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Next year
I’ll format things differently when it comes time to post reviews and notes — this daily collection is getting tiresome. In the meantime, and since its Friday, the least I
could do is offer an overview complete with an
alphabetical film list and the top ten therein.

any doubt, I KNOW that complaints will be issued about the following picks, mostly because Tideland is nowhere to be found. But
I’ve gotta go with what I feel, and one thing I know for sure is that I never
want to sit through that film again.

So please
check out the trailer links and homepages for these flicks. Many of them are
still negotiating to determine how broad a release is justified, and more
interest can only bode well. In some cases, the trailers are not in English,
but you’ll get the idea. Click the ‘festival coverage’ link to go to the writeup from the festival, or click the title in the full list at the bottom of the page.

CHUD’s Top
Picks for 2005

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

(Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

though I only saw the first half, I’m going out on a limb. This is a fun,
snarky, smart movie that should easily satisfy anyone’s jones for post-modern
detective work and Val Kilmer. And I didn’t even see most of Kilmer’s material!
What I did see was an offbeat but convincing turn from Robert Downy, Jr. — by
turns comedic and dramatic — and a wild script full of jokes and film references
that could only have been written by someone who really loves what they’re
doing. Every few years a noir-ish film comes along to get broad audiences
hopped up about character-driven crime pictures. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is
one of those movies.

(The trailer,
by the way, captures almost none of the qualities I loved about the movie. So
tread softly.)

Caché (aka The Hidden)
(Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

Not a lot
of people know Michael Haneke’s movies, simply because most have only had
limited art house releases in North America. Caché won’t be any
different, which is all the more reason to emphasize how good it is. This is a
savage and mystical puzzle of a movie. It investigates a lot of the same issues
tackled so smartly in A History of Violence, but from a completely different
angle. It’s a slow burn, tense and brooding, but in the end gets under your
skin in that most memorable of ways. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil are
both phenomenal, as is Haneke’s unmovable camera. Whatever you do, see Caché.

The Pusher Series
(Pusher 2 Trailer | Pusher 3 Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

The more
I think about Nicolas Winding Refn’s great street crime series, the more I like
it. These three films have the interconnected resonance of a series like The
or Oz, but with a visual and scripted voice that is wholly unique.
Great acting (particularly by Mads Mikklesen as Tonny and Zlatko Buric as Milo)
gives rise to instantly classic characters. And while the basic plot of each
film is essentially the same, Refn takes each one in a wholly different
direction, ultimately painting an ugly portrait of back alley Copenhagen totally
free of romanticism. These movies are savage in all sorts of ways, but they
also have a great deal of compassion for the many people trying to survive the
only way they know how. Vertigo Films will be releasing the second and third
films subtitled in the UK, to be followed by a full trilogy release on DVD
early next year. Hopefully we’ll get the same treatment over here. If not, get
ready to buy a PAL-compatible player. It’s worth it. (The first film is
available in a domestic DVD release — Buy it here!)

A History of

(Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

Adams described the most potent drink in the universe as like having your
brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. He
could have been talking about this movie. Hopefully you don’t need to read
anymore about Cronenberg’s achievement. It’s among the year’s best films, and
New York and L.A. readers can see it starting today. Everyone else has to wait
a week. If you don’t go see this film I’m coming to your house. With a bat. Wrapped
in lemon. (What, you think I’ve got gold here?)

(Trailer – NSFW because of language)|(Festival Coverage)

have accused me of being biased towards Lars von Trier in the same way Devin is
favorable towards Joss Whedon or Harry Potter. Know what? That’s not an accusation;
it’s an observation. To me, Trier is among the most interesting filmmakers in
action today. He never makes the same movie twice, and he never makes the movie
you want him to make. Manderlay is case in point; a
deliberately provocative, conflicting film that tackles race and class from
several different angles. Frequently it succeeds, but not always; the outcome
is not so clear-cut as many people would like. Yet I wouldn’t change a frame,
because the film’s dense, contradictory nature mirrors that of its subject.
Many people are going to hate this film, but that will mean they at least
bothered to see it, and I’ll take that.

mention here goes to Dear Wendy (Official site with trailer), which is not
as successful, but no less interesting for its partial failure.

