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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Screw the Oscars...here's the truth.

Geek Out's Official Best Films of 2005 List
A little late, but still oh so great. We're gonna start from the bottom and then keep going from there till we get to the top. Let's kick it off with:

The Worst Film of 2005: Crash

I went into this film with high expectations and left wondering why the hell I had high expectations for it. This heavy-handed film by first-time director Paul Haggis (screenwriter for Million Dollar Baby, creator of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER [that is not a joke]) attempts to shockingly unveil racial issues in modern-day America. Haggis insults his viewers' intelligence by repeatedly beating them over the head with his message, refusing to let them draw any conclusions of their own. The shock of the characters' comments begins to lose its edge once you see that ALL of the characters in this film are racist...but (and here's the kicker) they're racist in different ways. White people racist against Latinos! GASP! Black people racist against Asians! SAY IT AIN'T SO! Arabs getting called terrorists! SINCE WHEN?! Haggis acts as if we don't know that these issue still exist in this point in time. It's almost as if he knows how weak his script is, as he tries to give the dialogue weight and meaning by assigning big-name, likeable actors to the parts. Sandra Bullock saying she doesn't like black people? If you need me, I'll be crying in my room...HOW COULD MISS CONGENIALITY DO THAT TO ME?! Despite the stunt acting, the cast does (for the most part) do a great job with what they are given (which is...a terrible script). But good acting does not a good movie make (as the f'ed up saying goes), and when the time comes for each of the characters to have their moment of revelation where they all turn "nice" (Sandra Bullock momentarily appreciates the company of her hispanic maid! Awwwww! Ludacris decides to NOT keep the Asian slaves pinned up! What a sweetheart!), I found myself crying not tears of sadness, but of laughter.
Grade: 3.5/10

The Best of the Rest
23. Syriana: Maybe I'm a dumbass or maybe it's the fault of the filmmakers but I didn't understand a word of this movie. Thus, I can't say in any fairness whether it is good or bad. But understandable? Hell no. Grade: 6.0

22. Robots: Ehh...we coulda done without this one. Grade: 6.5

21. The 40-Year-Old Virgin: How ironic is it that this is Steve Carrell's star-making role when he was so much funnier in Bruce Almighty, Anchorman, and The Office? Whatever the reason, this is a mildly funny gross-out comedy with much more heart than any other I've seen. Not worth the praise critics seem to be heaping on it, but it's a fun movie. Grade: 7.0

20. March of the Penguins: This is one of those movies that will have you "Awww"ing a lot. It's also sad at times and funny at other times. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in this movie that you have NO idea how they could get, but unfortunately, it's too long for its own good, and has you yawning a little too much. Grade: 7.4

19. Fantastic Four: This is not a bad movie. It's not a Batman Begins or an X-Men 2, but it's not a Batman & Robin or a Superman IV, either. It's a light-hearted, fun comic book movie that had a good plot line, great effects and exciting action sequences. Not spectacular, but not worth the hate it gets. Grade: 7.5

18. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: Jaw-dropping at times. To find out all of the horrible things this company is doing...it's unbelievable. Has the same effect as Supersize Me, in that I now never want to shop at Wal-Mart again. Grade: 7.7

17. Red Eye: Starts out as a really intelligent, creepy thriller but kinda degenerates into a corny stalker chase movie. When it's good, it's real good, but it has a very lackluster third act. The acting is fantastic (Cillian Murphy officially = my BOIII), and while it's nothing fantastic, this is a solid suspense movie. Grade: 7.8

16. TIE The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe + Brokeback Mountain: Two good, but HIGHLY overrated films. Narnia stole a little too much from the Lord of the Rings movies, and I found it a little too unbelievable that LITTLE CHILDREN were fighting in these wars. Peter I could buy, but every time they showed Edmund in his armor I wanted to slap him. There are some unintentionally hilarious bits to it too (beavers in chain link armor?), and overall, I didn't feel a strong connection to the main kids. But it's a gorgeous movie, and I loved a lot of the scenes (most of the battle, Aslan's sacrifice)...it's just no Lord of the Rings.

Brokeback Mountain is touching and emotional, but not as touching and emotional as all of the critics say it is. I expected something amazing and just got something good. It's beautifully shot, fantastically acted, and it's a good story. Just a little too long, and it doesn't live up to its name. Grade: 7.9

15. Corpse Bride: I'm realizing now that a lot of this list is made up of disappointments. Here's another one: an unworthy successor to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a very good, funny, and entertaining movie while you're watching it, but it's ultimately forgettable. Tim Burton + Johnny Depp means you can't go wrong, and they didn't here, they just didn't go as right as they should've. Grade: 8.0

14. A History of Violence: Another disappointment. I love Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, and William Hurt (one of my favorite actors) in this movie. And I really loved where it was going for the first two-thirds or so. Unfortunately, I feel the movie missed out on the opportunity to be amazing. It was heading in the right direction...and then it just goes the predictable route, and it's kind of disappointing. I'm not really sure what I would've liked them to do, but it's not what they did end up doing. One things for sure: this is an incredibly well-directed film that, despite seeming more fantastic than it actually ends up being, is still a great movie (and Hurt is hilarious in it). Grade: 8.1

13. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory:Like I said before, Tim Burton + Johnny Depp means you can't go wrong. I love Depp's choice to play Wonka as a creepy, maybe-he-is-a-pedophile-and-maybe-he-isn't manchild who is really just obsessed with himself and has no regard for anybody else. He's absolutely hilarious, and the fact that this isn't a musical means I'm already gonna love it more than the original. And I do. It's visually stunning (what else would you expect from Burton?), hilarious, and has a lot of heart. Grade: 8.2

12. TIE Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith + War of the Worlds: SCIFI MANIA!!! I think Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels (and that's saying something, I love Attack of the Clones and think Phantom Menace would've been great without Jar Jar and with Haley Joel Osment as Anakin), and probably the second or third best overall (it's definitely below Empire...). This is a dark, intensely emotional film. When the clones turn on the jedi...aw, man. "What should we do, Master Skywalker?" asks the youngling Jedi. "Well, you little brat, you should lie still and let me hack all your limbs off, because I'm an evil S.O.B!" replies Anakin...aw, man. And the end of the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin when Annie burns up ("YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!")...that's good shit, man.

And War of the Worlds was much more frightening and intense than I ever could've imagined it being. You know, this movie gets a lot of shit because of all of the dumb stuff Tom Cruise was doing at the time, but despite being a dumbass, the guy is a damn good actor, okay? Watch Minority Report. Watch Rain Man. And watch this movie while you're at it, because he's great in this too (though not as great as the PHENOMENAL Dakota Fanning...damn that girl can act). The tripods scared the hell out of me the first time I saw this...the scene with the people running through the streets getting vaporized? Intense. Spielberg finally takes on alien invasions, and he brought his A-game to the table. Grade: 8.4

11. Good Night, and Good Luck: George Clooney is proving to be a formidable talent behind the camera. Following up his brilliant directiorial debut (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) is this fantastic piece of history. Clooney expertly details Edward R. Murrow's attacks on McCarthy and his communist witch hunt in stunningly gorgeous black & white cinematography. David Strathairn absolutely becomes Murrow, and the supporting cast (including Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., and Prison Break's Robert Knepper) is great as well. Someone my age will probably have trouble following what's going on at first, but you quickly catch on and are able to enjoy this brilliant film for what it is. Grade: 8.5

TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2005
10. Capote
Philip Seymour Hoffman is unrecognizable in this story of writer Truman Capote's struggle to finish his historical fiction book "In Cold Blood," and I mean that in a good way. Hoffman's performance as Capote is dead-on (I saw video of the real Capote on Youtube...haha...I love our generation), but as boring as this film might sound, it's surprisingly exciting, emotional, and at times, funny. The whole cast does a great job, and unlike a movie like A History of Violence, all of Capote is building up to the reveal of something in the end...and it's quite disturbing, but most of all, it's a good payoff. You all ought to check out this film. Grade: 8.6

9. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The best animated movie since The Incredibles (which, come to think of it, really wasn't that long ago...but you know what I mean). Wallace & Gromit will always be great, no matter what, and their translation to the silver screen is essentially seamless. This is a hilarious movie that you pretty much have to enjoy, unless you're heartless. Grade: 8.8

8. Everything Is Illuminated The movie adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books (Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name) is also one of my favorite movies of the year. Even though half of the book is left out (it kind of had to be, in order for it to be watchable), first-time writer/director (and long-time actor) Liev Schreiber does an amazing job adapting the book to the big screen. The casting of Eugene Hutz in the role of Alexander Pierchov is a stroke of casting genius, as this guy is literally the living embodiment of the hilarious narrator. He nails the broken English perfectly, and get everything from the look to the walk down perfectly. This movie starts out funny and ends out really, rreeeeally sad. It's the story of a collector/writer named Jonathan Safran Foer (Elijah Wood) who hires a touring company (run by Alex and his grandfather, who claims to be blind but really isn't) to help him find the woman whom he believes saved his grandfather from the Nazis in WWII. The locations are beuatiful, and the film could probably qualify as a foreign-language movie, as about half of it is spoken in Ukrainian (is that a language?). This quirky movie does justice to the book, even though it makes a pretty drastic change at the end and leaves out a ton. Oh, and the music is amazing. Grade: 8.9

7. Sin City I don't really know what I can say about this movie...it's hilarious, it's exciting, it's scary as hell (who knew Frodo could ever scare the shit out of me?), it's full of violence (read: action-packed), and it's just a damn good time. The almost-all CGI'ed backgrounds help create a comic book feel to the film...and with the creator of the comics co-directing, you know it's gonna be faithful. Sin City is such a gorgeously violent film...no other movie that I've seen deserves to be called "living art" like this does ("Living comic book art," but art nonetheless). Grade: 9.0

