Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sach’s Top 15 Films of 2005 – Part 1

So here it is…in 3 parts: my top 15 film list. Towering over other top 10 lists by err…5 entries, it is a masterwork in that it reveals everything you truly needed to see this year. Many may argue that this information would have been a lot more useful 365 days ago, but it took a lot of time to type. Seriously though, this is a good guide to this year’s cinema that was both formally and stylistically innovative and interesting and loads of fun. Obviously my usual biases remain intact so you won’t find any French melodrama or much Hollywood pap here, but this isn’t a nerd fest meant to alienate the viewer either. If anything, these are films that will make you both think and smile and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the best you can hope for in a movie theater.


15. Three Iron by Kim Ki-Duk

Critics seem to either admire Kim Ki-Duk or flat out detest him. It’s understandable; his films are slow, distancing works of art that also happen to be absolutely cruel in their representation of females. This is enough to turn off both those who want action and those who want to see women in roles that don’t involve them getting kidnapped, beaten and pimped. Personally his work always left me cold, but he seems to have turned a corner with Three Iron, an almost totally silent love story. While the film’s narrative aspect is hardly its strong point, Kim manages to combine poetic imagery to remarkably interesting characters (for mutes) and he keeps the misogyny in check (the woman beater is inequitably bad in this film). Not the fastest film in the world by any stretch, but anyone with some time to spare and an interest in art film will be happily surprised by Three Iron as it’s a touching example of what can be done with a good idea and a camera.

14. Izo by Takashi Miike

Boy did people hate Izo at Fantasia. The film seems to have been trashed by all but a minority of die hard Miike fans and film scholars impressed by the film’s formal achievements. Count me in the later category because frankly I stand by my opinion that Izo is a brave and interesting experiment in film and a work of art that rewards those brave enough to dare to experience it. Obviously those who despise anything explicitly experimental will want to avoid this one but that’s their loss, the minority this film is aimed at will be enthralled by its heavy existentialism, crazy warping of temporality, vague references to mythology and astounding violence. Call it Miike does Jodorowski with a little Resnais and Bergman thrown in the mix. Plus, it may well include the most slashings via samurai sword in film history.

My full original review

13. Kamikaze Girls by Tetsuya Nakashima

It takes a lot for me to like a coming of age story about 2 teenage girls. Slapstick, absurdity, action and most importantly Japanese sensibility are some of the things that helped me get past Kamikaze Girls’ well…girlyness to appreciate it for what it is: a fun action-comedy that’s really more original and entertaining than anything in megaplexes this summer. It also helped that Anna Tsuchiya is smoking hot and Kyoko Fukada is no slouch herself. Throw in crazy pop-editing and a ridiculous storyline and you have a movie you can subvert your girlfriend with. I found myself laughing and smiling during this movie at times where I’d usually be rolling my eyes at the corniness. Proof positive that if done in an interesting and original way, good old fashioned senseless entertainment can still excite even the most jaded and crusty among us (IE: me).  In a word: fun.

My full original review

12. Sin City by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller

Sin City was probably the most innovative film of the year visually (save maybe Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) but unlike other computer generated spectacles in Hollywood, it backed up its digital fireworks with interesting content and *gasp*…formal innovation! True, some may grumble about having Frank Miller essentially do a shot for shot adaptation of his graphic novels from paper to digital celluloid, but it’s definitely an idea that worked and compared to every other comic book adaptation that was thrown upon us by Hollywood in 05, it was gold. The classic noir plot of Miller’s work has already been praised to high heavens, but the praise was well deserved as the stories of cops, hookers, thugs and corrupt politicians resonates with a realness far exceeding most empty Hollywood plotlines. Of course, the look of the film is the high point and I must say that while it didn’t convert me, it certainly made me less apprehensive about Hi-definition digital technology. Above all though, Sin City is a quality film that combines all of the above to become a worthwhile viewing experience and an artistic achievement. Hollywood put out far too few of those this year.

11. Dear Wendy by Thomas Vinterberg

In my review a month ago, I said that the film while excellent wasn’t mindblowing. This is true, but in retrospect I’d like to add that it sticks with you and leaves a strong impression which is far more than I can say for other films I was perhaps more generous to this year (The Constant Gardener for example). Writen by Danish iconoclast Lars Von Trier and directed by the occasionally despised Thomas Vinterberg, the film does more with American actors, conventions and culture than pretty much anyone in America in 2005. An examination of violence, nerds and adolescence, Dear Wendy’s world is colorful and well defined making it an extremely fun film despite the heavy subject matter. While definitely cashing in on the cool factor of pop music, pop editing and a general pop sensibility, the film still retains the simple truths behind Von Trier’s script which could have easily been made in the same minimalist style as Dogville. Luckily for us though, that’s not the case and Vinterberg’s lighter interpretation of the material suits the film well. Not yet in wide release, catch this one if comes by your town in 06 and tell em Sach sent ya.

EDIT: Turns out that this film got bashed during its European release. I personally think it deserves a second look.

My full original review

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