this is the best part of the job, you know. We get to offer forth our choices for best films of the year, separating the wheat from the chaff and imposing order on the chaos that is the world of movies. Although, looking at our lists, the careful reader will probably wonder if Stylus suffers from some kind of collective schizophrenia, as Asian art films exist comfortably with such blockbusters as the new Harry Potter movie (which kicks ass, by the way). But it might be easier to regard the Stylus movie staff as true Renaissance men and women, able to appreciate both a well-crafted epic and an overlooked independent gem. Or maybe we’re just a bunch of squabbling, self-righteous critics incapable of agreeing with one another. Given the choice, we prefer the former explanation—it’s good for the self-image, after all.

Overall, 2005 has been an interesting year for movies, and here we get to dwell on the pleasant surprises rather than the disappointing letdowns. A former TV doctor with a spasmodic acting style becomes the next Robert Redford—who knew? Aragorn of Arathorn stars in a film about the emotionally and socially destructive effects of violence—what were the odds? A squeaky-voiced dilettante is the subject of one of the better biopics in recent memory—you don’t say? And one of the best films of the year is a documentary about a guy eaten by bears? Um, OK. Whether or not you agree with us (and we eagerly await your outraged comments!) surely you’ll appreciate the scope and complexity of our collective critical opinion. It was either come up with a year-end list, or walk away thinking that the film story of the year was Tom and Katie’s magic Scientology baby. And frankly, that’s a prospect just too depressing to contemplate.

[Stylus at the Movies]

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Artist Miranda July provided one of 2005’s surest debut features with the eccentric and poignant Me and You and Everyone We Know. With help from reliable character actor and TV guest-spot staple John Hawkes (Northern Exposure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files—and those are just the good ones), July generates some genuinely solid performances from her child actors (notably the morose Miles Thompson and the butthole-fixated Brandon Ratcliff), while proving she’s a serious director to look out for. Accepting her Camera d’Or at Cannes, July said that she felt as though jurors were giving her a big “you’re doing fine, you can keep it up”: a bit of encouragement which, in retrospect, seems exactly right.
[Bob Kotyk]

Batman Begins

Why did it take so long to get this right? Until Christopher (Memento) Nolan’s summer blockbuster effort, previous filmed iterations of Batman had all dwelled on the campy aspects of the Caped Crusader—even Tim Burton’s successful take, with its grinning gargoyles and gnashing Nicholson . To a point, the temptation must have been hard to ignore—after all, the story does deal with a rich dude dressing up as a giant bat and prowling rooftops to fight urban crime. But Nolan, with a nod to Frank Miller’s revitalization of the Batman myth, goes straight for the pure darkness at the heart of the saga, pulling no punches in his depiction of Bruce Wayne’s screwed-up psyche, eschewing pure action for moody atmospherics, and even turning the Batmobile from souped-up sports car to wall-crushing tank. The result is a remarkable balance of psychological and storytelling depth with the heroic ass-kicking we’ve come to expect from our superheroes, and the best example yet of the continual reminder that the big stories, the Supermans and Spidermans and ring-jonesing hobbits, should always be given to the truly gifted filmmakers, the ones with the understanding of epic myths and the balls to put them up on screen in all their complex glory. Oh, and by the way—for all the Day-Glo ambience that the Batman TV series offered, it never approached the sheer lysergic nightmare Batman Begins achieves when Cillian Murphy puts on his Scarecrow mask.
[Jay Millikan]

The Wayward Cloud

Simultaneously erotic and chillingly anti-erotic, Tsai Ming-liang’s latest (and, arguably, most audacious) deadpan mood piece is, in a sense, the ultimate rebuke to the currently fashionable pop-cult recognition of porn stars as de facto celebrities. It’s also hilarious, especially if you think visual puns involving fruit and water are, potentially, much funnier than extended jokes about incest and poop. Somewhere between its implicit critique of fucking on camera for cash and its singular mode of humor, lies the heart of this terrific film. Tsai is a rigorous formalist, to be sure, but he’s got an insatiable romantic streak, and The Wayward Cloud is, finally, nothing if not a love story, albeit a perverse, problematic one that may or may not end happily ever after.
[Josh Timmermann]


Despite the raves, some of us went into Capote expecting a bit of refined mimicry, some polished landscape photography here, a paroxysm of emotion there. A smaller subset still was subsequently blown away by one of the year’s best films, and Bennett Miller’s miraculous ability to remain icy and incisive before waves of deeply conflicted feeling. Yeah, Philip Seymour Hoffman is a genius, stirring libidinous, maternal, and ethically stringent Truman Capotes into a stew that, despite its complexity, constantly seems bereft of a tragically missing ingredient. But just as impressively, the supporting cast resists the pull of easy sign-posting. In particular, Chris Cooper’s police chief haunts the memory, as a thoroughly believable man with a hardened professionalism that flirts with both cruelty and genuine sympathy.
[Sky Hirschkron]


