Written by: Lance Carmichael, CC2K Staff Writer
A Week-Long Celebration of our Favorites from 2006
I know, I know: it’s already March 2007. But since studios now release 90% of the good movies between December 25 and December 31, unless you’re a professional movie critic, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a top 10 list until now. I still haven’t seen everything that I believe has a shot to crack the top 10, but there has to be a statute of limitations on putting out year-end top 10 lists, and I’m not going risk exceeding it any longer.
So we here at CC2K have decided to hold off our Top 10 movies of the year until March, when we’ve finally had a chance to (mostly) catch up. Throughout the week, we’ll be running the top ten list (with commentary, natch) from some of our writers. A lot of the movies are available now on DVD, so I’m sure the studios will see a large spike in sales due to these pieces.
For the record, I still haven’t seen:
The Lives of Others (by almost all reports fantastic), The Good Shepherd (by all reports an interesting failure), Mutual Appreciation (which, if anything like the director’s previous film [Funny Ha Ha], will definitely crack the top 10 once seen and digested.), and Half Nelson (which sounds like a solid B+ kind of movie)
So, qualifications aside…Lance Carmichael’s Top 10 of 2006!!!
10. The Descent
CC2K’s Paula and Red Baron turned me on to this little horror gem. It’s a small film, a great concept (a bunch of women go spelunking and run into a race of feral cavemen), and well-executed. Sturdy, not flashy. Just a great little horror picture.
9. The Fountain
I fear I’ll be considered a contrarian for including what was one of the biggest critical disappointments of 2006 (Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to the highly regarded Requiem for a Dream), but what can I say? I was deeply moved by the film. Aronofsky tackles very heady subject matter in this spacey film: namely, death. Which is probably the only true subject matter there is. Hugh Jackman comes to terms with his and his wife’s own mortality in three interlinked stories set 500 years apart. It’s reckless filmmaking, audacious and ill-advised, which asks you to make connections in what’s going on rather than spell them out explicitly for you, but it hit me really hard: I am going to die someday, and I am going to have to come to terms with that eventually. A very brave film, and Aronofsky deserves kudos for that. Remember, he could be making superhero flicks.
There’s been a big backlash against Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his Babel, and some of it is justified. Yes, it’s turning out that he has only one setting (overwrought melodrama done in a very “realist” way). But damn, if he doesn’t do that setting well. Taken apart and examined under harsh light, Babel and its interlinking stories don’t really hold up: the stories are only linked thematically, and any attempt to put a theme on the link (the breakdown of communication? uh…parents and children?) just kind of sounds trite. But I just love watching Inarritu’s craft. The guy shoots and edits in a way no one else really has before. He’s going to have to find some variety in his treatment of his material if he’s not going to outstay his welcome (and indications are that he knows this: he’s publicly broken with his writer, Guillermo Arriaga, and he’s called Babel the end of a “trilogy” [Remember how Baz Luhrman called Moulin Rouge the third in the “Red Curtain Trilogy,” and no one had any idea what he was talking about? This reminds me of that. Note to future trilogy-makers: best to establish you’re making a trilogy right away]), but for now, Babel is world-class filmmaking.
7. Pan’s Labrynth
On the other end of the spectrum is the critical darling Pan’s Labrynth. It’s almost impossible to find someone with a bad word to say about this film . And it was good. I can’t really think of anything else to say about it, which is why it’s this low on my list, I guess. Really good , but there’s no room for me to do any interpretive work on it.
6. United 93
I sort of think of Paul Greengrass’s United 93 as the sequel to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. Both take horribly tragic traumas in America’s past (9/11 and Columbine) and basically make a faux-documentary about the moments leading up to it. They’re both intelligently done, frosty pieces of filmmaking that you know are going to hit you hard when the catharsis comes. Not as revelatory as Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday–both because United 93 came afterwards and because 9/11 rhetoric has been so shoved down our throats and exploited by power-hungry men that it can’t help but leave a bad taste in your mouth–United 93 is powerful stuff, nevertheless .
