My Favorite Films of 2005
I’ll always remember 2005 as the year I finally got to see The Producers. Being the world’s most avid movie musical fan, I became excited the moment I heard about plans to bring the Tony-winning play to the big screen. And I was not disappointed. How often do viewers get to watch musical numbers on film today without the camera jumping around and cutting away to something else? Presenting its terrific routines from beginning to end, The Producers made me very happy indeed -- and earned the number two spot on my “Top Ten” list. Here are my picks for the ten best movies of 2005:
1. Crash. After so much gushing about The Producers, why name Crash as the number one film of the year? Good question. But I decided if I found two movies equally deserving, the honor should go to the most original of the pair -- and, in this case, it’s Crash. Directed and co-written by Paul Haggis, this riveting movie did more than hold my interest throughout. It touched my soul. While expertly intertwining stories about diverse characters whose lives collide during one 24-hour period in contemporary Los Angeles, Crash encourages us to think more deeply about our own strengths and weaknesses.
2. The Producers. Filling the screen with all the energy and enthusiasm I’ve come expect from a Mel Brooks creation, The Producers features Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick cavorting hilariously in roles they made famous on Broadway. With the multi-talented Will Ferrell backing them up as a maniacal Nazi playwright, this film version is a special treat for old-time movie musical fans like me.
3. King Kong. From its opening scenes of New York City in the throes of a Great Depression to its famous final line acknowledging that beauty killed the beast, Peter Jackson’s film version of King Kong offers magnificent escapist entertainment. Acting, cinematography, special effects, production design, and background music all contribute to the high quality of this awesome remake.
4. Dear Frankie. Well-cast and helmed with loving care by first-time feature director Shona Auerbach (who also did the eye-catching cinematography), this touching film about a lonely young mother and her deaf son who meet an enigmatic stranger (Gerard Butler, oozing mystery and machismo) tugs on your heartstrings and won’t let go, even after the end credits roll. Set in Glasgow, Scotland, there’s a timeless quality about Dear Frankie -- which probably comes from Auerbach’s impressive use of special lighting and an unusual color palette.
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Thanks to the creativity of filmmaker Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to glorious life on the big screen in this incredibly fascinating movie which is, as everyone knows, the second version of the classic children’s story. Yes, Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka is weird, but also nothing short of brilliant. And those amazing sets took my breath away!
6. Pride & Prejudice. First-time director Joe Wright and cinematographer Roman Osin managed to give this movie version of Jane Austen’s popular Victorian novel a sprightly pace and a wondrous “you-are-there” feel. Although Austen purists might object to such an approach, it definitely worked for me. Sumptuously filmed and brilliantly acted -- by Keira Knightley as the spirited, out-spoken Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFayden as the haughty Mr. Darcy -- Pride & Prejudice emerges as one of 2005's most appealing cinematic gems.
7. Red Eye. There’s not one wasted minute in this intense psychological thriller directed by scaremaster Wes Craven. The idea of being on a plane is frightening enough these days, but watching a woman sit in cramped quarters next to a stranger who’s trying to involve her in a diabolical assassination plot raises terror to the max. Red Eye boasts the type of excruciating suspense Alfred Hitchcock created in his classic films like Strangers on a Train. Without a doubt, any movie scaring me that much belongs on my top ten list!
8. Walk the Line. Although I'm no fan of the biopic genre, this wonderful celebration of Johnny Cash's musical talent and the Johnny Cash/ June Carter love story almost made me change my mind. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon deliver splendid performances here. Both do their own singing -- surprisingly well -- and they capture the playful essence of Johnny and June as they banter back and forth on stage. It’s great fun watching their duets shoot off musical fireworks that match the explosive nature of their characters’ blooming romance.
9. A History of Violence. Directed by David Cronenberg, this disturbing drama is a spellbinding character study of a man who reinvents himself in order to live a normal life, but who suddenly gets pulled back into his old violent way of responding. Outstanding performances by Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt are complemented by cinematography that gives a Norman Rockwell feel to the small town atmosphere at the beginning of the film, a lush look when the main character visits his wealthy kin, and a shocking urgency to later scenes of graphic violence.
10. Kung Fu Hustle. Humorous visual gags and outrageous slapstick sequences abound in Stephen Chow’s rollicking Hong Kong comedy about two buddies posing as members of the notorious Axe Gang. So much happens in this highly amusing film that it’s a difficult one to describe; therefore, with Kung Fu Hustle “seeing is believing.” To make us laugh, Chow steals from movie giants like Bruce Lee, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Fortunately, he succeeds with flying colors!
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order): Christmas in the Clouds ; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe; Cinderella Man; Dark Water; Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story; Hard Goodbyes: My Father; Mad Hot Ballroom; March of the Penguins; Must Love Dogs; Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith; The Squid and the Whale; The Upside of Anger; Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.