Top 10 Movies 2005

1. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. A painfully incisive and comedic drama about an intellectual New York family in the 80s in the throes of divorce.  Jeff Daniels is Oscar-worthy terrific as a pompous and insecure has-been writer who can't deal with a more successful writer wife (Laura Linney) and so attempts to turn their elder son (Jesse Eisenberg) against her.
George Clooney's cautionary retelling of the Edward R. Murrow/Sen. Joseph McCarthy confrontation some fifty years ago.  Filmed in black and white, its claustrophobic interiors reflect the tension of the early fifties while reminding us never to take our freedoms for granted.  David Strathairn's Murrow is uncannily accurate.
This movie will get you talking.  And it will surprise you.  Expect Jarmusch to do the unexpected.  Almost every scene is different from what you’ve come to expect from Hollywood:  the way the camera moves or doesn’t move;  what is not in the frame, what we want to see but can’t.  Murray has turned minimal acting into high art.  And nobody plays brassy like Sharon Stone.  review
4. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.  David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" poses an intriguing question: Can a man blot out his past and reinvent himself, erase his own history and start over, complete with loving wife and children?  In the classic film noir of the 40s and 50s, the past is a force that overtakes the present; despite the protagonist's best efforts, he is no match for its inexorable pull.  Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson) owns a diner in a small  Indiana town; he has a wife and two children.  He seems to have found the perfect fit.  Until someone from the past finds him. review
5. WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT.  Wallace is a Brit, an inventor along the lines of Rube Goldberg.  Gromit is his—pardon the word—dog.  Gromit is the smarter of the two.  They’re now in the pest-control business, the pests in question rabbits.  You know, those terribly nasty vegetarians who do two things extremely well, devour garden produce and make other rabbits.  Will they save the vegetables?  The bigger question:  Will Nick Park get his third Oscar?  He should.   review
6. LOOK AT ME.  Marcel Proust would have loved this movie about a plump twenty year-old woman named Lolita (first time actress Marilou Berry) who has a beautiful voice and low self esteem.  She also has a celebrity father who is self-centered and plainly disappointed with his daughter, that is, when he takes the time to notice her. 
Director Agnès Jaoui has worked for Alain Resnais, France's master of what I would call Proustian space, the way an actor walks, the turn of head, the light falling on a young woman as she sings, the coldness of a father's gaze. How much of this film was designed with this in mind, I have no idea. But it works.  review   
7. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  Not high-tea Jane Austin but rooted in the earth.  We can understand, maybe for the first time on screen, why these aristocrats are hesitant to show too much interest in the Bennet sisters; their family, especially Mrs. Bennet (played deliciously by Brenda Blythyn), is quite coarse, despite the efforts of Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland) to reign her in.  Lush scenery, perfect pacing, all in all delightful, funny, romantic and intelligent.  Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFayden shine.
Dating is easy.  NOT!  A quirky, poetic movie about a shoe salesman (John Hawkes) and a performance artist (Marenda July who also directed), trying to connect.  Just watch the scene of the two of them walking down a street and you'll get the idea.  
9, CRASH. 
 About the coming together (or crashing into one another) of the myriad races that make up contemporary America.  Out of the fifteen or so major characters in this movie, four are white, the L.A. district attorney and his wife, and two cops; the others players are Asians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, Blacks, teenagers, the old and the middle-aged, the rich (one white couple and one black couple), middle class, working class, and poor—though none are destitute.  Haggis and co-screenwriter Robert Moresco have structured their story in what seems at first random vignettes, all having to do with misunderstanding and just plain orneriness, all dealing with conflict between the races. 
  A story from today's headlines: big oil, the Middle East, Washington's movers, the CIA and FBI, suicide bombers, corporate corruption, heroes and villains.  The plot is intricately complicated; you may not figure it out, but that's okay, no one in the story does either. No one's in control.  Not even--and especially--George Clooney, who does some of the best acting of his career.

RUNNER UPS (alphabetically)
BATMAN BEGINS.  an apt title, since this is a different Batman than we’ve seen in those earlier movies.  I caught myself smiling often.
Philip Seymore Hoffman's Truman Capote oozes venomous, ruthless charm as he bamboozles a city into giving him access to the two killers of a Kansas family in order to write his masterpiece "In Cold Blood."  Hoffman manages at once to show us a despicable yet strangely sincere genius. Clifton Collins Jr. is memorable as Perry Smith. 
At the heart of Le Carré’s story is the betrayal of Africa by the colonialists and, in this case, the drug companies who conspire to make millions at the expense of those dying of AIDS and TB, the next epidemic.  Ralph Fiennes has his best role since “Spider”; Rachel Weisz is the feisty Tessa who eventually brings her husband into the real world.  review 
THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. If you’re offended by the title, the makers of this movie will be very happy.   We have a middle aged nerd who lives alone and has no life beyond his work and a few friends.  Andy Stetzer (Steve Carell) does have a hobby—he collects action figures, which is cute, since there’s no action in his life.  And like these action figures, he never comes out of his box.   A throwback to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, almost all of which have to do with man-woman relationships.  Intelligently written, and despite its title it’s not really about the sexual act but about loneliness and friendship and the nature of mature relationships.  This may sound rather somber, but it’s very very funny—and sweet.  Catherine Keener  is wonderful, as usual.  review 
THE INTERPRETER.   Nicole Kidman, an interpreter at the UN with a specialty in a rare African dialect, overhears a plot to kill the leader of an African country who’s due to speak to the UN General Assembly.  To maintain his control, this leader has been killing masses of his people and calling them terrorists.  Sean Penn is a security agent whose job is to stop the assassination from happening. It may seem like a plot we’ve seen before and in a sense it is.  But in Pollack’s hands it is fresh and relevant.  Kidman and Penn are in top form.
KINGS AND QUEEN.  The French do fathers and daughters very well.  The "queen" in the title has a love-hate connection  with her father, but her man troubles don't stop there.   Nora has trouble with all the men in her life--the "kings."  The intricacy and interstices of these relationships takes a bit long to develop, but it's worth the wait. 

  This is one of the most delightful and charming movies about children that I’ve seen in some time, up there with “Holes” and “Into the West,” the Irish fable about two boys and a magical horse.  This movie is also a kind of fable about two boys who have lost their mother, each coping in his own way with the loss.  The director Danny Boyle, best known for “Trainspotting,” “Shallow Grave,” and “28 Days Later,” movies utterly different from “Millions,”  shows his deft touch in every frame.   Alex Etel who plays Damian is making his screen debut.  He is a marvel. 


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The Squid and the Whale

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Good Night, and Good Luck

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Broken Flowers

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A History of Violence

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Wallace & Gromit

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Look at Me 

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Pride and Prejudice

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Me and You and Everyone We Know

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The Constant Gardener

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The 40 Year-Old Virgin