Each year there are nincompoops who'll say it was the worst year in film ever, and each year they'll be wrong. The worst year in terms of cinema was the day Jim Carrey started acting, but other than that,
every year since and after has had plenty of decent stuff to watch, whether it's homegrown, from the States or from the more obscure heathen corners of the world. And for someone like me whose main hobby
and pleasure in life (after sex, drinking and knitting) is watching films, writing about films and chatting about them with all and sundry, it was a tasty treat of a year, filled of course with its share of
great, crappy and mediocre experiences.
There is no pretence to objectivity or some authoritative stance on my part. My opinion is no more independently or verifiably 'correct' than anyone else's, and I don't claim to be a film expert in any way possessed of superior faculties or aesthetic sense than any of you. So everything naturally comes with the proviso of being in my not so humble opinion.
So enjoy, or not, it's up to you. I thought it'd be fun to do this, if for nothing else than to formulate in my mind what I thought about last year's flicks overall.
The "That's Not a Knife, This Here Cutting Through Your Spine is a Knife" Best Horror Film award goes to Australia's Own Wolf Creek. Much like the recent rioting in Cronulla, this film disembowels
Australia's view of itself as a nation of easy going nice people who are all pretty much looking out for each other. Chilling, disturbing and all too real, it'll make you think twice about that interstate trip.
The "Goddamn, Human Relationships Really Do Suck" Award for Most Depressing Melodrama goes to John Curran's We Don't Live Here Anymore. Not content with having depressed Australian audiences with
Praise a bunch of years ago, he decided to inflict his particular brand of claustrophobic relationship misery on an international audience with a higher powered cast. Runner Up: Closer.
The "The Worse the Mullets Got, The Worse the Film Got" Award for Worst Historical Biopic goes to Oliver Stone's Alexander. By Zeus and all the other lecherous gods above, this travesty of an abortion of a
trainwreck should have finished the careers of everyone involved. Like a horse that falls on the racetrack and breaks its leg, screens should have been put up around Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Stone, Val Kilmer, their friends, neighbours and they should have been shot after this deeply awful film to put them out of our misery. Then, to prevent the Awful Film Flu from spreading, they should have been burned like much of Asia's poultry.
Bad on almost every level apart from the unintentionally comedic, the one question I kept asking myself was not why it was made so badly, but why much of the cast were developing 1980s dyed-blonde Whitesnake /
Poison / Warrant hairstyles the further they travelled east in Alexander's legendary campaign. And why in the name of sweet fuck was Angelina Jolie, as Alexander's mother Olympia, talking with a Russian accent?
In fairness, you can't blame one person: multiple monstrous egos clearly are all to blame for this monumental failure. Still, if anyone gives Stone money again to make more films, they are congenital idiots who should be locked away in Guantanamo Bay for the rest of their
Kingdom of Heaven was a close contender here too.
The best historical flick was probably Downfall, where Hitler is shown to be the kind old grandfatherly type we always knew he really was. Except when he was ranting about exterminating Jews and letting the
German people die at the hands of the Red Army to repay them for failing him.
The "Actually Funny" Award for Best Comedy goes to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Maybe it appeals to me because I'm an old nerd who each day looks more and more like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, all the same it genuinely made me laugh out loud, and I enjoyed it from beginning until nearly the end (people singing Age of Aquarius like it's a Hair revival will burn in a special level of hell). It was funny and sweet, and the supporting characters (Seth Rogen especially) were almost as funny as Steve Carrell as Andy. Unfortunately it also brought terms like 'rusty trombone' to mainstream audiences, which is unforgivable.
The "OMFG, Australia Actually Has a Film Industry?" award goes to every decent Australian film that came out this year: Wolf Creek, Look Both Ways, The Oyster Farmer, Little Fish, The Magician, The Proposition, Three Dollars, The Illustrated Family Doctor, Peaches and all the other people working in the local industry who continually have to put up with being told they're crap simply for being Australian.
Of course after a banner year, the pressure is on for this year to have just as many if not more celebrated Aussie movies (which, with the law of averages, won't happen), which means the Australian media will be
writing endless articles in 2006 about the Death of the Australian Film Industry. It's a lose/lose situation no matter how you look at it. When success predicates failure, the viciousness of the cycle is brought into stark and unwelcome relief. I'd use the phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations", but I don't want to have to pay President Bush II's speechwriters any royalties.
The "You Really Shouldn't Make Films About This Stuff" Award for Good Films with Extremely Difficult Subject Matter goes to Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, a truly beautiful film about the absolute ickiest subject matter on this plane of existence. Close runner up is The Woodsman, with Kevin Bacon giving a moving portrayal as a sympathetic, reformed kiddie fiddler.
The "When Too Much Is Barely Enough" Award for Hubristic Excess goes to Peter Jackson for King King, all 187 minutes of it. Where the quantity of source material justified the length of the Ringpiece
cycle, with Kong, Jackson unjustifiably decided every idea he had for anything to do with anything needed to be included in final cut. Whilst the director himself has slimmed down to a trim, barely recognisable figure, Kong bloated out to the point where, like an unpleasant houseguest, he outstayed his welcome by eating all the food in the house, drinking all the booze and stinking up the couch.. When a fifteen minute fight between three T Rexs and a giant monkey aren't enough, and you need to have another fight after that, it's time to back away from the editing suite with your hands up. Lucas gets this award perennially for making the visual composition of scenes in his Star Wars films 'busier' than an epileptic wearing stripy clothing
falling down a flight of stairs.
