One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 2005 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 2005.
2005 saw one of the most iconic superheroes reinvented by one of Hollywood’s hottest up and coming directors, as well as the finale to a controversial prequel trilogy. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
Sin City — 9 points
Mr. & Mrs. Smith — 7 points
Walk the Line — 7 points
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — 7 points
Serenity — 5 points
Munich — 4 points
Wedding Crashers — 4 points
King Kong — 4 points
Memoirs of a Geisha — 4 points
Capote — 3 points
Crash — 3 points
Madagascar — 3 points
Good Night, and Good Luck — 2 points
Junebug — 2 points
Brick — 1 point
Elizabethtown — 1 point
Syriana — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 2005, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
5. Brokeback Mountain
11 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Steve Wille at No. 1
Steve Wille: Brokeback Mountain has historically been classified as a “gay movie,” whatever that term implies, but it’s another one of my picks that transcends genre. It’s a drama, a period piece, a western, a romance film wrapped in one. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star as Jack and Ennis, two Wyoming teens that have a romantic connection while working as sheepherders. Right away, not your average Oscar season storyline. Knowing that their bond was frowned upon, the two went their separate ways, meeting up over the years for passionate fishing trips, unbeknownst to their wives, portrayed brilliantly by Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams.
Brokeback Mountain is the quintessential Ang Lee film, an epic character study where the location plays as important of a role as the actors. As Roger Ebert states in his original review, Lee is a master at conveying sympathy for the wounded character, and, by all means, the four main characters all have been victimized, either by each other, the community, or their own internal angst. The movie did rather well at the box office, garnering over $83 million in domestic ticket sales, and won three Oscars, including a Best Director nod for Lee and Best Adapted Screenplay.
4. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
12 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George and Andrew Riche at No. 2
Aaron George: So after Anchorman I thought “This is it, nowhere to go but down from here” as relates to comedy. When the cast was announced for this new film about an old virgin, here I was thinking, “Whelp! It’s Anchorman with everyone but Will Ferrell! How good can this be?” Whelp! I’d say it was as good as your first sexual experience after waiting for forty years.
Not only is the movie funny as hell, but it has a wonderful charm to it which makes you want to play The Heat of The Moment, and bike through your city full of passion and years of built up frustration. Steve Carrell basically builds himself a career as a leading man here while Katherine Keener makes us love single moms everywhere. You REALLY want them to end up together, and when they finally get to celebrate in one of the weirdest wedding of all time you’re just beaming. Paul Rudd is also a standout here and his “You know how I know you’re gay” bit with Seth Rogen was surely the hit of all the college campuses for years following the release. Discreet Jane Lynch haunted our dreams, Romy Malco and Gerry Bednob stole pretty much every scene they were in, and every single person who spoke a line of dialogue be it at the speed dating, the book store, or the virgin therapy session killed it and added a wonderful atmosphere to the film.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at the time I was working at a Future Shop (Canadian Best Buy) and the way they portray the store and how it runs might as well have been a documentary about the industry. Extended warranties, endless Michael MacDonald songs, even the same fucking cables next to the same god damned DVD players; it’s perfect but at the same time scary how real they made it.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a fantastic comedy that has a heart of gold underneath it. The cast is stellar to the last man. You know how I know you’re gay? You don’t like this film.
2 (tie). A History of Violence
15 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1
Glenn Butler: A History of Violence begins with a pair of criminals on the run, and several gruesome murders. Where they’re from, what they did, how they got to a motel in the middle of nowhere, we don’t know. It doesn’t actually matter: we can fill in their histories however we want with background from every crime movie we’ve ever seen. Hell, they could be from a Tarantino movie. We also already know Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and his family from every movie we’ve ever seen about bucolic middle America, with the small-town sheriffs and the fields of crops and the down-home charm. What’s interesting, and ultimately unsettling, is what happens when the worlds collide; the criminals try to rob Tom’s diner but he takes them out with preternatural skill, and then tries to shrug off as much attention as he can. Some men soon arrive from Philadelphia, men in out-of-place suits driving an out-of-place car, raising the spectre of old-school east-coast mobsters; these men say Tom is actually Joey, and there’s quite a lot they’d like to discuss with Joey.
