Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
This was rushed into theaters here without a press screening, so I actually went and paid to see it (crazy, I know) over the weekend. I'm not sure if I'd call it the best documentary of the year (I'm still partial to The Aristocrats), but it was very good, and managed, like all of the good documentaries this year, to get a great deal of mileage out of what could have been a ten-minute segment on a newsmagazine. Grizzly-obsessed Timothy Treadwell is so weird and crazy that Herzog could probably have just strung together a bunch of his footage without comment and made a fascinating movie, but he does a good job of pressing things further and thinking carefully about what Treadwell's obsession meant, both to Treadwell himself and to the world at large. I love the way he leaves the camera on his subjects just a little too long after interviewing them, showing the awkwardness that results, just like he lets Treadwell's various "takes" of his deluded monologues run uninterrupted, giving us insight into the process of filmmaking and the ways that people perform for a camera, even when no one else is present. Herzog is a ridiculously prolific filmmaker (he's got two other movies out this year alone), and I'm sort of ashamed to admit that not only have I not seen any of his other films, I've not heard of most of them. I'll have to work on that.
Romy and Michele: In the Beginning (Robin Schiff, 2005)
I know, I know. But I had some mail-related issues, and none of my Netflix movies showed up, and I've had this on tape for almost four months (it premiered on the ABC Family Channel in May). And I love, love, love Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. It's one of those movies that no one can convince me is bad. It's got some of the greatest non-sequtur one-liners this side of The Big Lebowski, and two totally bizarre yet perfectly drawn characters in Romy and Michele. They are the closest thing to female versions of Bill and Ted or Wayne and Garth, and yet so much more than that simplistic description implies. Anyway, a TV movie prequel with different actors is always a bad sign no matter what, but I had some small hope since Robin Schiff, who wrote and directed this movie, also wrote the original. And there are some very, very small glimmers of what made the first one so great. But the casting is weak and the main actors (especially Alex Breckenridge as Michele) do not capture what made the characters work. The plot - not that the original had the most sophisticated story - is completely nonsensical and half-assed. And of course the production values are on the level of, well, a TV movie. Definitely only worthwhile for big Romy and Michele fans (like me), but I'm glad I finally watched it. Now I can reuse the tape.