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Here’s lookin’ at you, 2005: Aaron Allen and Chris Bellamy count down their top 10 movies of 2005

By Aaron Allen and Chris Bellamy

Aaron Allen

Another year, another list of short-lived resolutions. Last year, I resolved to watch every movie known to man, which failed when I realized that meant seeing all 52 sequels to “The Land Before Time.”

This year, I resolve to take fewer cheap shots (I prefer to call them “well-deserved blows”). Hollywood should follow suit and make its own resolutions. How about easing off the sequels and remakes in favor of making great movies, such as the ones below (some of which are sequels and remakes-d’oh!)?

1. “Munich”

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Eleven Israeli athletes were killed by a Palestinian terrorist group named “Black September” at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In Steven Spielberg’s new movie, the Israelis strike back with covert assassins led by Avner (Eric Bana), a “gentle soul with butcher’s hands.”

“Munich” doesn’t offer easy answers. Was Israel justified in fighting violence with violence, or does an eye-for-an-eye compromise its values? Spielberg’s unwillingness to take sides prompts debate, which is precisely his goal.

Oh, and did I mention that “Munich” is also a crackling good thriller? Spielberg marries big drama with big ideas better than any other living filmmaker. (R)

2. “Me and You

and Everyone We Know”

Directed by Miranda July

The people in Miranda July’s wholly original film are silly, awkward, desperate creatures, drifting toward and away from each other on a whim. At the center of this universe is July, radiating warmth and humor and hope. Her romance with a sad shoe salesman was a hit at Sundance. Trust me when I say you’ve seen nothing like it. (R)

3. “Brokeback Mountain”

Directed by Ang Lee

Thirty years ago, it was bad enough for guys to shed a tear or switch off the Big Game as if they didn’t care about that chest-thumping ritual of man and ball. To be gay was simply impossible, or so it seemed to two cowboys played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the best and saddest love story of the year. (R)

4. “Batman Begins”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

It took five movies, but Bruce Wayne is finally as compelling as his scenery-chewing villains. Director Christopher Nolan explores the Batman myth with psychological grit. The action is spectacular, but it never upstages the heroes and the nasty food chain of Gotham baddies. (PG-13)

5. “Crash”

Directed by Paul Haggis

Racism knows no boundaries in Paul Haggis’s staggering Los Angeles mosaic. Black, white, Latino, Iranian…the animosity goes all ways in the city in which Rodney King once asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard are standouts in a large and talented cast. (R)

6. “Pride and Prejudice”

Directed by Joe Wright

If Keira Knightley’s snarling performance in “Domino” left a bad taste in your mouth, wash it out by seeing her in this swooning adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. Her Elizabeth Bennett has moxie and beauty to spare, and director Joe Wright is faithful to Austen’s witty tone. (PG)

7. “A History of Violence”

Directed by David Cronenberg

Viggo Mortensen plays Tom, a small-town man with a big-time secret in David Cronenberg’s grisly meditation on violence. As Tom slips back into a life he thought he’d left behind, we share the disgust he feels…and the thrill, which is all the more disturbing. William Hurt is phenomenal in a vicious cameo. (R)

8. “Capote”

Directed by Bennett Miller

Philip Seymour Hoffman nails the role of New York socialite Truman Capote in the year’s most compelling character study. Capote’s research for his true-crime novel In Cold Blood turns from literary curiosity into soul-deadening self-aggrandizement. (R)

9. “The Squid and the Whale”

Directed by Noah Baumbach

Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play self-absorbed parents whose separation takes a heavy toll on their two boys. It’s a comedy, of course.

The laughs in Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical film are bitter pills of quiet truth. The meaner and more clueless his characters get, the more we recognize our own insecure selves. (R)

10. “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”

Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box

No movie this year had me smiling more than this one, the fourth adventure of cheese-loving Wallace and his eye-rolling dog, Gromit.

It’s sure to win this year’s Best Animated Film Oscar-or I’ll eat my weight in clay. (G)

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Chris Bellamy

If geopolitical intrigue, epic romance, vengeance, moral indifference, messy divorces and racial tension are what you’re into, then it’s been a great year for the movies. It’s also been a great year for 25-foot gorillas and grown men dressed as nocturnal flying mammals.

On the whole, though, the year was not so good for remakes, sequels, watered-down PG-13 horror movies and men dressed up as fat old ladies. Or if your name is Tom Cruise.

A select few films stood out above-or below-the rest….

