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Written by Written by Mike Watt   
Jan 13, 2006 at 02:00 AM
By now, if you’re anything like me, you’re sick to death of the “Best of” and “Worst of” end-of-the-year reports that have cropped up all over newspapers, “infotainment” TV shows, and internet sites (B-Movie Theater accepted, of course, because we’re groovy).It’s the annual ‘easy assignment’, summing up the previous year in short, pithy lists of ten. The equivalent of the creative independent study in senior year.

So, that being said, here’s mine.

But my Best-of-2005 list is a little different from most that you’ll find. For one thing, it’s a lot shorter. I began wracking my brain for a 10-Best, but I couldn’t quite do it. This year’s offerings left me primarily cold, disappointed or just plain uninvolved. On the indie front, most of the movies that I would classify as favorites are either awaiting release or were already released in previous years, but it took me forever to get around to checking them out.

So, finally, I managed to dredge up three from the morass of riches that premiered in double-0-five. These three films were ones that I was looking forward to more than any of the others and left me skipping from the theater once they were over. They were the three films that made me turn to my wife, Amy, half-way through and whisper “Can we leave and see this again?” They were the ones that had me grinning ear-to-ear from start to finish, even while I was grimacing, or tearing up.

I have a couple of honorable mentions, before I get to the exalted triumvirate:

“Batman Begins” rescued the franchise for me, as it did for many others. I found it dark and enjoyable and completely enthralling.

“H.G. Wells: War of the Worlds” – not the Spielberg catastrophe, but the indie DVD directed by The Asylum’s David Michael Latt. Not as reverential as the Pendragon version, but not as overblown and insulting as Herr Spielberg’s, Latt’s version of the classic story proved that C. Thomas Howell really can act (“Far Out, Man” notwithstanding), and that The Asylum can turn out something exciting, thought-provoking and truly remarkable (“Jolly Roger” notwithstanding).

“King Kong”. I’m not a big fan of remakes, “re-imagining”, “refinishing” – whatever the studios want to call it. But “King Kong” was made by one of my favorite directors. The man who had me we the homosexual fox singing “Sodomy” in “Meet the Feebles”. He had me with “I kick ass for the Lord!” in “Braindead” (“Dead*Alive” to you Yanks). He had me with every single frame of the ridiculously enjoyable geek-fests, “The Lord of the Rings”. So I knew he was going to turn in something worthwhile and wonderful. And he did and I have very few stones to throw. But it wasn’t my favorite of the year.

Nor was “Revenge of the Sith”. Yes, it was the best of the new trilogy, but all you can really say is that it sucked less than the first two installments. And “sucking less” is hardly an achievement. I saw stuff for sale at conventions, being played on 13” screens, that had more emotional involvement than this turkey. But I was looking forward to the saga emitting its death-rattle, so I guess you can say I went to see it with anticipation.

I also loved “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, and found it well in keeping with Adams’ schizophrenic series. And I liked “Mulva 2” and “Prison-A-Go-Go” and “Nowhere Man” and “Sixteen Tongues”.

But in terms of abject enjoyability, with no offense meant to any of the above (save “Revenge”), my favorite movies of 2005 are as follows:

1. “Serenity”. Joss Whedon could direct the next “Virtual Fireplace” and I’d buy two copies. That shameful admission aside, I had been waiting for “Serenity” since the second I’d heard it was a go. A long and hardcore “Firefly” fan, I knew from the opening credits of the first show that FOX wouldn’t have the balls to renew the series, so its cancellation, while painful, came as no great surprise. I bought the DVD set with glee and watched the entire series almost in one sitting. It remains one of the greatest shows ever produced and I could not wait for the movie. Joss didn’t disappoint me.

The crew of the “Firefly” class starship Serenity journey into unfamiliar territory to unlock the secrets buried in the damaged brain of their young passenger, River Tam, and end up taking on the intergalactic governing body, The Alliance. All of the elements were present: Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) darker than ever; Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) strong and stoic; pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), worried and practical; River (Summer Glau), more dangerous than ever. And if that weren’t enough, we got to see more of the universe than we were usually treated to, the origin of The Reavers – along with all of Whedon’s rich and wonderful and melodious dialogue all delivered impeccably by the cast. It was the movie that shouldn’t have existed: a big-budget feature based on a cancelled television show. God Bless the Firefly fans. They made it possible for Whedon to bring his vision to the big screen. No other movie this year looked or sounded like it, and he even managed to bring a couple of wonderful and tragic moments to the screen where most Hollywood movies would have wimped out after the first tear shed in a focus group.

2. “Sin City”. I’m not a fan of Frank Miller’s artwork, nor am I particularly enthralled by his “Mike Hammer by way of Ed Noon” tough-guy writing. But I love the tone of his “Sin City” novels and I loved virtually every frame of the movie.

“Sin City” is unapologetically violent, anti-social and mean-spirited. Its heroes are just as vicious as its villains. And it’s a gorgeous exercise in style. The digital revolution came alive for me as Rodriguez melded his technical expertise with Miller’s vision. With a perfect cast and a near-flawless use of CGI, the entire movie, shot entirely before a Green Screen and built in a computer, is Miller’s comic series come to life in stark black, white, gray and primary red, yellow and blue. I loved it even more when I learned that Mr. Integrity Rodriguez resigned from the DGA in order to share his directing credit with Miller. Subtract half-a-kudo for the crappy way the DVD was released—with a stripped-down version rushed to the shelves before the special edition could be completed (a marketing standard, now)—but half-a-kudo added for the glorious special edition being released right before Christmas.

3. “The Devil’s Rejects”. Like half the people who saw “House of 1,000 Corpses”, I hated it. It wasn’t scary and it wasn’t interesting. It was mostly annoying with sparse moments of cool. But because I’ve known Bill Moseley for a handful of years and have gotten to know Sid Haig and Leslie Easterbrook from the convention circuit, I felt obliged to give Mr. Zombie another chance. At least I could tell my new “con friends” that I enjoyed their work.

Instead of “House of 2,000 Corpses”, Zombie surprised the hell out of me by giving me something I hadn’t expected at all: a fantastic, terrifying movie. From start to finish, Zombie’s script surprised and delighted me. Even though the dialogue consists mainly of the word “fuck”, the script’s structure is brilliant. He takes the thoroughly repugnant title characters and stays with them for the bulk of the story, putting them smack in the traditional “protagonist” position; while William Forsythe’s righteous sheriff is in the pursuing—and therefore “villain”—position. In the end, during the climactic bloody shoot-out, you almost find yourself feeling sorry for the vicious mass murderers. Until you realize that if they get away, they’re coming for you next! There isn’t a false performance in the movie, and the violence is palpable and real, hitting you hard and fast. Where “Sin City” aimed for the cheerful misanthrope in all of us, “The Devil’s Rejects” made me want to eat my vegetables and check under the bed at night. It’s a respectable homage to Peckinpah and Don Siegel (no, I’m not joking), a “tough-guy” movie all the way.

And there, that’s my list of The Big Three. A trio of movies that could only have been made by the people who did them. They exist because some odd hole in the Hollywood universe allowed them to pass through unharmed.

I’m sure there are a lot of you out there shaking your heads and disagreeing with me loudly, but that don’t matter to me, folks. Those three movies summed up my year. And judging from what few films I know about coming in 2006, I’ll be approaching a lot of movies with a whip and a chair for protection, because we all should know by now that Hollywood doesn’t like us, it just wants our money. But if, by this time next year, I can pull another three gems from the dung-hill, then maybe my wrists will still be intact in 2007.

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