6. King Kong Peter Jackson officially kicks ass. Sure, the LOTR movies were some of the best movies ever made...but is that all he has in him? Hell, no. This guy made me believe a team of computer geeks could create a living, breathing, 25-foot-tall monkey. This guy made me accept Jack Black as a serious actor. This guy made one of the best moviegoing experiences I've had in a lonnng time. The movie evokes visceral, gut reactions in you. The bug scene makes your skin crawl, the scene on top of the Empire State Building makes you queasy, and the T-Rex fight...hot DAMN this is escapism at its very best. Kong is definitely King. Grade: 9.1

5. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire: My peers will hate me for putting this in my top five, but I have to. The Harry Potter movies have just gotten better with each successive installment, and this is the best yet. Despite the incredibly rushed initial 15 minutes, this is an almost flawless film. It perfectly captures the spirit of the book, and each of the three tasks are just as intense and exciting as I imagined them to be. On top of that, the character drama really works in this film, much moreso than it has in the previous ones. And the ending...oh, God. Ralph (Pronounced RAYF?? WTF IS UP WITH THAT?!) Fiennes as Voldemort is another stroke of casting genius...seeing this scene was like a dream come true. They had HUGE expectations to live up to...Voldemort is the biggest villain this side of Darth Vader, and they definitely met my expectations. Fiennes's Voldemort was disgusting, terrifying, intimidating, and insane...everything he needed to be. Bring on the Order of the Phoenix. Grade: 9.2

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang The funniest film of the year. This movie was absolutely robbed at the Oscars. This movie was pretty much robbed of everything it deserved, and it deserves so damn much. The only other person I know who has seen this is Alex Taussig (not including a couple friends of mine whom I showed it to), and that's a damn shame. YOU ALL NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE. It is hilarious, romantic, exciting, suspenseful, mysterious, thrilling, and [insert positive adjective here]. It's got everything you could ever want in a movie. I've got a new equation for you guys. Robert Downey Jr. + Val Kilmer = Chemistry out the wazoo. The two are hilarious together as the toy store robber-turned actor-in-training-turned detective (Downey Jr.) and the gay detective film consultant guy (Kilmer). When Downey Jr. gets caught up in a mystery that's way over his head, he needs Kilmer's help to solve it, and you'll be sure that there's plenty of body-dropping, gay-kissing, nut-shocking, grammar-correcting fun that ensues. Go see this movie--now. Or if you're not into the illegal downloading thing, wait until May when it comes out on DVD. Grade: 9.4

3. Serenity I'll admit I'm biased: not only am I one of the obsessive fans of Joss Whedon (writer/director of Serenity, creator of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly) but I am also a HUGE fan of Firefly, the cancelled TV show on which this movie is based. Serenity is like Star Wars meets The Matrix meets Indiana Jones, only it's so much more. Whedon skillfully mixes the action, science fiction, and western genres to create one of the best science fiction films since The Empire Strikes Back. It's a shame that not too many people went to see this, because I firmly believe that this could have and should have been the next Star Wars. Just the right blend of comedy, action, and romance. Great acting. An incredible script. Go rent it. Grade: 9.5

2. Batman Begins Take Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin, put them all together, and what do you get? A movie that isn't even one FOURTH as good as Christopher Nolan's masterpiece Batman Begins. Nolan is already one of my favorite directors after such films as Memento and Insomnia, and here he succeeds in not only revitalizing the Batman franchise and not only in making the greatest comic book movie to date, but he also make a damn good movie by any standards. Just look at the cast: Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy...they're all fantastic. But they pale in comparison to Christian Bale, who not only plays the part of Bruce Wayne perfectly, but also plays the Batman the way he was meant to be played. This film is so good, that it holds the viewer's interest even when Wayne isn't in the Batsuit, which happens to be most of the movie. This is the story that hasn't ever really been told even in the comics; the story of HOW and WHY Bruce Wayne became Batman. I love this movie with every fiber of my being, and it was my favorite film of the year until I saw...Grade: 9.6

THE BEST FILM OF 2005
1. Munich
Steven Spielberg proves that he hasn't lost a thing in the 30+ years he's been directing movies. Munich is his most mature and intricate film to date; unlike some movies this year (CRASH) it never forces an opinion on the audience, but instead offers up the evidence and lets you draw the conclusion. Munich is, on the surface, a dark and emotional thriller. But it's so much more than that. It touches on the modern-day struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, and even offers a social commentary on the nature of war (as the chilling final shot clearly illustrates). Inspired by true events (in other words: complete bullshit), Munich tells the story of what happened after the assassination of several Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, when the Israeli government hired a six-man team to take out the orchestrators of the Munich assassination. It's disturbing and unsettling without being off-putting, it's exciting and thrilling without being over-the-top, and it's truly meaningful in our post-911 world. There's a reason Spielberg is a household name, and that's because he hasn't made a truly bad film in his entire career. Munich is no exception. Grade: 9.7

Now take my advice and go see all of those movies that you haven't yet seen. Except Crash. Don't bother with that one.

Movies I Didn't Get To See: Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, The Aristocrats, Jarhead, Broken Flowers, and Memoirs of a Geisha.