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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
2005: An Underrated Year of Film
Wednesday 01 February @ 11:38:56
2005 was a good year for films. It certainly offered more quality than last year, when “Million Dollar Baby,” “Sideways” and “Closer” might’ve swept the Oscars if it weren’t for Jamie Foxx’s uncanny impersonation of Ray Charles.
Audiences seem to be voting with their entertainment dollars to defeat talk of gay marriage bans and the hate of right-wing conservatives. No fewer than four homosexual-themed films struck mainstream gold while securing high praise from critics: “Brokeback Mountain,” “Transamerica,” “Capote” and “Breakfast on Pluto.”
the Oscars might as well exchange the best actress award this year for an extra
best supporting actress award. American roles for women were meager apart from
Felicity Huffman’s brilliant turn as a transsexual male in “Transamerica,”
Charlize Theron getting dirty in a North
Country mine and the plum role of June Carter Cash for Reese Witherspoon
the Line.” As for minorities, Jeffrey Wright (“Broken Flowers,”
“Syriana”) landed the only two award-worthy roles offered to any
American of color this year.
The Golden Globes aired two weeks ago, and the Oscar nominations will have occurred
bright and early on the morning of Jan. 31 by the time of the printing of this
article. Plenty of good films won Golden Globes and will go on to capture further
awards. But plenty won’t, some deservedly so but some because of reviewers’
Remember “Sin City,” the film everyone was talking about early last
spring? Critics forgot about “Sin City,” but, for the rest of the
decade, films will borrow, copy and steal from it the way ‘90s films did
from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” “Sin City”
director Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi”) employs a virtuoso blend
of digital effects, green screens and acting talent to blur the line between
Frank Miller’s graphic novel and the film.
City” also has heart. Mickey Rourke (“Angel Heart,” “Nine
½ Weeks”) returns from nearly a decade away from big roles to play
a hulky antihero whose gritty dialogue blasts with the notes of an acid jazz
saxophone. A loaded ensemble of actors that include Bruce Willis, Benicio del
Torro and the always-good Clive Owen make “Sin City” a classic film
noir updated with 21st-century technology. Short memory is the only acceptable
explanation (except for perhaps a weak stomach; the film is incredibly violent)
why this film did not appear in more top-10 lists.
One film that wasn’t overlooked is “Brokeback Mountain.” It
is surely the best film of 2005 and more than just a gay cowboy movie. The transformation
of Heath Ledger (“The Patriot,” “The Four Feathers”)
from action adventure hero to stoic cowboy is nearly as amazing as the first
love between his character and a cowboy played with equal sensitivity by Jake
Gyllenhaal. Director Ang Lee captures the heartbreaking nature of a twenty-year
illicit affair in shots as simple as a trailer sitting along the course of a
winding river or the exuberance of an engine firing along a lonely country road.
The adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story by award-winning writer Larry
McMurtry (“Lonesome Dove”) and producer Diana Ossana results in
a near-perfect reproduction on screen.
the films competing to finish second to “Brokeback,” Steven Spielberg’s
“Munich” is the most underappreciated. Munich transforms its cat-and-mouse
Cold War espionage into a template for broader thematic discourse on terrorism
and the responses Israel, or any other state, might rightfully pursue to establish
security or exact revenge. The film perfectly blends thought with intrigue,
as it does thick sideburns and tight bell bottoms of ‘70s-era chic with
the brooding European back alleys and hard-wired gadgets of vintage John Le
Carre novels. It didn’t win any Golden Globes, but Oscar may be kinder.
Unfortunately, Jim Jarmusch’s “Broken Flowers” had worse timing
than Spielberg and Dreamworks. “Broken Flowers” opened in August,
at least two months earlier than the October-or-later release date needed to
stay fixed in critics’ memories come awards time. Bill Murray is an independently
wealthy womanizer who revisits past lovers in response to an anonymous letter
claiming one of his trysts resulted in the birth of a son. Murray’s “Flowers”
performance is as strong as or stronger than his work in “Lost in Translation,”
which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2003. But his co-star Jeffrey Wright
nearly steals the film as a quirky Ethiopian friend who encourages Murray to
investigate the letter’s claim by planning his travel itinerary and offering
advice via a burned-CD of jazz favorites.
Several foreign films
also slipped underneath the radar, such as the French thriller
“Right Away,” introduced by its renowned director, Benoit Jacquot
(“Tosca,” “The School of Flesh”), last April during
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The film’s hard-hitting,
real-life narrative of a young upper-class Parisian woman who befriends a bank
robber reveals an unglamorous life on the lam in stunning black-and-white imagery.
But the best foreign film this year is the delightfully creative “2046”
by Chinese master director Wong Kar Wai. It features an all-star Chinese power
line up that includes Zhang Ziyi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”), Tony Leung (“Chungking Express”)
and Maggie Cheung (“Hero,” “In the Mood for Love”).
Its science-fiction take on a poor writer’s struggle with time and love
was possibly too abstract to penetrate mainstream audiences. But Kar Wai’s
ability to build and layer moods that languish beyond the film is unparalleled
by anyone in the world.
Finally, the most delectable 2005 film work is also the tiniest. Literally.
Diminutive East Indian actor, Deep Roy, plays every single Oompa Loompa to appear
in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” this summer.
Roy sweats through the movements and dances of whole choruses of the little
munchkins whose people power fuels Willie Wonka’s factory. A nod of the
chin and Roy becomes Freud listening to Wonka’s childhood woes. A snarl
and a hop on one leg across a stage, and he’s the leader of an Oompa Loompa
glam rock band. Roy is so engaging that a 20-minute highlight reel would’ve
been worthy of feature film admission price.
And, alas, below appears another top-ten list filled with the arguable omission
or questionable inclusion, but what year-end film article is complete without
1. Brokeback Mountain
3. Sin City
4. Broken Flowers
7. Walk the Line
9. Right Away
10. The Beat that My Heart Skipped
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