Little Misses

Introducing the best movies of 2005 you probably didn't see

Penguins are like us. Admit it: Seen from afar, that long, black line of travelers looks strikingly human. Their massive group-search for a mate, in which every penguin sizes up every other penguin for some unknowable something, is natures answer to the high school prom.

Theyre tough little buggers. We begin in the garden, then leave on a quest, descend into darkness, suffer through immense hardship, lose companions to death, and emerge into the spring, with kids. This is The Odysseywith beaks.

You cant do this at home. Its not easy to get to Antarctica, or to stay there, and director Luc Jacquet did both, passing day and night with the penguins for nearly a year. His footage is immensely moving, as when an inexperienced father drops his egg or a mother loses her newborn to the cold. Its also breathtaking, featuring grand vistas of sea, ice, and sky.

In the end, March of the Penguins is almost more of a drama than a documentary, and a dark one at that. (The U.S. marketing strategy made the film out to be a love story — a disingenuous move.) After nearly a year with these brave and hilarious creatures, weve been through something as harrowing as it is absurd, and we have forged a bond. The film doesnt merely surpass most nature documentaries; it surpasses most movies of any genre. -- Melissa Levine

Keep It Gay: The Year Hollywood Went Homo

Social conservatives may have put the brakes on gay marriage, but there isnt much they can do about gay movies, which arrived like a biblical flood in the last months of 2005. Along with Capote, a vivid portrait of the most celebrated gay writer of the Sixties, Ang Lees romantic tragedy Brokeback Mountain, the story of two lean cowboys who fall in love and stay there, on and off, for twenty years, might 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 industrys most respected young actors — Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Breakfast on Pluto, directed by The Crying Games Neil Jordan, might 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 portrays a pre-op transgender candidate who learns 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 lovers 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 The Producers bombs, 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. -- Bill Gallo

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