5. The Departed
I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, but it probably suffers from me knowing who it was directed by. When you’re someone as supremely awesome as Martin Scorsese, you’re evaluated in relation to your own body of work, not to everyone else’s. This was a big problem at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s career, and it’s a problem (for me) with The Departed. Sure, it’s gripping and all that, but it’s only Scorsese’s 10th best film, and its genre contrivances and silliness are all-too-apparent when put next to the realism he committed to film in his best movies. But damn, that ending sold me on it. Violence! Yeah!
I already spelled out my thoughts on this studio-fucked gem in a review . I’ll just add to it by saying that every day we come closer to living in the Idiocracy. I haven’t been able to watch a televised football without cringing since.
3. Marie Antoinette
The most misunderstood movie of the year. I just covered this in a recent review of the DVD (which I forgot to mention has a very passable making-of doc; the best ones, I feel, are the ones that just paste a bunch of raw footage from production together. See Magnolia for the best example of this BTS genre), so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. Sofia Coppola kind of ran into a perfect storm of negative publicity for this film: she was fresh off a big, unanimous hit (Lost in Translation), she made an unorthodox period piece (where historical context was ignored and rock music was used), she was an American making a movie about French history that debuted in snooty old France, she was born rich and privileged (an image problem she’ll never truly outrun), and she’s a woman (ditto), so she has a lot of repressed misogyny to battle through. Yet I loved the subtle, tasteful, impressionistic approach she used, and her production collaborators all reached new career heights. History will look kindly on Marie Antoinette…the movie, anyway.
First amazing thing about Borat: it was a comedy made in 2006 that appealed to both the arthouse and the multiplex crowds . Second amazing thing (which few people realized): It invented a brand-new genre. It’s obviously not a documentary, since Borat is a character Sacha Baron Cohen is playing. Yet it’s not a mockumentary, since besides Borat and his producer (and probably Pamela Anderson), everyone else in it exists in the “real” world. It’s something that hasn’t been named yet: a fictional character is set loose in the real world, and a (I guess) documentary of his fictional interactions with non-fictional people is shaped into a feature-length film. A…NOTumentary? A JOCKumentary? I give up. Anyway, you’ve got to be a real asshole not to like this film.
1. Children of Men
Far and away the most completely satisfying cinematic experience of the year, and destined to be considered one of the best science fiction films of all time. Everything comes together here in this look at a dystopic future that, now that we’ve seen it (the movie), seems a far too disturbingly accurate prediction for how things are going to turn out if we continue on our present course. The casting and acting is top-notch, with Michael Caine absconding every scene he’s in and Clive Owen providing a rock-solid base to everything. The production design is absolutely genius: every corner of every frame is filled with shabbiness and texture, making you feel like you can reach out and touch this near-future. The sound design keeps you in a constant state of surprise, with the music the characters listen to and the encroaching city soundscape making up the soundtrack. The cinematography is destined to be talked about for a long time in regards to those two long, unbroken tour de force shots. And Alfonso Cuaron’s direction brings it all together nicely into a near-perfect film.
The Science of Sleep – No Eternal Sunshine, but then again, what is? A bit too French for its own good, nevertheless a continually surprising, charming ride.
Letters from Iwo Jima – Good? Yes. Powerful? Sure. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that if Clint Eastwood would slow down and not crank out a film every four weeks, he really could have made something special. All that waiting to die and then dying in underground tunnels…such potential.
The Prestige – Was pretty entertaining, but not as entertaining as listening to Michael Caine describe what “The Prestige” was in the preview.
Apocalypto - Sure, it was made by an apparently psychotic anti-Semite. But a gifted filmmaker of a psychotic anti-Semite. Just as fun as watching this brutal movie is trying to unpack the bizarre, contradictory politics behind it: Apocalypto tsk-tsked at a sick, immoral society condemned to die because of its lust for violent spectacles…but Apocalypto WAS ITSELF nothing BUT a violent spectacle. Like all Mel Gibson joints. Guh?