Monday, March 06, 2006

The Random Avenger's Top 5 movies of 2005

First off, a disclaimer. I have not seen any of the best film nominees this year. I realize that makes me some kind of uncultured buffoon, but there it is. I plead small children. They’re just not that interested in seeing movies about Journalists investigating horrific murders of other small children, racist cops, state-aided vigilantes seeking revenge for Olympic-related murders, Heroic journalists standing up against Michael Savage (wait…, or Gay cowboys, so any movies we see in Theatres are usually the kid-friendly type or we wait for DVD. And then my wife doesn’t like really heavy movies, so… there you go.

We will probably eventually see both Munich and Good Night, and Good Luck. But no promises.

And for the purposes of this list I’m counting movies I saw either in the theatres or as a new release on DVD, so there may be some things that did not technically come out in 2005.

And so….The Random Avenger’s top five movies of 2005 (because I know everyone cares) are:

5. War of the Worlds

I am not a Tom Cruise fan. I am not particularly a Steven Speilberg fan either, but I loved this movie. I loved that it, like Signs, was the story of an alien invasion told from the viewpoint of the people who were not leading the fight against it, but were just trying to survive it. This movie presented the stark vision of a world in which every person has just gone batshit crazy with terror, and that was the scariest thing in the movie. That, and the aliens.
And the scene of the crowd running away from the great machines as they were reduced, one by one, to ash within their quickly collapsing clothing, was a moment of horrific beauty.

4. Fever Pitch

This is the one that, technically, did not come out this year. But I saw it this year, and it was a new release, so it counts. I like Jimmie Fallon. I even liked him in Taxi, and I hated that movie, so I was pretty sure I would like him in this. It couldn’t get any worse than that one, right. And Drew Barrymore seemed like a good fit with him. The fact that it was about baseball…meh, not a fan, but there have been some baseball themed movies I’ve enjoyed. (Not Field of Dreams. Dear God, not Field of Dreams) But this movie wasn’t about baseball. It was about fandom, of which I know more than I probably should about. (Seriously, Joss Whedon has taken out a restraining order) and even though I did not care about the subject of his passion, I related to the passion of Fallon’s character. And, as written, Barrymore’s character reminded me a lot of my wife, so there was that.
This movie might have ranked higher if not for the schmaltzy, tacked-on ending. Not the one with Barrymore and Fallon, but the one where the Red Sox actually won the World Series. I liked the story much better when the object of the quest remained out of reach. But reality intruded, so what could you do?

3. Batman Begins

Yes, this list is kind of geeky. Live with it. I have always loved the character opf Batman, but the movies were always kind of stupid. Miscast (I hated Keaton and Kilmer, and Clooney, please, just…no), they took themselves too seriously in the wrong places and not seriously enough in others. And Gotham City never felt like a real city. Some fantastic elements? Sure, but no observatories an top of statues holding globes, please. And no one has really understood the character of Bruce Wayne.
Until now.
It’s not perfect. The plot wandered in a few little places, but the right things felt real. Gotham felt real. And I loved the elevated train system that worked visually to separate the slums from the towers but also as a visual reminder of the legacy of Bruse’s father. And we met the father in this movies. We got to feel the loss which drove a privileged young man to dress up like a giant bat. Seriously, it actually makes sense, which is something none of the other movies have even tried to do. I like Christian Bale, I always have since he was a twelve-year-old getting slaughtered carrying a flag into battle on St. Crispin’s day in Branagh’s Henry V. He was absolutely the right choice for this role, not a little bit because he was a child actor, and carries with his the gravity of someone who grew up too fast. Like Bruce Wayne did.
What most people don’t like about this movie was the love interest, played by Katie Holmes. I agree that Holmes might have been a misstep, but I actually loved the character of Rachel. She is original to the movies, and I think has been the best attempt at giving Batman a love interest that matches him. Vicki Vale is too much of a Lois Lane clone. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is better, but then it’s a lot of chasing on rooftops and bondage gear. Rachel Dawes was a crusader in her own right, a match for Bruce, working in ways that he wasn’t able to. That’s what I think works about the character, and why she was necessary to the story. Not just as a damsel in distress.
So, I finally have my Batman movie. The same team is working on the next, but I would almost rather they not. Unless they could get it even more perfect than this one.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Suck it, Narnia!
Seriously, I have never understood why many Christians adore the LOTR and Narnia movies, with their magical elements, and continue to regard the Harry Potter books and movies as being the work of the devil. Is it because J.K. Rowling does not speak about being a devout Christian? Because she was once photographed holding a gargoyle? Because if you can show me another story series that demonstrated the power of sacrificial love and the importance of faith and friendship than this one does, I may just give you a cookie.
Sometimes I do not understand my people. That may be a good sign.
Anyway, Harry grows up in huge, tragic ways, as do his friends. The actors mature and actually seem to glow, somehow. The story is epic and beautifully filmed, and that gut-wrenching climax stays with you. This battle will have a cost, and with Harry you are just struck by the horror and the injustice of it all, because really, hasn’t he given enough. The movies accomplishes what the book does, it makes you want to know what’s going to happen next immediately. The world is preparing for war, and the worst is yet to come.

And The Random Avenger’s number one movie of 2005 is:

Serenity

This will come as no surprise to anyone whose bothered to click on the profile button. And I must confess, this movie was already pre-sold to me. I was in at Firefly: the movie. And for the TV series, to be honest, I was in at “Space Cowboys” (actually I was in at Joss Whedon, but my lawyer advises me not to mention that).

Love that this presents a Science Fiction Universe where the enemy is truly us, that the bad guys are really well-intentioned, but still wrong, that the heroes are what most people would think of as the bad guys in any other story. The villains of this story come from two directions: a mannered, coldy calculating assassin fighting to create a better world he himself does not feel he deserves to belong to, and a race of savages so gone in blood-lust and madness that everything in their path is raped to death, eaten, and then used for parts, hopefully in that order. And when the two threats are found to be from the same place, and our lovable rogues take stop of themselves and know what they must do, it is a grand moment.

Plus, the best one-liners of any movie. My favorite: “To hell with this, I’m going to live!”

And then, “I am a leaf on the wind…..” sniff.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I am so right there with you about Harry! Just yesterday I finished re-reading the Half-Blood Prince. Beautiful, stirring literature is J.K Rowling's gift to us, and in no way am I threatened in my faith. If anything, my faith in Dumbledore's philosophy that love can overcome evil is strengthening to my Christian walk. But, I know that I mention Harry Potter at church, sneers and criticisms are likely to abound. Grrr to that.