- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top Ten:

Sobering, penetrating scrutiny of warfare past and present is common to the first four titles on this year’s best film list:

1. Downfall — Oliver Hirschbiegel’s brilliant re-enactment of the last days of the Hitler regime is overpowering

2. The Great Raid — John Dahl’s somberly stirring account of a Ranger rescue mission in the Philippines early in 1945 is a reminder of what it really means to abandon an army to defeat and captivity.

3. Turtles Can Fly — Bhaman Ghobadi’s tragic and eloquent film observes extremes of resourcefulness and despair in children orphaned by war in Kurdish Iraq.

4. Lord of War — Andrew Niccol’s film achieves a sweeping, sardonic vision of the international arms trade over the past generation before outsmarting itself at the fadeout.

There are also thematic links between the remaining titles on the Top Ten:

5. Off the Map — It took two years to find a distributor, but Campbell Scott’s film eventually found an art-house audience here while extolling a small, close-knit family that becomes a solace and inspiration to a stranger who blunders onto their homestead in the high country of New Mexico.

6. Cinderella Man — Still the most sensible Academy Award candidate of the year, Ron Howard’s inspiring portrait of James J. Braddock elevates Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger as an impoverished New Jersey couple who catch a redemptive break while the heavyweight championship is up for grabs during the Great Depression.

7. March of the Penguins — A sleeper of humbling magnitude, representing some of the best tendencies in the resurgent documentary field. Not even the grit of the human families depicted in “Off the Map” and “Cinderella Man” could compare with the instinctive tenacity of emperor penguins while preserving the species.

8. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill — In Judy Irving’s sublime documentary portrait of redemption by bird-watching, a solitary bohemian finds a belated purpose in life by feeding and studying an urban population of abandoned parrots.

9. Pride & Prejudice —Joe Wright’s lilting and graceful new adaption of Jane Austen’s novel is the year’s best literary classic and a well-timed rescue vehicle for the young actress Keira Knightley, left in tatters a few weeks earlier by a monstrosity called “Domino.”

10. The Ice Harvest — Boasting an expert screenplay by Richard Russo and Robert Benton, Harold Ramis’ hardboiled crime thriller deserves a secure niche among perverse yuletide fables.

5 worst:

The worst tendencies were exemplified by misbegotten and overblown remakes:

1. The Legend of Zorro

2. King Kong

3. The Producers

4. Yours, Mine and Ours

5. Bad News Bears

Also clamoring for infamy: “Domino,” “The Family Stone,” “The Upside of Anger,” “In My Country” and “Ma Mere.”

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