Following the tradition set long ago by my honored predecessor, John Hartl, it's time to take a look back at some of the year's more dubious cinematic achievements. The envelope, please .....

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Following the tradition set long ago by my honored predecessor, John Hartl, it’s time to take a look back at some of the year’s more dubious cinematic achievements. The envelope, please …

Best performance in a lost cause: Billy Bob Thornton in “The Alamo,” Bryce Dallas Howard in “The Village,” Denzel Washington in “Man on Fire,” Renée Zellweger in “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” Cloris Leachman in “Spanglish.”

Niftiest impersonations: Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” Kyle MacLachlan as Cary Grant in “Touch of Pink,” Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in “Ray,” Jim Carrey as a restrained indie actor in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

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Best performance by an animal: Those hapless snakes in “Alexander” did their best to steal a few scenes (and we would have thanked them for it), but this year’s animal-kingdom Oscar must go to the so-scary-they-had-to-be-real sharks of “Open Water,” and the nuanced, starmaking performances by Ingen Temee and Botok, the camels featured in “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

The best performance by an animal category includes the nuanced performances of the camels in “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”


Best performance by an animal in a cute outfit: It’s difficult to maintain one’s dignity when you are wearing a little Hawaiian shirt or a tiny tiara, but the penguin in “50 First Dates” and the cat in “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” respectively, did exactly that.

Best popcorn movies: “Spider-Man 2,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” “Danny Deckchair,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Mean Girls,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Iron Man: We all knew that Jude Law was in six movies this year, but the real feat is that most of them were pretty good: “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Closer,” “Alfie,” “I Huckabees,” “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and “The Aviator.”

Iron Woman: No female actor seemed quite as busy as Law, but Angelina Jolie deserves notice for releasing four films — “Taking Lives,” “Shark Tale,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and “Alexander” — and still finding time to show up at the Oscars in a killer white gown.

PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Best chemistry: Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” which was also one of the best popcorn movies.


Separated at birth? Who would have guessed Gael García Bernal in drag, in “Bad Education,” looks like he could be Julia Roberts’ sister?

Men in skirts: Brad Pitt’s legs in “Troy” triumph over Colin Farrell’s in “Alexander,” though neither movie was worth the investment in tickets and popcorn. But who knew that Jeff Bridges, in “A Door in the Floor,” could carry off a caftan with such panache?

Best costumes: It was a good year for sumptuous period frocks, such as those worn to fetching effect (by women, it should be noted) in “Being Julia,” “De-Lovely,” “The Aviator” and “Finding Neverland.” Also worth noting were the riotously colorful ensembles from “House of Flying Daggers” and “The Stepford Wives,” and all those nattily dressed gentlemen in “Ocean’s Twelve.”

ANDREW SCHWARTZ / PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Worst chemistry: Matthew Broderick and Nicole Kidman in “The Stepford Wives.”


Oddest costume: That leather harness-type thing that poor Keira Knightley was forced to wear in “King Arthur,” which made her look like some strange sort of Middle Ages calendar girl. (Didn’t it hurt?)

Now you see ’em, now you don’t: Renée Zellweger (“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”), Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) and documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) all gained weight for movies this year, while Christian Bale shrunk dramatically for “The Machinist.”

Best kid performer: The young ensemble cast of “Mean Creek” were all splendid, as were the three siblings in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but the standout kid performance this year came from Freddie Highmore in “Finding Neverland,” a rare child actor who understands subtlety. Watch for him next summer, again teaming with Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”


Most implausible plot twist: Just about any random scene from “The Day After Tomorrow” will do, but Dennis Quaid walking, in subarctic weather, from Philadelphia to Manhattan with nary a misstep, was probably my favorite. Shouldn’t the wolves from Central Park have eaten him?

Best cameo: Watch closely in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and spot Dustin Hoffman as a deadpan audience member at Count Olaf’s theater.

ALEX DUKAY / SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Welcome back to Annette Bening, who sashays delightfully through “Being Julia.” The film also gets a nod for its period costumes.