Spoilers for a nearly ten-year-old film follow. But if you’re just now going to get around to seeing it (hell, I only did a few weeks ago, thanks to this project), it really is better if you see it somewhat fresh and come back.
There’s no filmic trickery at work here. Tom isn’t some sort of clone or doppelgänger; he doesn’t have amnesia and he’s not been brainwashed. He’s simply a person who was in a terrible and terrifying line of work, decided to get out, and hid out within the “normal” middle-American life. Or was he a “normal” man struggling in the gang/hitman life, who wasn’t genuinely himself until he escaped and forged a new identity, then a relationship, then a family? Once the movie is done examining these questions through the various ways that Tom’s and Joey’s lives collapse into each other, it seems implausible to imagine him being entirely one or the other. That would be too simple. Rather, A History of Violence is about the creation of a messy synthesis.
Viggo Mortensen’s work in this film is fantastic. He uses small gestures and glances to portray all of Tom’s shades. Thanks to the subtleties of the performance, we really feel as if Tom’s trying to figure out exactly who he is at the same time that we are. Mortensen was good in the Lord of the Rings films, but they didn’t require anything like the skills on display here. The supporting cast is very good as well, particularly Maria Bello as Edie, who is first unsettled by the presence of the east-coasters, then nearly destroyed by the idea that she fell in love with a man whose identity was constructed as a convenient fiction. Other highlights include Ed Harris as the icy, disfigured gangster who exposes Joey, and William Hurt in a brief but memorable appearance.
Director David Cronenberg is best known for horror, and leverages that aesthetic by depicting the gunshots and blood splatters in this film with a sense of gore more often seen in that genre, but with all the weight that a dramatic presentation can place upon them. Composer Howard Shore is best known for The Lord of the Rings (despite having scored virtually all of Cronenberg’s films, and other horror besides), and leverages that aesthetic by crafting a main theme for the Stall family that is basically the Hobbit theme with the numbers filed off. The presence and strength of this theme waxes and wanes over the course of the movie, along with Tom’s estrangement from his family.
Two sex scenes are juxtaposed on either side of the big revelation at the heart of the story: in one, Edie pretends to be a cheerleader in a fantasy version of the high school relationship they never had (for very good reasons) before a spirited bout of lovemaking followed by tender spooning; the other starts with out-and-out sexual assault, as Tom tackles his wife on the stairs in their house and all but tears into her, and develops into…not assault, maybe. I’m not entirely confident on this point. The brutality of the scene reinforces the titanic shift in how Tom’s family relates to him and underscores just how much he’s been holding back all this time. By the end, after resigning himself to a trip to Philadelphia, Tom might think he’s stopped more people from coming after him…but he’s done it by killing everyone who knew where — and who — he was. What’s past is prologue; the violence isn’t just in his history. He returns to his family with little to offer but weighty stares, only welcomed by the one child too young to have known about most of what’s happened. It’s an ambiguous ending about ambiguous people trying to assemble their ambiguous lives.
2 (tie). Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
15 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price at No. 1
Kati Price: It is no secret that I am a HUGE Star Wars fan and that is partly why I voted Episode III so highly. (The other parts being nostalgia and I just enjoyed it more than other movies from 2005). I was in high school the year this movie came out and a group from my school (myself included) were the nerds that stood in line to get tickets. Of course, we were all excited to see the movie but it was really all in anticipation for one scene: the final fight scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who *spoiler alert* becomes Darth Vader.
This of course is not a surprise to Star Wars fans. We knew this was coming and it was awesome. Maybe it’s a girl thing but I teared up a bit during those final scenes. Okay… Okay… I cried like a baby, but surely I’m not the only one to find the scene gut wrenching, Especially when Obi Wan yells to Anakin “you were my brother Anakin; I loved you!” And there is something so moving when Padme names her twins Luke and Leia even though you know that’s who they are anyway.
Episode III is by far superior to the other two prequels. It isn’t the best of the Star Wars films but it is the best of the newer ones. The acting is actually amazing as is the action. The script is so moving and the actors bring it to life. Of course, the score is fantastic as usual for John Williams, who is a musical genius!
I love how this final film brings the old trilogy perfectly in line with the new trilogy. Well except one part that has always bugged me. In the original trilogy Leia says she doesn’t remember much of her real mother but in actuality she shouldn’t remember anything of her mother since she died at birth. But that’s just my own personal annoyance. If you were new to the Star Wars franchise it made everything come together and tied it all up. If you weren’t new to the franchise, it was nice to see it all come together instead of just knowing it did.
It was moving to see how Anakin struggled and how he ultimately became who we all know as Darth Vader. I would venture a guess that if you haven’t seen this movie it isn’t on your “to watch” list because you likely aren’t a fan. If you were going to watch it, you have. But I do encourage you to watch the Star Wars films; give them a chance or a second chance. They are definitely worth your time. They are very well written and for the most part well acted. If your first experience was with Episode I or II please give episode III a chance — it is by far the superior film.
1. Batman Begins
30 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada, Aaron George, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Nick Duke: If I were making a list of my favorite movies of all time, Batman Begins wouldn’t be at the top (not anymore, anyway), but it would certainly be at the top of a list of movies that I feel like are the most important to me. Let’s take a step back before we delve into the near masterpiece that is Batman Begins. In just 15 short years, Batman had gone from critical and commercial darling at the box office to complete box office bomb under the guidance of Joel Schumacher in Batman & Robin. Plans for a fifth film, tentatively titled Batman Triumphant, fell though after the debacle that was B&R. There were rumors for a time that Batman and Superman would join forces in an effort to resurrect both heroes’ big screen careers, but those too fell through. There were rumblings for a time that Darren Aronofsky would be brought on board to direct a cinematic adaptation of Batman: Year One, one of the character’s most iconic print stories. However, those plans fell through as well, though from what we’ve learned of that film in the years since, that may have been for the best. Stranger still, legend would have you believe that WB almost moved on from Bruce Wayne entirely, entertaining for a time the notion of a Batman Beyond film. Warner Brothers had seen the magic of Batmania in 1989 and knew it couldn’t just let the character lie dormant, but after numerous missteps and false starts, the future of Batman on film was dubious at best. It was then that the character’s salvation fell into the studio’s lap.
Christopher Nolan, then known mostly as the director of Memento, had only three feature-length projects under his belt when he approached WB with his pitch for a revised version of Batman. Gone would be the overtly gothic and somewhat grotesque imagery of Tim Burton. The cartoonish, neon-trimmed version of the character Schumacher had preferred would also be thrown by the wayside in favor of an approach rooted in what I call “hyperrealism.” Per Nolan himself, “The term ‘realism’ is often confusing and used sort of arbitrarily. I suppose ‘relatable’ is the word I would use. I wanted a world that was realistically portrayed, in that even though outlandish events may be taking place, and this extraordinary figure may be walking around these streets, the streets would have the same weight and validity of the streets in any other action movie. So they’d be relatable in that way. And so the more texturing and layering that we could get into this film, the more tactile it was, the more you would feel and be excited by the action. So just on a technical level, I really wanted to take on this idea of what I call the tactile quality. You want to really understand what things would smell like in this world, what things would taste like, when bones start being crunched or cars start pancaking. You feel these things in a way because the world isn’t intensely artificial and created by computer graphics, which result in an anodyne, sterile quality that’s not as exciting. For me that was about making the character more special. If I can believe in that world because I recognize it and can imagine myself walking down that street, then when this extraordinary figure of Batman comes swooping down in this theatrical costume and presenting this very theatrical aspect, that’s going to be more exciting to me.”
