The best films of 2005.

Reviews of the latest films.
Dec. 26 2005 7:45 PM

Me and You and Everything We Watched

The Best Films of 2005, and my last Movie Club.

Click here to read the 2005 Movie Club discussion.

(Continued from Page 1)

Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine's documentary Ballets russes retraces the history of the company (largely Russian emigres at first) that essentially brought ballet to the New World, and it's 100 cc's of pure pleasure. The historical footage of ballets that form the foundation of modern dance would be enough. But it's the weave of those fragments with the lucid narration and the brilliant, tart, affectionate, witty, poignant reminiscences of the surviving dancers (many of whom look astonishingly fit in their eighties, their "instruments" bent but unbroken) that makes this a miraculous experience, an enduring tribute to the most ephemeral art—and the ephemeral bodies that give it life. Ten cc's of pure displeasure comes from Hubert Sauper's Darwin's Nightmare, which depicts the last twitches of life on the shores of Tanzania's Lake Victoria. In this Darwin-forsaken place, the imported Nile Perch has consumed virtually every other species in that vast body of water, and a multi-tentacled ecosystem—natural, human, economic—appears on the brink of extinction.

Nine Lives, directed by Rodrigo Garcia, is nine stories with nine protagonists, each tale told in a single traveling shot. It's a gimmick and it isn't—because the mixture of real time and skillful dramaturgy creates unbearable tension and makes for a movie that's Epiphany City. Some of the episodes are more devastating than others, but there are no outright duds. And the movie boasts the best performance of the year, by Robin Wright Penn as a very pregnant woman who bumps into her old flame in a supermarket. As she circles the store with her grocery cart, her face alternately flushed and ashen, it's as if we're looking directly into her soul.

Advertisement

And, you know, I could keep going ... to the riotous Kung Fu Hustle, Head-On, Kings and Queen, Broken Flowers, Pride & Prejudice [sic], Breakfast on Pluto, March of the Penguins, Murderball, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, and After Innocence—heartbreaking and infuriating tales of people freed from long-term incarceration and even death row by DNA evidence.

Another underrated film of 2005 is The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, the story of a housewife and mother (played by the sublime Julianne Moore) who fulfills her creativity in the only way her ('50s) culture lets her: by composing poems and jingles for the corporations that help to keep her down.

Call me every kind of sicko but I still love Sin City. And not since Diner has Mickey Rourke been as magnetic as he is under pounds of latex that take our attention off his own peculiar physiognomy and, paradoxically, allow the ravaged yet tender soul to shine through.

There are so many heartening developments to discuss. For instance, the spate of films about the challenges of being gay or transgendered in a less than welcoming culture, released into a culture that might or might not be welcoming: Breakfast on Pluto, Saving Face, My Summer of Love, Transamerica, Brokeback Mountain. ... And then there's all the preposterous anti-globalization conspiracy movies that I find so unexpectedly convincing: Syriana, The Constant Gardener, even the annoying wine documentary Mondovino. (Don't imbibe before you see it or the camerawork will make you puke.) And let's not forget the Revenge With a Guilty Conscience Genre, embodied most vividly by A History of Violence. I had problems with the movie's have-it-both-ways pulpiness, but on its own terms (direction by David Cronenberg; screenplay by Josh Olson; acting by Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt; virtuosic splattery and bone-crunching brutality; two remarkable sex scenes) it works like gangbusters.

I'm going to save my list of the worst movies and best performances of 2005 for later in the week. And I'll refrain from commenting on Terrence Malick's The New World until Jonathan Rosenbaum can fight back. Jonathan and I had a spirited discussion of Malick's last film, The Thin Red Line, in Slate's very first  Movie Club back in 1998. I'm delighted to welcome him back (along with Scott and Tony) for this, my final Movie Club, as I'll be (sadly) leaving Slate for New York magazine at the end of—my God, Thursday. No time to waste. Let's shake hands and come out punching.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

U.S. Begins Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How in the World Did Turkey Just Get 46 Hostages Back From ISIS?

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.