Credit Hollywood: I was able to come up with ten movies I felt good about attaching to the title "Best".
Credit myself: I managed to avoid seeing so many bad movies as in years past.
As a matter of fact, I have come up with only eight movies that I saw this year that were genuinely bad. This is not to say that there weren't many more bad movies. I didn't see The Pacifier, the new Deuce Bigalow or anything with Eugene Levy. Would any of them have been worse than the new Star Wars? Probably not. They probably would have made my list, though.
What 2005 was rife with was mediocrity. Not really bad in an active way, but passively useless: low-brow teenage sex comedies, low-brow family-oriented feel-good comedies, middle-brow oscar-baiting melodramas and mindless high-budget action throwaways. Competently made trash product. It's a little bit deadening, but that's life in America in 2005.
Anyway, this is it. These are the movies that made an impression. One way or another, these are the ones I remembered.
11 Best Films I Saw in 2005
Box (dir. Takashi Miike)
The third section of the Three...Extremes compendium showcases Miike at his subdued, ethereal best. Words even a year ago I never would have believed could be associated with him. It is with this film that Takashi Miike becomes the world's greatest living director.
Grizzly Man (dir. Werner Herzog)
A fascinating, penetrating study of the human condition. As comic as it is tragic. With documentaries this wonderfully cinematic, we don't really even need fiction anymore. And it has some nice footage of bears.
Nobody Knows (dir. Hirokazu Koreeda)
As powerful as After Life, but without the gimmick. With amazing performances by the children. Never once does he stoop to manipulative sentimentality.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance/Cut/Oldboy (dir. Chan-Wook Park)
I'll just give him one slot. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the best of the batch, a perfect, simple little revenge drama. Like the best parts of Point Blank and Get Carter filtered through Kinji Fukasaku. Cut is hilarious and Oldboy has flashes of brilliance but both suffer from unnecessary plot twists (how Oriental).
A History of Violence (dir. David Cronenberg)
Reviews that praise Cronenberg's ability to wed action blockbuster trappings to a brain and an acute social conscience fail to recognize that Violence is essentially a comedy. And that this is why it is so good.
The Squid and the Whale (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Another movie that would have been far less interesting if it had not been, at heart, a comedy. Good performances from everybody. The younger son, Owen Kline gets special mention simply because he's a kid. But he's really good. Apparently he's Kevin Kline's son. I have never in my life thought Kevin Kline was this good in a movie.
Tom-Yum-Goong/Ong Bak (dir. Prancha Pinkaew)
Tony Jaa is the only guy since Bruce Lee who seems like a fighter making movies, not a movie star pretending to fight. The film craftsmanship in these is adequate but unremarkable; the action is knock-you-on-your-ass, coughing-up-blood amazing. Somebody needs to resurrect Buster Keaton so he and Tony Jaa can make a movie together.
Devil's Rejects (dir. Rob Zombie)
Yes, that's right. This was the eighth best movie of the year. Like A History of Violence, it is also a comedy, which seems to have gone largely unnoticed. I cannot say it any more plainly: Rob Zombie is a better director than Quentin Tarantino.
Match Point (dir. Woody Allen)
While it lacks the elegant construction of, say, Annie Hall, Match Point is arguably the best story Allen has ever had. He is also particularly adept at wrangling a cast.
40 Year-Old Virgin (dir. Judd Apatow)
This is also a comedy. Which most people realized. 40 Year-Old Virgin succeeds because Steve Carrell and Catherine Keener play real people.
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (dir. Nick Park)
It's no The Wrong Trousers; but 2005 was no 1993, either.
8 Worst Films I Saw in 2005
Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (dir. George Lucas)
That's right. It is not merely the worst movie of the year; it is also the worst movie of the series. Unremittingly unpleasant.
The Fog (dir. Rupert Wainwright)
Sorry, Fog, any other year and you'd have been number one. I have been less bored in classrooms. The original was John Carpenter's worst movie (I mean it was his worst movie before 1983) and this is worse in every possible way.
White Noise (dir. Geoffrey Sax)
Somebody should resurrect Michael Keaton, while they're at it. This is the worst J-horror imitation to come out of Hollywood, and that's saying something.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (dir. Tim Burton)
The most soulless, cynical adaptation of a childrens book in the history of soulless, cynical adaptations. Doesn't even bother with a film, just builds itself a simulacric exoskeleton out of shrill overproduction: an advertisement for an advertisement for an advertisement.
Malevolence (dir. Steven Mena)
Allegedly the second part in a horror trilogy, one needn't have seen the first to realize that this is a low-budget, no-talent crap-fest. Highlights: the laughably bad synth score.
Ring 2 (dir. Hideo Nakata)
Ought to have been worthwhile. Wasn't.
Dark Water (dir. Walter Salles)
Dull and self-plagiarising (auteur theory speaks of directors having recurrant motifs througout their work, not of reusing their own plot). Wait, no, it was self-plagiarism when Hideo Nakata and Koji Suzuki did it. Now I'm not even sure what it is. Besides boring, I mean.
Dukes of Hazzard (dir. Jay Chandrasekhar)
There will never be a better Dukes of Hazzard movie.
While they didn't warrant mention on either of these lists, the following films earned Special Awards at the end of the year:
Most Disappointing: Land of the Dead (dir. George Romero)
I don't care if the allegory is well-thought-out, a bad movie is a bad movie. It's tough because the concept is great and the director is great. I want a remake. Immediately. By Romero.
Second Most Disappointing: 2046 (dir. Wong Kar-Wai)
Now that he is the recipient of the widespread renown that he has always deserved, Christopher Doyle's fearlessly inventive style has rapidly begun to crystalize into a formula that approximates it.
Surprisingly Decent: Sahara (dir. Breck Eisner)
His father may have destroyed civilization, but Sahara is a surprisingly watchable formula piece. If possible try to see it for free, while drunk.
Best Non-Tony Jaa Fight Scenes: Unleashed (dir. Louis Leterrier)
I mean, it was no Ong Bak, but there was some pretty decent action. It also benefits from having Bob Hoskins.
And a special Career Achievement Award goes to Uwe Boll. In all sincerity: If every Steven Spielberg movie had been directed instead by Uwe Boll the world would be a better place.
- Pat Jackson