Brothers of the Head
(IMDB Page)|(Festival Coverage)

I really
wish that a trailer was available for this great flick. It’s such a hard sell
without being able to hint at how good the performances are, and how smart the
music is. So take my word for it; this is among the best fake documentaries out
there (from the boys behind Lost In La Mancha) and it’s also the best rock and roll movie I’ve seen in a long time.
That it’s entirely fictional is almost too much to bear. Yeah, the story of
conjoined twins who start a really good early punk band sounds crazy and weird, but what’s remarkable is how down to earth
it ends up being, thanks to wonderful performances by the brothers Treadway.
Their work, and that of the supporting cast, keeps the story from becoming a
freakshow. Instead it’s an intimate, sometimes raw and painful story about
identity, love, ambition and loud music. I’m dying for the soundtrack.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (aka Lady Vengeance)
(Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

I feared
that Park Chanwook might fall prey to weakness and simply re-create the film
which gave him global recognition. That fear was completely unfounded. Sympathy
For Lady Vengeance
takes it’s characters and their lives very
seriously. It refuses to pander to an audience hungry for more of Oldboy‘s
violence and direct approach. Instead, the story of Lee Geum-ja’s vengeance is
thoughtful and complex, delivered with a subtlety the filmmaker’s previous
films only hinted at. That Park disseminates the sad tale of Geum-ja through lush,
imaginative imagery is a gift to moviegoers.

The Proposition
(Trailer)|(Festival Coverage)

Thank god
there will always be a frontier somewhere in the mind of writers and directors.
That means the western will never die, and movies like The Proposition will
continue to emerge. Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone remind you of how good they can
be in this dirty, violent and poetic tale of uncivilized retribution. It’s as
savage and beautiful as any frontier, with a heart that refuses to accept the
imposition of brutality in the name of progress. In the name of honor and
family…well, that’s another matter. As complex and passionate as the best in
the genre, the work of John Hillcoat and Nick Cave is worth seeking out.

Why We Fight
(Website)|(Festival Coverage)

I’m dying
for more even-tempered, intelligent political films, and Why We Fight is
indicative that I’m not the only one. Assembled by the brother of the man
behind Capturing the Friedmans, this is an excellent film that ably
dissects some of the many ways we’ve gone wrong in the past fifty years. Among
the key questions is this: How much power is in the hands of people
unaccountable to the public, and how did it get there? The answer is ominous
and occasionally terrifying, which is exactly the reason you should see

The Wayward Cloud
(Trailer – Consider it
|(Festival Coverage)

thought about putting Sarah Silverman’s movie in this spot (have a very NSFW
trailer anyway!
) but ended up leaning towards Tsai Ming-liang’s strange
document instead. This is a movie I can’t get out of my head; as much because
of the brash, ugly ending as for the gorgeous, unpredictable 110 minutes that
go before. His montage of endless takes, musical numbers and art-film sex
magically becomes something much more than a simple sum of parts. I didn’t like
the movie at all five minutes after I’d seen it. A day later it was the primary
topic of conversation, and it’s still knocking around my head a week later.
After seeing almost fifty films, the one that keeps floating to the top
deserves a place on this list.

Full list
of films covered in 2005, arranged by title:

A History of Violence
Bangkok Loco
Banlieue 13
Beowulf and Grendel
Brothers of the Head
Day of John
Dear Wendy
Drawing Restraint 9
Evil Aliens
Ghosts…of the Civil Dead
The Great Yokai War
I Am The Angel of Death – Pusher III
take here.)
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Look Both Ways
The Matador
The Myth
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
The President’s Last Bang
The Proposition
Romance and Cigarettes
Les Saignantes
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic
The Shore
The Sun
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance
These Girls
The Wayward Cloud
Wassup Rockers
The Well
Where The Truth Lies
Why We Fight
Winter Passing
With Blood On My Hands – Pusher II