Devin’s Top 15 | Dave’s Top 15 | George’s Top 15 | Newell’s Top 15 DVDs

Now that
we’re firmly in 2006 I can finally talk about the best of 2005. I might have
seen something awesome on New Years Eve, so it just wasn’t safe before that.

That
said, I hope no one reads this to feel justified about movies they felt were
great in 2005. This isn’t that sort of list. I’m not aiming to beat the Oscars,
or predict them. Go read Roger Ebert’s site or Michael Medved’s for the
year-end popularity contest.

Everything
below is great — I’ll defend it endlessly and I’m not yet stooping to throwing
mediocre flicks up just to be contrary. (That’s next year.) But most of them
are great in very different ways, and sometimes I’ve singled out a film for a
specific reason. (King Kong springs to mind. See it for Serkis. Ignore the
indulgence.) Others, like Cache and The Propostion, have had
only limited or festival release. But if the copyright date is 2005 and I saw
it projected on a screen, it’s fair game. Consider those coming attractions.

There are
films I didn’t see: Tony Takitani, Wallace & Gromit, Brokeback
Mountain
. Thanks to DVD they’re not going anywhere and I’ll get to them
soon enough. Some of those have found more than their fair share of praise
already. Others I did see, like Syriana, didn’t make the cut because
while I appreciated one aspect (the suicide bomber’s story) the balance just
didn’t come out in favor of the film.

2005,
like almost every other year, saw some incredible films hit screens all over
the world. If you think otherwise, it’s time to get out more. When they say
film is a collaborative medium, one of the primary relationships is between
film and audience. Anyone who complains about a shit year but saw only The
Fog
needs to pick up the slack.

 15.) The Wayward Cloud

I came
out of this movie hating it, but the film has stuck with me in the months
since. It’s got a mix of urban blight, cartoonish music and steamy sex that’s
unequalled in Chinese cinema, or any other cinema for that matter. Ming-liang
Tsai revisits a serenely depressed Taipei during an unfathomable drought to
explore urban love and alienation. His tools are striking — watermelon
fucking, suggestive music videos and the most apocalyptic ending I think I’ll
see for a long time. (Mad Max fanboys steer clear — this
is a totally different apocalypse.)

Current Rating: 8.5
out of 10

Contributing Factors: Audacity
and tenderness in equal measure. Well, and all the hot sex.

Performance to Savor: The
moment on a swing where Shiang-chyi Chen contemplates the object of her
affections is slow, but becomes the heart of the film. For the bored, just
enjoy the Japanese porn starlet.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "Nuns
and whores will want to switch places when it’s over!"

 14.) Pusher III

Gangster
meets Dogme in the conclusion of a fan-fucking-tastic Danish crime trilogy. In
reality I’d highlight last year’s second installment as the best, but I’m
constrained by the calendar. But this conclusion brings family and the
underworld together in a way that only Coppola, Scrosese and The Sopranos have
managed. Yeah, that means it’s bloody good. Pusher
III
is funny, perplexing and shocking, and I hope everyone that reads this
gets a chance to see it.

Current Rating: 8 out
of 10

Contributing Factors: Lurid
realism and a very twisted sense of humor.

Performance to Savor: Zlatco
Buric, as his third turn as the drug dealer Milo opens in a rehab meeting.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "Crime
is so much better than punishment!"

 13.) King Kong (CHUD Review)

Jackson’s
elaborate wish fulfillment piece has too many flaws for it to sit higher on the
list — this is the only one I’m not interested in seeing again any time soon–
but it deserves to be honored for the personality it gives Kong. Digital
performance has been derided for many years, but Jackson, Andy Serkis and Weta
have been evolving it by leaps, and the character of Kong is their most
impressive work yet. It proves that digital performance is as viable as the
actor and animators behind it — something most people already know. It never
hurts to be reminded. Fifty years from now the achievements of the dozens of
people that created Kong might seem archaic, but their creation will remain as
worthy of respect as that of Ray Harryhausen does today.

Current Rating: 8.4
out of 10

Contributing Factors: The
interpretive dance of Andy Serkis and one million digital gorilla hairs.

Performance to Savor: The
dullness that shades Kong’s eye as he realizes his fate.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "You’ll
believe a gorilla can act!"

 12.) Capote (CHUD Review)

Many of
the year’s Oscar contenders feature serious fireworks, whether in the form of gay
cowboys or an electrifying performance from a fading actor. But when the time
comes around it might be Philip Seymour Hoffman who goes home happy. Not
because he replicated the mannerisms of Truman Capote so well, though he
definitely did that. His real achievement, and that of the film he’s in, was to
capture the delicate tracery of desire, honor and ambition that linked Capote
and the man who cruelly murdered a family. The movie could have taken a dozen
far more lurid paths to the screen, but thanks in large part to Hoffman it
avoided all of them, going instead for something far more elusive.

Current Rating: 8.2 out of 10

Contributing Factors: A serenity that
rarely suffuses even art-house offerings, and Catherine Keener as a great
Harper Lee.