My "Big Fucking Deal" Award for Most Overrated Film of the Year goes to Batman Begins. Critically lauded as one of the best films to ever come from a comic book source, pretty successful at the box office, what was the big deal? Were people just relieved that it wasn't as bad as Batman and Robin? Devoid of the camp, of the superficial pseudo-gothic elements of its predecessors, the film didn't so much recreate or reimagine the original premise, it just mildly upgraded it and put in more "shaky shaky" camera work and
amphetamine edits to make the action scenes that much more painful. Sure, it's all about the complex psychology and philosophy of Batman, but so what? Wasn't all this crap covered in the preceding 4 films and the last bazillion years of the comic? Or was it Liam Neeson as his personal Yoda that much betterer? Because a film with so many characters needed to have at least a few of them existing in anything
more than one dimension at a time, and this certainly didn't.
Like most people's day jobs, it was 'same shit, different day'.
The "Isn't a Horror Film Supposed to be Scary?" Award goes to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which succeeded in being the least believable 'based on a true story' movie of the year, and also possessed not a
picosecond of screentime where anything vaguely scary happened. Runner up goes to The Ring Two, which was less scary than my last tax return. Extra points go to The Devil's Rejects and Saw II, both utterly devoid of shocks or scares but with ample gore to compensate.
The Porn Masquerading as Art Award goes to Michael Winterbottom for 9 Songs. Yes, I'm sure there's artistic merit in showing a girl giving a blowjob or two people having sex, but, you know, Michael, there's a whole world of recorded sex out there performed by more attractive and talented people, filmed by better directors in some cases as well. 9 Songs is the textbook definition of the term 'redundant'.
The Art Masquerading as Porn Award goes to my continued reviews.
Best Annual Pride and Prejudice fest contender: Bride and Prejudice. If I have to sit through yet another version of Austen's 'classic', at least this one had the delectable Aishwarya Rai to look at in the
Elizabeth Bennett role, instead of skeletal, collagen lipped Keira Knightley. Girl power indeed.
Best all CGI extravaganza: Sin City. For the first time ever, a film has been adapted from a comic book / graphic novel, and has been made to look exactly like the comic book. Exactly. And on the cheap (comparatively) as well. Say what you will about the plot, the acting or the violence (which was over the top), Rodriguez beautifully achieved the world he and Frank Miller wanted to achieve, and they did it at a fraction of the cost of stuff like Kong or SW III.
The "I'm an Intemallectual Because I've Watched a" Documentary of the Year Award goes to Bukowski: Born Into This (I know it's from 2003, but it was only released here in 2005). Personal, revelatory,
expansive, ugly and honest, it really made it worth my time. Close runners-up include the Dylan documentary No Direction Home, The Yes Men, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Darwin's Nightmare, three films about capitalism at its best.
The "If I Had a Girlfriend, She'd Kill Me" Award for best big budget science fiction flick goes to War of the Worlds. People that hate the flick because of Spielberg and Cruise being involved in it are
irrational stinkypantses. Runner ups: Serenity, which was far more enjoyable and entertaining, but more modest in scope. The best genuine sci-fi flick of the year that I saw was Primer, but no-one else saw it so what's the point?
The 'Personal is Political and Vice Versa' Award goes to Palestinian film Paradise Now, for revealing that maybe those bastards who blow themselves up in order to kill the men, women and children they see as the enemy aren't solely slavering demons dying for a laugh. That perhaps there's something more complex going on. And also, something that few people seem to want to understand at the moment, that the religion of Islam isn't the reason these people are blowing themselves and their foes up, it's a recruitment tool. Close
contenders for relatively intelligent politically-minded flicks worthy of mention (being this year, as in every year, in short supply) were: The Interpreter, The Constant Gardener, Moolaade, Joyeux Noel, and,
only allegorically speaking, George Romero's Land of the Dead.
So, to finish up, here are what I thought were the worst films released in Australian cinemas in 2005 that I saw. It's because I think they were either utterly without interest, badly made, embarrassing or painful to watch, poorly conceived, badly acted or just bad all over:
Be Cool, Elektra, House of Wax, Sahara, Layer Cake, Night Watch, Constantine, Robots, Criminal (the 9 Queens remake), Bad Education, Kingdom of Heaven, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fantastic Four, The Devil's Rejects, Elizabethtown, Dig, Ladies in Lavender, Beat My Heart Skipped, Assassination of Richard Nixon, Alexander, Birth, Dark Water, The Island, Spanglish (fucking
awful), Last Days, and Tony Scott's Domino, which was so bad I couldn't even bring myself to review it as one of the most painful to watch films in human history.
The absolute worst film I saw from 2005 was The Crow: Wicked Prayer. I did it so you don't have to. Imagine a film so bad that it makes the first Crow look like Citizen Kane, and Crow: City of Angels look like
Lawrence of Arabia. Wicked Prayer made me despair that there is any worth to the continued existence of our species. I want the actors and director to admit they have committed a tremendous sequence of human
rights violations and be tried and convicted at Nuremburg.
To finish on a high note, these are the films that brought joy to my heart, and are the kinds of flicks that keep me going back to the cinema for more, because I am at heart not a masochist, but a lover of life and its aesthetic pinnacle on the cinema screen:
Serenity, War of the Worlds, The Proposition, Wong Kar Wai's 2046, Ong Bak, Look Both Ways, Little Fish, Wolf Creek, Mysterious Skin, The Sea Inside, A Very Long Engagement, The Machinist, House of Flying
Daggers, Oldboy, Paradise Now, The Constant Gardener, Young Adam, Sin City, Downfall, Crash, Enduring Love, The Life Aquatic, and Howl's Moving Castle.
If I had to pick one film, I wouldn't, but I would narrow it down to:
Oldboy, Howl's Moving Castle or The Machinist as being my Favouritist Film of the Year!
Thank you and good night.
Inaugural and all!
"All memories are traces of tears." - 2046