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page created: 1/18/06
originally published: 1/11/06





Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre Annual #1
The Bad and the Beautiful


Jahnke's Electric Theatre - Main Page

And so we meet once again as the new year dawns. Time (past time, really) to pick out the ten movies of the year I enjoyed the most. And while I've been doing these things for quite a little while now, this is the first one under the spiffy Jahnke's Electric Theatre banner. Hey, if Hollywood can celebrate the biggest Arbor Day weekend opening of an animated non-sequel, then I can make up my own milestones too.

Incredibly, 2005 turned out to be one of the best years for movies I've enjoyed in a long while. Ironic that it just happened to coincide with the dreaded box office slump that you've probably heard about. Too bad for those who decided to stay home, although they've got some swell DVD's to look forward to now. For my part, 2005 was one of the rare years where I considered expanding the top ten list in order to accommodate all the movies I enjoyed. But in the end, I figured that would be (A) lazy and (B) cheating. Keeping the list at ten forced me to seriously reflect on what I'd seen over the past year.

It also turned out to be one of the more contentious years I've seen lately. I heard dissenting opinions on practically every movie I loved this year... and more than a few about movies I didn't love that other folks did. These are my favorite kinds of movies. Sure, it's fun to talk about movies we can all agree are great. But it's even more fun to argue about movies we disagree about and chew over what we either loved or loathed about ‘em.

In the end, the main factor uniting all these disparate titles is repeatability. These are the movies from 2005 that I've either seen more than once already or most want to see again in the very near future. That doesn't necessarily make a movie great, of course, any more than not wanting to see a movie again makes it bad. I'm not exactly counting the days until I can watch the brilliant but draining 8-hour documentary Shoah again, for instance. But in 2005, it did seem as though the best movies had images, stories, moments and performances that stayed with you, replaying themselves in your mind's eye, making you long to see them again for real.

However, while it's cheating to expand the list beyond ten, I'm perfectly within my rights to add on a rider. So before we get started, let's take a quick look at 2005's...

Honorable Mentions

Michael Haneke's Caché weaved an elegant spell of suspense and dread; Tim Burton's remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory outdid the original with its eye-popping visuals, great Danny Elfman score and another bizarro world performance from Johnny Depp; Werner Herzog's fascinating documentary Grizzly Man emerged as the most mesmerizing nature doc of the year; Hustle & Flow boasted one of the most mesmerizing performances of the year in Terrence Howard; the documentary Inside Deep Throat captured the brief era of mainstream porn chic, telling tales so outlandish they had to be true; the epic visual essay Los Angeles Plays Itself made me look at the city I live in with new eyes; Steven Spielberg's Munich was the best of his recent “mature” films and his best movie in decades, period; Chan-wook Park's Oldboy had more than a bit of the old ultra-violence and wiped the floor with every American action movie of the past ten years; Shopgirl, with a reinvigorated Steve Martin adapting his own novella beautifully; Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's visually dazzling Sin City, which my lovely and talented spousal unit says is the best movie of the year and that I'm making a huge mistake by leaving it off my list; George Clooney led a huge cast through the complex global conspiracy thriller Syriana; Joaquin Phoenix eerily channeled the Man in Black in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line; and Australian tourists are menaced by a killer in Wolf Creek, the scariest horror movie of the year.


Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. And now, without further ado, may I present my choices for...

The Best Films of 2005

Remember, as always, this is only an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering.

10. The Aristocrats

From a purely aesthetic, cinematic perspective, this documentary may be barely competent. But I found it impossible to care about the on-the-fly camerawork when I was laughing so hard. Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette took a bar bet of an idea, a movie about 100 or so comedians telling variations of the same beyond filthy joke, and turned it into the funniest non-fiction movie you're likely to see. What can I say? I like to work blue.

9. Batman Begins

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight revamp is the superhero movie I always wanted to see but never in a million years thought I would. Dark, brooding and above all, remarkably serious about its characters. In 1978, Superman made me believe a man can fly. In 2005, this movie did something much harder. It made me believe a guy would dress up like a bat just to beat people up.

8. Capote

Movies about writers usually aren't interesting unless they show the writer doing anything in the world other than his job. Bennett Miller's meditation on Truman Capote's research and writing of In Cold Blood is a brilliant exception. With Philip Seymour Hoffman giving the performance of a lifetime, Capote taps into that inner world and shows us the razor's edge that separates an author and his subject.

7. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Last summer's most pleasant surprise, a raunchy sex comedy that actually feels like it's about real human beings. Judd Apatow and Steve Carell created a smart, observant, and sweet comedy that's much better than any movie with this title has a right to be. Bonus points for including this year's best end credits sequence. Let the sun shine in, indeed.

6. Good Night, and Good Luck

David Strathairn commands the screen as Edward R. Murrow in this, the best of George Clooney's two excellent 2005 films. Does this tell the whole story behind McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade? Of course not. It doesn't pretend to. But it does capture the electricity of live television, the flavor of the period, and most of all, the importance of a free and vital press. The smoky black-and-white cinematography also helped to elevate this on the list, making it one of the best-looking movies of the year.