So, in January 2003, the framework for what became Batman Begins began to be built. Writer David S. Goyer soon joined Nolan, and from there, the young director set out to build an intentionally all-star cast, something he felt would lend the story a sense of credibility and an epic nature, much like the original 1978 Superman film. And the cast was no doubt star studded. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, something of the Q to Batman’s Bond. Michael Caine as Alfred, Bruce’s childhood butler and closest confidant. Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, an original character the filmmakers decided to use in the role of a young assistant district attorney when they felt they couldn’t do justice to the story of Harvey Dent. Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone, the head of Gotham’s organized crime infrastructure. Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane, who would portray a reimagined version of The Scarecrow. Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, a man who initially seemed to be an ally of Bruce’s in the years before he became the Bat. And of course, Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon, a policeman whose impact on a young Bruce led him to be selected as Batman’s main ally in the war on organized crime.
And all of those casting choices were fantastic, no doubt. Caine and Oldman in particular created versions of their characters that stand alongside any comic version in terms of sheer quality. But for it all to really come together, Nolan needed something no Batman movie had been able to achieve. He needed an actor who could be just as convincing as each of Bruce’s three personalities. Michael Keaton had done an outstanding job of bringing the eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne to life, even if his Batman wasn’t quite as believable. Enter Christian Bale, the best live-action actor to ever play the role. Bale was able to seamlessly blend the aloof playboy Bruce Wayne with both the terrifying Batman and the more personal Bruce that only revealed to Alfred and Rachel. Bale’s Bruce Wayne was a tortured soul, no doubt, but it brought gravitas to a project that was initially dismissed as “just another comic book movie.”
But no one in the viewing audience knew just how this thing was going to turn out. There were encouraging signs, to be sure, but it was hard for even the most staunch Batfan to muster a whole lot of excitement after the bad taste left by Batman & Robin and the numerous stalled projects since then. I distinctly remember pretty much being convinced the project would fail, and Batman would no longer be viewed as a box office star. I didn’t even follow the production of the film all that closely, convinced reading too much about it ahead of time would only disappoint and frustrate me. However, I got my first inkling that I might be wrong about this movie when I saw one of the theatrical trailers for the film. It had a vibe that I completely dug, and it looked like it wasn’t going to be like any film version of Batman we had seen yet. So, I was interested, but refrained from getting too excited.
But then, June 2005 finally arrived. I settled into a theater to see what Batman Begins was all about. And yeah, it may have been helped by my low expectations, but I was completely blown away. From the moment the film began, it was clear that this movie had been made by an extremely talented filmmaker who cared deeply about the character and the mythology. Every scene seemed lovingly, genuinely crafted, with CGI almost nonexistent. The story, as I’m sure everyone knows from the title, is an origin story for Batman, but to Nolan and Goyer’s credit, they craft the movie in a nonlinear fashion. This allowed even the most diehard fans who know that scene in Crime Alley backwards and forwards to be sucked in by the movie’s first 45 minutes. We all know who Bruce is and where he’s going, but seeing the dots all connected via flashback still works for me to this day. Once Bruce finishes his business with Ducard and the mysterious Ra’s al Ghul, he returns to Gotham. From there, we get to see the evolution of the costumed persona of Batman. We see glimpses of equipment, the different stages of the cowl and a thrilling test drive of the Tumbler deep beneath Wayne Enterprises. By the time we finally see Batman fully realized, it’s a fist-pumping moment that feels totally earned. Not unlike the moment when you finally see the xenomorph in Alien for the first time, the anticipation of seeing Batman is well worth the wait.
Of course, once Batman is fully unveiled, we begin to see the threat he will face throughout the film. I don’t want to spoil one of the film’s major twists for any of those who somehow haven’t seen the movie. But, the film builds to a crescendo, eventually unleashing all-out chaos and panic in the streets of Gotham. In a true treat, it isn’t just Batman taking an active role in the final sequence, but Jim Gordon as well, something that put a huge smile on my face. The final battle is tense and provides closure for a great Batman villain, even if some take issue with the way the conflict ends. (I myself do not.) Of course, it’s the film’s coda, delivered before the credits rather than after, that had me wishing we could just go ahead and see the sequel right then and there. But, we’ll get there….
That does it for 2005. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 2006!