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The 10 Best Films Of 2005

The 10 Best Films Of 2005

With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. And so we’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 20002001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2005. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.

In creating and arguing over all our lists, 2005 was easily the most difficult year (we’d probably say that about every year), and it’s perhaps fitting that the mid-way point of the decade yielded the best crop of pictures. We could have easily listed 20 films here, but once again, stuck to 10. Uh… sort of…

Yeah, we did more than 10 for this particular year. Sue us, or get your own site. Globally, the Dardenne Brothers would win their second Palme d’Or of the decade at the Cannes Film Festival (“L’Enfant,” which wouldn’t be released in the U.S. until the following year), Michael Haneke would win Best Director (for “Cache“) and Jim Jarmusch‘s “Broken Flowers” would win the runner-up Grand Prix. And the American cinematic world would be forever embarrassed that Paul Haggis‘ “Crash” would win the Oscar for Best Picture, beating out frontrunner “Brokeback Mountain,” but Ang Lee would at least win Best Director for the film.

At the box-office, it was the same ol’, same ol’, and the top three grossing-films were big adventure/ fantasy films, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Onwards…

11. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”
Presently, Robert Downey Jr. is one of the two or three biggest movie stars in the world. In 2005, he was a punchline, that guy that got fired from “Ally McBeal.” But everything changed when he paired with fellow comeback kid Shane Black (the writer of the “Lethal Weapon” series), with his first script in nearly ten years on “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” A buddy comedy, a Hollywood detective satire and an honest-to-god noir movie all rolled into one, it’s outrageously, consistently funny, full of the kind of post-modern moments and smart-ass dialogue that filmmakers have been chasing without success since Tarantino broke through. The central mystery is a real head-scratcher, and the chemistry between Downey Jr. (at the peak of his abilities), Val Kilmer as PI Gay Perry, and Michelle Monaghan as love-interest Harmony, is tremendous. It was woefully underseen, theatrically at least, but is now enshrined as one of the decade’s great cult movies.

10. “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”
Jacques Audiard‘s most satisfying synthesis of humanism and criminality is this character study, faithful to the spirit of James Toback‘s original (“Fingers“). At its center, twenty-something street thug Tom (Romain Duris) toils away his good soul by partaking in shady real estate deals. He’s devoted to his criminal father, and only the influence of his deceased mother, a concert pianist, can shake that devotion. When Tom learns he has a talent for music, his connection to his mother becomes stronger and he considers leaving his criminal life behind. This internal conflict of masculine/feminine parental devotion is far more passionately evoked than the sexual seduction in Audiard’s “Read My Lips.” Duris gives a virtuoso performance, Audiard’s direction has never been more sharply in tune, and the two create soulful, haunting music together.

9. “Head On”
A sprawling and affecting musing on love, loss, hedonism and deliverance, Fatih Akin’s absorbing chronicle of self-destructive star-crossed lovers finally put him on the international map after three feature-length films. Oppressed by her strict, old-order family, a suicidal, 20-something Turkish girl (Sibel Kekilli) convinces a nihilistic alcoholic German-Turk (Akin regular Birol Ünel) —who’s given up on life after his wife’s death— to marry her as a means of escape. They share a marriage of convenience —that the brutish inebriated waste case takes for granted— but eventually her dynamism wins him over. Yet as their love is on the crest of coalescing, Ünel’s character accidentally kills a man in a fit of rage for admonishing their fraudulent scam and her previous promiscuity. Incarcerated for his actions, Sibel moves back to Istanbul to start a new life, leaving the caged Unel, who has found a purpose in life thanks to her letters, to pursue her years later when he is free. Raw and uncompromising and set to an ‘80s alt-rock soundtrack (Talk Talk, The Sisters Of Mercy, and more), the film flickers with sexual and romantic ardor.

8. “The Squid and the Whale”
Noah Baumbach‘s film captures the promise he evinced with his dry-witty “Kicking and Screaming” debut in 1995. It took almost 10 years to get back on track —the films in between yielded very mixed results— but this comedic drama about a family going through a divorce in 1980s Brooklyn demonstrated the director’s ear for creating wonderfully flawed, erudite yet asshole-ish characters. Yet as nasty and acidic as many of the characters are —Jeff Daniels is pitch-perfect as the no-longer-celebrated self-centered author, and Laura Linney is typically fantastic as the mother who decides to have an affair and destroy the family unit— they’re all three-dimensional. Bittersweet, often painfully all-too-real and yet loving, “The Squid And The Whale” is a penetratingly sad-funny look at family collapsing.