5. Brokeback Mountain

Love stories are a dime a dozen in Hollywood but Ang Lee's beautifully told story of love found, expressed, repressed and denied stands well above the rest. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal give extraordinary performances, not so much aging on film through costumes and makeup but maturing, growing into older and possibly wiser characters before our eyes. Brokeback Mountain is a heartbreaker of a movie that lodges inside your consciousness and refuses to let go.

4. El Crimen Perfecto

Although it doesn't seem to help any, I'm just going to keep raving about Alex de la Iglesia's brilliantly funny, one-of-a-kind movies until the rest of America catches up. El Crimen Perfecto is right up there with his most enjoyable work, a madcap Hitchcockian thriller laced with surreal humor, vibrant colors, and bouncy, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head music. I've seen this three times now and each time I'm left with a big grin on my face. Iglesia's movies are genuine crowd-pleasers, folks. So where are the crowds?

3. A History of Violence

David Cronenberg's latest sneaks up on you, taking a B-movie (or, more accurately, comic book) premise and turning it inside out. The movie invests its time on scenes we're not supposed to see in movies like this, moments between husband and wife or father and son that resonate far deeper than any action or suspense setpiece ever could. Viggo Mortensen delivers a powerhouse performance, matched beat for beat by Maria Bello. This is great filmmaking from a director that even non-horror fans must now acknowledge as one of the best working today.

2. Match Point

Woody Allen pulls up stakes, heads for London, and delivers his best film since 1992's Husbands and Wives. It might not look or sound much like what most people expect from a Woody Allen movie, but long-time fans will immediately recognize recurring themes that couldn't be handled by anyone else in quite this way. The movie examines the fine line between ambition and greed, between love and lust, and between skill and pure dumb luck. There's not a false note or a misstep in the entire film and a good sign that Woody Allen's best isn't entirely behind him.

1. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

At their best, animated movies capture more love, care and passion on film than any other type of feature. Nick Park, Steve Box and the rest of the folks at Aardman Animations demonstrate that in spades. With painstaking attention to detail, Aardman brought Wallace and Gromit from short films to features with wit, style and dignity, a feat that's eluded just about every other cartoon character from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was every bit as funny and charming as I'd hoped it would be, whipping by in a cascade of puns, gags and visual delights. And when the end credits rolled, I was ready to pony up another admission and watch it again right that second. I haven't felt that way about a movie in ages. Mark my words, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is going to be entertaining children and adults for a long, long time. Long may they reign.


Here endeth the top ten list and if you want to go to sleep happy, thinking only nice thoughts, you'd better stop here. Because you can't have the good without the bad and that means it's time for...

2005 at The Hell Plaza Octoplex

These aren't listed according to rank (as in how rank each movie may have been). Just an alphabetical march of shame. As always, I'd like to think that I managed to avoid the very worst movies of 2005. Some of these eight are simply those that let me down the hardest. The rest... well, they're just bad by any definition.

Boogeyman

Dear teenagers of America. Stop going to see horror movies! Your demographic is causing studios to release a big steaming load of PG-13 fright flicks. You're ruining my favorite genre and you're single-handedly causing the proliferation of “Unrated” DVD's. Knock it off.

The Brothers Grimm

I've seen worse movies but coming from Terry Gilliam, this was beyond disappointing. The screenplay was dreadful, the visuals were uninspired, and the performances... well, let's just say that if you'd told me after seeing this that Heath Ledger would also be on my ten best list, I'd have called you a bald-faced liar.

Domino

I hated every second of this.

Fantastic Four

Maybe, just maybe, not everything that works in comic book form is going to work equally well on film. The FF never seemed like a logical choice for Hollywood superstardom to me. Of course, miscasting every single role didn't do the world's greatest comic magazine any favors.

Hide and Seek

Do you remember when Robert De Niro was a great actor? More importantly, does he?

Monster-In-Law

If this movie had gotten stuck in my DVD player, I would have thrown it, my TV, and probably the table they sit on out the window.

The Producers

My ears are still ringing from this movie's assault on them. But oddly enough, I can remember none of the songs.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Sorry, all you Jedi-in-training. I tried watching this again on DVD recently, thinking I must have missed something. Nope. If anything, it's even worse than I thought it was. If you liked it, more power to you. But my Star Wars trilogy can kick your Star Wars trilogy's ass.


And that, friends ‘n’ neighbors, is that. As always, I look forward to your angry, accusatory e-mails explaining why all of my choices are moronic. I hope you saw more good movies than bad in 2005 and wish you nothing but the best in both life and art in 2006. To those of you who are regular readers or subscribers to The Electric Theatre, I'll talk'atcha next week. To the rest, thanks for stopping by.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


"Electric Theatre - Where You See All the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"

- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900


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