Best of the Rest:
Movies in 2005...
Animal of the Year: The Penguin
Come on, tell me they're not heartbreakingly cute.
While there have been countless movies about talking dogs, friendly dolphins, and baseball-playing apes, there’s no doubt that they’ve been surpassed by the biggest animal trend of this year: the penguin. Penguins are majestic, they’re regally gentle, and thanks to such films as Madagascar and March of the Penguins, they’re also bankable. In the former, they were Mafiosos trained in the martial arts. In the latter, they were in their own element, teaching us about love and family in the cruel Arctic climate. This trend has even spilled over to commercials, where companies such as Coca-Cola and Duracell are scrambling to add these marine birds to their television ads. Not bad considering that not too long ago, the greatest pop culture reference afforded to these complex creatures was in the form of Danny DeVito in Batman Returns.
Best Comeback by A Fledging Actor: Kevin Costner, The Upside of Anger
Rewind ten years back, and Kevin Costner was at the peak of his game, making movies as whimsically and as easily as Mel Gibson. Nothing in the world could touch him, and roses smelled ever so pretty whenever he came near. But alas, Costner became a product of his own hype when he decided to engage in a little project called Waterworld. So what if it became one of the most expensive films of its time? So what if the whole premise was about a man who roamed a futuristically water- submerged world? These miscalculations led not only to the sinking of the film (pun intended), but also Costner’s career, which went down with the toilet water. Projects came and went, but it would be The Upside of Anger that would catapult Costner from the role of washed-up actor back into the ranks of thespian. In this quirky independent film, Costner is Denny Davies, an aging ex-baseball player (seriously, are there any better roles for Costner outside of “aging baseball player”?) who falls for his recently separated neighbour, played by a glowing Joan Allen. Although the pacing of the film is slow and anti-climactic, Costner delivers his best, as he starts off as a crude, alcoholic jackass, and ends up a vulnerable man who just wants to be loved. His performance is affecting and, by the end of the film, you’ll forget all about Waterworld.
Runner Up: Mickey Rourke, who shocked us all by showing up on Sin City and being the best thing about it.
Best Import of the Year: Cillian Murphy
Sexiness comes in many forms, but nothing is sexier than an actor who is gifted in his craft (the smoldering on-screen is just a big bonus). This year, Cillian Murphy showed that he can be both hot and scary as the elusive adversary to Christian Bale in Batman Begins, and went back to his independent roots by starring in one of the year’s most original movies, Breakfast on Pluto, where he dons a dress and becomes another person altogether. His performance in the latter has earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and in the former, the adulation of the mainstream public. You might remember the pouty-lipped actor from his star-making turn in the chilling 28 Days Later, or as psychopath Jackson Rippner in Red Eye. Whatever project Murphy tackles, he does it with the ease of a seasoned actor.
Runner Up: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who was hot in Bend It Like Beckham, lukewarm in Alexander, stone cold in “Elvis,” hot again in Match Point, and hopefully just as hot when he does his thing in the next installment of Mission: Impossible alongside tepid Tom Cruise.
Best Rapper Turned Actor: Ludacris
I thought this day would never come and yet, here I am typing this sentence: Ludacris was in Crash, and he didn’t suck. Okay, I’ll go one step further and say that he put in a fine performance and should be very, very proud of himself. By contrast, artists-turned-thespians 50 Cent, Jessica Simpson, and Usher appeared in Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, The Dukes of Hazzard, and In the Mix, respectively. I don’t need to tell you that none of these films will ever be remembered fondly, and that Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is just one long 50 Cent music video. In addition, In the Mix made about $50, proving that we will buy his albums, but we will never buy Usher as a leading man.
Best Real-Life Couple Appearing in a Film: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
Although Heath Ledger plays a closeted gay man in "Brokeback Mountain," he wasted no time in showing Michelle Williams he was attracted to women off-screen.
Taking a page out of the debacle that was Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez and thoroughly stomping on it, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams met on the set of Brokeback Mountain, fell in love, got a little pregnant, and are now in the running for Golden Globes and possible Oscars. Perhaps Jake Gyllenhaal should’ve hooked up with Anne Hathaway, if that’s all it takes to get some recognition in this town.
Biggest Trend of the Year: The Heir Boyfriend
Young starlets everywhere are throwing away their toy pooches and grabbing the next big thing: rich, spoiled heirs of family fortunes. First, it was Mischa Barton and Brandon Davis; then Paris Hilton and some guy named Paris; finally, one of the Olsons (Mary-Kate, because no one cares about the other one) lands Stavros Niarchos III (not to be confused with the first, who happens to be his grandfather and actually made the family fortune). Then Hilton hooks up with Stavros, most likely due to a drought of heirs in Los Angeles. This trend is slightly less annoying than those toy poodles, if only because we don’t have to be subjected to dogs dressed up as little people.
Runner up: Hooking up with broke bums who father illegitimate children as a hobby – wait, you mean Britney Spears hasn’t started a trend?
