that is as important to the story as the script or any of the actors. I saw this film when I really needed it and when I watched it again; it comforted me as much as the initial viewing. Years from now people will go back and look at this film and realize it was unfairly criticized upon its initial release.

#5 “Munich” Steven Spielberg’s last few films left me without strong feelings towards them one way or the other “(“War of the Worlds” and “The Terminal”)…this film moved me profoundly. It’s a difficult subject matter as it showcases the search of those in charge of the approving the murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Spielberg’s film showcases the moral struggles of those with the given task to track down the men behind the murders of the eleven athletes. Where does their loyalty lie; with their families or their country? Spielberg accurately showcases both sides of the story with grace and even though this film has not lit up the box office, it too will be viewed in a better light as time goes on.

#6 “Crash” Arguably the year’s most important film as it deals with the issues of race in America. I can’t remember a film that was so brutally honest. The multi-arc story is a vital and important one and I believe this film may upset “Brokeback Mountain” for film of the year. This is one of the most engaging and thought provoking stories seen in recent years.

#7 “The Matador” I saw this film as an afterthought, what I did not expect was for it to be one of the ten best films of the year. Pierce Brosnan is a hit man who crosses paths with Greg Kinnear, a salesman, in Mexico. What no one has realized is that this film is the perfect blend of action, comedy and plot to make this probably the most engaging and entertaining film of the year. Brosnan’s performance is genius as he teeters on the line of hot-shot killer and manic psycho. Surprisingly, this film is one of the years funniest as well.

#8 “The 40-Year Old Virgin” No film made me laugh more than this one. Steve Carell is the shining star in Judd Apatow’s hysterical comedy about a 40-year old loner whose friends continually try to hook him up. Not only was this one of the funniest of the year but it‘ll be just as funny in years to come, unlike certain comedies which become dated.

#9 “Brokeback Mountain” What else can be said about the film that has received more press than any other this year? I enjoyed the film however it’s one of unfulfilled hopes and dreams which makes it heartrending to watch. Ang Lee may be the best and most versatile director working today with credits such as “The Hulk”, “The Ice Storm”, “Sense & Sensibility” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. At its core, “Brokeback Mountain” is a compelling love story of two men who couldn’t come to terms with their feelings deep from within.

#10 “Match Point” If you showed this film to anyone without the credits, no one would ever guess that Woody Allen wrote and directed it. The London based story follows a married man’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) obsession with his future sister-in law (Scarlett Johansson). These two lead performances are bone chilling, disturbing and the likes of which deserve Oscar gold. This is Woody Allen’s best film since “Broadway Danny Rose”, over two decades before and is arguably one of his best ever. The thriller takes the angle that it is better to be lucky in life than be in love or even happy, as it is luck that leads you down those paths.

#11 Good Night, Good Luck” George Clooney chose to film this movie in black and white and it gives the perfect aura for a film about McCarthy’s debates with television anchor Edward R. Murrow (played beautifully by David Strathairn) in the 1950’s. Clooney just doesn’t take a left wing approach with this film but he shows the struggle to bring the truth to the public and how each decision to air a newsworthy story came with consequences. This very well could be a story that takes place today as there is a very thin line between news and entertainment.

#12 “Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith” I have enjoyed all of Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels, but here if where he hit one out of the park. While all of them have been entertaining, this is the one where big questions were answered and the story becomes complete. I believe that all of the prequel films will be viewed in a much more positive light in the future, however, “Sith” ranks up there with “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back”.

#13 “Sin City” Frank Miller’s visually stunning take on his graphic novel is a sight to see on the big screen. With some help from fellow directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, Miller’s version not only matches the look of his graphic novel but it surpasses it. The A grade cast helps make the rich story soar, but it is Mickey Rourke’s unrecognizable Marv that is the scene stealer. This is easily the year’s most visually stunning film.

#14 “The New World” If “Sin City” is the year’s most visually stunning film, “The New World” is a very close second. Terrance Malick’s film about the settlers of Jamestown is not for everyone. Most will find it a bit long, but if you enjoy cinema as an art form, this is one of the most stunning and beautiful films to ever be made. The plot takes a backseat as Malick takes the viewer on a journey through nature. However, when the maiden ship makes a return voyage to London and Pocahontas sets her eyes on a world she never imagined for the first time, we get the awe-like feeling of seeing it for the first time as well.

#15 “Shopgirl” Another surprising sweet film, written by Steve Martin based on his novel of the same name. The story evolves around a love triangle between Martin, Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. The story is engaging and all three leads give great performances. There is great heart in the story and performances and a truth that could be felt. Never once did I feel this story was unrealistic, if anything, it was true to a fault. It also shows that some people grow and learn from life experiences and others fall into the same traps time and again.

#16 “The Wedding Crashers” The years second funniest film which put Vince Vaughn on the A-list. Sure there are plot holes in the story, but the joy in the performances by all, made this a joy to watch.

