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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Eleven Fine Films from 2005 (and Three Which Sucked) 

Everyone always does these stupid Ten Best Films of the Year lists, and while I've resisted for a while -- mostly because I usually have trouble thinking of ten films I really enjoyed seeing that year -- I figure I'll give it a go for some reason. Let me say that these are grouped by style and theme, not in order of preference. I don't think it makes sense to say one film is The Best. And I forgot about McLibel so I just made it 11. (TPCQ: "That's ridiculous.") Okay, here goes.

Real Life (Documentaries)

Something has always bugged me about movies -- when you walk into a bookstore, fully half the shelves are for non-fiction books, right? So why sre there so few documentary films made? Anyway, three good ones from 2005 are:
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Like the best documentaries, Enron mixes style and substance in a splendid way that skimps on neither. We get the full story and get to know the people involved -- which often makes the difference between a decent non-fiction film and one which really shines. Visit the official site.

    Now where's the WorldCom movie?

  • The Aristocrats. While I hate their politics, I did thoroughly enjoy Penn and Teller's indulgence in behind-the-scenes comedic let-loosism. Best telling: Dana Gould. Second best: Hank Azaria. Biggest surprise: Bob Saget. Visit the official site.

    It's hard to dislike a documentary film featuring George Carlin. Too bad they couldn't find a version from Mr. Hicks or Mr. Hedberg.

  • March of the Penguins. While I acknowledge that I'm a herb schoolteacher, I think National Geographic did a very good job with this look at penguin life. While we don't have actual characters to follow (apparently the French version had wacky voices attached -- yuk), we do see these very cute creatures in some very dramatic situations. A bit esoteric, I suppose -- but a touch of fresh air in the theatre nonetheless. Why not visit the official site?

    How about a movie about the pika next?

  • McLibel. I just realized this also came out in 2005. A very intriguing look at the famous activist lawsuit that happened in the UK over claims that McDonalds is unhealthy and bad for our planet. Visit the official site.

    Next up: A film about how the Coalition of Immokalee Workers took on Taco Bell -- and won!
Based on Real Life

These two take real events as their starting points, and may or may not stay very close. One tries more than the other, but they both do a good job of representing a scenario. (And they have one other thing in common: hubba hubba!)
  • Syriana. George Clooney stars as a guy who works in the Middle East. I won't really say any more, because I know many of you haven't seen it -- and I don't like to give things away. But of course it deals with oil, fanatacism, politics, money, and hegemony. And any movie which is brave enough to broach a topic like hegemony (in a serious way, no less) gives me hope.

    Matt Damon! Visit the official site.

  • Good Night, and Good Luck. George Clooney stars as Fred Friendly, a co-producer of Edward R. Murrow's television news show during the McCarthy era. Not since Quiz Show have we seen such an engaging and important movie about television. (And before that, Videodrome. I guess they put one out every 10 years or so.) The jazz music interludes are a bit odd in GN&GL, but overall the mood and method is right on. Go now and visit the official site.

    Now where's the movie about Nelson Algren's life?
Based on the Original

Some people say Hollywood has run out of ideas -- but I daresay certain recent movies prove this wrong. Still, it seems like more and more films are based on older movies, books, and comics. Either way, there were a handful in '05 which I enjoyed.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was skeptical -- very skeptical. Why didn't they do the Great Glass Elevator? Why go after something we already love so dearly? Well, if ever Jon Broad's bit about how "a remake can stand on its own merits" made sense, this is it. Tim and Johnny did a superb job, and I didn't find myself missing Gene in the least. I was disappointed that they didn't reprise the song Charlie's mother sings with the big spoon in the laundry room, tho.

    Johnny's best? Easy. And his worst? Even easier.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Forget what you heard. Mos Def. Yarn vomit. 'Nuff said. (Hmm, I seem to have given up on the official sites, eh? Well shove off! It's late and I'm tired.)

    Bring on the Restaurant movie!

  • Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I was way excited for this one, and all I will say is that I was not disappointed. Not as many nods to the hardcore fans as I may have wished for, but it was fun from start to end.

    Perhaps next up will be a Creature Comforts feature?

  • Batman Begins. While I was hoping for a closer alignment with Year One, I was duly impressed with the scope and performances in this new approach. (I didn't even recognize Gary Oldman until the very last scene.) I doubt I'll ever concede the original's top spot, BB does a very nice job of realigning how the public conceives of the Dark Knight, away from the Schwarzenegger & Silverstone garbage of the late 90s.

    Now how about a movie based on the best Batman story ever? (TPCQ: "Batman?")

  • Sin City. Yeah, it really is as good as everyone says. Read some of the comics first. You'll never look at Frodo the same way again.

    Geez, I'm just licking Frank's boots here, huh?
You Stole Six Hours of My Life and I Want Them Back

These movies sucked. Do not waste your time or your money. Go bowling instead -- or stick forks in your eyes.
  • A History of Violence. Did you know this is based on a comic book? Yeah, well .. David Cronenberg needs to spend more time fusing Jeff Goldblum with a steel door, and less time filming eroticized violent sex-slapping scenes. Yeah, it was real deep. Like as deep as my toilet.

    Instead, go watch: La Haine.

  • Broken Flowers. Oh dear gods -- it's Lost in Transfusion, but without all that brilliant plot and character development. (That's sarcasm. I hated LiT.) Bill Murray drives around the country and looks sad. They should have made the movie about the way-cool sidekick instead.

    Instead, go watch: Coffee and Cigarettes. Jim Jarmusch in better days. Maybe it's tied for his best?

  • Monster-in-Law. Trans-Pacific flight. Couldn't sleep. Too worn out to read. Shut up. The only good thing about this movie was Wanda Sykes. Too bad she doesn't get the leading roles she so obviously deserves. Oh, and there was a mildly funny scene where Jane Fonda attacks a Britney Spears-alike because she's completely ignorant about Roe v. Wade.

    Instead, go watch: Antonia's Line.
There. Now go forth and post comments about all the things I'm wrong about. Also, go away.


Tis the season for Sober Santa II. Watch out for the tracks -- they's electrified!

Today I'm listening to: PWOG!