The Halftime Top 10 View

July 01, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

The "accepted" time of the year for Top 10 lists is the end of December, but the half-way mark is as good a point as any to give a snapshot of where things stand with most of the summer's big movies already on screens. As I list my mid-year Top 10, keep a couple of things in mind: (1) I didn't give this as much thought as I do my December 31 list, (2) the order of "surviving" titles could shuffle between now and the end of the year as I re-see and digest them, and (3) only the first three titles on the list are virtual locks to reach the end-of-the-year Top 10. A good fall/winter season of movies will wipe the other seven out.

#1: 3-Iron - Unquestionably the most haunting movie thus far, 3-Iron also offers the most food for thought. I had to see it a second time to refine my opinion of what happens during the final 30 minutes. A beautiful and compelling film, this is the best picture I have seen during 2005's first six months. However, it will be disappointing if it ends up on top in December, since it would have placed around #6 on the 2004 list.

#2: Downfall - A frightening portait of Hitler's final days, this movie offers the most striking screen portrait of the genocidal dictator to date (played by Bruno Ganz). Although this is at times almost unbearable to watch, it's movie-making at its finest.

#3: Sin City - The most visually arresting movie to date, Sin City represents tremendous adult fun. It's smart, fast-paced, and always a treat for the eye.

#4: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - George Lucas didn't save the best for last, but the final piece in his space opera puzzle comes closer to the level of the original trilogy's opening chapters than anything since. Operatically tragic, this movie will send most Star Wars fans home to the DVD player and A New Hope. Those who take jabs at the film are probably looking for something to criticize.

#5: Mad Hot Ballroom - Who would have thought that a simple documentary about New York elementary school students learning ballroom dancing could be so charming and irresistable? There's a lot more here than meets the eye, and this is a much better film than the 2005 Oscar winner, Born into Brothels.

#6: Batman Begins - The best of the Batman movies, and trailing only Superman and The Incredibles for the title of "Best Superhero Feature." Can't wait to see more of Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader.

#7: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - This year's most terrifying horror film is not only a true story, but a documentary. This is why people don't trust big businesses.

#8: My Summer of Love - A startling examination of love, sex, friendship, co-dependency, and religion. The pacing is a little off, but that's more than made up for by a trio of top-notch performances and the atmosphere, which the audience soaks up. Plus, the film offers a surprise or two, although the plot twists are gradually revealed rather than sprung upon us.

#9: The Jacket - This vanished without a trace after spending a week in theaters. The Jacket is one of the year's most intriguing sci-fi thrillers. As time travel stories go, this one is handled well, never getting bogged down in details while simply allowing the story to unspool across several time lines. It reminds me of The Butterfly Effect, and received about the same lamentable response at the box office.

#10: Crash - I changed my mind big-time on this after seeing it a second time. A forceful statement about the state of race relations in America today, Crash offers a view that is simultaneously hopeful and depressing. My main complaint is no longer the coincidences, but the fact that the movie isn't at least 30 minutes longer. These characters deserve more screen time.