#17 “The History of Violence” I’ve never been a fan of David Cronenberg’s films as they are truly niche films that one usually loves or hates. I’ve always admired them, but this subtle film about how a violent outbreak in a small town erupts into larger scale violence is mesmerizing. Sadly only William Hurt’s short performance was recognized by the Oscars. The screenplay, direction and the vastly underrated performance by Maria Bello all deserved nominations as well. Whether you love the film or hate it, it will remain in your thoughts for days to come as it directly relates to societies fascination with violence.

#18 “March of the Penguins” The year’s most enjoyable documentary where we watch in awe of the journey these penguins go through just to bring life into this world.

#19 “In Her Shoes” Next to Ang Lee, Curtis Hanson is one of the most important directors working today. Why this film did not find an audience mystifies me as it’s more than your average “chick flick”. It contains three of the best performances given by females in the last decade. Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine star in this film of a torn family who after years of looking the other way, finally look within, forgive one another and free themselves of their demons.

#20 “Hustle & Flow” Terrence Howard’s performance as a pimp who wants to be a rapper is a revelation. Whether you appreciate hip-hop music or not, Howard’s performance makes you empathize with him even when he’s treating the women he lives with inappropriately. In the end, the film makes you realize that whatever cards we are dealt in life, we all have a dream of a better life.

#21 “Cinderella Man” While its teeth are not as sharp as Scorsese’s “Raging Bull”, Ron Howard created a film which shows triumph over tragedy in a time where there was little hope. The film is sugar coated; however, don’t let it get in the way of powerful performances by Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti. Ron Howard continually has a way of making intensity felt throughout a film even when you know the outcome.

#22 “Howl’s Moving Castle” This is the year’s best animated feature, by Japanese maestro Hayao Miyazaki, of a young woman seeking to reverse a curse. While “Howl” is not Miyazaki’s best film, he stretches his imagination like no other filmmaker, dead or alive. Every time I see one of his films I get inside the mind of a man who is a visionary. I also can not think of a filmmaker who continues to make sure the heroines of each of his stories are female. No film maker continually dazzles me with his imagery and imagination.

#23 “In Good Company” Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace’s film of corporate takeovers is a simple story but one that was surprisingly effective. It came out in early ’05 but for some reason it has remained with me over the last year. It’s a film where one determines what truly is important; life or work?

#24 “Walk The Line” One of the year’s most celebrated films of the love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter. While it’s not as edgy as some people would have liked, the performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are astonishing, especially considering they did all of their own singing. The script is solid and showcases the love story beautifully, however, I would have liked to have seen them delve a little deeper into Cash’s psyche. Regardless it’s a highly entertaining film.

#25 “Capote” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance is chilling as he truly embodied Truman Capote. I believe the performance is stronger than the overall film, but it’s still one of the years best as it takes you to a place and time in the 60’s where innocence was shattered in a small town.

#26 “King Kong” Sadly Peter Jackson’s remake got more press regarding how much money it was making over how good it was. The remake is a dazzling affair for one to see. The thrilling and emotionally draining scenes of the creatures on the island put “Jurassic Park” to shame. The revelation of the film was the performance of Naomi Watts as she brought the heart of the film to the forefront. Her eyes and reactions are nothing short of extraordinary and she was robbed of an Oscar nomination for her truly unbelievable performance.

#27 “Broken Flowers” Of all of the actors working today, I am enjoying watching Bill Murray more than any of them. He ventures on a road trip to see if he has a long lost son, whom he did not know about until he received a strange letter in the mail. His journey and interactions with old girlfriends is priceless, as is Murray’s Oscar-caliber performance. The film may frustrate some as it leaves you with more questions than answers, but in the end, it leaves you with a lesson. This is a lesson that may haunt Murray’s character (Don Johnston) for the remainder of his days. This is one of director Jim Jarmusch’s best films.

#28 “The Squid & The Whale” This film is a mere 80-minutes but it feels like 3-hours as it showcases the worse of a family divorce. There are no likeable characters; however, this is one of the most fascinating portraits of a destructive family ever brought to the big screen. It’s tough to watch, but like a car crash, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of it.

#29 “Murderball” This is a fascinating documentary based upon the story of a number of quadriplegics who have overcome obstacles to perform in the Paralympics in Athens, Greece. However, what makes the film so powerful is the story behind the story. They come to find out how these men became quadriplegics and how the people in their lives have handled it. Some are motivating stories, some are frustrating and some finally face their demons over the course of the film.

Despite me wanting to see these films, I didn’t see them in time for them to make this list…”Nine Lives”, “Constant Gardner” (I know!), “Junebug”, “Zathura” & “Jarhead”.

Other first rate entertainment considered for the list above: “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”, “The Family Stone”, “Red Eye”, “Harry Potter 4”, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “Bad News Bears”, “Flightplan”, “House of D”, “Melinda & Melinda”,

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