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Plenty worth seeing in 2005 film archives
By M.V. Moorhead

January 7, 2006

It was a big year for star-crossed loves at the movies this year, as my top two (really, my top three) picks reflect.

Here’s my Top Ten list:

KING KONG—I suppose I felt the same way about the 1933 King Kong that Tolkien geeks felt about The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson didn’t let me down, either. There are some complaints one could raise—the heavy-handed Conrad references, moments where the CGI effects go a bit sterile—but they seem like petty quibbles against the show that Jackson puts on, and against the genuine emotional responses that he wins.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN—This has been hailed as the “first gay western,” which leads me to wonder how closely other critics have looked at some of the classic westerns. But in any case, this tale of the connection between two cowboys who meet on the trail in Wyoming of the early ‘60s is a first-rate, bitterly and sweetly sad love story. The performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and especially Heath Ledger are heartbreaking and exhilarating.

GRIZZLY MAN—Werner Herzog’s jaw-dropping documentary is about Timothy Treadwell, an eccentric conservationist and video diarist who for more than a decade insisted on living and interacting with grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness, with predictable results. Herzog’s sees this poor, arrogant whackjob (he’s just a notch or two crazier than the Crocodile Hunter) with no illusions, but the filmmaker also gives Treadwell his due for his commitment and his artist’s eye on nature. Majestic, horrible, infuriating, thrilling.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK—Not enough people saw George Clooney’s fiercely stark black-and-white chronicle of Edward R. Murrow’s public battle with Joe McCarthy. The always-commanding David Strathairn shines as Murrow, a role for which he seems to have been born. The lean script doesn’t allow

for much insight into the man’s motivations, but its eloquence about the abuse of government power may never have been more timely.

THE 40-YEAR-OLD-VIRGIN—This farce from director Judd Apatow is proof that it’s still possible to  make a comedy that’s silly and raunchy without being insulting and dumb. Steve Carrell is convincing and deeply likable as the poor fellow in the title predicament, Catherine Keener is lovely as his best hope of deliverance—not just sexually but romantically—and the actors who play his haywire friends are a hilarious ensemble.

TRANSAMERICA—The year’s cleverest title: This one concerns a pre-op transsexual traveling across the country when she learns that years earlier she fathered a child, and that the boy, now in his teens, is in trouble. Felicity Huffman of TV’s Desperate Housewives makes her portrayal of Bree, aka Stanley, into an acting feat without making it into an acting stunt, and Kevin Zegers is winning as the kid.

SIN CITY—This adaptation of Frank Miller’s violent noir comic book by Miller and Robert Rodriguez (with a one-scene assist by Quentin Tarantino) is all style, next-to-no content, but the style is dazzling.

THE UPSIDE OF ANGER—Joan Allen is a bolt of sexy lightning in this domestic comedy-drama about an upper-middle-class wife and mother living through her fury at an absent husband. Kevin Costner gives, probably, the best performance of his career as the affably washed-up, beer-soaked baseball player who wanders into her life.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS—This horror-crime shocker, an homage to ‘70s drive-in fare, is ghastly, grueling, sick, sadistic, and also an intelligent and grimly funny piece of moviemaking. Director Rob Zombie’s style shows a marked improvement over his earlier The House of 1,000 Corpses, to which this is a sequel, and that neglected actor Sid Haig at last gets a juicy lead role.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE—The first of  the allegorical C. S. Lewis fantasies is adapted with unusual and fan-pleasing fidelity, but even non-geeks can enjoy the fanciful spectacle of the battle scenes, and the acting of the charming kids.

A very, very near miss for this list was the hilarious, fast-talking noir parody Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, featuring Robert Downey, Jr. in a sublime comic performance. Other films worth seeing included War of the Worlds, Wallace & Grommit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Corpse Bride, The Constant Gardener, Red Eye, Pride & Prejudice, Mad Hot Ballroom, Syriana, Batman Begins, The Producers (though it certainly doesn’t replace the original), The Family Stone, The Great Raid, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (once it finally gets going), Fun With Dick & Jane (until the dopey final third), the underrated Fantastic Four, and the inconsequential but enjoyable Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith.









































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