Film & DVD Year in Review 2005

Film & DVD Year in Review 2005
Dirty Comedies, Feel Good Docs and Nothing Horrible At All

The Meta-Comic Movie
The year's crucial adaptations weren't just based on comics, they were about comics. Batman Begins examined what makes a costumed vigilante, doggedly forcing a rationale for the character's heroics. For once, the hero had to explain his motives; for once, he was asked to earn the right to punish sinners. And the soul-searching process made for the best Batman yet. Meanwhile, Robert Rodriguez gave a bizarre rendition of Sin City, in which he lovingly reproduced Frank Miller's drawing style in an attempt to capture the tactile qualities of the artist's work. The results were like a Roy Lichtenstein noir movie, blowing the drawings up a thousand times in order to comment on the strange fascination of comic unreality. And David Cronenberg's A History of Violence used the noted graphic novel to challenge the very assumptions that underline most comic books: namely, that heroic good and vile evil are mutually exclusive concepts. In blurring the lines, he made you think about what it means to enjoy the violence of pop and leaves you with no clear answers but more than enough questions. Travis Mackenzie Hoover

Feel Good Docs Less Filling
The feature documentary tends to follow two paths: politically engaged populists like Michael Moore, and feel good chronicles of trying hard like Spellbound. This year's entries definitely followed the latter: the in and out of step elementary school kids of Mad Hot Ballroom, the jocks on wheels of Murderball, or the ultimate "aww," March of the Penguins. Entertaining? No doubt. Engaging? To a point. But without hard-hitting visions from, say, Errol Morris, I yearned for something with more punch than the Discovery Channel. Ironically, the deep digging this year was in an arena that's usually the epitome of puff: the music doc. Following in the footsteps of last year's band-war chronicle DiG!, music docs this year showed teeth, none bigger than Martin Scorsese's groundbreaking Dylan chronicle No Direction Home, which drew insight from a well that seemed all but tapped. And for unflinching honesty look no further than Fearless Freaks, a remarkable chronicle of the Flaming Lips, which featured drug abuse, Martians and on-stage flame-outs but absolutely no penguins. James Keast

Oh, the... Horror?
After crawling out from the fervent underground and taking a bite out of the mainstream and gaining critical respect thanks to inventive zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, the better-than-hoped Dawn of the Dead remake or the genuinely horrific 28 Days Later, 2005 proved one thing: it was a shitty year for horror. Sure, the bloody as hell cult films remain, but multiplexes were fed cold chunks of horrendous remakes (House of Wax, The Fog), a sub-par Romero flick (Land of the Dead) that made imitators look like innovators, and the currently in-vogue subset, the Japanese remake (Dark Water). Saw 2 did boffo box office, but it was even worse than an already mediocre original — and Saw 3 will drop by this time next year. When the best of the year wasn't even a horror movie but an exploitation/revenge thriller (The Devil's Rejects), one turns to the rotting corpse of Marlon Brando for inspiration: "The horror, the horror." Chris Gramlich

Animation Gets Retro
While the animation wars between DreamWorks (Madagascar) and Disney (Chicken Little) played catch-up to Pixar's digital innovations, it was last year's marionette-driven Team America: World Police that showed us that the future was retro. Though they didn't burn up the box office, the year's best animated films relied on decades-old techniques: the claymation delights of Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and the dark, stop-motion heart of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Burton's other candy confection, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, proved more immediately popular, but Bride will have the lasting marketing power of his Nightmare Before Christmas. With a King Kong revival on the horizon, expect Ray Harryhausen to be retroactively crowned as the new Spielberg. James Keast

Raunchy Romps Rule
Let's face it: life is R-rated. This year, the box office finally reflected that, even if the dominant dirty comedies could hardly be called mature. But while most of top-grossing comedies for the last two decades have been toned down to age-appropriate levels, 2005 found success stories in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers (the year's third highest grossing film). Sure, Steve Carell's over the hill virginity is farfetched, but it's more about freedom of expression, best represented by indie film The Aristocrats. Easily the most verbally offensive film ever, one joke gave adults the opportunity to witness safe television personalities like Bob Saget spin a yarn that would make the Olsen twins lose their lunch. Cam Lindsay

DVD Empowers Consumers
The impact of DVD was felt in reverse this year, keeping Arrested Development on life-support, bringing back Family Guy both as a straight-to-DVD feature and as a network broadcast, and getting Firefly to the big screen as Serenity. Through The Office, it also made Ricky Gervais a star in North America and brought other English treats like Little Britain to these shores. As for our own exports, let's hope that people seeking representations of Canadian culture latch onto Trailer Park Boys instead of, say, Corner Gas. James Keast