There are 311 movies eligible for the best picture Oscar this year. Too many movies are being made. This is bad because A) most are crappy, and B) a mortal can't keep up. I have not seen the Geisha movie, the new Woody, the one about the guy who likes bears (which then eat him), Pocahontas, Jane Austen: Jane Austen Returns, Fustle & Ho, etc. So here are my curbed year-end (or year-beginning?) notices for '05.
The Golden DZ goes to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang for having some friggin' fun with itself. Plenty of great movies are sad or introspective or brooding or whatever. That's fine; see last year's greatest movie, Million Dollar Baby, a masterpiece of autumnal regret and triumph. Sometimes, though, we need a little fizz at the theater. Kiss Kiss is a corker, an unadulterated delight. It's a Chandleresque mystery movie about the movies starring Robert Downey Jr. (our greatest working screen actor?) as a petty thief turned action hero and Val Kilmer as the private dick who guides him through an obstacle course of pulpy plot twists.
The Silver DZ goes to Yes, a rapturous Joycean story about how we strive to transcend the mess we make, featuring Joan Allen in her career-best performance.
The Bronze DZ goes to Syriana, which ennobles cinema as a medium. It's smart, suave and utterly relevant.
The rest of the top 10, in alpha order: Brokeback Mountain blah blah moving blah blah stirring blah blah blah. Go-to guy Paul Haggis' Crash, visually and verbally stunning, with a standout performance by Matt Dillon. A History of Violence, the movie that watches you. Millions, Danny Boyle's wondrous and charming fable about salvation and currency exchange. Mysterious Skin, a deft and disarming adaptation of Scott Heim's novel, with several gutsy performances. North Country and its masterful cast. Proof, which just about shakes off its staginess, in which Gwyneth and Hope Davis finally act (and act well).
Honorable Mentions: The Nicolas Cage twofer Lord of War and The Weather Man, both bitterly funny autopsies of a man's eroding psyche. Roman Polanski's gritty, grand Oliver Twist, with Ben Kingsley's booger-y performance as Fagan. The Squid and the Whale and its painfully real family dynamic. Munich, a stunning thriller (with an overlooked and subdued performance by Eric Bana) that falters in its last seven minutes. The Constant Gardener, another virtuosic Meirelles piece. Good Night, and Good Luck, sharpened to a point, so subtle it's explosive. Mrs. Henderson Presents, a jolly trifle from Stephen Frears, with great comic chemistry between Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. The rich, unnerving documentary The Devil & Daniel Johnston. The atmospheric Batman Begins, well-oiled by Chris Nolan, one of the great modern directors.
The Jurassic Park Thrills & Chills Award, in a tie, goes to War of the Worlds and King Kong. Seeing Jurassic Park (three times) in theaters when I was 10 is my earliest memory of being transported by a movie. Spielberg does it again 12 years later, and he and Peter Jackson prove they are master craftsmen of keeping real the high-CGI barnburning blockbuster.
The Where was the Script Girl? Award goes to The Interpreter, which, by cutting the scene in which Nicole Kidman overhears the assassination plans, would've been a hundred times more thrilling.
The Mickey Rourke Careful-with-Your-Career Award goes to -- no, not Mickey Rourke (Sin City blew) -- Richard Jenkins, who movingly played Charlize Theron's father in the excellent North Country and slummed in the dismal Fun with Dick and Jane as one of Jim Carrey's bibulous bosses.
The Sometimes Real People Aren't That Interesting Plaque, in a tie, goes to Walk the Line and Capote. The first was Ray with bottles instead of needles. The second is one of the best reviewed and most honored movies of the year, and I don't know why. It is tiresome and boring.
The Someone Get This Man a Franchise Award goes to Joss Whedon, for his swashbuckling Serenity.
The Someone Take Away This Man's Franchise Award goes to George Lucas, for the last (please God let it be the last) installment of Star Wars.
The Best Use of Punctuation Award goes to Miranda July's pert, pleasant indie hit Me & You & Everyone We Know.
Blissfully Overrated Medals go to Wedding Crashers, Broken Flowers, Capote, Sin City.
The One Gigantic Leap Backward for Mankind Citation goes to Riding the Bus with My Sister, which must be seen to be believed.
Now please offer your own awards.