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December 31, 2005

My Best of 2005

Like a lot of people who love film, I spent part of the beginning of 2005 catching up with films that were released in 2004. The very first film I saw this year was The Aviator. This may not have been Martin Scorsese's best film, but I felt it was quite entertaining, at least until the end when Howard Hughes' mental illness took over. I am feeling uncertain about his forthcoming The Departed as it may be an interesting film in its own right, but I generally deplore Hollywood's current habit of remaking Asian films. Scorsese has also gone on record as stating he has never seen the original film that The Departed is based on. While I will take his word on this, one has to wonder when another one of Scorsese's announced projects is another remake.

The last new film I've seen this year was one I saw only to keep up with a current email discussion among some friends. Maybe it's the hype that got in the way, but I think Brokeback Mountain may be the most overrated film I bothered to see in a theater since Sideways. After trying to listen to Heath Ledger mumble his way through the movie I was even more baffled by the praise heaped on this film. The ideal Brokeback Mountain would have been made years ago with James Dean and Montgomery Clift, directed by George Stevens.

On to my list, which makes no claims to objectivity, and is based in part on films I actually remember seeing this past year.

Best New Film Seen in a Movie Theater: Land of the Dead. Too often I see a movie in a theater and wish I waited for the DVD or in some cases, cable. Not so with George Romero's newest zombie feast. I'm going out on a limb here to say that George Romero is to zombies, what John Ford is to the Western. Land of the Dead is Romero's equivalent to Ford's The Searchers in terms of how both filmmakers have redefined the genres they have essentially established. Eugene Clark's performance as Big Daddy is both moving and delightful, expressing anger, rage and thoughtfulness without a single word. The scene of hundreds of zombies walking across the river that was meant to be a barrier is singularly thrilling.

Best Old Film Seen in a Movie Theater: The Passenger. This was actually the only classic film that I recall actually playing at my neighborhood multiplex, the South Beach Regal 18. Still, I was glad to see The Passenger again after thirty years, in a more complete version, though still missing no one seems interested in recovering. While my current city boasts of The Miami Beach Cinematheque, the movies shown there are all on DVDs and the seating is uncomfortable directors chairs. I did get to see Away with Words by Wong Kar-Wai's cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, and a presentation of Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend at the Knees presented as a peep show with performance artists.

Best Film seen in 2005 that will be heard from more decisively in 2006: The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros. This film about a gay pre-teen boy caught between his love for his family of thieves and his infatuation for a neighborhood cop is scheduled for the Sundance Film Festival. The film has already received awards in Asia. I wouldn't be surprised if Strand Releasing picks this film for U.S. release.

Best New Film seen on DVD: 2046. I can't always count on art and independent movies to show up here and when the films play in Miami Beach, it's often for a quick one or two week run. Sony took their time getting Wong's newest film into theaters. I saw this meditation on love and the future in the comfort of my own home, almost two months before its brief theatrical run here. I should also note that the critically mixed Eros did not have a theatrical run here. Runner-up: Head-on. I saw Fatih Akin's previous film, In July a couple of years ago. While the earlier film was about the geographical distance between Germany and Turkey, in this new film, Akin explores the emotional distance between the two countries. Again his characters travel through indirect routes to their respective destinations.

Best Classic Films seen for the first time this year on DVD: There are several films worth mentioning. On top of this list is Jean Renoir's Boudu Saved from Drowning a film much funnier than most current comedies, with Michel Simon as cinema's messiest house guest. Face of Another is a reminder of Sixties stylization done right. Keisuke Kinoshita's Twenty-four Eyes is another Japanese classic that lives up to the praises of Donald Richie. La Parfum d'Yvonne is not quite old enough to be accorded classic status, having been made in 1994, but I am astounded that this teasingly erotic film from Patrice Leconte was not given a theatrical U.S. release, nor is available as a Region 1 DVD.

Best "Popcorn" Film of the Year: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. My significant other is a big fan of Angelina and Brad so this I took her to see this fairly soon after it opened. Doug Liman has combined the big action set pieces from The Bourne Identity with the goofy humor of Go and Swingers. The Smiths may not quite be the Nick and Nora Charles for the new millenium but the film is consistently entertaining, especially with the scenes with Vince Vaughn as a spy still living with his mother.

Best wishes to those who have taken the time to check out my site. See you next year!

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 31, 2005 04:19 PM


Even a slightly negative comparison between Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Nick and Nora is enough to have me suddenly interested in checking out the former! And happy new year to you, Peter, and thanks for all of your thoughtful contributions to and support of Cinematical over the past 6 months or so - it's been appreciated.

Posted by: Martha at December 31, 2005 10:54 PM

Cool you liked Maximo Oliveros, Peter; I do think it's much better than Brokeback. But there were plenty of other gay films better than Brokeback--Mysterious Skin, Tropical Malady...

Anyway, glad to hear someone's distributing Maximo.

Posted by: Noel Vera at March 13, 2006 12:54 AM