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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Top 10 Retrospective: 2005

Runners-Up: Pride and Prejudice, Murderball, The Squid and the Whale

10. Good Night, and Good Luck: George Clooney's stylized, smart, entertaining movie about red-baiting in the 1950s.

9. Match Point: Woody Allen goes abroad (to England), drops the comedy (mostly), and provides a taut, engrossing thriller. This was his best in a decade, and is even fun for people who don't usually like Woody.

8. Nine Lives: Probably the least-seen movie on my list. This film is a loosely interwoven series of vignettes about women and their lives. The great cast includes Robin Wright Penn (in the best section), Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, and Sissy Spacek.

7. A History of Violence: David Cronenberg's violent, gripping, sometimes strange film. It looks at how much we can leave our past actions behind, and how much they remain. Great performances from Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

6. Brokeback Mountain: Perhaps slightly overrated but still a landmark film beautifully directed by Ang Lee and containing Heath Ledger's shattering lead performance.

5. The Constant Gardener: A moral drama, a thriller, and engrossing the whole way through. Frenando Meirelles (City of God) is a great director and he gets great performances from Ralph Fiennes and Oscar-winning Rachel Weisz.

4. Crash: Unfairly maligned by some critics (especially after its Best Picture win), I think this is a marvelously put together, dramatized (in a good way) movie that sheds significant light on modern race relations.

3. Cache: In this movie, someone is stalking a French couple's residence. Why? This French movie from director Michael Haneke takes its time answering, and its answers are surprising, political, and troubling.

2. Capote: Biopics are not my favorite type of movie, but if they could all be like Capote they might be. Instead of showing us Truman Capote's life, this movie details the research and writing of In Cold Blood, the novel about a murder in rural Kansas. Philip Seymour Hoffman is astounding and the movie creates a nuanced, troubling picture of this great writer.

1. Junebug: If someone asked me what type of movies I liked, I might just say "movies like Junebug." Junebug got some attention (and an Oscar nomination) for Amy Adams' terrific performance, but it deserved even more acclaim. It's about a young, urban Chicago couple who go to visit the husband's family in rural North Carolina. A beautiful, funny, and deeply moving film about family. If you haven't seen it, see it. Now.

Oscar Best Pictures Nominees: Crash (winner), Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Munich.

Sum-up: A solid year in filmmaking, although not one of the very best of recent years. A varied top 10-list, with an unusually large number of movies that are in some sense "thrillers" (Cache, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Match Point).

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