Film and TV

The Year in Film

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Murderball was funny, too, but not as laugh-out-loud, vomit-in-your-mouth hysterical as The Aristocrats, in which almost 100 comics told the same infamous dirty joke almost 100 different ways. Best of all was Sarah Silverman's first-person telling of the show-biz fable, which concluded with her appearing to realize for the first time that she was raped by talk-show legend Joe Franklin, who didn't get the joke and threatened to sue. Silverman also had her own in-concert film, Jesus Is Magic, in which she said things out loud that most people wouldn't dare think to themselves -- as in, "Everyone knows the best time to get pregnant is when you're a black teenager" and her assertion that "it was the blacks" who killed Christ.

There were, of course, more serious-minded, topical docs, too: Gunner Palace and Occupation: Dreamland spent countless hours with soldiers stationed in Iraq, where they fought off boredom and anger as often as the so-called enemy. But the most profound and provocative doc that played on U.S. screens -- albeit barely -- will go unnoticed. Titled The Power of Nightmares, it originally aired in three parts on the BBC in October 2004, but collectively, it's a three-hour punch in the gut. Writer-director-narrator Adam Curtis, a well-respected documentarian in England, provides a sobering narrative that essentially says not only that there is no Al-Qaeda (it's a name created by the U.S. government and adopted by Osama bin Laden after September 11, 2001, claim several of the doc's talking heads), but that the same men responsible for selling us the war in Iraq based on shaky evidence also sold us the Cold War in the 1970s using similarly fabricated information intent on scaring the populace into obedience.

Curtis also links the rise of neo-conservatives in the U.S. to the birth of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1950s; both movements, after all, tied Western decadence to Western liberalism. It's essentially Fahrenheit 9/11 without the screaming, the preaching, the panic -- a newsy film that Salon's Andrew O'Hehir called "the most important political documentary of this decade, and perhaps of my lifetime." And you will likely never see it unless you scour the web for the myriad sites hosting bootleg copies. Go figure: The best doc of 2005 is one you'll have to see on your computer. Viva la digital revolution, indeed. -- Wilonsky

Keep It Gay: The Year Hollywood Went Homo

Social conservatives may have put the brakes on gay marriage, but there isn't much they can do about gay movies, which arrived like some biblical flood in the last months of 2005. Along with Capote, a vivid portrait of the most celebrated gay writer of the 1960s, Ang Lee's romantic tragedy Brokeback Mountain, the story of two lean cowboys who fall in love and stay there, on and off, for twenty years, may signal a startling shift of attitude in mainstream Hollywood. The film was adapted from a much-honored short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx, and it stars two of the industry' s most respected young actors: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Breakfast on Pluto, directed by The Crying Game's Neil Jordan, may not draw as well, but Cillian Murphy puts in an energetic performance as an Irish cross-dresser who gets entangled in an IRA bomb plot in London. Looking for a companion piece? In the offbeat comedy Transamerica, Felicity Huffman (of Desperate Housewives fame) portrays a pre-op transgender candidate who learns that she once fathered a son, now a teenage gay hustler in Manhattan, and they take a mutually revealing cross-country road trip together.

In The Dying Gaul, a gay writer runs afoul of a Hollywood producer over a screenplay about his lover's death from AIDS, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an exercise in mock pulp fiction, features Val Kilmer as an L.A. private detective known as Gay Perry. The movie version of the Broadway rock hit Rent is amply stocked with a lesbian couple, a transvestite and a gay man. A couple of otherwise hetero movies also feature prominent gay characters: Trying to ensure that their Broadway musical bombs, The Producers, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, sign up a cross-dressing director and instruct him to "keep it gay." In Mrs. Henderson Presents, the wartime nudie revues financed by well-heeled widow Judi Dench are anchored by a gay leading man. -- Gallo

Gross Yield: The Awards for Cinematic Depravity

Some of us go to the movies to escape into fantasy, others to cry at tragic drama. Then there are those who just enjoy a couple hours of shock treatment. Maybe it's cathartic, or maybe it's just sick, but it was unquestionably a good year for connoisseurs of the grotesque. Here are our favorite moments:

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