1. “Oldboy”

Directed by Chan-wook Park

This is one of those movies that American studios are afraid to make. A brilliant morality play from Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park, “Oldboy” tells the tale of a man imprisoned in an anonymous room for 15 years, only to be let out and given five days to discover not only who imprisoned him, but more importantly, why. If that sounds like a gimmick, it’s not. Nor is it a simple revenge flick. This is one of the most powerful psychological thrillers to come around in years. Park is a master storyteller and weaves this particular story with extraordinary precision and calculation. As critic Roger Ebert said, this is “a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare.” (R)

2. “King Kong”

Directed by Peter Jackson

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy will always go down as Peter Jackson’s greatest achievement, but as a single movie, “King Kong” is the best work he has ever done. Combining sensational action pieces with real characters and emotional depth, this is a true, old-fashioned Hollywood epic. Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis both do Oscar-caliber work as they create a genuinely moving relationship between beauty and beast. And while some films of this nature peter out over an extended running time, “King Kong” does exactly the opposite, climaxing in a stunning Manhattan finale. (PG-13)

3. “Munich”

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Spielberg makes up for his woeful “War of the Worlds” with “Munich,” about the aftermath of the killing of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics. The film could have taken a shallow vengeance angle, but Spielberg refuses to make it that easy. As Avner (Eric Bana) and his cohorts make their way across the globe in search of those responsible, the film brilliantly studies the ethics of vengeance itself and how it breaks down and destroys those of whom it takes hold. One of the best films of Spielberg’s career. (R)

4. “Junebug”

Directed by Phil Morrison

The best offering from last year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Junebug” is one of those rare movies that gets you not with special effects or even melodrama, but with real-life honesty and three-dimensional characters. In part an offbeat family dramedy, in part an olive branch between red and blue states, “Junebug” is a beautiful slice-of-life story, a film that can be simultaneously stirring and hysterical without ever being presumptuous or manipulative about either. (R)

5. “Saraband”

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Apparently, this is the end for one of history’s greatest filmmakers. In his last work, Ingmar Bergman re-visits Marianne (Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson), the characters he brought us in his great “Scenes from a Marriage” (1973). And like that film, “Saraband” casts an unflinching eye on some of the deepest pains we suffer and the deepest regrets. No one is bett
er than Bergman at capturing the power of human emotion. (R)

6. “Sin City”

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

The most stylized movie of the year is also the best effort ever from Robert Rodriguez. Practically a direct translation from Frank Miller’s popular graphic novels, “Sin City” is not only a visual feast, but is also unabashedly entertaining from start to finish-both hilarious and horrific at the same time. Standout performances-from Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen and Bruce Willis-and Miller’s cynical, unique blend of several different genres make “Sin City” practically irresistible. This is a living, breathing comic book. (R)

7. “Match Point”

Directed by Woody Allen

With all of Woody Allen’s mediocrity over the last few years, people forget how many good movies he made in the 1990s and before. Well, “Match Point” should remind them. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays a former tennis pro married to a sweet British girl and working for her wealthy father. He has an affair with a lovely femme fatale (Scarlett Johansson) that leads him down a delightful path of moral ambiguity. Most similar to Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” this is, as everyone else has said, a true return to form for a truly great filmmaker. (R)

8. “Batman Begins”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the best superhero movie ever made. Some may disagree, but they’re wrong. Not only is Christian Bale the best Batman ever put on screen, and not only does this film feature one of the best ensemble casts of the year, but director Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) actually plumbs the psychological depths at which the previous films only hinted. So in addition to being ridiculously entertaining, “Batman Begins” also makes for a sharp character study of, let’s be honest, the coolest superhero ever. In today’s Hollywood atmosphere, that’s quite an achievement. (PG-13)

9. “The Weather Man”

Directed by Gore Verbinski

“Misunderstood” and “underappreciated” are words that come to mind. This film took a lot of people off-guard, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s offbeat, strange, sad…and flat-out hilarious. Steve Conrad’s brilliant script is a well-realized tragicomedy and a very astute character study. Nicolas Cage-underrated by many because of his eccentric nature and his penchant for doing dumb action movies-gives a great performance, as does Michael Caine as his lovingly disapproving father. “The Weather Man” is different from what people expect from either comedies or dramas, and deserves to be seen. (R)

10. “The Squid and the Whale”

Directed by Noah Baumbach

Another sort of offbeat tragicomedy, this time about a family of four dealing with a resentful divorce between two parents, the over-intellectual, overbearing dad (Jeff Daniels, in a fantastic performance) and the fidelity-challenged mother (Laura Linney). More than that, though, it is about Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), the teenage son struggling through the divorce and struggling to find an identity. Baumbach is observant and honest and damn funny. If there’s any justice, this will get at least a couple of Oscar noms. (R)

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