Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Best and Worst of 2005

For 13 months, from 1 January, 2005 to 1 February, 2006, I saw 287 films (my girlfriend doesn't live in this country, so I have a lot of free time). Of these, I only saw 51 films from 2005. Yes, the masses were somewhat correct in that 2005 had a lot of just bad, bad films, but there were also many films of very high quality. In fact, finding ten films to create my least favorite film list was a little difficult, but trying to make an initial cut of really good films down to 20 was a little tough.

The criteria I have established for 2005 films is that (1), it is a film that was released in Seattle theatrically for the first time during the calendar year of 2005 (1 January to 31 December), (2) it is a film that has not been released theatrically in Seattle but available to me on video during the year, and (3) it is a film that has been recut and rereleased theatrically. Number one is the reason why films like The New World and Cache will have to wait until next year's list. Because of the second rule, I did not add Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Pulse (too bad about the latter as I hated it the first time I saw in Japan in 2004, and loved it when I saw it again late last year in its Seattle release, and would've added it to my top ten), and number three is the reason that The Passenger made it and why Major Dundee was "in competition," so to speak.

Before we get to the best and worst films, here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the films that were not bad enough to make the ten worst, but not quite good enough to make it to the honorable mention category.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (USA)
The Aristocrats (USA)
The Bad News Bears (USA)
Batman Begins (USA)
Bright Future (Japan)
Broken Flowers (USA)
Capote (USA)
Days of Being Wild (Hong Kong)
Good Night, And Good Luck. (USA)
Grizzly Man (USA)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (USA/UK)
A History of Violence (USA/Canada)
Kekexili (China)
Kung Fu Hustle (Hong Kong)
Land of the Dead (USA)
Major Dundee (USA)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (USA)
Oseam (South Korea)
Oyster Farmer (Australia)
The President's Last Bang (South Korea)
Pucker Up (USA)
The Squid and the Whale (USA)
Tropical Malady (Thailand)
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (UK)
War of the Worlds (USA)
The White Diamond (Germany/UK)

The Best Films of 2005


15. 2046 (Hong Kong) - The final part of Wai's trilogy on Hong Kong of the 1960's, the film has a great style and is thought-provoking. It would have been stronger had it not been a direct sequel to In the Mood For Love, but it's still a very good conclusion to the series.

14. Downfall (Germany) - A fascinating look at the last days of Nazi Germany. Well shot and acted, but it's lack of context keeps it from being in the top ten.

13. Mysterious Skin (USA) - A great script and good performances. The story about the hustler is not nearly as strong as the one about the teen who believes he was abducted by aliens, but it's still good enough to not weaken the film.

12. Layer Cake (UK) - Matthew Vaughn gives a perfect amount of style onto this gangster film. The fun of the film is in the characters. Daniel Craig is outstanding in his role.

11. Junebug (USA) - A film about the red-state/blue-state division that doesn't shit all over the red-staters. This film boasts fantastic performances and a very good script.


10. Or (My Treasure) (Israel) - A sad film that is brutal on the emotions, but really strong. Great performances and excellent cinematography highlight this great work of cinema verite.

9. Munich (USA) - Steven Spielberg is back in good form with his best film in at least 23 years. The ideas are interesting, and all sides are given fair weight to the film's central issue. The performances are good across the board and the ties to today's political climate were very poigniant. It is a little cheesy in a couple places, but hey, it's Spielberg. What can you expect?

8. Nobody Knows (Japan) - I saw no other film that was so scary, and yet it's not at all a horror film or a thriller. The director reveals slowly but surely the full horror of the kids' situation as it goes from bad to worse over a year. Yuya Yagira, at 12 years old, gave what was probably the best performance of the year, and the Academy Awards show their continued uselessness but refusing to acknowledge it.

7. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (France) - The film is filled with intriguing moral quandaries and a thought-provoking ending. The film is not without its weaknesses, but it more than overcomes them with strong acting and a good story.

6. Memories of Murder (South Korea) - A strong dark comedy with another great performance by Song Kang-ho. This film gives a really good recreation of South Korea during the 80's, and gives the outsider a pretty good look at the political climate during this era.

