23 December 2009

Best of the 00s, 2005 Films Edition

Time to knock out the rest of these lists

2005 Films

2005 was a bad year for movies that appealed to me. The big prestige movies were all not my kind of films (Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Syriana, Walk the Line), the popcorn pictures were middling to Bewitched (that's synonymous with awful, see also; Herbie: Fully Loaded). It might make sense to not mention any films this year, and distribute those extra honorable mentions and top three films in the other years of the decade, but for consistency sake, there's got to be something here worthy of some recognition. Luckily there are three films that do matter to some degree, so the year isn't a complete loss. Flawed but interesting films that came out that year include, King Kong, which almost was brilliant, but just piled on the special effects sauce a bit too high, for too long, on to little of story.

A special dishonorable mention goes out to Crash, however. Easily the worst film to ever win Best Picture. Horrible film, filled with arch characters and every ridiculous liberal white guilt trope that Hollywood likes to shove down our throats. This film inhabits a cartoon version of Los Angeles that in no way resembles reality. Would be easy to turn that script into a knowing farce playing against all those ridiculous stereotypes, but unfortunately this film was played straight. The Brothers Grimm was almost up there with Terry Gilliam's best, but there's just a certain spark missing that makes the whole less satisfying than all the parts would lead you to expect that film to be. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy managed to lose all sense of what made the source material great, and tried to turn it into a standard comedic sci-fi pic, and it's a shame they so missed the mark. Wedding Crashers and 40 Year Old Virgin are both well done, but not great comedies. The Great Raid was a solid, old fashioned war picture, entertaining, but not essential viewing. Match Point was Woody Allen's best dramatic picture of the 00s, but it's not a great film. The Matador just misses the cut, it's a very satisfyingly put together comedy drama featuring an outstanding performance from Pierce Brosnan.

Now, the three most essential films of 2005 (not in order of merit)

It's a brilliantly put together action sci-fi film that works on its own merits, even if you haven't immersed yourself in the TV series (Firefly) from which it came. I guess folks were put off by the "Space Western" aspect of the film (and series), but within the universe created for the show, it makes sense, and gives them opportunity to create fascinating visual, social and character juxtapositions.

Special bonus mention of the excellent commentary provided by Joss Whedon on the DVD/BluRay for this film. He engages fully (which in a lot of commentaries, isn't the case, you can hear the, 'I'm contractually obligated to sit in this both and say a few words, but I'm not going to like it' attitude of some directors/performers on those audio tracks) and pulls out details relating to both story and production that are worth hearing.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
All the Wallace-y and Gromit-y hijinx you had come to know and love from Nick Park and Aardman Animations, upsized to feature length. Luckily, these characters upsized well, and the charms of the shorts are maintained over the 85 minute runtime. Fun for the whole family, and not in the crappy way that phrase usually suggests.

Sin City
Not really fun for the whole family (unless you are an Addams, possibly), but a fun, violent, visually inventive, narratively flawed film. It takes the form of the graphic novels it's based on and successfully translates those images and that narrative style to a cinematic feature. No other film of this kind has been as successful in doing so. Episodic, without feeling scattered, the filmmakers managed to create an alive and vital world, that feels very organic, despite the highly stylized nature of the visuals. However, there needs to be a "Jessica Alba" rule established for all future films of this type. Any attractive young actress who signs on to a pulp-y R rated picture to play a stripper/hooker/pornstar must also agree to appear topless where toplessness would be expected for her character. Topful strippers in dive bars just doesn't cut it (even when portrayed by Jessica Alba).

That's the year that was, for films, all the best films had their start in other media, TV, shorts, and graphic novels, and owe their success for the developed nature of the characters as they were honed in those other outlets. The transition from one form to another is often screwed up, just see any video game inspired picture of the last two decades for examples of how horribly wrong these things can go. These three films serve as testaments to how best to adapt existing source material into feature films.



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