In the spirit of The Best American Poetry 2005, published and in the stores by mid-September*, I am posting my Best Movies of 2005 list now.
Best Documentary: Tell Them Who You Are, made by Haskell Wexler's son. It tells you a lot about Wexler pere, while telling a very poignant story about family relationships and how complicated they are, by envy, resentment, and even love. Also noteworthy: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, March of the Penguins, and RIZE.
Best Small Film: Winter Solstice. It's so small you might not even realize it's there, but it's a lovely little thing. Beautiful performances by the actors who play Anthony LaPaglia's sons. Also noteworthy: Undertow, Saving Face, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose.
Best Movie in the "Great Performances, Ridiculous Plot Turn at the End" Category: The Upside of Anger. Who thought it would be a good idea to end this movie with a funeral? Also noteworthy: Layer Cake (although this may also fall into the "Best Gangster Movie" category, we'll have to see).
Best Movie to See With a Teenage Daughter: A Lot Like Love. Readers of the Media page on the hymnbook already know that I love a romantic comedy, a fact that I feel a little guilty about, given my superior aesthetic training (she says sniffily). However, this film has the utterly charming Amanda Peet (remember how good she was in Igby Goes Down?) to recommend it. Also noteworthy in this category: in her shoes.
Best French Movie: The Beat That My Heart Skipped. If you haven't seen it, make sure that you do. It's a remake of Fingers, which I never saw, but everything about this film felt utterly fresh to me. Also highly noteworthy: Look at Me.
Best Israeli Film, or Best Film Featuring an Assassin, or Best Film Featuring Former Nazis: Walk on Water. Actually, I don't mean to be flippant: this is a wonderful, very moving film.
Best Film to Feature Middle-Aged Kung Fu Heroes: Kung Fu Hustle.
Best Mega-budget or Hyper-Hollywood Film: It's a tie between Cinderella Man and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The diehard SW lovers will not hear me out on this, as they cannot venture into the misty past that predates Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie. I say, however, that this film has a tragic grandeur that was wholly unexpected, despite certain thankless roles (Natalie Portman deserves an apology from G.L., in my opinion). And in the boxing movie vein, I thought the fight scenes in this movie were awesome--kinetic and electric.
Best Animated Film: Howl's Moving Castle. Wallace and Gromit fans--and I am among them--may protest. I may have to revise the list. As of the end of the year, however, aka October 2005, Howl will have to do. A, it's Miyazaki; B, it was the only animated film I saw.
Best Movie That's Just Wrong to Enjoy: The Wedding Crashers.
And in the all-round competition, the nominees are: Happy Endings, Junebug, A History of Violence, and Mysterious Skin. I loved each of these films for their quirkiness and the ways I found myself surprised and moved by each. I saw Mysterious Skin sometime in the summer, though, and it has stayed with me ever since. It's a beautiful and disturbing film, revelatory without exploitation. For me, it's the best movie of the year.
*Who knows what happens to the poems that get published between, say, August and December 31? Do they enter a no-man's land of poems unworthy to be considered "best" or "American" or "of 2005"? If anyone can answer this question, then I'll know what to do with the movies I see starting this weekend. Stay tuned.