Performance to Savor: Hoffman,
as he weaves his own version of the truth to suit whatever situation he’s in.
You can see the wheels turning, and even sense his dim understanding that it’s
never going to work.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "If
you like gay cowboys, you’ll love Capote’s forbidden lust for a killer!"

 11.) Manderlay

There’s a
tiny little part of me that places Lars von Trier’s Dogville follow-up on the
list just to enjoy the ensuing complaints about the director. And as with most
of his work, there are definitely flaws to Manderlay. But my honest
appreciation for this movie comes from the fact that Trier is actively engaging
and exploring a topic — in this case, American race relations. Compare this to
Crash,
and I think it comes out on top in every way. I’ll stump for Trier as long as
he keeps thinking about what he’s writing, and this film has solidly stuck with
me since my screening.

Current Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Contributing Factors: Another
great ensemble cast, smarter use of Dogville‘s stage sets and the best
inclusion of a David Bowie song this year.

Performance to Savor: Isaach De Bankole,
in every scene.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "If you hated
Dogville, you’ll like this even less!"

 10.) Land of the Dead (CHUD Tag Team Review) (Buy the DVD)

This spot
on my list is a way of thanking George Romero for moving forward. The thematic
potential of zombies is thin at best, as the legion of imitators shows, but
Romero came back to prove that there was life in the old corpse yet. This
sucker delivered. A storyline that broke with the obvious. Great gore and digital
effects. A big fucking truck. And performances from Hopper and Leguizamo that
don’t suck.

Current Rating: 8.8
out of 10

Contributing Factors: Guess it doesn’t
hurt that every social criticism in the film is right as far as I’m concerned.
Don’t like it? Go watch The O’Reilly
Factor
.

Performance to Savor: Romero’s, as he
proves that every damn wannabe is still lagging way behind. Honorable mention
to Asia Argento. Someone needs to be the poster slut for genre.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "Remakes? Who
needs ‘em?"

 9.) The Devil’s Rejects (CHUD Review) (Buy the DVD)

The movie
that we deserve. When we go to a movie hoping to see something violent, we should
have our face rubbed in it. Rob Zombie does that, but with a friggin’ great
cast he also creates an unforgettable family of characters that stand with the
best from horror and grindhouse. By any objective standard I’ll take Otis and
Spaulding over Leatherface without a thought. These guys make me laugh. This
also proves that Tarantino doesn’t have a lock on ’70s soundtracks. Any movie
that makes me want to listen to ‘Free Bird’ deserves respect.

Current Rating: 8.4 out of 10

Contributing Factors: Zombie gets the tone
and the balance right. Makes me want to go back in time, buy a convertible and
kill people.

Performance to Savor: Bill Mosley, as he
turns a stock character into a scary motherfucker. Honorable mention to Mary
Woronov, who you can’t even recognize.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "If you don’t
like this, you deserve Eli Roth."

 8.) The Proposition

Even more
than the Pusher films, I wish people had been able to see this film in 2005.
There’s still hope for ’06. This was a great year for westerns, with Tommy Lee
Jones and Rob Zombie both turning in very different takes on the genre. This
film, by John Hillcoat and Nick Cave, stands between them. It’s a violent,
poetic elegy to honor and the frontier with flavor that could never be captured
outside of Australia. Ray Winstone continues to be one of my favorite actors
with a fantastic turn as an authority figure who knows that doing his job will
probably get him and his wife killed.

Current Rating: 8.4 out of 10

Contributing Factors: Dirt,
bullets and blood. And the fact that Nick Cave reigned in the instincts that
made his novel a true slog.

Performance to Savor: Danny Huston as the
murderous bandit who likes a little verse between killings. And the dirt under
Guy Pearce’s fingernails.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "What’s
Australian for ‘horse opera’?"

 7.) Munich (CHUD Review)

Spielberg’s
telling of the aftermath of September 1972 has several faults, but one strength
lands it a place on this list: it never talks down to the audience. By trusting
in the people out there in the dark, Spielberg has taken a giant step towards
becoming the master filmmaker he once threatened to become. That bit in my
intro about film and audience being integral to the ‘collaborative medium’
thing? This is where it comes around. Time after time Spielberg has sabotaged
the most elemental line of communication between artist and audience. The
terrible decisions in War of the Worlds show that he’s not fully grown out of
that tendency to flinch, but he holds steady here, where it counts.

Current Rating: 8.8
out of 10

Contributing Factors: I’m still getting
over a real-world (well, sorta) Spielberg flick that doesn’t use a bookend
sequence, or a documentary lineup or any other damn thing. Someone pick me up
off the floor!

Performance to Savor: Eric Bana in the
last act, as the weight of his fears come down on him.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "America’s ‘best’
filmmaker finally grows up!"

 6.) Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

Many
seemed to find the second coming of cinema in Oldboy; I wasn’t one of
them. But Park Chanwook comes a lot closer to the mark with this far more
elegant movie. Actually, looking at the list from here down, I’m noticing a
pattern: movies that deal with violence, trust and retribution in stark and
honest ways. Lady Vengeance may still have the operatic sheen of Oldboy,
but the center manages to be more realistic, with a resolution that easily
trumps a little tongue-cutting. This movie just feels more honest with itself
– it’s not a fantasy masquerading as truth, but a more plausible tale that
uses fantasy to make an ugly truth easier to digest.

