It's been a good year. I can actually say that there were ten movies I really liked. A lot more than that, actually. Before I get to
the list, I need to make my annual disclaimer that this isn't the list of the BEST movies of the year. They're the movies I liked
best during the year. Big difference.
Also, I'd like to hand out a few props to outstanding actors, actresses and digital creations whose movies might not have made
the cut. They deserve special recognition.
Best Newcomer. Gromit. Wallace isn't much of a talent, but his sidekick--without speaking a line--
could carry an entire movie. As proof, I offer Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Second Place: Wanda Sykes, who was the only reason not to walk out in the middle of
Third Place: Jenna Boyd who made a big splash in a little movie called Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants. At the time, I warned Dakota Fanning that she should watch her back.
Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener as Harper Lee in Capote. If someone as nice as Harper Lee is willing to put up
with Truman Capote's preening, maybe he's not really the self-centered lout he presented to the world.
Best Supporting Actor: Dennis Quaid in In Good Company. Second Place: Deep Roy played ALL of the Oompa-Loompas in
Charles and the Chocolate Factory. Which reminds me...
Best Movie About a Brilliant Inventor and the Chocolate Factory He Creates: Hershey's Really Big 3D Show. OK,
it'sonly 30 minutes long and it's the hokiest thing you've ever seen, but during that time, you have water sprayed on you, confetti
dropped on you, you get to see dancing candy bars--and it's in 3-D. Let's see Tim Burton top that. (PS: You have to go to the
factory in Hershey to see it.)
Best Double Feature You Won't See on an Airplane: Flightplan and Red Eye
Best Double Feature to Leave the Little Kids at Home: Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter
and Goblet of Fire
Best Documentary (Not Counting Wedding Crashers): March of the Penguins
Best Actor and Actress: Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line.
Others Receiving Votes: Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote; Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man; Laura Linney in The Squid
and the Whale
Best Movie Filmed in Mississippi: I put this in a few years back to make sure that Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, Cookie's
Fortune, and My Dog Skip got some well-deserved attention. This year, the award goes to Walk the Line (the casino scenes
were filmed in Tunica), which really didn't need my help to get attention.
Honorable Mention: Batman Begins
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
As Casey Kesem says, "And now, on with the countdown..."
10. (Tie) Pride and Prejudice Again. So is Jane Austen lying in her grave thinking, "Keep doing it until you get it right!"
Actually, most of this version is right. Keira Knightly certainly is, and the director seems to have captured a new take on
what I can only call the earthiness of England in the late eighteenth century. It's not as much fun as the Bollywood version,
but it probably is more true to the original work.
Bride and Prejudice How can you NOT love an all-singing, all-dancing, sub-continental, Colin Firth-free version of the
Jane Austen classic? Roger Ebert has called Aishwaya Rai, 1994 Miss World, the first AND second most beautiful woman in
the world. Personally, I think she qualifies as the whole top ten list, but I digress. She played the Elizabeth Bennett
character, and I smiled at the screen for two hours. To pick at its faults would be pointless and petty. Go see it when you
need a pick-me-up. (This may not be the place to bring this up, but I think that I really don't have much interest in visiting
India because I know it would be a disappointment after Bollywood. How weird is that?)
9. Downfall Yes, Hitler was a monster. But Bruno Ganz just enough humanity into the character to actually make you
understand how such monsters are created. My favorite revelation was that Eva Braun said that she hated Hitler's dog,
Blondi, and would kick her when the Fuhrer wasn't looking. I don't know why that tickled me, but it did.
8. The Squid and the Whale Continuing with the theme of monsters and how they're created, this traces the marriage of
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, who are so self-absorbed that they can't see that they are ruining their children's childhoods.
I'll defer to Stephen King (who says this is the best movie of the year) that this is precisely the way that creative children
abuse their kids.
7. Caterina Goes to the City This was a very charming movie--sort of the Roman version of Mean Girls. Even though I know
you'll never see it, I highly recommend it. (For some reason, the credits say, Caterina Goes to the City, but the ads say,
Caterina in the City. Is a puzzlement.