7. “Mysterious Skin”
Child abuse in the movies has at this point been reduced to pat explanations of a serial killer’s motivation  —very few filmmakers are prepared to examine the issue in any depth. The most notable exception to this would be Gregg Araki’s “Mysterious Skin,” which took the director’s grounding in New Queer Cinema and tempered it, making it by quite some way his most accessible and best film to date. It’s also features a totally electric, fearless performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, making his big step up to adult roles. Brady Corbet, in the other central but less showy role, is equally good, the two of them providing excellent, contrasting glimpses of the way in which we cope with childhood trauma. Araki gives the film a gorgeous, languid feel, aided in no small part by a crestfallen shoegazer soundtrack (Slowdive, Curve, etc.) and a great recent score by the Cocteau Twins‘ Robin Guthrie, and avant-garde composer Harold Budd.

6. “Good Night, and Good Luck”
George Clooney and his family emerged from television backgrounds, so it’s obvious that TV has been a big influence on his work, but “Good Night, And Good Luck” is a respectful (to the brink of fetishism) look into that realm. With a top-grade cast (Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson), Clooney takes a look into one of the most influential moments in television journalism, with Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) railing against Joe McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee for scaremongering and in the end failing to produce any supposed communist evidence to further his bizarre jeremiad. There’s no shortage of modern day parallels to the events depicted, which gives the film an added immediacy, but Clooney doesn’t go for cheap shortcut relevance, soaking the action in period-specific black and white, and to remain historically accurate, only using real footage of McCarthy.

5. “Junebug”
The feature film debut of director Phil Morrison (known for some fabulous Yo La Tengo music videos) takes the observational family drama to new heights. This remarkably quiet picture lives and breathes in its small moments. When a prodigal son (a tender Alessandro Nivola) reluctantly returns home, it’s his future fiancee who is largely left to deal with his dysfunctional family. The script by Angus MacLachlan is notable for refusing to go the easy route, instead painting a complex, slowly revealing portrait of a family torn apart, but still under the same roof. And in the midst of it all is Amy Adams, who in a star-is-born performance, plays Ashley, the pathologically cheery sister-in-law who beneath her sunny visage is hiding tides of roiling emotion (her turn earned her an Oscar nomination). In “Junebug,” you can’t go home again, but if you do, the requirements needed to survive are explored in exacting detail.

4. “Oldboy
Oh-Daesu, a commoner with a bad drinking habit, picked the wrong night to get wasted. On his daughter’s birthday, captors kidnap him and murder his wife, trapping him in a hotel room for fifteen years. When he exits, vengeance is on his mind, but little does he know that his captors are not finished with him. Park Chan-Wook’s most violent and propulsive entry in his Vengeance Trilogy is so startlingly and thrillingly executed that it gave the revenge picture a kick in the ass that lasted for years (and made near-contemporaries like “Man On Fire” look positively timid). Unlike other twist or revelation-laden films, “Oldboy” still rewards multiple viewings due to a tone that veers between roller-coaster ride and shock-corridor funhouse mirrors and a number of standout action sequences that would inform several bigger American films, naturally without any edge.

3. “Memories Of Murder”
Like all Bong Joon-Ho pictures, his sophomore feature-film effort —a sprawling murder-mystery procedural about a serial killer on the loose— is profound, absurd, comical and breathtaking sometimes all within a few moments. No one seems to quite expertly negotiate such discordant moods without coming off as tonally dyslexic.  Song Kang-Ho (a Bong regular) stars as a bumbling, lazy local detective all too eager to pin a series of rapes and murders of local women on the first mentally disabled sap who mildly fits the description. But his case is abruptly transformed when a methodical big city detective from Seoul (Kim Sang-kyung) is sent in to assist. Predictably, their methods clash, but as the roller-coaster drama unfolds, and both police officers are faced with their own epiphanies and moral dilemmas, this zigzagging saga lands in some beautifully unexpected places.

2. “The New World
What is man given, and what shall he take from the earth? Settlers arrive at Jamestown with unease, unfamiliar with the local natives, in this story not entirely about the mythic meeting of Pocahontas and John Smith, but also of the human nature behind colonial expansion. Unusually gun-shy, Colin Farrell’s inward John Smith is taken by the youthful spirit of the young Native girl as the settlers are enamored with the land, while we remain uncertain whether they are part of the land or vice versa. Typically poetic and gorgeously realized, like Terrence Malick’s other works, “The New World” is principally concerned with man’s grasp exceeding his reach, and the need for possessing what cannot be kept in one’s hand.

1. “Cache”
The camera always deceives in a Michael Haneke movie, a theme that’s run through his films, but reached its zenith with this suspense thriller. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche play a troubled couple who find their marriage stretched to the breaking point when they start receiving mysterious videotapes capturing the exterior of their suburban townhouse. At first seemingly like an obscure prank, the videos start to stockpile, and the couple suddenly remember dark secrets about their pasts. The film works doubly if you’re familiar with Haneke’s usual interest in French/Algerian conflicts, though it still satisfies as a conventional thriller with unspeakable depths that bubble over in nasty ways. Consider the final shot, one that twists the film on its head and offers a host of new answers and disturbing sociopolitical possibilities.

