Dec. 30, 2005 — -- For both sides of the screen, 2005 wasn't a great year at the movies.
On Hollywood's side, the box office was down for a lot of reasons. On our side of the screen, there just weren't many great movies. Nevertheless, we did get some great performances and great direction.
Examples: Philip Seymour Hoffman's great performance wasn't enough to put "Capote" on the list. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, just terrific in "Walk the Line," couldn't push the movie over the line. And the one that hurts, "March of the Penguins," didn't make the cut.
Here are the 10 that did:
10. "Syriana" -- George Clooney, the anti-movie star, grows a beard, gains 30 pounds, and mumbles his lines. Clooney makes my Top 10 twice this year, first as a CIA operative whose right side turns into the wrong side.
9. "The Constant Gardener" -- Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles has now made my list two years in a row. Last year it was for "City of God," and he follows that with "The Constant Gardener." Set in Africa, and so alive that even Ralph Fiennes generates a little body heat.
8. "Cinderella Man "-- It coulda been a contender … an Oscar contender … and maybe the champ. But the studio opened it way too early and way too close to last year's Oscar winner, "Million Dollar Baby." But hold the phone, even if the twice-overlooked Paul Giamatti just gets an Oscar nomination, it's a Cinderella story come true. And the film is a knockout.
7. "A History of Violence" -- This year's best movie with the worst title award goes to "A History of Violence." They could've called it "A History of Violins," and it would have made as much sense.
6. "King Kong" -- I don't know anyone who's seen "King Kong" who hasn't loved it. It's like being 9 years old at the movies all over again. It's that thrilling, that exciting. One incredible fact about "King Kong" ... ace director Peter Jackson put his own money into the film.
5. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" -- Two incredible facts about "The Chronicles of Narnia": Not one of the animals is real and there is no blood in the battle scenes. Spectacular filmmaking fills the screen -- and your heart. A third incredible fact: Christmas week it sold more tickets than "King Kong."
4. "Munich" -- Steven Spielberg brilliantly mixes ABC's actual coverage of the killing of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists with the breathtaking fiction of the Israeli hit team that sought revenge. This pitch-perfect cast is one reason Oscar needs a best ensemble acting category.
3. "Crash" -- Another reason Oscar needs a best ensemble category. A dozen disparate lives crash together in Charlie Gibson's pick for the best film of the year.
2. "Good Night, and Good Luck" -- George Clooney's second appearance on my Top 10 list. This one he acted in, wrote, produced and directed. He could be Oscar nominated for three out of four, largely because he gave the best part to David Strathairn.
1. "Brokeback Mountain" -- More than a gay story, it's a story of loss. Heath Ledger follows a compulsion he didn't know he had, and it destroys his life. Beautiful. Powerful. Unforgettable. It's the best film of the year.
In my original review of "Brokeback Mountain," I said it was going to lead the league in Oscar nominations. I still think that's true, but it's not a sure thing to win in any category. This year there are no sure things.