Most Prolific Actor of the Year: Morgan Freeman
We might not have seen most of his movies, but we know the face and the voice. At 68, Morgan Freeman keeps cranking out movies like there’s no tomorrow, and has been credited with seven projects in 2005 alone – two of those being some of the biggest blockbusters of the summer: Batman Begins and War of the Worlds (as the omnipresent narrator). As well, he is the most excellent narrator in March of the Penguins, and has appeared on 17 television shows, including “Inside The Actors Studio.” After his Oscar win for Million Dollar Baby, it seems that Freeman has become the most requested actor – er, make that “supporting actor” – in Hollywood. He’s already lined up five different projects scheduled for 2006 (one of which he will be executive producing), and the year is still young. Freeman has certainly paid his dues in this tough business, and the lasting power he so clearly possesses is an inspiration to all the Colin Farrells of this world.
Runner Up: The magnetic Terrence Howard, who clocked in at five films this year – one of which is the critically acclaimed Hustle & Flow (six if you count Crash, and you should because it’s a great film) – and two made-for-television gigs.
Most Talented Real-Life Couple of the Year: Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy
They may be one of the most understated couples of the century, but there’s no denying that Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy are one hard-working couple. She’s starring in the hit drama, “Desperate Housewives,” and is generating positive buzz about her role in Transamerica. He’s been in about ten thousand films, directors love him, and has received more Golden Globes and Emmys than any of today’s young tabloid-friendly actors. The best thing about Huffman and Macy is that they haven’t succumbed to the often-devastating celebrity lifestyle, and that they continue to support each other through thick and thin. Plus, neither one has gotten weird plastic surgery yet.
Scariest Hook-up of the Year: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
This has been discussed ad naseum, and I’m not one to beat a dead horse that I’ve already whipped a couple of times, but for archival purposes, this bears recording: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. He’s one of the biggest actors of our generation; she’s a young ingénue on the brink of her womanly career; or, at least, that’s what People magazine might tell you. Their relationship blossomed in mere months, and we were along for the ride. First, the Oprah thing. Then, the “Today Show.” Pictures of Katie, unwashed and brainwashed. Articles for and against the relationship. Everyone weighing in, including those that have nothing to do with anything, like Rosie O’Donnell. Rumours of a secret contract. And on and on it went, each day bringing a new revelation to this peculiar relationship. If love were measured in human time spans, theirs would be as ripe as Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons.” After starting their relationship in early spring, the couple has surpassed most by getting engaged and pregnant in record time. I can’t even begin to feel comfortable passing gas in front of my boyfriend at such an early stage, but I’m glad those two crazy kids were able to get past it, and then some.
Runner Up: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, simply because they unleashed Jennifer Aniston’s “I’m not a victim” media blitz upon us.
Shortest Marriage of the Year: Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney
Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney share a touching moment before the annulment.
Renee Zellweger and that country singer dude, who were married and divorced quicker than a roll in the hay with Ja Rule.
Worst Actress in a Big Budget Film: Various
Take your pick, because I have several options: Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard, but mostly because of her stupid music video. Also, I can’t be too harsh considering that acting wasn’t her first vocation; Natalie Portman in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, because she could have been replaced by a blow-up doll and we wouldn’t have known the difference; or Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, whose character is as utterly useless as therapy is for Bobby Brown. All three starlets brought little to the films they respectively appeared in, and banked on the name of their projects instead of their abilities. Luckily, Katie Holmes claims she is done with acting (at least for as long as her relationship with Tom Cruise lasts), so we can expect that the upcoming years will be filled with more talent.
Worst Agent of the Year: Eugene Levy's Agent
This title goes to whoever is in charge of Eugene Levy’s career. I know Levy is old and Canadian and so we shouldn’t even talk about him, but the man is a comic genius. Sadly, no one will ever know, considering that he popped up in The Man and Cheaper By the Dozen 2. Although his talents were sadly wasted here, we can’t forget “SCTV,” Waiting for Guffman (for the five of you who have seen it), and the American Pie series. If it weren’t for Jim’s dad, would we be hollering in the theatre as much as we did? Could we have endured those Tara Reid scenes without the trade-off of seeing Jim’s dad give him the awkward sex talk? Luckily, he’ll be starring in For Your Consideration in 2006 and, instead of sharing screen time with the Olson twins or Carmen Electra, he’ll be reunited with his comic counterparts, Catherine O’Hara and Fred Willard. Until Cheaper By the Dozen 3 gets a green light, we can rest well knowing that Levy will be moving on to bigger and better things.
Worst Genre of the Year: Horror
In television, they like to say that the sitcom is dead. Well, for movies, I like to say that horror is dead, and in 2005, nothing stunk more like a corpse than this genre. Let’s run down a quick list of titles: White Noise, Alone in the Dark, Boogeyman, The Amityville Horror, House of Wax, The Skeleton Key, The Cave, The Fog, Cry_Wolf, and Venom. These are the ones that didn’t amount to much in the end, no matter how great Kate Hudson is at running through halls or how handsome some find Barry Watson to be. Then there was George Romero’s Land of the Dead, The Ring 2, and the French export High Tension, which were the better of the lot but fell short on expectation. Even the biggest box office and fan winners, like Saw 2 and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, owed most of their success not on their inherent greatness as much as good opening day weekends or, simply, slow opening day weekends with competition amounting to Samuel L. Jackson’s inane The Man. Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie’s valentine to the 1970s slasher genre and the follow up to House of 1,000 Corpses, was better left on the cutting room floor. And Constantine, which I’m not sure can be categorized as a horror film unless you count the horrors of Keanu Reeves’ acting, was all fluff and no substance. In a year where Guess Who? could be thought of as the scariest thing in our local theatre, it was indeed a dead year for horror. ¤ C.Ho.