Sunday, January 07, 2007

2006-The Year in Pix

2006-The Year in Pix

I am not a film critic nor do I play one on TV. This is my outlet (and this is my gun), therefore the rules of engagement do not apply to me, meaning I don’t have to adhere to any timeline. That said, here is my list of favorite films that I saw in 2006. Whether they were released this year or not means nothing to me. It’s like the adage about an old joke. If you’ve never heard it before, it’s new to you.

The year 2006 was pretty much of a wash for me personally, but movie-wise, I basked in the glow of the Great God Cinema. The total of films came to 118. That’s basically a movie every three days, not counting those that I had seen again. Since I had made a conscientious effort not to watch as much crap as I had in years past, my film diet consisted of a lot more protein and less trans fat, so the percentage of good product versus bad weighed heavily in my favor.

Certainly there were disappointments, no more so than in two supposedly blockbusters that landed like a pair of bombastic farts at a funeral. Peter Jackson’s King Kong seemed so calculated to be a companion piece to a video game that it became difficult to tell the two apart, a botch job unworthy of the Lord of the Rings master. But nothing really stunk up the joint more than Bryan Singer’s lame-ass Superman Returns, a turd barely better than Superman III or IV, only by the nature of its budget.

On the other hand, the reboot of the Bond series with Casino Royale was a welcome breath of fresh air, thanks to both director Martin Campbell and star Daniel Craig. Seeing Craig swagger about like a royal prick seemed rather off-putting at first until it came clear that he could back it all up in spades, He reminded me of the young Errol Flynn’s first appearance in  The Adventures of Robin Hood, entering a castle with a dead buck around his neck and acting like he owned the place (which of course, he did). Anyway, a worthy new beginning for Bond, James Bond. By the way, when was the last time you ever saw a Bond movie appear on a Ten Best list? Check it out. Royale appeared on many, including Owen Gleiberman’s film of the year in Entertainment Weekly.

One particularly putrid piece of work was Maniac, quite possibly the worst film ever made. Directed by Dwain Esper, the only guy who could make Ed Wood look like Antonioni, this 1930s exploitationer about untreated mental illness combined a couple of Poe stories with some gratuitous nudity and violence, including a duel with hypodermic needles. The cast is so supremely wretched that they seem to have not only never seen a movie before, but also have never seen anyone act either. It was like watching a dog try to ride a bicycle. Oh, by the way, I recommend this to anyone interested in really shitty cinema.

A few notable moments from this year’s crop:
The My Forgotten Man number from The Golddiggers of 1933-An ode to the homeless in the Great Depression that holds up even today. Not much has changed since then.

Hammy the Squirrel’s caffeine induced slow motion sojourn in Over the Hedge, the funniest sequence of the year.

Wildest Ride of the Year: Night Watch, the wild and crazy Russian vampire romp

Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, a film I had been trying to catch up with for years now. Truth to be told, I consider Blanche DuBois to be one of the most irritating characters in modern literature, as well as with Vivien Leigh’s performance and felt uncomfortable most of the time Brando was not on screen. But once he was, I was hooked. Talk about living up to one’s reputation. I was also taken by Kim Hunter as “STELLA!!!!!!!!!!!”

Some movies that exceeded expectations:
Walk the Line (particularly Joaquin Phoenix), Tokyo Godfathers,The Bourne Supremacy, The Alamo(2004), Cars, George Romero’s Land of the Dead, Millions

Some great revisits:
Car Wash, Which Way is Up? (Richard Pryor’s funniest), Topaz (underrated Hitchcock), Brewster McCloud (overlooked Altman), The Hill (one of Sean Connery’s best), Lantana (one of the best films of last ten years), The Paper Chase, Casino Royale (1967) -a guilty pleasure to the Nth degree

Now the bestests:

Best Oldies:
Yojimbo,
Captain Blood,
Diabolique,
Pather Panchali,
Hitchcock double bill of Notorious and Shadow of a Doubt
Fellinii’s 8 ½
Melville’s Army of Shadows and Le Cercle Rouge
Lola Montes
 All Quiet on the Western Front –Again, a timeless message that still resonates.

The Ten Best (in no order except #1)

Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion-a fitting swan song to a class act
Brewer's Hustle and Flow- Terrence Howard elevates himself to the rank of one this country’s finest and, though damn near done in right at the very end, this film is hard to beat.
Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle-The animation genius of the modern age
Ki-Duk Kim's 3-Iron-Best love story of the year
Carol Reed and Graham Green’s The Fallen Idol –Uncovered jewel and finest classic of the year, so perfect to view it on the big screen
James Marsh’s extraordinary Wisconsin Death Trip-Best documentary of the year and possibly of all time
Chan-Wook’s Old Boy-the incredible brutal roller coaster experience
Scorsese’s The Departed-Marty, this is your year. Revel in it.

and the Best Picture of 2006

Paul Greengrass’ United 93
Not to get all PC about it, but there is no way I could ignore the impact of this incredible piece of filmmaking. I resisted this for the longest time, being one of those who believed 9/11 was too close, too open of a sore, too painful to relive, especially since the word on the street was how realistic the film is. After much hesitation, I watched it at home, wanting privacy and not a shared emotional experience as I would in the theater. Well, let’s just say, I was a wreck by the end credits. But it had been totally cathartic and extremely therapeutic. Many suppressed and dormant feelings have resurfaced since that viewing and while that’s a helluva thing to lay on just a damn movie, this what I’ve taken away from it. I really don’t want to be known as one of those idiots who uses that day as a metaphor for everything that occurs, especially since it has become both a cliché and an excuse for more self-indulgent pinheads than I can fathom. Perhaps if I didn’t have all this bottled inside me, I wouldn’t so introspective about the film. However, I will say unequivocally that Paul Greengrass is a remarkable filmmaker. There's an honesty that he brings to United 93 that makes this story compeling from first frame to last. His documentary approach to this and The Bourne Supremacy has energized recent cinema and I certainly look forward to any work by this director.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for 2007…

FILMAPALOOZA!

Have a nice life.
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