Oliver Hirschbiegel’s claustrophobic war epic spends little time on the battlefront, and the majority trapped within Hitler’s bunker. Seen loosely from the perspective of one of his secretaries, Downfall examines Hitler as a man consumed by hubris, too proud even to recognize his imminent defeat. He plans maneuvers with troops that no longer exist and barks orders at generals who no longer share his zeal. So passionate is his will to conquer that in the end he would prefer to see his German people dead, than suffer the shame of surrender. There’s poignancy in Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler as a man trapped and emotionally isolated, but I wouldn’t dare say the film inspires any sort of sympathy for him. It does, however, ask us to see him as human. True, a human consumed by madness and hatred, but still a human as vulnerable as any of us, plagued with frailty and besieged by his own monstrous ideals.
[Dave Micevic]

Broken Flowers

No other actor has so deftly mastered the art of doing absolutely nothing at all while being so delightful at it. Because if there is one thing Jim Jarmush’s road-trip-slash-self-discovery tale of squandered love, forlorn purpose, and solitary desolation attested to, it was Murray’s stature as one of the great (non)character actors working today. His Broken Flowers alter ego, Don Johnston—forlorn protagonist and womanizer de rigueur—was a copacetic loner, an emotionally stagnant lothario, an aging Don Juan living almost parasitically off his many mistresses. To thrill-seeking, multiplex-adulating moviegoers, this felt like an art film. It isn’t. Hewing firmly to an understated minimalism, Broken Flowers graciously downshifts to soft-selling stoicism, murmured indolence, hushed candor, and a blow-off so perfect, so emotionally-matter-of-fact-yet-subdued-in-its-delivery it is almost painfully unsatisfying—yet you couldn’t think of a better one.
[Sandro Matosevic]

Nobody Knows

An ominous air hangs over the four children left to fend for themselves in Nobody Knows. We’ve already grasped their fate, now all we can do is watch helplessly and teary-eyed as they spiral downward into despondency. No other film this year has approached this level of melancholy partly because director Hirokazu Koreeda handles the material with stark realism, causing the impact of its most heartbreaking moments to hit all that much harder. It’s easy to see why Yuya Yagira, a young and inexperienced actor, won the award for best acting at Cannes. He plays the role as one would live it, without the ego of an experienced actor attempting to squeeze every last ounce of drama out of each scene. Koreeda’s keen enough to know that tragedy speaks for itself and doesn’t require dressed up melodramatic trickery. What’s there is there, and it’s hard not to be moved by it.
[Dave Micevic]

Sin City

A gleefully nihilistic and refreshingly amoral kick in the teeth of the highest order, Sin City careens across and charges out of the screen with a ferociously reckless joie de vivre (or, better, joie de mort), drenching us thoroughly in a tidal wave of blood and piss and pus and shit and spit and semen, drowning us in a vat of our own complicit corruption, our violations, and our sins. Doing seemingly impossible triple duty as adaptation, homage, and grand summation (call it meta-neo-noir), it always threatens to fly apart, overburdened by expectation and promise, nearly overwhelming itself with an endless parade of filthy and depravity—and yet it only coils ever tighter around and into itself, its narrative and thematic strands converging and collapsing to a throbbing singularity of fury and primal violence—all the promise, all the anticipation, for once, yielding near perfect execution.
[Jake Meaney]

Mysterious Skin

Six years after the disappointing Splendor, Gregg Araki has returned with his strongest film to date, and possibly the most beautiful and bracingly moving film ever to deal with childhood sexual abuse. Unlike, say, Todd Solondz, Araki doesn’t offer ironic distance or try to empathize with the abuser, but instead focuses on the very different coping mechanisms of two teenaged boys—gay hustler Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and UFO-obsessed Brian (Brady Corbet)—molested by their Little League coach (Bill Sage). Araki’s film is infused with poetic, dreamlike imagery and his signature flair for bright colors, but it never shies away from the blunt intensity of the subject matter. The uniformly strong performances, especially by the two leads, and Araki’s sensitive grasp of the material, based on Scott Heim’s novel, lend certain scenes a visceral and emotional impact unmatched by any film this year.
[Adam Roberts]

