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(Once again...) The Best and Worst of 2005

by David Cornelius

So it’s that time of year again, when critics everywhere crawl out of the shadows and make their bold proclamations about what they believe to be the best (and worst) films of the past twelve months. Never missing a chance to boldly proclaim, allow me now to add my selections to this site’s ever growing list of year-end articles. On with the superlatives!

The Best Films of 2005

1. “Oldboy.”
Park Chan-wook’s whirlwind masterpiece of vengeance combines brilliant performances, eye-popping visual trickery, and a bitingly clever little mystery, leaving the audience breathless along the way. Not only is it the year’s best movie, it is a grand introduction to Park, whose gifts as a natural storyteller and filmmaker are the stuff of dreams. Watch it once, and “Oldboy” will lock itself in your memory forever.

2. “Yesterday.” The African AIDS epidemic gets a face in this heartbreaking tale of a loving mother in a remote village where proper HIV education is mostly nonexistent. Delicately paced by director Darrell Roodt and capped by powerhouse performances from Leleti Khumalo and Lihle Mvelase, this portrait of village life will knock you for a loop, and then some.

3. “Munich.” This rumination on terrorism, counter-terrorism, and the cycle of violence in which both are forever locked is yet another in Steven Spielberg’s ever-growing list of vital works. It is slick suspense by way of intelligent debate, social commentary by way of spy thriller.

4. “Batman Begins.” A comic book movie that’s not for kids, Christopher Nolan’s somber take on the Dark Knight is the first to treat the character with the deadly seriousness fans have demanded for years. Comic elements have been replaced by sober realism, the result placing this among the very best of all superhero movies. Oh, and the action’s pretty cool, too.

5. “Dragonhead.” An apocalypse movie unlike any you’ve ever seen, this one blends gripping psychological thrills with massive world-ending ideas into an experience like none other. Director Jôji Iida cranks up the tension and despair with every scene, while never allowing the film to dumb itself down.

6. “Murderball.” Yes, this documentary about paraplegic rugby is indeed every bit as good as you’ve heard. In fact, it’s better. Inspirational without ever becoming schmaltzy, involving without once resorting to sappiness, this film is funny, touching, exciting, and wonderful in ways most fictional sports flicks fail to be.

7. “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.” So you think the new “Star Wars” movies just can’t hold up to the old ones, eh? Looks like you haven’t been paying attention. The final installment of George Lucas’ mammoth space opera is as bold and electrifying as the classic trilogy, and with a depth of emotion that reminds us just how great these films truly are.

8. “Lord of War.” Andrew Niccol’s brave, bitter statement about guns, death, and human nature is designed to knock you for a loop, and it works. Nicolas Cage, as the arms dealer of the story, becomes both a hero and villain at the same time, a captivating character we want to love but know we never can.

9. “The Girl In the Café.” Another political message movie, but this message is buried under the year’s sweetest romance. Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald shine in their roles of two quiet, lonely souls who find each other, their romance leading them to the G8 Summit, of all places. Beautiful character work and heartwarming performances keep us smiling all the way through.

10. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Who said sex comedies had to be dumb? Steve Carell and Judd Apatow deliver a screenplay smarter than it had any need to be, and we’re all better for it. Here’s a comedy that knows when to play it dirty, and when to get so very gentle. And either way it goes, it always finds a laugh, so much that it’s bound to be remembered as one of the decade’s funniest films.

Runners-up: “The Aristocrats,” “George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “A History of Violence,” “Kung Fu Hustle,” “Sky High,” “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” “War of the Worlds,” and “The Weather Man.”

The Worst Films of 2005.

1. “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
Oh my, oh my. This screen adaptation of Tyler Perry’s popular stage play is a mess of unholy proportions, clumsily mixing broad comedy and soap opera-level melodrama, topped with the sight of Perry in drag. The result is an unwatchable disaster that manages to be as offensive as it is unentertaining.

2. “Are We There Yet?” It’s ninety minutes of a mellowed-out Ice Cube stuck in a car with two screaming children who deserve to be shot in the knees. What’s not to love?

3. “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.” Here is a film so shockingly incompetent on every level that I’m still amazed it ever got released. I have yet to meet someone who actually wants to see this movie, but when I do, I will weep for that person.

4. “Transporter 2.” This sequel to the clinically retarded actioner from a few years back manages to top its predecessor, becoming a monument to unbridled stupidity. Looking as if it were written by a remedial seventh-grader on a sugar high, this film would be hilarious if it weren’t so embarrassing for all involved.

5. “Dirty Love.” The moral of this one is simple: just because she has big boobs and thinks farting is funny doesn’t actually make her funny. You’re just distracted by the boobs. Jenny McCarthy wrote the screenplay, and that should tell you enough.

6. “A Sound of Thunder.” Few comedies this year were as gut-busting as this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic time-travel adventure. Problem is, this is not a comedy. Still, it’s one of the best times I had in a theater this year, thanks to an hysterically ridiculous script and some of the worst special effects seen in ages.

7. “Palindromes.” Todd Solondz, mastermind behind such wannabe shockers as “Happiness” and “Storytelling,” topped himself with this self-important waste about teen sexuality, abortion, and religion, with the lead character played alternately by eight different people. Rarely are movies this unwatchably pretentious.

8. “Guess Who.” Apparently, white people and black people are comically different. Kooky!

9. “D.E.B.S.” Lesbian spies who wear school girl outfits? Sounds like a winner, until you notice that this spoof is painfully absent of wit or charm; instead it’s crammed with strained yuks and terrible acting. From the director of “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” which was a much better movie, if that tells you anything.

10. “Bride & Prejudice.” It’s Bollywood musical-meets-Western romantic comedy-meets-Jane Austin upgrade. And yet this mishmash only bothers to lift the worst of all three categories, resulting in a cinematic nails-on-the-chalkboard screech. Ouch.

Runners-up: “Bewitched,” “Crash,” “Fantastic Four,” “Hoodwinked!,” “House of Wax,” “King’s Ransom,” “Man of the House,” “Monster-In-Law,” “The Pacifier,” and “XXX: State of the Union.”

For more list goodness, allow me to present this link to my picks for the best and worst direct-to-video titles of the year.

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originally posted: 01/21/06 11:24:40
last updated: 03/06/06 15:37:41
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