CRITERIA FOR 2005:
US FILMS = US RELEASE DATE
INTERNATIONAL FILMS = FESTIVAL PREMIERE DATE
In July I was near the end of 1925 and suffering from a severe case of silent movie burnout. My eagerness to move on was so strong I unceremoniously dumped my top ten of that year into a post without accompanying write-ups (though I kept all the trimmings; Favorite Shots, Posters, What I’ll Remember, Readers Poll, etc.) And here I am, about to do it again. Why? In large part because I learned that the 2000’s do not belong in my Top Ten By Year project. Not only am I repeating my cop-out move from before; I’m actively jumping ship, having only watched 42 out of 84 films since beginning in August. I repeat, since August.
Being excited about 2005; ah, the good old days. I’d visited every other major decade in film (1925, 1935, 1943, 1958, 1965, 1978, 1983 & 1992) since starting this project in 2012, and the aughts were my final stop in this first round before going back to the beloved 1930’s. I chose 2005 because it afforded an opportunity to revisit a lot of films I hadn’t seen since theaters and I thought it being perceived as a comparatively ‘weaker’ year would provide me some semblance of control over the quantity of planned viewings. This didn’t work out so well considering my 2005 Watchlist/Rewatchlist resulted in, as I already mentioned, 84 films.
Creating the ‘Watchlist’ is to watching what planning a trip is to traveling; the prep is almost as fun and just as important. It gets you riled up, ready to wrangle, to wander and discover.
Watching movies within the structure of Top Ten By Year often feels like Christmas morning; it can also feel like Finals Week. Even in the best of years, wavering momentum is a guarantee. You find yourself struggling to give a shit, lamenting your inability to connect the dots of these films, to bring them together in a way that enlightens a specific time in the medium you care for so dearly.
When it comes to artistic consumption, I don’t do things halfway. As a cinephile I’ve long misinterpreted this drive by favoring quantity over quality. It had always been about seeing ‘canon’ films so I could say I’d seen them; not going down my own paved path of flickering images. Top Ten By Year sounds like yet more reductive ranking in a netscape full of it, but it gives me structure, history, context, and a finish line–all in a project driven format. Ideally I get to have quantity and quality.
2005 gradually crumbled in my hands for a variety of reasons. Yes, 2005 has its own vibe but it’s still too recent to evoke the kind of snapshot discovery and sense of history that I’m looking for. Then the sheer number of disappointments that eventually wore me down didn’t help. Welcome to Dongmokdol, Joyeux Noel, The Beat that My Heart Skipped, Lunacy, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, 13 Tzameti, Don’t Come Knocking, Conversations with Other Women, Lemming, Cigarette Burns, and Murderball were all either mostly forgettable or downright risible (large spectrum there, I know). It eventually became overbearing. The remaining films increasingly felt like a chore, and the last thing I want this project to feel like is sustained sluggishness. I also began to realize that my apathy with 2005 wasn’t giving the remaining films a fair shake. It’s a disservice to watch them this way, especially considering that an objective of the project was that they collectively strengthen each other; instead they were weighing me down.
There were a number of rewatches of films I considered favorites that didn’t quite have the same impact. That’s not to say I don’t hold these films in high regard. I still love A Bittersweet Life, Cache, Crying Fist, and A History of Violence. And I have a great deal of respect for Good Night, and Good Luck. But nearly all of these were locks for my top ten and they now sit just outside that arbitrary but telling distinction.
The films I backed out of watching are merely circumstantial. I still want to see all of them. Some of them I had been particularly looking forward to. But for the reasons stated above, the time that was supposed to be the time has transformed into ‘not the time’. So all apologies to C.R.A.Z.Y, El Calentito, Nana, Regular Lovers, Midnight Movies, You’re Gonna Miss Me, Constantine, Unleashed, Angel-A, Nine Lives, Jarhead, Kingdom of Heaven, 20 Centimeters, Princess Raccoon, Tristram Shandy, Who’s Camus Anyways?, Mary, Russian Dolls, Manderlay, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Sun, Strange Circus, Noriko’s Dinner Table, L’Enfer, My Dad is 100 Years Old, Tale of Cinema, Funky Forest, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Three Times, Oxhide. One day.