6. Capote Phillip Seymour Hoffman's (PSH) role as Truman Capote has been reviewed elsewhere (OK, practically
everywhere) as Oscar-worthy, and I'm certainly not going to disagree. It is outstanding. I think that the main reason he is
getting so much praise is that he underplays the flamboyant Capote so profoundly. While yes, that is a definite improvement
over some of the screeching impersonations we've seen, it does have a downside. In real live, Truman Capote was loud and
well, louder. We don't get from PSH. Therefore, when we are shown Capote saying that the delayed execution of two men
really adds to "his" problems. we don't recognize it for the ridiculous observation that it is. Likewise, when he says under
his breath that his friend Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is no "big deal", we don't laugh at the line as we should. These
are small complaints indeed and do not detract much from a great film.
5. Crash Every decade or so, somebody makes a poignant film about the sad, and in some cases, hopeful state of race
relations in Los Angeles. In the 80's, we had Grand Canyon, and in the 90's, Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Now, in honor of
a certain trilogy of films from a galaxy far, far away, what I will call The Rodney King Trilogy (Can't we all just get along?), is
complete with Crash. It's much less treacly than Grand Canyon and much more realistic than Short Cuts. In fact, it's
wonderful. It has good performance from lots of my favorite people, including Loretta Devine. You know going in that
someone is going to do something terrible to someone who doesn't deserve it, and when it finally happens, it's devastating.
The film is violent, and behavior is coarse. It's not for everyone--but maybe it should be.
4. In Good Company With the obvious exception of Meg Ryan, is there anyone who doesn't think that Dennis Quaid is
wonderful? He's one of actors like Kurt Russell, Bill Murray or Hugh Grant who always welcome you into whatever character
they're playing and make you enjoy whatever they're doing. In the coming years, I expect that Topher Grace will also
become one of those actors. Here, those two team with the Weitz brothers, who directed and produced Hugh Grant's About
a Boy, Scarlett Johanssen and other terrific supporting actors to provide a wonderful movie experience.
3. Cinderella Man Say what you want about Chris Rock, but he got it right at the Academy Awards when he said, "If you're
making a movie and you want a star, you don't call Jude Law. You call Russell Crowe." Crowe si mesmerizing in this movie
that critics seem to be trashing because it's not Raging Bull. To them, I say, "Good. I didn't like Raging Bull." I do think,
however, that Clint Eastwood should be very happy that Opie directed this movie this year--not last. Paul Giamatti (from
Sideways) and Renee Zellweger (from every other movie ever made) are excellent. Check it out.
2. Howl's Moving Castle (Hauro No Igoku Shiro) An awful title for a great movie. Hayao Miyazaki follows Spirited Away
with a wistful tale of a young woman who is turned into a spry old crone by evil witch--for some reason that escapes me.
When the eponymous castle floats by, she jumps aboard and changes the lives of several people (and things) whose lives
need changing. Voices by Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Billy Crystal and others. See it on the biggest screen you can
...and my favorite movie of the year was...
1. Walk the Line is the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR. (So far, anyway.) Go see it tonight. Joaquin Phoenix may not look or
sound like Johnny Cash, but he IS Johnny Cash. Reese Witherspoon is equally good. When it comes to musical taste, I'm
closer to Ray Charles than Johnny Cash, but in movie terms, The Man in Black takes the prize.
Finally, I stopped keeping a list of my least favorite movies, but if I had such a list, these two stinkers would be on it.
You and Me and Everyone We Know looks and sounds just like a movie that some self-absorbed performance artist would
make. In one scene we are treated to watching the artist jumping up and down and making faces. Yuck.
Sin City It may just be that I saw this piece of crap on the day that the Pope died. However, I'd like to think that an ultra-violent
film in which Rutger Hauer plays a murdering and cannibalistic cardinal, and Frodo Baggins plays his equally cannibalistic
acolyte would be relentlessly unpleasant on any day. Sadistic cops, murderous prostitutes and whatever the hell Mickey Roarke
is supposed to be do nothing but sicken the soul. Oddly enough, the only person in the movie to whom I give credit for enough
sense to know better is Bruce Willis. Shame on you, Bruce.
MATT'S TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2005