5. The Best of Youth (Italy) - Over the course of six hours with one Italian family, you almost feel like you've been made an honorary sibling of the two brothers at the center. The film is so good, that after six hours, you just want more.

4. The Passenger (USA/Italy) - Jack Nicholson's gives his best performance in this great existential anti-thriller. The film was originally released in a studio cut in 1975, and was finally restored to the director's intended version late last year. I don't know how they pulled-off the last shot in an era before CGI, but it is incredibly choreographed and perfectly executed.

3. 3-Iron (South Korea) - An amazing film centering on a relationship between a man and a woman who don't say a single word to each other. The film is both hilarious and sad, sometimes simultaneously. The third act is incredibly brilliant.

2. Brokeback Mountain (USA) - One of the best romances I've ever seen. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams turn in outstanding performances and Larry McMurtray writes a tragic and moving script.

1. This Charming Girl (South Korea) - This is a truly wonderful film experience, perfectly structured and acted, all the more impressive as it's the debut film for its director and lead actress. The story comes together like a puzzle, and follows the rule of "show, don't tell" to the point of only having around 100 words spoken during its 99 minute runtime. Seattlites can find this at Scarecrow, but only on Region 3 DVD. Please find this film and see it.

And of course, the Worst Films of 2005


10. A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea) - Asian horror continues its nosedive. Note to the director: a film only needs one ending. Clue: The Movie had three, and that worked pretty well. Having more than three is a painful way for your audience to realize the extent of your indecisiveness.

9. Sin City (USA) - The first film made entirely for the fanboys at Aint It Cool News. If it wasn't for the Marv story, this film would be a whole lot higher on this list.

8. Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (USA) - The surprise with this film's addition to the worst film list is that it was only the 8th worst film of the year.

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (USA) - Johnny Depp misunderstanding the character of Willy Wonka is bad enough; worse is John August somehow thinking the story could be improved by making it into a film about a guy with daddy issues. The terms Tim Burton and poor judgment are really beginning to become intrinsically linked.

6. R Point (South Korea) - This film had a cool idea and the director thoroughly squandered it by seemingly not caring enough to actually try and take advantage of it. Lazy, careless filmmaking.

5. After the Day Before (Hungary) - A pointlessly bleak and cruel film directed by the world's most cynical person (as observed during his post-screening Q&A). No, sir, you are nothing like David Lynch. Even the worst David Lynch film at least has a point to it.

4. The Constant Gardener (UK) - Dumb, dumb, dumb. And then dumb some more.

3. Save the Green Planet (South Korea) - This film wasn't necessarily bad, and in fact had many great scenes and one of the best ideas I've heard in years. The problem is that, like R-Point, the shameless hack of a director threw this good idea away and in this case decided that ninety minutes of disturbing torture scenes would be a fine substitute. Controversial statement: this film needs to be remade by someone who can adequately mine the film's potential.

2. Crash (USA) - Hey, white liberals! Watching this film does not mean you are fighting or understanding racism. It's funny in a cynical way when people say how powerful and enlightening this film is and then in separate conversations use the term "black people" in a lowered and drawn out tone, or refer to any Latino as a Mexican. This film was piss-poor on every aspect of its production, except for where Don Cheadle was concerned (but that should go without saying).

1. King Kong (USA/New Zealand) - Over the course of three loooooooooooooooooong hours and seven painful minutes, Peter Jackson morphed into a racist George Lucas circa 1999. You fanboys can pretend it's good, but you're only lying to yourselves.

I want to hear your comments on the lists, so go ahead and leave them below. And better yet, post your best/worst of list to the comments page.


Anonymous mac said...

Hey man, I'm glad to have your list for the year up at last! It's interesting to compare the (few) ways our crops of watched movies intersect.

I'd love to see you write about what's good about the other nine in your top ten list, on par with the delight you take in trashing your bottom ten. In some respects, why *to* see something is a lot more important than why to skip it. To me anyway. Maybe I'm just getting old. ;)

05 February, 2006 23:26  
Blogger Kyle Smith said...

Duly noted. I am working on some little things to say now.

It's easier to eviscerate than to show love for something, and I am a lazy man.

06 February, 2006 03:14  

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