So, what are some things going on in 2005? American cinema (from which my observations will largely stem) was still speckled with the splintering and long-reaching effect of American Beauty’s success, films with some combination of domestic dysfunction, quirky coming-of-age or satire (often topped with suburbia) such as Pretty Persuasion, The Chumscrubber, Thumbsucker, Fierce People, and parts of 12 and Holding and Me and You and Everyone We Know.
Robert Downey Jr. began his multiyear climb back into relevancy and newfound superstardom with Good Night, and Good Luck and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Speaking of The Avengers cast; Jeremy Renner was proving that he had far more charisma in his early days with a supporting turn in 12 and Holding; Chris Evans was busy single-handedly supporting Fantastic Four with some hollow wisecrack posturing; Scarlett Johansson began her fruitful collaboration with Woody Allen in Match Point; Mark Ruffalo was in his rom-com phase with leading man turns in Rumor Has It and Just Like Heaven. And Chris Hemsworth? Well, he was still four years away from his feature film debut and in the middle of a sizable run on the Australian soap opera “Home and Away”. There, now you know what all of The Avengers were doing in 2005. Happy?
There were ‘gritty’ graphic novel adaptations of A History of Violence, V for Vendetta, Sin City. A History of Violence pairs up nicely with Cache as two films about the nature of violence, guilty consciences and the inability to escape one’s past. And Cache sits alongside Lemming and La Moustache as ambiguous French thrillers that never truly reveal themselves, where the question mark and the unknowns haunt and linger.
Superheros were having a low and high moment. On the one hand, Fantastic Four and Elektra were things that happened, but this is also the year of Batman Begins, the film that for better and worse changed the superhero landscape by banishing brightness and foolishness in favor of brooding why-so-oh-so-serious heft.
The most notable directorial debuts came from Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin), Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice), Rian Johnson (Brick, which does not count for this list but did premiere at festivals in 2005) Joss Whedon (Serenity), Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know), Lexi Alexander (Green Street), Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart), Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), and Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer).
2005 was a particularly weak year for horror, at least when it comes to the kinds of horror I personally seek out, with only The Descent and Red Eye (more of a thriller) being noteworthy. Wolf Creek, The Devil’s Rejects, Saw II and Hostel have certainly made waves but the former two, while being highly acclaimed in some circles, are not something I have any interest in seeing. Nasty horror of the ‘torture porn’ trend was certainly on the upswing.
Still reeling from the successes of Moulin Rouge! and Chicago, Hollywood continued its attempts to capitalize on the resurgence of movie musicals with two incredibly awkward adaptations — Rent and The Producers (both feature much of their original casts). Moulin Rouge! also looms over Peter Chan’s Hong Kong meta-musical Perhaps Love, worth seeing for its ambitious inventiveness. Tim Burton had two releases, both musicals to some degree; Corpse Bride (without a doubt) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to some extent). There was also Reefer Madness and Romance and Cigarettes but if you’re really looking to branch out, it seems that Seijun Suzuki’s Princess Raccoon is the place to go. Sadly, this was one of the films I backed out on but by all accounts it’s an out-and-out spectacle. I mean, a Seijun Suzuki musical implies as much, right? I’ll bring this paragraph full circle by connecting to that film’s star, Zhang Ziyi, to her other film of the year; as Japanese protagonist Chiyo in Rob Marshall’s misfire follow-up to Chicago; Memoirs of a Geisha.
Major remakes from 2005 include both John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, Richard Linklater’s take on Bad News Bears, The Longest Yard, The Beat that My Heart Skipped, Dark Water, Four Brothers, Yours, Mine & Ours, Fun with Dick and Jane, Guess Who and House of Wax. King Kong and War of the Worlds are two remakes (well, the latter being a remake and adaptation) that improve on their predecessors, using big-budget spectacle to great effect. It would be Peter Jackson’s last hurrah as an exciting filmmaker while Steven Spielberg impressed with his surprisingly dark and atypically unflinching take on alien invasion.