Current Rating: 8.8
out of 10

Contributing Factors: The
colorful pseudo-noir style is great, but it’s the film’s refusal to let anyone
have vengeance for free that will stick with you.

Performance to Savor: Yeong-ae Lee, as she
watches her on-screen audience come to terms with getting what they asked for.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "We’re still
wondering what the hell is wrong with Korea."

 5.) A History of Violence (CHUD Review) (Pre-Order the DVD)

I’ve been
reading a lot of pulp crime lately — stuff many critics would dismiss as
schlock. Weird, isn’t it, how the trashiest entertainment instincts can inspire
art? Forty years ago it was Point Blank, where John Boorman and
Lee Marvin prefigured Stephen Soderbergh’s entire career in ninety minutes.
This year it’s David Cronenberg taking a left turn into seemingly ‘straight’
territory, only to demonstrate why he’s been able to stick around all these
years. A History of Violence distills the fear of and desire for
bloody retribution into a powerful packet of great filmmaking. It’s pulpy,
yeah, but also impeccably crafted and full of more thought and meditation than
some filmmakers achieve in their career.

Current Rating: 9.1
out of 10

Contributing Factors: A cool eye and
steady hand to balance the blood and guts that you knew Cronenberg couldn’t
resist.

Performance to Savor: Maria
Bello, as she works out what part of her husband to accept. Her second sex
scene with Viggo Mortensen might not be equaled in a studio picture this
decade.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "…we never said
we’d have Cronenberg’s baby. That was some other site."

 4.) Good Night, And Good Luck

Good
political movies are hard to find, because most aren’t satisfied unless they’ve
taken a partisan position. Clooney’s movie avoids that, secure in the
understanding that the story of Ed Murrow’s ideological opposition to Senator
McCarthy is strong enough without preaching. David Strathairn will etch himself
into history as Murrow, whether or not his portrayal is more fantasy than fact.
Clooney’s second film puts him in the books, too, as a director willing to put his
movies where his mouth is, and do it in style.

Current Rating: 9 out of 10

Contributing Factors: The movie recollects
a turbulent period with fondness and pragmatism, highlighting the ideals of a
simpler time without ignoring the realities.

Performance to Savor: Strathairn, one
cigarette after another, as his indignation quietly builds.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "Network news
just got sexy again!"

 3.) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (CHUD Review)

Every
time I make one of these lists, I search for at least one comedy. Typically I
come up empty. Shane Black’s movie isn’t strictly a comedy, but it’s easily the
funniest film I saw this year, and is in the running for funniest of the
decade. And while other films are obviously better, there isn’t another that I
recommended to absolutely everyone, no matter their taste. Robert Downy Jr.,
Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan all knock this one out of the park, and Shane
Black proves that keeping a small pistol near your balls isn’t such a bad idea.

Current Rating: 8.9
out of 10

Contributing Factors: Fun,
goddammit. I’m still hungry to watch this film again, after three times. Fork
over the DVD already, you slobs.

Performance to Savor: Val
Kilmer in every second of the movie.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "You’ll
shit yourself laughing!"

 2.) Three Burials of Melquiades
Estrada
(CHUD Review)

Next week
you’ll see my Peckinpah love in full flower. This is the closest I’ve seen to a
Peckinpah film since the man died, and that’s reason enough for this to sit at
number two. Tommy Lee Jones constructs a deliciously simple plot, then sets his
characters in motion across a harsh, deserted plane that bleeds from the
physical world into the psychological. Barry Pepper finally shines as a
tarnished border guard, and Jones regains my trust as a man who follows his
gut, no matter what truth it leads him to.

Current Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing Factors: Dozens of westerns
use lonely landscape as window dressing, but Jones cuts right to the heart of
it. He makes Texas burn.

Performance to Savor: Barry Pepper, as he
begins to get it. Humanity rules.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "Bring
me the head of Tommy Lee Jones…so I can kiss it!"

 1.) Caché

The
year’s strangest, most oblique thriller is also the most rewarding movie of
2005. The movies of Michael Haneke are never easy, but this one is deceptive.
It creates a beguilingly safe urban family, then slowy tears it to shreds with
lies and submerged perdjudice. Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche excel as a
comfortable couple besieged by a cunning camera eye. As videotapes of their
home arrive on the doorstep, awful buried truths are dredged from the past. The
film will infuriate some, as it never moves to reveal the hidden videographer,
but the ‘how’ of the plot isn’t important. Only what happens. And the results of
Haneke’s elegant movie are more provocative and cunningly delivered than
anything else I saw this year.

Current Rating: 9.3 out of 10

Contributing Factors: Creeping
dread meets bourgeois comfort in the year’s most unpredictable film.

Performance to Savor: Daniel Auteil as he
witnesses, then blithely covers up the film’s most shocking event.

P.R. CHUD.com Pull-Quote: "You
may not know what happened, but you’ll love it!"