Special Merit:
In a banner year for French film, two equally deserving candidates were passed over in favor of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped.” The first honorable mention is Claire Denis‘ “The Intruder,” the venerable artist’s most lucid and expansive film to date. Said to be an adaptation of a 30-odd page short story by Jean-Luc Nancy, the film seems more a spiritual relative to that text, using its minimal plot (a man with a failing heart, searches for a replacement) as a jumping off point for rapturous, stinging imagery that leaves you more with an experience than a story. In contrast, Arnaud Desplechin‘s “Kings & Queen” has no shortage of plot, mapping a complex back-and-forth between the life of a single mother (Emanuelle Devos), her terminally ill father and her institutionalized ex-husband (a hilariousl Mathieu Amalric), who torments his nurse (Catherine Deneuve). One of our writers describes the Desplechin film as a “deft tonal tight-wire walk.”; only a filmmaker of Desplechin’s immense skill and dexterity could pull this off, balancing burlesque comedy and wrenching drama with occasional surreality, and filtered through a barrage of cinematic techniques. Both Denis and Desplechin share a penchant for adventurous, audacious filmmaking, and though neither “The Intruder” nor “Kings & Queen” are perfect, their flourishes of brilliance are more than enough to earn them spots here.

For Your Consideration:
“Me And You And Everyone We Know”
Miranda July‘s feature-film debut is one of the most polarizing films of the decade. Viewed by some as the ur-text of pretentious, whimsical indie cinema, this story about a lonely, single-father shoe salesman (John Hawkes), his precocious children (including a revelatory Brandon Ratcliff), the peculiar and fanciful performance artist (July herself) and the bus stop where their lives interrelate is an observant and contemplative consideration of daydreamers in search of a warm blanket of belonging. Offbeat to the point of irritation for some, the picture is so honest in its depiction of yearning that it produces awkwardness. But the calculatedly uncomfortable moments seeking connection and love (some of which are uproariously funny; others nakedly optimistic) are counterbalanced by a wondrously pillowy and buoyant atmosphere (thanks due large in part to Michael Andrews’ dreamy and illusory synth-lullabies), and keen sense of self-aware humor (July knows her character is part nitwit). Charming and effervescent. Back and forth forever (“))<>((“), indeed.

Very Honorable Mention:
One of our most hotly contested films that didn’t make this list (as if we didn’t extend it enough) was David Cronenberg‘s “A History of Violence.” It’s Cronenberg’s most powerful work in a long time and its first two acts are fantastically engaging, but something happens in that last third that curdles the whole a little bit and its uneven ending lends an episodic quality to the entire affair (not to mention that it devolves into generic action picture). Nonetheless, it houses amazing performances by Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris and Maria Bello and deserves recognition. Some were also highly in the tank for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Capote,” but others were vehemently against them both. Strong films that didn’t make the ultimate cut were Hirokazu Koreeda‘s “Nobody Knows” about a Japanese family of children abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves, Susanne Bier‘s “Brødre,” Danny Boyle‘s underrated and joyous kids film, “Millions,” Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s tale of the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich in “Downfall,” which features an amazing turn by Bruno Ganz as der Fuhrer, Marco Tullio Giordana‘s six-hour opus, “The Best of Youth“; Jim Jarmusch‘s low-key “Broken Flowers,” Nimrod Antal‘s excellent Hungarian fairy tale subway thriller “Kontroll,” Gus Van Sant‘s meditation on the death of Kurt Cobain in “Last Days,” Robinson Devor‘s languid South Afrikan drama, “Police Beat,Lodge Kerrigan‘s mystery thriller, “Keane” and Lucrecia Martel’s haunting and disquieting, “La Niña Santa,” the list went on and on and on…

Other pictures worth mentioning, but not quite making the entirely-admirable grade are Wong Kar Wai‘s “2046” (which is surely sumptuous and beautiful, but narratively leaves lots to be desired, even for an auteur like him who rarely utilizes plot), Judd Apatow‘s breakthrough film, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and Pawel Pawlikowski‘s “My Summer Of Love” which introduced most of us to Emily Blunt. And no “Manderlay” here. Lars Von Trier‘s second-film in the scabrous American-set “Land of Opportunities” trilogy buckled under the weight of its dubious ideological conceits and he knows it; he basically gave up on the triptych after this unsuccessful effort. Oh yeah, and “Munich” which is Spielberg’s best (and least embarrassing) effort of the decade, even if that sex scene is laughable. For a guy that makes super engaging pictures that always seem to fall apart badly in the third act, “Munich” was able to respectfully hold it together far longer than any of his other aught-made films.

— Oli Lyttelton, Sam Mac, Rodrigo Perez, Kevin Jagernauth & Gabe Toro

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