The Squid and the Whale

Taking the demiurgic center-stage after some lesser directorial efforts and a downplayed writing collaboration with independent film merchant Wes Anderson in 2004’s whimsy The Life Aquatic, an unpretentiously able Noah Baumbach sensibly limns the ramifications of his crooked childhood in this intensely outspoken and celestially far from brainless scattered family-focused feature. Displaying the year’s most established ensemble cast, Baumbach’s partly autobiographical picture emotionally and hilariously tabulates the after-effects spawned from the quiet yet humanly propulsive abrasion of a family of four precariously crafty yet perpetually scarred victims of each other’s pointless, long-term dissatisfaction and ire. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney aggregate to timely, artful performances as nearly disheartened parents Bernard and Joan (writers, of course), who refract off their own dazed and harshly personally masquerades so often that sons Walt and Frank (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) openly gorge in perchance emotively hazardous yet mirthful activities. The script is sardonic and noble, making for the year’s independent film that is most destined to quickly shape into something of a cult-classic.
[Mike LeChevallier]

Good Night, and Good Luck

We’re as shocked as anybody—George Clooney (you know, the one with the hair?), has somehow evolved into the one of the most intelligent, socially aware actors in Hollywood. And with Good Night, and Good Luck, his sophomore directorial effort, he establishes that his gifts behind the camera are at least as impressive as those in front of it. Released in the middle of wartime America, it pulls no punches in its plea for rigorous questioning of authority, but Clooney’s expert casting and impressive command of tone and pacing make the film play less like an overly pedantic social studies lecture and more like a harrowing political thriller. David Strathairn as the journalist Edward R. Murrow gives the performance of a career, combining Murrow’s moral uprightness with just enough intimation of human weakness and self-doubt to let the audience see not just an icon, but a character.

But Good Night...’s real genius is to cast Senator Joseph McCarthy as, well, himself, using real newsreel footage to let this red-baiting demagogue demonstrate both his frightening power and the complete moral bankruptcy that drove the small band of journalist heroes at the heart of the film to take him on, consequences be damned. Clooney adroitly raises the question of whether our current media is made of such stern stuff, allowing his film to function not just as an interesting historical footnote, but as a compelling and not at all comforting warning.
[Jay Millikan]

Last Days

A portrayal of one man’s journey toward death, Last Days chronicles the last disconnected moments in a life virtually cut off from society. Formidably self-involved, the film’s stunning aesthetics slowly reflect the muddled psychology of the protagonist. Moments of piercingly insightful self-expression punctuate a pervasively empty atmosphere depicting the pointlessness of existence. Last Days probes the lack of empathy in each of its characters and in its audience. For all the camera’s lengthy (and beautifully detached) observations, the central figure’s thoughts remain unknowable but for two furiously lonely musical performances. These moments resound as rare and potent insights into an ambiguous person. The final death is neither theatrical nor poetic. Instead, the film imperceptibly abandons us—leaving only the disturbing memory of an impenetrable solitude.
[L. Michael Foote]

Grizzly Man

No stranger to the treacherous wildernesses of the world, Werner Herzog released one of the most memorable films of 2005 with the incisive documentary Grizzly Man. Following unbalanced nature aficionado Timothy Treadwell on his many highly intrusive expeditions to commune with grizzly bears (and using Treadwell’s own intensely personal footage), the film makes a persuasive case for a sustained separation between the animal world and our own. It’s a tough call as to who makes this movie as compelling as it is: Treadwell (if you haven’t seen it, picture Marty Stouffer, but as a washed-up surfer/actor), his beloved but deadly Alaskan grizzlies, or Herzog himself, who guides us through Treadwell’s troubled mind with the same unflagging insight he did in My Best Fiend, his film about frequent collaborator (and all-around crackpot) Klaus Kinski.
[Bob Kotyk]

A History of Violence

Mapping the sprawl of violence across the American consciousness, History tracks its spread into every nook of our society, even into the everyday. We witness the almost Darwinian, might-is-right social make-up of our high schools. Corporal punishment keeps order in our homesteads. Even the bedroom is tainted. Cronenberg sees our cultural bloodthirst reflected on the big and small screens, our press after ad dollars, and Hollywood’s blood merchants after box office tickets. We get hooked, inured to grisly images, and slowly numbed until death is worn of its weight. It’s the Ludovico treatment in reverse.
[Roque Strew]

Tropical Malady

In the first half of his third feature, Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul follows the budding, ebullient romance between a soldier on leave and a wide-eyed farm boy. Just as the pair is starting to get serious, however, the film abruptly shifts its focus to the heart of the Thai jungle, where we find the solider in pursuit of a “tiger” that’s apparently been killing off local livestock. The hour-or-so that follows is, far and away, the year’s most breathlessly sustained tour-de-force. Repeat viewings reveal a full-blown masterpiece, replete with a myriad of compositional and thematic rhymes linking the first half to the seemingly disparate second. At once, unsettling and rapturously beautiful, filmmaking this passionate, this assured, this overwhelming, comes along once, maybe twice, in a blue moon. Abbas Kiarostami’s interactive late-‘90’s narratives (Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us) come to mind, as do Terrence Malick’s meditations on the relationship between man and nature; not much else does. And that—it should probably go without noting—is very high praise.
[Josh Timmermann]


