2005 in review - Call it 2004, version 2.0
Just when it seemed impossible for Hollywood to get any less creative, along came 2005 looking like a rerun of 2004. And they wondered why the box office was down most of the year.
If this year's movies weren't remakes (Pride and Prejudice, Fun with Dick and Jane) or sequels (Transporter 2, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo) or spinoffs from old TV series (Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard) they were following formulas that proved successful last year. True, some had already been in the pipeline, so they were probably imitating hits from a prior year. But they still help make the point.
Comparing last year's movies with this year's can be as simple as Saw/Saw 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban/Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or as subtle as The Passion of the Christ/The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, both of which hired the same agency to market the films to church groups.
Shrek 2 inspired more fractured fairy tales, Chicken Little and Hoodwinked. The Incredibles spawned the slightly less cartoony Fantastic 4. Meet the Fockers begat The Family Stone. Having survived The Day after Tomorrow, Earth had to fight the War of the Worlds. One batch of biographies yielded another, with Ray/Walk the Line being a more obvious comparison than Kinsey/Capote. There wasn't a boxoffice match for Fahrenheit 9/11, but more documentaries hit theater screens because of its success.
Spider-Man 2 made room for Batman Begins, Shall We Dance for Mad Hot Ballroom and I, Robot for Robots. (Okay, that last one's a stretch.) There were more Mean Girls in Pretty Persuasion and if you thought the coach in Friday Night Lights was tough, you hadn't met Coach Carter.
While Narnia went after the Lord of the Rings crowd, Ring master Peter Jackson remade King Kong. George Lucas finally finished Star Wars and says he may make small, personal films now. Don't hold your breath.
Aside from a year-end gay love story, Brokeback Mountain, that may start a new trend (or call attention to one that dates back at least to ancient Greece), "originality" danced in in the form of The Producers, an adaptation of a Broadway musical that was based on a movie; and Good Night, and Good Luck, a docudrama about 1950s television shot in the style of 1950s television.
Of course when really original films manage to find distributors they often sink without a trace. Grosses for good stuff like Me and You and Everyone We Know and Palindromes are low enough to justify studios looking for the next National Treasure instead of unearthing real treasures.
Studio consolidation- Sony buying MGM and Paramount acquiring DreamWorks- doesn't bode well for increased diversity in the future.
Here's one person's opinion of the best and worst of 2005, "best" often meaning the ones that moved me the most rather than the ones with the highest degree of technical excellence.
1. Crash - Frightening and funny variations on a theme of racism in L.A. today, performed by a brilliant ensemble cast. If you think you're not racist it may prove you wrong.
2. The Squid and the Whale - Noah Baumbach's tale of divorcing parents (Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney) and the impact on their sons is too detailed and deeply felt not to be autobiographical.
3. little man - I wouldn't cross the street to see a movie about a baby born 100 days premature, but Nicole Conn's documentary about her son's fight for life tore me up. Catch it on Showtime in April.
4. Good Night, and Good Luck - Is it really about the McCarthy witch hunt of the early '50s or the Patriot Act today? Nostalgia or activism, it's good filmmaking.
5. Brokeback Mountain - The year's best romance happens to be between two cowboys. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially the way Ang Lee tells it.
6. Me and You and Everyone We Know - Miranda July changed the way I look at performance artists with her genuine original about kids' first thoughts of sex and adults' search for love or whatever.
7. King Kong - It's too long in spots and the interspecies love story is overdone, but at its frequent best Peter Jackson's remake is as good as a popcorn movie gets.
8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Despite Johnny Depp's scary resemblance to Michael Jackson, the Tim Burton version of Willy Wonka... is a family classic for the ages.
9. Mysterious Skin - Mystic River meets Donnie Darko and Gregg Araki grows up with his adaptation of a novel about the long-term effects of molestation on two boys.
10. Lord of War - Andrew Niccol's jaundiced look at arms trafficking follows Ukranian immigrant Nicolas Cage for 20 darkly comic years. It disappeared from theaters so fast I thought I'd dreamed it, but catch it on video.
Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically):
The Ice Harvest
Schultze Gets the Blues
The Upside of Anger
War of the Worlds
Best Foreign-Language Film: Nobody Knows
Runners-up: Schultze Gets the Blues; Paradise Now
Best Documentary: little man
Runners-up: The Aristocrats; Inside Deep Throat
Best Animated Film: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Runners-up: Tim Burton's Corpse Bride; Robots
Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Runners-up: George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck; Tim Burton, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Best Actress: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Runners-up: Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger; Charlize Theron, North Country
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Runners-up: Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow; Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Runners-up: Scarlett Johansson, Match Point; Laryssa Lauret, Everything Is Illuminated
Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Runners-up: Donald Sutherland, Pride and Prejudice; Ian McDiarmid, Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith
Best Original Screenplay: Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Runners-up: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Crash; Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know
Best Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
Runners-up: Shane Black, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Dan Futterman, Capote
Most Creative Visuals: Sin City
Titles I Hated to Leave Out but They Wouldn't Quite Fit: Grizzly Man, 3-iron, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Everything Is Illuminated, Kung Fu Hustle, Unleashed, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Capote, North Country, Downfall, A tout de suite
People I Hated to Leave Out but They Wouldn't Quite Fit: Woody Allen, Match Point (writer-director); David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck; Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents; Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha; Wanda Sykes, Monster-in-Law
Breakout Actor: Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow, Crash, Four Brothers, Get Rich or Die Tryin', Lackawanna Blues, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Runners-up: Tyler Perry, Diary of a Mad Black Woman; Lou Pucci, Thumbsucker
Breakout Actress: Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Runners-up: Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know; Camilla Belle, The Ballad of Jack and Rose
Negative Breakout: Jessica Simpson, The Dukes of Hazzard
Runner-up: David Duchovny as director, House of D
Overrated: Walk the Line, Cinderella Man, Junebug
Underappreciated: Lord of War, The Ice Harvest, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Pretty Persuasion, Palindromes
What They Really Want to Do Is Direct: Screenwriters Paul Haggis (Crash) and Stephen Gaghan (Syriana)
Best of Times/Worst of Times: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain/Casanova; Keira Kinghtley, Pride and Prejudice/Domino
James Earl Who? Award: Morgan Freeman narrated War of the Worlds, March of the Penguins and PBS's Slavery and the Making of America, in addition to appearing in Unleashed, Batman Begins and An Unfinished Life, and still found time to pick up his Oscar.
Michael Moore Award: George Clooney for his involvement in Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana, two fine pieces of politainment.
Most Overused Plot: Man/boy/chicken trying to win his father's respect
Worst Casting: In Rumor Has It... Kevin Costner (50) may have fathered Jennifer Aniston (36), who is supposed to be five years older than her sister, Mena Suvari (26).
Runner-up: Chinese and Malaysian actresses playing Japanese in Memoirs of a Geisha.
1. The New World
2. The Bridge of San Luis Rey
3. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D
4. Chicken Little
5. 9 Songs
6. Last Days
7. House of D
8. Where the Heart Lies
9. The Skeleton Key
10. My Date with Drew
Dishonorable Mention (listed alphabetically):
The Brothers Grimm
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Rumor Has It...
A Sound of Thunder
The Wedding Date