In a couple weeks this blog will be five years old. Accordingly, through the coming fortnight I’m gonna be taking a few looks back.
As I’ve done before, I’ve stumbled upon some material from the vaults: My list of the best movies of 2005 and 2006, a list I put together for my four year movie broadcast on CKDU radio, The Love & Hate Movie Show. Hard to believe it’s been nine and 10 years, respectively.
I’m happy to be able to share those with you here for anyone who is interested. (For my Top 10 picks in the years since, please go here.)
TOP 10 OF 2005
10. King Kong. Peter Jackson creates an epic retelling of the giant ape story, recreating 1930s New York in astonishing detail.
9. Me And You and Everyone We Know. Miranda July’s wonderfully idiosyncratic story is like nothing I’ve ever seen in American movies.
8. Four Brothers. John Singleton’s crime/family drama starring Mark Wahlberg is one of the best genre films of the year.
7. The Dying Gaul. Adapted from a play about a Hollywood screenwriter and his weird love triangle with a movie executive and his wife, it stars Peter Sarsgaard, Campbell Scott, and Patricia Clarkson.
6. Good Night, And Good Luck. George Clooney’s fat-free ode to journalistic integrity.
5. My Summer of Love. Released on DVD only here in Halifax, a British coming-of-age love story from a Polish director featuring two girls in Yorkshire, with a star-making role from Emily Blunt.
4. Hustle & Flow. Terrence Howard stars in Craig Brewer’s story of a Memphis pimp who dreams of being a rapper.
3. Brokeback Mountain. Known globally as the gay cowboy movie. Really it’s a universal story of impossible love, with terrific performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.
2. The Constant Gardener. Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles follow-up to City of God, an international thriller from a John Le Carré novel with a tragic love story in its centre.
1. Junebug. A lovely, non-judgemental look at a rural American family and the Chicago art dealer who has married into it, featuring Amy Adams in a role that made the world stand up and pay attention.
HONOURABLE MENTION goes to the following feature films and documentaries, all of which gave me a unique and positive movie experience in one way or another, and on a different day, almost all of them might have hustled a spot in my top ten:
Batman Begins, Born Into Brothels, Broken Flowers, Capote, The Girl In The Café, A History of Violence, Jarhead, Metal: A Headbangers Journey, Omagh, Serenity, Shopgirl, Sin City, Syriana, Townes van Zandt: Be Here To Love Me, Walk The Line
TOP 10 OF 2006
10. Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. Michel Gondry also directed The Science of Sleep this year, a picture that I thought was OK but I didn’t love the way I did his last, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Block Party is something else entirely. A half comedy/half music doc, it’s the record of Chapelle’s efforts to put together a concert in Brooklyn. The sense of community in the neighborhood is mirrored in the friendliness between the musicians. Even if you aren’t a fan of hip hop or soul, there’s no way you won’t appreciate the artistry of these performers, including The Roots, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Kanye West, and The Fugees.
9. Curse of the Golden Flower. Zhang Yimou’s epic, beautiful reimagining of A Lion In Winter, set in ancient China with a lot more bloodletting and betrayal. The most impressive sets I’ve seen in a long time, but unlike Hero, the drama doesn’t seem so clinical.
8. Brick. Rian Johnston’s first feature is the most impressive debut of the year. In it he weds the teen drama, not something you see done well very often, with the hardboiled noir, to create something very different. It takes itself seriously, but not so much a bit of humour can’t creep in without capsizing the tone of the movie. A very impressive picture, especially considering he’s a first timer, I’ll look forward to seeing what he does next.
7. Pan’s Labyrinth. Dark, adult fairy tale from the Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, director of Chronos, The Devil’s Backbone and Hellboy. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it balances an Alice In Wonderland fantasy with the tragic, intense reality of a young, pregnant woman, her hard-as-nails military husband, and a small group of governmental rebels, all played out in this beautiful forested landscape. I’ve never been to Spain, but I never imagined it to look like this. Hard to watch in places, but totally magical.
6. United 93 There was plenty of talk about the reasons why anyone would want to make a film like this. It’s such a huge memory for most people, any effort to fictionalize it would be seen as exploitative. Well, Paul Greengrass’ style is docudrama, where through deft camerawork and editing he puts the audience in amongst the characters. Here he has done just that, with no larger implication of the day explored, just a real time, white-knuckle suspense film about ordinary people in a hopeless situation. Even though we all know the outcome, it doesn’t matter at all. Brilliant filmmaking.
5. The Departed Martin Scorcese’s return to form: a genre picture about power struggles between men with guns. No movie this year had the kind of visceral impact, or shocked people, quite in the same way. Seen with a crowd, people were jolted. Great, naturalistic performances by Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and an operatic one from Jack Nicholson made for a great time at the movies.
4. Casino Royale I’m so pleased I can add this movie to my ten best list. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed James Bond so thoroughly. Daniel Craig is perfect, a thug who is a little rough around the edges and trying to manage his emotions in work that demands he be a cool, heartless killer. Also amazing, Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. I predict big things from that young actor.
3. Miami Vice The most stylish movie of the year and one of the least appreciated. Yes, the script could have used a little extra work, but director Michael Mann created a look so hypnotic—shot on very light sensitive digital cameras—along with the incredible soundtrack, making for one high impact cop movie. The trailer park sequence is almost as potent as the bank robbery in Heat. Just forget the TV show and let the movie stand on its own. Oh, and try to avoid the uncut version now available on DVD. The theatrical version, also available on DVD, is tighter and better.
2. Children of Men Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopic vision reminded me a lot of 1970s science fiction. Anything starring Charlton Heston, pretty much. That said, it’s a whole lot scarier than The Omega Man or Soylent Green in its realism. It’s a serious indictment of fundamentalist ideology, in whatever form it comes: Fascistic tendencies in government, paranoid anti-immigration policies, industry unencumbered by environmental regulation. What’s great especially is that the freedom fighters are shown to be as blind and self-destructive as the government. Great work from Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It’s also an intense and action-packed chase movie, beautifully composed and shot.
1. Hidden (Cache) Michael Haneke’s strange, voyeuristic drama about a bourgeois Parisienne family and its secrets, revealed by the unblinking eye of a video surveillance. No film in 2006 was as provocative and thoughtful and demanding. The picture seethes with undercurrents of guilt and racism, and demands its audience ask plenty of questions of itself and what it’s watching
The Fountain, Clerks II, Lady In The Water, Marie Antoinette, Notes From A Scandal, The Queen, A Scanner Darkly, The Painted Veil, Shut Up and Sing: The Dixie Chicks, Stranger Than Fiction, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Volver