Be Cool
F. Gary Gray can now fitly be added to list of modern directors (along with Michael Bay and his pyromaniac brethren) who should not be allowed to helm motion pictures for as long as they may breathe, and then some. Be Cool, an alleged follow-up to Barry Sonnenfeld’s somewhat respectable, yet vastly overrated 1995 film is so jam-packed with uninspired cameos and rip-off premises that it stands as the year’s most uncoordinated, self-mocking, and skill-less exploitation of innocuous writing, absent-minded direction, and forced-feeling acting. Uma Thurman and John Travolta, who’s best performances have been in Quentin Tarantino pictures, basically flop around on screen like discouraged fish begging for smaller gills so that their air supply would cease more rapidly. Obviously, a throwback to Pulp Fiction’s dance sequence is included; we then wonder, if at any point in this film’s green-lighting and pre-production, did anyone in the vicinity inquire: Who honestly cares about this shit? If this query was posed, the year would be less one debris-coated excuse for satisfactory entertainment.
[Mike LeChevallier]

The Amityville Horror
Part of 2005’s “Ryan Reynolds Trifecta” (along with the “hilarious” double-team of Just Friends and Waiting), this timely remake gives Reynolds a chance to show off his dramatic chops, which include displaying chiseled abs, carrying an ax, screaming at young children, and wearing increasingly bloodshot contact lenses. He even gets to go toe-to-toe with screen vet Philip Baker Hall (in Rod Steiger’s priest role), who is unfortunately run out of town by a swarm of CGI flies. This is further proof that Reynolds’ triumph in Blade Trinity was no fluke, and that countless hours of watching The Shining have given him the subtlety and range of his generation’s best actors. It also edges out Monster-in-Law as the year’s scariest film.
[Adam Roberts]


Paolo Cabrelli
01. Hotel Rwanda
02. The Return
03. Wolf Creek
04. Anchorman
05. The Machinist
06. The Descent
07. Land of the Dead
08. A History of Violence
09. Kung Fu Hustle
10. Mad Hot Ballroom

L. Michael Foote
01. Last Days
02. A History of Violence
03. Tropical Malady
04. Grizzly Man
05. Happy Endings
06. Tony Takitani
07. Mysterious Skin
08. The Holy Girl
09. Eros
10. Constantine

Sky Hirschkron
01. A Tale of Cinema
02. Tropical Malady
03. Capote
04. Last Days
05. A History of Violence
06. The Wayward Cloud
07. Funny Ha Ha
08. Kung-Fu Hustle
09. Regular Lovers
10. War of the Worlds

Bob Kotyk
01. Grizzly Man
02. The Squid and the Whale
03. Good Night, and Good Luck
04. The 40 Year-Old Virgin
05. No Direction Home
06. A History of Violence
07. Serenity
08. Broken Flowers
09. Me and You and Everyone We Know
10. The Brothers Grimm

Mike LeChevallier
01. Last Days
02. Broken Flowers
03. A History of Violence
04. Mysterious Skin
05. The Squid and the Whale
06. Tropical Malady
07. Grizzly Man
08. Millions
09. Me and You and Everyone We Know
10. Junebug

Sandro Matosevic
01. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
02. The Beat That My Heart Skipped
03. Chetyre
04. Ultranova
05. Born Into Brothels
06. Battle In Heaven
07. Broken Flowers
08. Palindromes
09. Me And You And Everyone We Know
10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Jake Meaney
01. Nobody Knows
02. Sin City
03. 3-Iron
04. March of the Penguins
05. Pride and Prejudice
06. Batman Begins
07. Oldboy
08. Grizzly Man
09. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
10. Downfall

Dave Micevic
01. The Best of Youth
02. Grizzly Man
03. Nobody Knows
04. Downfall
05. Saraband
06. Capote
07. Turtles Can Fly
08. Oldboy
09. The Constant Gardener
10. Good Night, and Good Luck

Jay Millikan
01. The Squid and the Whale
02. Walk the Line
03. Good Night, and Good Luck
04. War of the Worlds
05. Batman Begins
06. Crash
07. Sin City
08. The 40 Year Old Virgin
09. The Constant Gardener
10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Adam Roberts
01. Mysterious Skin
02. Tarnation
03. Tropical Malady
04. A History of Violence
05. Sin City
06. Me and You and Everyone We Know
07. Grizzly Man
08. Palindromes
09. The Nomi Song
10. Kings and Queen

Josh Timmermann
01. Tropical Malady
02. Good Night, and Good Luck
03. The Wayward Cloud
04. Downfall
05. The Holy Girl
06. Café Lumiere
07. Kings and Queen
08. Jarhead
09. The World
10. War of the Worlds

By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-12-12
Comments (40)

Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews