In recent years, a side project of mine has become trying to figure out what is the best film of my lifetime. I know it’s a ridiculous thing to try to accomplish, but for a list-obsessive like me, it’s the equivalent of spending every day at Disneyland. I approach this task on a year-by-year basis, trying to watch as many movies from a specific year as possible, then deciding what the best movies of said year were. I did it last year with 1992 (the year I was born). Right now I’m doing 2005. I’ve been writing about some of the movies I’ve seen on my Letterboxd page, but I will also be copying those thoughts and posting them in the blog. Just to clarify, these are not full-fledged reviews, but rather some quick thoughts (I’ll be watching so many movies that I couldn’t possibly write full-length reviews for all them).
Anyway, here’s the first batch:
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Directed by Miranda July)
I didn’t see this movie when it came out, but 2005 was just one year after ‘Garden State’, and you might pretend you were the exception, but y’all loved ‘Garden State’ back then. Ten years later, however, the “quirky indie” thing has been done to death, the well has been poisoned, and it’s now incredibly hard for me to love a movie like this one.
Which is a shame, because I think if ever there was a person for whom quirk is an essential part of their being, and not just an act put upon to be cute and attract a hip audience, that person is probably Miranda July. You can tell because of how the movie commits to the awkwardness and anxiety that come with human interaction.
There are some pretty touching moments in this movie -having John Hawkes as your lead character certainly helps- but my taste and the culture around me have evolved in a way that I can’t look past some of the more obvious choices (meaning the moments that read as wanting to be touching instead of just being).
A History of Violence (Directed by David Cronenberg)
It’s the first time I see this since 2005. I loved it back then, but I was 13.
I still think it’s a really solid movie. I like that the script if very focused on the things that we want to see. I was nervous about where the son’s storyline was going to go, for example, but there are no unnecessary side-dramatics here. It’s all about answering the question of Tom Stall’s identity and what it means to him.
I’m not quite sure what this is trying to say about America, or guns, or violence. I don’t even know if it has something to say at all, but so many critics and fans of the movie make it seem like it does. I’ll keep thinking about it. In the meantime, I’ll be gladly accepting the movie is a mighty fine piece of filmmaking.
One last question: I come back and forth of whether Viggo Mortensen was the right actor for this role. I like him in general, and I think there’s a lot of pathos to this performance, but he doesn’t seem like an ‘all-American average Joe’. To me, he reads too exotic (is it because I know he’s fluent in Spanish? Or is it his smooth way of talking/accent?). Or maybe that’s the point, and we’re supposed to think Tom is a little off from the start? I’ll gladly debate with whomever is interested in having this argument.
War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg)
I never saw this when it came out. Partially because people didn’t seem to like it, partially cause I, like most of the world, was a little turned off by the whole Tom Cruise craziness of 2005. Having finally seen this, I’m starting to think people who didn’t like this were affected more by the incidents that took place on Orpah’s couch and not so much by the movie itself.
Sure, the movie has a pretty unsatisfying ending, but then again, when hasn’t this been the case with late-career Spielberg? The important thing to keep in mind here is that Spielberg is a master of the mise en scene, and of audience manipulation. ‘War of the Worlds’, thus, becomes an amazingly effective representation of the fears of humanity (and especially America) at the time when the movie was made.
The imagery calls back to 9/11 and the Holocaust, and rightfully so. ‘War of the Worlds’ is trying to give take the modern signifiers of horrific inhumanity and deliver them to us in a blockbuster package. It’s a simple plot (Cruise and his children try to get to Boston), and so, the emphasis is on an episodic journey made out of outstanding set pieces and magnificent suspense.