Rogues' Gallery

Racists, louts and terrorists earned their place among the best of 2005

When your movie critics' tastes range from Jane Austen to Rob Zombie, there's bound to be some turbulence come award time. Perhaps not surprisingly, determining the year's best films is something of an imprecise science here: Our top movie was anything but a unanimous pick among the five critics — Luke Y. Thompson, Melissa Levine, Robert Wilonsky, Bill Gallo and Jean Oppenheimer. This is a group, after all, that could not agree on whether the Deuce Bigalow sequel sucked.

How it works: The writers assigned a point value to their own favorite movies of the year. Each film's points were then added to yield an overall top ten, followed by various attacks on one another's integrity. Out of our bloodshed come your winners, the top ten films of 2005: 1) Good Night, and Good Luck Many films try to create the sense that the audience is right in the room with the characters, but George Clooney's docudrama about the real-life conflict between CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy is one of the few to succeed. Shot in stunning black-and-white and seamlessly interweaving archival material with original footage, Good Night, and Good Luck makes each viewer an eyewitness to one of the most momentous events in American history. Visually arresting, beautifully acted, intellectually demanding and emotionally powerful, the film doesn't preach; rather, it lets the facts speak for themselves. Unexpected moments of humor — from darkly ironic to laugh-out-loud funny — enliven the story, but never detract from its serious tone. In his sophomore directorial effort, Clooney reveals himself to be one of today's most socially relevant and dynamic filmmakers. (Jean Oppenheimer)

2) Capote That Truman Capote, a hyper-urbane Manhattanite with the manner of a self-absorbed princess, could win the trust of the locals in rural Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959, was a social miracle. That the murderous saga that came of his obsession — the "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood — ruined the writer's life is a tragedy of several dimensions. Philip Seymour Hoffmann gives a thoroughly fascinating performance, capturing everything from Capote's odd physical traits to his simmering intelligence to the oft-charming, frequently ruthless methods he used to complete the masterpiece that crippled him. Thanks to Hoffmann and director Bennett Miller, this rates as the best film ever made about a writer at work. (Bill Gallo)

Great news: David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in 
Good Night, and Good Luck
Great news: David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck

3) The Squid and the Whale From its opening line, which pits teenage son and father against preteen son and mother, Squid is a glorious object lesson in family drama. Tightly written and expertly directed by Noah Baumbach, it tells the tale, more or less, of Baumbach's own difficult and eminently recognizable childhood. Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels are Joan and Bernard Berkman, divorcing parents who enact their anger and self-pitying indulgence on the battlefield otherwise known as their children. Walt is a floundering professor whose identity hinges on his evaluation of others' intellectual worth. Joan, a writer just meeting with success, distracts herself from her sorrow and rage with affairs. Their boys take sides and emulate: One opines on books he's never read; the other smears semen on library books. As life, it's a royal mess; as art, it's exquisite: unflinching, hilarious and utterly humane. (Melissa Levine)

4) Crash A story about racism in Los Angeles — and, by extension, America — screenwriter Paul Haggis' directorial debut is one of 2005's most explosive and emotionally powerful films. An ensemble drama about the ubiquity of bigotry and intolerance, Crash spares nobody: Fear and hatred of "the other" drive everyone, and each victim of racism is also revealed to be a perpetrator. Some of the characters and interlocking stories work better than others, and the film becomes contrived in its final half-hour, but nothing can diminish its overall relevance. Among numerous standout performances (Terrence Howard, Thandi Newton, Don Cheadle), perhaps nobody proves more moving than Matt Dillon, as the cop who is both vile and heroic. "You think you know who you are," he tells his young partner. "You have no idea." (JO)

5) Murderball What could have been sappy and exploitive wound up as the leanest, meanest movie of the year. It's a searing, funny and begrudgingly poignant doc about quadriplegic rugby players who don't want your sympathy but would love it if you'd fuckin' hit them as hard as possible. Imagine Mad Max confined to a wheelchair, with a temper that could melt steel. Mark Zupan, a former college soccer player who wound up in a chair after a night of boozing led to his being tossed into a ditch for thirteen hours, is as engaging as any star in any movie. He's tough and not a little tender: One second he's begging you to take your best shot before he dishes out his, and the next he's teaching a fellow traveler how to make the best out of a lousy situation. It's a sports drama, too, pitting the U.S. quad rugby team against its arch-nemesis, Canada, at the Paralympics in Athens. Screw Hoosiers. (Robert Wilonsky)

6) The Best of Youth Released in two three-hour parts, Marco Tullio Giordana's engrossing drama addresses four decades of Italian history — 1966 to the present — as embodied in the lives of two very different brothers, Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni) Carati. Where Nicola is gentle and thoughtful, Matteo's a seething tempest. The first yearns to be a doctor, the second a cop. These two extremes of temperament from one middle-class family grapple with the currents of late twentieth-century Italian life — the Florence floods and Mafia violence, the nation's 1982 World Cup soccer victory and the terror of the Red Brigades. Ranging from Rome to Florence to Palermo, the epic unfolds like a great novel — expansive, generous and profound. (BG)

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