If you write about films, you have to make lists and this is the time of year that you make those lists. 2005 was a pretty good year for films and with my joining of Zip.ca I was able to see many more films than I ever have before and the Atlantic Film Festival allowed me to immerse myself in film, so I have a larger body to choose from. That being said, it was easier to pick out ten films that loved. Here’s the list in roughly ascending order:
King Kong was the last film that I saw in a theatre before the end of the year and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought that I would. I was concerned about the length, but it went by at a good pace. Peter Jackson is a skilled director and manages to balance the story, the stars, the characters and the effects quite well into a story that is entertaining in a cheesy way. While the Lord of the Rings films had many more challenges in terms of the source material, with King Kong, Jackson is able to focus on what is important. A lot of fun and the epitome of how a blockbuster Hollywood film should be done.
A History of Violence is David Cronenberg’s fascinating exploration of violence in a literal and metaphorical sense. Other films explore the ideas on the surface and don’t really go very deep and often undermine the point that they seem to be trying to make. With Cronenberg’s unique experience exploring violence and horror cinematically, he brings a nuanced approach to the material that many in the audience I saw the film with found frustrating. The film strikes a difficult balance by undermining expectations from the beginning to the end. A challenging film that made me stop and think.
The Five Obstructions documents a challenge from one filmmaker to another to remaking a film. Both the challenge and the remade films are filled with insights into the process of filmmaking and how people response to constraints in a creative way. It’s essential viewing for filmmakers and while I’m not a fan of Lars von Trier, I loved it.
The Take is Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein’s inspirational documentary showing a positive response to globalization. It tells the story of workers in Argentina who manage to control the means of production after the economy collapses. It gives me hope for the future and serves as an example of the power of people working together to change the world.
The understated and quirky Me and You and Everyone We Know hit me in a strange way. I wanted to see if for a while and it wasn’t what I expected. Subtle, moving and odd, it’s a unique film that is perfectly balanced as it is constantly skirting near the edge of what is acceptable, but writer / director / actor Miranda July has faith in her characters and she never abuses our faith in her. We see sides of the characters that I don’t think I’ve ever seen explored in such a gentle and innocent way.
Dear Frankie is built around a simple idea and the relationship between a mother and son. With strong performances from the leads that overcome the contrived premise, we focus on watching what the characters do or not do, instead of convoluted exposition. I was sucked in even as I was seeing what was being set up. Shona Auerbach directed and shot the film in a beautiful way that savoured every pause and moment.
Alice Wu’s feature directorial debut, Saving Face was a very pleasant surprise to me. It was my big surprise of the Atlantic Film Festival in a late night screening that I almost skipped. A character-based romantic comedy with strong leads and clever twists as a young doctor struggles with coming out to her widowed mom, who is facing challenges of her own. I loved it because it was about interesting people in families that weren’t perfect.
Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto hinges on Cillian Murphy’s performance which is infused with an irresistable optimism that goes through the entire film. While many dark and difficult things occur, it’s a joy to watch a film that deals with political issues without being preachy and tells a story in an unapologetically first-person perspective.
A Very Long Engagement is a sprawling historical romance that surprised me with the combination of beauty and horror. With Audrey Tatou as the centre of the film, the elaborate romantic comedy presents a series of intricate shots that are painterly in detail. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a master of style and with this film he seems to strike the perfect balance in a world that I loved being immersed in from start to finish.
In a way, Millions is Danny Boyle’s retelling of Trainspotting for kids. A magical, complicated and sweet film that manages to combine children, saints and greed to explore contemporary society, consumerism and spirituality in a way that I loved from the first frame to the last. Boyle’s odd sense of humour and great visual sense made it a joy to watch and I’ve loved it more every time I’ve seen it. My favourite film of the year.