8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 6, 2006
1 Brokeback Mountain
An emotionally transcendent expe-
rience - Ang Lee demonstrates a sin-
gular ability to frame characters with
a preternatural sense of time, mood
and circumstance. And while much of
its appeal lies in its universality, make
no mistake: The film's subject matter
does lend to its power. This is revolu-
2 A History of Violence
A visceral jolt of pure, brutally
inspired moviemaking. David Cronen-
berg's most readily accessible film is
also his most pointed, at once a playful
noir, a fascinating character study and,
in its own way, the most politically sub-
versive movie of the year.
3 Match Point
It's telling that the finest moments in
"Match Point" come after its big twist.
Woody Allen's ingenious play on
simple notions of luck and morality is
among the most patient studio movies
in years, carefully building toward its
narrative hook and then actually tak-
ing the time to consider it afterward.
The final shot ingeniously closes the
film with smug, teasing confidence.
4 Syria no
With "Syriana," Stephen Gaghan
cements his reputation for crafting
audaciously complex visions of inter-
national politics that make up for what
they lack in lucidity with taut, nervy
and keenly entertaining storytelling.
The film raises more moral and ethical
questions than it can answer, but then
maybe that's the point: not so much to
convince as to provoke.
5 Grizzly Man
The rare documentary with such
comprehensive access to its subject
that it completely envelopes us in its
stark, almost voyeuristic grasp. The
film paints a disquieting portrait of
Timothy Treadwell, a funny, unusual
brand of activist who exhibits stunning
recklessness and finally unconsciona-
An unrelentingly graphic Korean
revenge epic steeped in a bizarre ide-
ology of violence and institutionalized
horror. The images it evokes are unfor-
gettable - less because of the actual
physical torture (though it's in no short
supply) and more for its hauntingly
creative pageant of human suffering
Told in increasingly powerful
segments, "Capote" offers both a
large-scale and a small-scale story
brimming with moral and intellec-
tual grey zones. But what's really at
stake here - and what really makes
the movie - goes deeper than its
(already compelling) surface story
and into the mind of its subject, mas-
terfully invoked by soon-to-be Oscar
winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.
8 Turtles Can Fly
The first film out of Iraq since the
war began is an apolitical, harrowing
tale set in the weeks before the war
began. The film's focus is Satellite
(eagerly played by Soran Ebrahim), a
brilliant 13-year-old orphan/local busi-
nessman rendered with a complexity
rarely seen in screen youths.
Steven Spielberg's careful, beauti-
fully written and directed depiction
of the aftermath of the 1972 Munich
Olympics terrorist attack is not the
polarizing indictment that many might
expect but rather a searching, con-
flicted thriller intended to raise retro-
spective questions rather than reignite
deeply imbedded cultural fire.
10 King Kong
The kind of gorgeous, outrageously
high-minded spectacle we've come
to expect from Peter Jackson. True to
form, he's as interested in the possibil-
ity of the special effects as he is in the
emotional core of the story - but in
the future, he would do well to crack a
smile now and then.
1 A History of Violence
The most affecting and eerily subver-
sive film of the year, David Cronenberg's
apparently mainstream masterpiece is a
stunning indictment of a culture of vio-
lence. Operating on several levels and
boasting outstanding performances from
leads Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello,
the film is an unmitigated triumph.
For sheer political brashness and bra-
vado, it's hard to beat Stephen Gaghan's
outstandingly ambitious and ultimately
brilliant portrait of the many faces of the
oil trade. On an artistic level, the film is
splendidly executed, with riveting perfor-
mances and a director unafraid to chal-
lenge his audience.
3 The Squid and the Whale
Unjustly overlooked this year, "The
Squid and the Whale" is an achingly hon-
est and witty character study of a crum-
bling Brooklyn family. Writer/director
Noah Baumbach guides the production
with assurance and Jeff Daniels is better
than he's ever been.
Germany's awesome and emotionally
horrific journey into Hitler's last days gets
so deep into the psyche of the Nazi party,
and so close to the simultaneously seduc-
tive and appalling dictator himself, that
the result is a rare and starkly real night-
mare of a film.
5 Match Point
It's whatever you want it to be: a cul-
tured Europhile's dream vacation (can
you hum along to "La Traviata?"), a
dazzlingly written, Dostoevsky-riffing
meditation on the role of luck and chance in
life or simply an excuse to watch the luminous
Scarlett Johansson sear the screen.
6 Good Night, and Good Luck
Filmed in black, white and a conspiracy of
shadows, complete with the snaking spirals
of cigarette smoke and seamlessly blended
McCarthy-era footage, George Clooney's
arresting film doesn't talk too loud, but what
it says is stunning.
1 Brokeback Mountain
The visual splendor, the painfully sincere
performances and above all, the careful and
elegant direction of Ang Lee transformed a
pop-culture punchline (they're gay, get it?)
into a dramatically moving story of American
The Faustian bargain Truman Capote made
to publish his most brilliant and enduring
work, "In Cold Blood," is a story of such slow
descent and unsettling moral ambiguity that it
cries out to be told. Philip Seymour Hoffman's
nuanced portrayal of the sometimes-tortured
writer is simply amazing.
9 King Kong
Unquestionably the best blockbuster of
the year, Peter Jackson's almost unbeliev-
ably ambitious film pushes visual technology
(not to mention narrative storytelling) to the
absolute limit. Yet firmly at the core of all
its grandeur is a gentle love story told with a
refreshing lack of cynicism and irony.
