Film Reviews: Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Murder, murder on the ball, what’s the best film of them all? These guys, and our movie critic, say this one.
The Top 10

Wild parrots, gay cowboys, a 40-year-old virgin, and more from 2005’s best movies.


Here’s what you’ve been waiting for — the top-10 films of 2005 (plus a few other lists). Note that four of the top 10 — My Summer of Love, Turtles Can Fly, Pulse, and Mysterious Skin — and quite a few in the other lists never played in Fort Worth. Then find them on DVD. Then clamor for a venue that’ll show them on a big screen. Be the change you wish to effect in this world. And have a happy 2006 at the movies. (An asterisk denotes a film that has yet to be released locally.)

1) Murderball

As more than one movie critic has noted, so many of this year’s best movies were downers. Maybe that’s why my top spot goes to this raucous, funny, uniquely inspiring documentary about the sport of wheelchair rugby and its athletes, men with outsized personalities who ask for no pity and live their lives to the fullest. The year’s best doc, best sports movie, and best movie.

2) My Summer of Love

Don’t be scared off by the title. Pawel Pawlikowski’s succulent yet scarring English romance involves a country girl whose love for a sophisticated, exotically beautiful boarding-school girl blooms gloriously and then goes horribly bad. Not so much a lesbian coming-of-age flick as an “I gotta get outta my hometown” flick, and a great one.

3) Look at Me

Another faulty title, this one mistranslated from the French. Agnès Jaoui’s fluffy yet deeply layered comedy about an overweight girl trying to escape her famous dad’s shadow is so well constructed that its tart insights about human nature go down in a smooth concoction. A full-fledged masterpiece from one of France’s most vibrant and humane filmmakers.

4) Turtles Can Fly

Pray to Allah for Iran’s film industry, currently suffering under a crackdown by the country’s Holocaust-denying president. Then see Bahman Ghobadi’s crusher of a film, set in a colony of Kurdish children on the Iran-Iraq border who’ve seen way too much of war’s horrors but still try to carve out lives for themselves amid the land mines.

5) The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Judd Apatow and Steve Carell create an instant classic with this comedy about a man taking a last, belated step into adulthood. The sweetness and empathy at the movie’s center is engaging, but bits like the game of “you’re so gay” make this an example of filthy humor at its best. Not to mention making Kelly Clarkson’s name into our newest epithet.

6) Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee’s masterfully controlled, deeply moving romantic tragedy set in the gorgeous wilds of Wyoming. Great performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger help flesh out this devastating account of a love affair thwarted by society’s prejudice. Worth all the hype and more.

7) Capote

Bennett Miller’s harsh, uncompromising look at the celebrity author’s self-serving and ultimately self-destructive experience researching a mass murder in Kansas. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance is the key, but don’t let it distract you from the muscular writing and direction around it.

8) Pulse

“Can the internet dial up itself?” Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Japanese horror flick starts with a mysterious web site and ends up like the Left Behind saga, only there’s no God. I don’t know about you, but that scares the crap out of me. Even more than War of the Worlds, this disquieting movie feels like the apocalypse.

9) Mysterious Skin

A movie that’ll make you want to jump in the shower and curl up into a ball. Gregg Araki finally grows up with this film about two child-molestation victims who’ve aged into emotionally crippled adults. The movie’s unflinchingly honest reckoning of the damage done by abuse makes its uncomfortably graphic descriptions worth sitting through.

10) The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Ten times smarter and more entertaining than that cutesy penguin movie. Judy Irving’s nature documentary studies one man’s relationship to a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco and his serene acceptance of how nature makes change inevitable. Wise and wounding, and G-rated for all that.

