2005 — Year of The Movies

Heath Ledger’s death got me back thinking on this, but it’s been on my mind for a while. Two Thousand and Five was the best year for movies this decade.

Not that I get out to the movies much anymore, but a spate of these flicks on cable a few months ago reminded me out this. Here’s my general thoughts:

After much internal debate, and I know it’s not as well-liked, but I’m picking Munich as the Best Picture. Too bad you don’t like it as much as I did. It pulls you in like a political espionage thriller, but it has something important to say about the nature of revenge and war and the bloody emptiness of it all. [Spoiler Alert:] The final shot, with the Twin Towers oh so subtly (or not) placed in the background makes me cry almost every time. It’s the final point to it all. That final powerful shot says so much about the mess we’re in overseas, and why it is so complicated to both be in there and to want to be out of there.

A close second is Capote, which to me is the one film that nails what it is to be a writer and largely a journalist. Nothing else has ever come closer to portraying the toll writing takes on an artist. To me, Capote, is all about the costs of writing to a writer (and by extension, the cost of art to an artist). The film shows how much internal pain and betrayal is truly involved in really great writing and in coming to a Truth about an idea or a subject.

I’ve already discussed Heath Ledger’s performance in Brokeback Mountain, but overall, the film is very good too. It fools you that it is a love story that happens to be a romance between two men. But what it really is about is what it means to be the typical man in American, especially the ideal of the strong, silent, taciturn type with the square jaw. That’s Heath Ledger’s Ennis character in the film, and the film shows how being so unemotional on the outside eats you alive from the inside.

What else do we have to praise from 2005? A History of Violence, about the inability of someone to escape their past, no matter how deeply it’s buried. Syriana, the oil-industry conspiracy movie with four (at least) interlocking stories trying to connect the dots. Good Night and Good Luck, which has a lot to say about not only today’s media, but also today’s leadership in this country. And though it’s a comic-book hero movie, Batman Begins is the best of its genre, showing us the origins of the hero. It’s the first Batman movie where Bruce Wayne is the hero, and not Batman (who doesn’t appear for the first hour of the film). I liked the first two Spider-Man movies, but they don’t compare to this film, which, like Munich, is also a meditation on revenge.

Of note is that the Best Picture Oscar was won by Crash that year. Never saw it, and some critics derided it as a bit simplistic. I deride it simply because Cronenberg had a film with the same name in 1996. Except that film dealt with car crash victims who got off on being in car crashes. I think there was a scene where James Spader humps the, er, gash of Holly Hunter — that’s her gash along her leg. From a car crash. Oh, never mind.

There were other great films in this ’00s decade — The Lord of the Rings films and Million Dollar Baby spring to mind. But it’s been tough to compete with the ’90s, which kicked off the decade with Goodfellas, and included Pulp Fiction, Unforgiven, Boogie Nights, Three Kings, Out of Sight, The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, Fight Club, Saving Private Ryan, Trainspotting, Clerks, Glengarry Glen Ross (“Put that coffee down.”), and, of course, Reservoir Dogs. And that’s just the ones I can come up with real quick. Plus, it was the decade that introduced us to Kate Winslet for God’s sake! But this is another post for some other time.

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