Steven Spielberg's return to important film-
making is an exquisitely directed and sharply
penned reflection on the corrupting and ulti-
mately self-defeating nature of revenge. The
level offilmaking artistry is only surpassed by
the audacity of its thematic intent.
1 Good Night, and Good Luck
Written and directed by George Clooney,
the film is a 93-minute capsule of the media
battle between newscaster Edward Murrow
and infamous politician Joseph McCarthy.
Cleanly composed in rich black and white,
"Good Night" delivers a message as clear as
it is concise.
2 King Kong
Even if it suffers from the bloat of an extra
hour, "King Kong" makes the cut for sheer
entertainment value alone. Once Kong hits
the screen, you simply can't turn away. His
illustrious fight scene with a trio of "Jurassic
Park"-esque carnivores finally capitalizes
on all the movie magic CGI can offer.
Wong Kar Wai's latest film shines with
soft, dazzling visuals. In a small role, Ziyi
Zhang ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Drag-
on") struts about with 10 times the sultry
charisma her rather bland "Memoirs of a
Geisha" protagonist ever mustered.
4 Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee's cowboy drama deserves
far more credit for its careful, lyrical pac-
ing than the homosexual theme which has
sparked so much media attention. And
while Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger
give solid performances, the Wyoming
landscape certainly doesn't hurt in filling
out the screen.
5 The Squid and the Whale
One of the year's best indies, "Squid"
is a regular showcase for top-notch per-
formances, most notably Jeff Daniels as a
writer whose snobbish literary taste is made
all the more sad by his own failing career.
Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg ("Cursed")
and child actor Owen Kline complete his
O The New World
If you don't like slow, you won't like "The
New World." The contemplative pacing has
led director Terrence Malick's long-awaited
movie to receive relatively little press. But
Malick has an incomparable eye for pretty,
and poetry in motion doesn't come much
closer than his lush visual storytelling of the
legend of Pocahontas.
I Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
First-time director Shane Black penned
on" series, so he's no
stranger to the action-movie formula that he
half-satirizes in this fast-paced action com-
edy featuring the caustic buddy combo of
Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.
8 The Upside of Anger
Kevin Costner has rarely
been more entertaining
than here as a former-
host, while Joan
Allen perfects the
slow burn as a
wife. It comes
to an unex-
with one of
and lacking a
sion, "Sin City"
still deserves place-
ment at the year's top
for its original visual
style. Robert Rodriguez
faithfully brought Frank
Miller's dark comic-book
world to the screen with border-
line camp and a fantastic cast.
10 Wedding Crashers
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have
never been more charming in their abso-
lute lack of charm than when stumbling
through the inane antics of this (ultimate-
ly romantic) comedy.
1 Good Night, and Good Luck
No film this year featured
better political intrigue in either
the original context or its mod-
ern implications. Writer/director
George Clooney has received due
praise for his portrait of Edward
Murrow and "See It Now's"
power in exposing the evils of Joe
McCarthy's witch hunts.
Steven Spielberg finally returns
to the form he showed in "Saving
Private Ryan" and "Schindler's
List" after years of bloated, feel-
4 King Kong
Sure, at nearly three hours, "King
Kong" is not the year's tightest film.
But once the great ape makes his
long-awaited return to the silver
screen, it's hard to look away. Peter
Jackson loves the source material and
it shows even more than in his her-
alded "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Philip Seymour Hoffman has been
overlooked for years. Finally, he gives
the performance of his career in the
best biopic of 2005. It doesn't hurt that
the story behind "In Cold Blood" is
nearly as good as the book itself.
than the real-life Team U.S.A. cap-
tain Mark Zupan.
8 A History of Violence
David Cronenberg had made a
career out of off-the-wall strange-
ness. This film marks his semi-
return to the mainstream by
teaming him with A-list talent like
Viggo Mortensen and William
Hurt, but you can still feel Cronen-
berg's fingerprints all over it.
9 Match Point
Woody Allen has made a film
that barely feels like his own.
While the first and second halves of
the film don't exactly mesh seam-
1 Batman Begins
In the year of the political thriller, it's the
caped crusader who tops this list. This revival of
the "Batman" franchise is dark and intriguing
yet manages not to take itself too seriously. Fast
paced and rendered with masterful direction
and acting, this is without question my favorite
film of the year.
2The Constant Gardener
A complex, edge-of-your-seat thriller about
pharmaceutical companies in Africa, "The
Constant Gardener" works gorgeously on many
levels. It weaves the plight of forlorn Africa into
a compelling story of murder and conspiracy in
British high society.
3 Good Night, and Good Luck
The account of the McCarthy menace of the
Anytime both sides
make accusations of bias,
though, you'veprobably done
6 Kingdom of Heaven
Ridley Scott's epic Crusades drama also
functions exceptionally well as a commentary
on the turbulence in the Middle East today. It
asks the right questions and pulls no punches in
its quest to show the contradictions inherent in
the world's longest-running political conflict.
1 Cinderella Man
When you produce quality work consistently,
some of it is bound to get overlooked, and that's
what happened this year to Ron Howard and
Russell Crowe. Brilliantly acted and deeply
compassionate, "Cinderella Man" is an uplift-
ing addition to a rather gloomy year.
8 King Kong
Breathtaking scenery and cutting-edge CGI
are just the beginning of what makes Peter
Jackson's "King Kong" so spectacular. Within
the framework of this classic adventure story
lies a touching tale concerning the most basic of
human weaknesses - selfishness and greed.
9 Walk the Line