There is a particular trail of oldie TV show adaptations that I associate with 2000’s Charlie’s Angels, continuing here with Bewitched, The Honeymooners, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and The Dukes of Hazzard. Dirty quest-for-sex comedies shifted from horny teenagers to man-child adults with The 40-Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers, two major hits that had a significant impact on American comedies in the years after.
Rising ‘stars’ of 2005 (actors making their debuts or performances that put them on the map)? Joseph Gordon-Levitt establishing himself as a major talent and not just the kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun” and Angels in the Outfield (Mysterious Skin, festival premiere of Brick), Ellen Page (Mouth to Mouth, festival premiere of Hard Candy), Carey Mulligan (film debut in Pride and Prejudice and miniseries “Bleak House”), Amy Adams (turning point performance in Junebug), Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Cursed), Deborah Francois (L’Enfant), Channing Tatum (first year in film with Coach Carter and Havoc), Eva Green made her English-language debut in Kingdom of Heaven; Taylor Lautner (The Adventures of Shark-Boy and Lava Girl, Cheaper by the Dozen 2), Garrett Hedlund (Four Brothers), Jennifer Carpenter (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, Little Manhattan, Kicking and Screaming), and James McAvoy (Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Teen idols of the day: Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Michael Murray, Amanda Bynes (yes this is important)
The year Kevin James started transitioning from TV to film with the massive hit Hitch. The year of Tyler Perry’s first film project, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The year Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie became a supercouple with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The year that the Johnny Knoxville vehicle was a thing that someone tried to make happen (The Ringer, Dukes of Hazard, Daltry Calhoun).
Other ubiquitous presences? Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain, Lords of Dogtown, The Brothers Grimm, Casanova), Ryan Reynolds (Waiting…, The Amityville Horror, Just Friends), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Thumbsucker, Be Cool) Peter Sarsgaard (Flightplan, Jarhead, The Skeleton Key, The Dying Gaul) Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds, Hide and Seek, Dreamer), Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Proof, Brokeback Mountain). The year Anne Hathaway transitioned into adult films with Brokeback Mountain and Havoc.
Some of my personal 2005 movie memories? To give you a sense of who I was, let’s just say that I was an 18-year old who had livejournal posts with titles like “Sin City was the greatest of the great”, “King Kong and Rent”, “Batman”, “Harry Potter” and quotes from Sin City, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Revenge of the Sith. It was the year I learned that Elijah Wood was capable of giving me nightmares (Sin City). I fell asleep during Syriana in the theater. Peter Sarsgaard, my obsession of the time (ok this hasn’t changed), played two final twist villains in Flightplan and The Skeleton Key. My other obsession of the time, Steve Carell, hit it big with The 40 Year Old Virgin and “The Office”.
So there are some surface observations about 2005. Next will be 1930 and I plan on using that year to once again engage with this project. 1930. Right in the middle of two other years I’ve done. 1925 and 1935. Early talkies. So much going on. So many stars being made, stars dying out, transitions being implemented. Cannot wait.
Note: I still have to watch Linda Linda Linda. I wanted this finished so badly that I’ve posted it without having seen the film I was most looking forward to watching. But! I will be watching it. And when I do, I will make changes if need be.
10 Honorable Mentions: Last Days (Van Sant), The New World (Malick), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Newell), L’Enfant (Dardenne Brothers), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Jones), Cache (Haneke), A History of Violence (Cronenberg), King Kong (Jackson), War of the Worlds (Spielberg), A Bittersweet Life (Kim)
Really embarrassed by how US dominated this is, but that’s the way it worked out this time.
10. Pretty Persuasion (US, Siega)
9. Fingersmith (UK, Walsh)
8. The 40-Year Old Virgin (US, Apatow)
7. The Proposition (Australia, Hillcoat)
6. Broken Flowers (US, Jarmusch)
5. Mysterious Skin (US, Araki)
4. Brokeback Mountain (US, Lee)
3. Grizzly Man (US, Herzog)
2. Pride and Prejudice (UK, Wright)
1. The Squid and the Whale (US, Baumbach)