Honorable Mention

Stephen Chow’s dizzyingly silly Kung Fu Hustle, Jia Zhangke’s deeply disillusioned The World, Jan Hrebejk’s Czech class study Up and Down, Wong Kar-Wai’s woozily romantic 2046, Woody Allen’s rejuvenated chiller Match Point*, Fernando Meirelles’ angry and conscience-stricken The Constant Gardener, Shane Black’s hilariously clever Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Werner Herzog’s psychologically unnerving Grizzly Man, Susanne Bier’s soapy but strong Brothers, Nick Park’s purely delightful Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Mike Binder’s joyously bitter The Upside of Anger, Tommy Lee Jones’ rough-hewn The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada*, Jun Ichikawa’s ineffably sad Tony Takitani, Danny Boyle’s enchanting Millions.

Great Performances

Amy Adams’ soulful, talkative Southern mother-to-be in Junebug ... Joan Allen’s funny, majorly pissed-off ditched housewife, and Kevin Costner’s ex-jock aware that life has passed him by in The Upside of Anger ... Tom Arnold’s middle-aged widower who can’t believe a gorgeous young woman wants to sleep with him, and Lisa Kudrow’s tightly wound abortion counselor mourning her lost childhood and lost child in Happy Endings ... Elizabeth Banks’ photographer looking for a way out of her engagement in Heights ... Steve Carell as The 40-Year-Old Virgin ... Choi Min-sik’s fire-breathing and live-octopus-chomping Korean avenger in Oldboy ... Jennifer Connelly’s mother coming unglued in Dark Water ... Daniel Craig’s tough-talking guide to London’s underworld in Layer Cake ... Jeff Daniels’ wormy New York intellectual and bad parent in The Squid and the Whale ... Hope Davis’ well-intentioned Type-A older sister in Proof ... Jan Decleir’s Belgian hit man trying to take down his evil employers before Alzheimer’s takes him down in The Memory of a Killer ... Alex Etel’s Scottish boy who believes in miracles in Millions ... Bruno Ganz’ Hitler, twitching nervously in the face of imminent defeat in Downfall ... Philip Seymour Hoffman’s coldly ambitious Capote ... Terrence Dashon Howard’s desperate Memphis pimp-turned-rapper in Hustle & Flow ... Scarlett Johansson’s emotionally needy, ill-used actress in Match Point* ... Heath Ledger’s surfer dude whose pupils grow too big for him in Lords of Dogtown ... Damian Lewis’ dad frantically searching for his lost daughter (or raving lunatic) in Keane ... Jiri Machácek’s Czech soccer hooligan who briefly sees the light in Up and Down ... Michelle Monaghan’s sexy Hollywood drifter in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ... Connie Nielsen’s Danish mother trying to hold her family together after her husband disappears in Afghanistan in Brothers ... Nathalie Press’ small-town girl finding herself when romance goes bad in My Summer of Love ... Mary-Lynn Rajskub’s pathetically vulnerable UFO cultist in Mysterious Skin ... Yuen Qiu’s martial-arts warrior disguised as a fat lady with curlers in her hair in Kung Fu Hustle ... Zhang Ziyi’s prostitute in love in 2046 ... and the entire cast of Brokeback Mountain.

Making the Leap

Hany Abu-Assad, Paradise Now; Nimród Antal, Kontroll; Andrew Bujalski and Kate Dollenmayer, Funny Ha Ha; Valentina de Angelis, Off the Map; Dan Futterman and Bennett Miller, Capote; Tommy Lee Jones (director), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada*; Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know; Rachel McAdams, Wedding Crashers, Red Eye, and The Family Stone; Phil Morrison, Junebug; Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins, Red Eye, and Breakfast on Pluto; Lou Pucci, Thumbsucker; Michael Schorr, Schultze Gets the Blues; Erik van Looy, The Memory of a Killer; Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tropical Malady; Joe Wright, Pride & Prejudice.


Lords of Dogtown, Cry_Wolf, Dark Water, Two for the Money, Zathura, Just Friends, Prime, A Lot Like Love, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.


Crash; March of the Penguins; Cinderella Man; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Batman Begins; A History of Violence; Me and You and Everyone We Know; Mad Hot Ballroom; Diary of a Mad Black Woman.

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