Life imitating art: Well, so maybe you don’t consider “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” to be art. Anyway, a Houston theater that was showing the J. Lo-less snake sequel had to be shut down in October while reptile experts hunted for an 8-foot snake spotted by a maintenance worker. The creature had, perhaps, slithered over to check out his relatives in the film. No idea if the snake ever was found, but remind me to steer clear of Houston from now on.

Shameless nepotism: Newcomer Sandra Nelson landed the plum supporting role of Sara Murphy in Irwin Winkler’s Cole Porter biopic “De-Lovely” — and, surely, the fact that she is Winkler’s daughter-in-law had nothing to do with it.

Best breakthroughs: Jamie Foxx in “Collateral” and “Ray”; Topher Grace in “P.S.” and “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” (and the upcoming “In Good Company”).

Weirdest accents: Strange, but Angelina Jolie in “Alexander” and Kate Beckinsale in “Van Helsing” both sounded like they might be long-lost daughters of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Best sequel: “Spider-Man 2” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” were both terrific. And, at the arthouses, “Before Sunset” provided a worthy closing chapter to Richard Linklater’s romantic saga of Jesse and Celine.

Worst sequel: Was the world really asking for “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London”?

Movies that divided us: “The Passion of the Christ,” “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It’s all been said.

Movies that didn’t: Red or blue, nearly everyone found common ground in loving “Spider-Man 2” and hating “Alexander.”

Most unnecessary exposure: Vincent Gallo in “The Brown Bunny.”

ALEX BAILEY / WARNER BROS.

The noisiest movie this year goes to the musical drama “Phantom of the Opera,” which stars Minnie Driver.


The ridiculous and the sublime: Scarlett Johansson, back in January, had to suffer through the simultaneous release of one of her worst movies (“The Perfect Score”) and one of her best (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) on the same weekend. And who would have thought, after the lackluster “Breakin’ All the Rules,” that Jamie Foxx would go on to dazzle us in “Collateral” and “Ray”?

Worst date movies: Not that they weren’t good movies, but the miserable pairings depicted in “Closer,” “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “A Door in the Floor” were enough to make one contemplate a relationship-free life of selfless servitude to the needy.

Best chemistry: Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo in “13 Going on 30,” Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet in “Finding Neverland,” Sandra Oh and Thomas Haden Church in “Sideways,” Sandrine Bonnaire and Fabrice Luchini in “Intimate Strangers,” David Hasselhoff and SpongeBob in “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” and Meryl Streep and Jim Carrey in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” particularly when they talk about grammar.

Worst chemistry: Nicole Kidman and that odd little kid in “Birth,” Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick in “The Stepford Wives” (guess it’s just not her year), Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore in “Laws of Attraction,” Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis in “Christmas with the Kranks,” Téa Leoni and Adam Sandler in “Spanglish.”

Welcome back: Returning to the screen after several years’ absence were Jodie Foster (in French, no less!) in “A Very Long Engagement,” Annette Bening in “Being Julia,” Julie Andrews in “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” (though perhaps she could pick a better script next time) and Omar Sharif in “Hidalgo” and “Monsieur Ibrahim.”

Best hair: The flowing tresses of Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale in “Van Helsing,” which would have made a far better shampoo commercial than a movie.

Noisiest movie: After seeing “Phantom of the Opera,” even those who enjoyed all the spectacle might just want to go lie down in a dark, quiet room for a while afterward. And you wonder how many aspirins Minnie Driver consumed during the making of the film, with all that shrieking.

A diamond anniversary: It was 60 years ago that Lauren Bacall asked Humphrey Bogart if he knew how to whistle in “To Have and Have Not,” her stunning film debut. Now 80, she’s still making movies, and this year was the best thing about “Dogville” and “Birth.” Would somebody please find her a script worthy of her talents?

May 2005 be a very happy year for Ms. Bacall, and for all of us …

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com