Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the movie year. 2006.

Is it me or was there a slight whiff of anti-Americanism that seemed to connect the year's most noteworthy movies? With that said, here's the best of 2006 - in order of preference, natch, and ever a work in progress:

Best English-Language Films

"United 93" (Paul Greengrass, Universal)

"Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby" (Adam McKay, Columbia)

"Children of Men" (Alfonso Cuarón, Universal)

"The Departed" (Martin Scorsese, Warner Brothers)

"Little Miss Sunshine" (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Fox Searchlight)

"Notes on a Scandal" (Richard Eyre, Fox Searchlight)

"Thank You for Smoking" (Jason Reitman, Fox Searchlight)

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (Larry Charles, 20th Century-Fox)

"Shadowboxer"(Lee Daniels, Teton Films)

"Crank" (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Lionsgate)

Best Foreign-Language Films

"Babel" (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Paramount Vantage)

"Letters from Iwo Jima" (Clint Eastwood, Universal/DreamWorks)

"Pan’s Labyrinth"/"El Laberinto del Fauno" (Guillermo del Toro, Picturehouse)

"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"/"Moartea domnului Lazarescu" (Cristi Puiu, Tartan Films)

"The Curse of the Golden Flower"/"Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia" (Zhang Yimou, Sony Classics)

Best Documentary

"Shut Up and Sing" (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, The Weinstein Company)

Best Belated Release

"Army of Shadows"/"L'Armee de ombres" (1969) (Jean-Pierre Melville, Rialto Pictures)

Honorable Mention

"Inland Empire" (David Lynch, Studio Canal) ... for its sheer, naked bravado.

And, alphabetically...

"Bubble," "Casino Royale," "The Da Vinci Code," "Death of a President," "Deliver Us from Evil," "Domestic Import," "L'Enfant"/"The Child," "Fast Food Nation," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Happy Feet," "The History Boys," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Infamous," "Kinky Boots," "Look Both Ways," "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," "Manderlay," "Marie Antoinette," "Miss Potter," "Monster House," "La Moustache"/"The Mustache," "The Notorious Bettie Page," "The Painted Veil," "Le Petit Lieutenant"/"The Young Lieutenant" "A Prairie Home Companion," "The Queen" and "Volver"/"To Return."

Best Cinematography

"Children of Men" (Emmanuel Lubezki). If only for Lubezski's staggering, seemingly single-take shot of Clive Owen making his way through a war-torn village.

Best Performances

And, finally, kudos to Grethcen Moll and Ryan Gosling for their respective work in "The Notorious Bettie Page" and Half Nelson," the year's best actress and actor; and to Jackie Earle Haley and Judi Dench for their fine supporting work in "Little Children" and "Notes on a Scandal," with Dench sharing her honor with Sandra Bullock for her career-revitalizing turn as Harper Lee in "Infamous," a vast improvement - dare I say it? - over Catherine Keener's take on the same role in 2005's "Capote."

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And, for what it's worth, here's The Last Best list of ... 2005 - again in order of preference...

"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (Tommy Lee Jones, Sony Pictures Classics)

"A History of Violence" (David Cronenberg, New Line Cinema)

"Good Night, and Good Luck" (George Clooney, Warner Independent)

"Munich" (Steven Spielberg, Universal/DreamWorks)

"The Constant Gardner" (Fernando Meirelles, Focus Features)

"Brokeback Mountain" (Ang Lee, Focus Features)

"Crash" (Paul Haggis, Lions Gate Films)

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (Judd Apatow, Universal)

"The White Countess" (James Ivory; Sony Pictures Classics)

"The Weatherman" (Gore Verbinski, Paramount Classics)

Best Foreign-Language Film

"Caché" ("Hidden")(Michael Haneke, Sony Pictures Classics)

(Artwork: from top: Scenes from Paramount Vantage's "Babel," starring Brad Pitt and Blanchett; Doug Jones in Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth"; Lino Ventura in Rialto Pictures' "Army of Shadows"/"L'Armee de ombres"; Laura Dern and Justin Theroux in Studio Canal's "Inland Empire"; Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in Fox Searchlight's "Notes on a Scandal," and Tommy Lee Jones in Sony Pictures Classics' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com


Anonymous said...

What a fascinating list! I have seen a few of these and I will definitely put the rest on my "must-see" list. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to have found your website. I am a big movie fan -- and fan of your work -- from Northern California. You always have the best lists.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe --
I wish I discovered this site sooner. We've lived in Elk Grove for almost 7 years (Massachusetts before that), and I always read your columns faithfully. With Roger Ebert, yours was the voice of reasoned analysis and informed criticism that I came to trust and rely on. It's great that you're back!

Anonymous said...

Interesting list -- "Babel" and "Crank" together! I saw them both and loved them both but I never would have thought of saying them in the same breath. Can't wait to see "Notes on a Scandal." Judi Dench rocks!

Patrickmcq said...

Interesting and diverse list Joe!
I've got to tell you, I've been impressed by the influence of Mexican filmmakers and their contributions to our theater-going experiences in the past few weeks.

I agree with you that Babel is one of the very best of the year, but Alfonso Cuaron's CHILDREN OF MEN is very powerful in my opinion. As well as Guillermo Del Toro's extremely dark and creative fairy tale PAN'S LAYRINTH.

I've been reading quite a bit about Army of Shadows and Volver and plan to take a look! :)

Anonymous said...

I believe you used to work for The Philadelphia Daily News, right? I, for one, always appreciated your intelligent reviews of the movies, your understanding of the history of movies, your sociaol conscousness and pro-human analysis and your ability to bring the story into a wider world are truely gifts. Thank you. I look forward to checking out this blog regularly.

Anonymous said...

Joe- I like this list. I remember reading you in the Sacramento Bee. I particularly appreciated your good values and your willingness to appreciate a film even when it was not a great film but one that promoted social justice or the respectful treatment of others.
Happy New Year, and enjoy your well-deserved new blog.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I discovered this site via Dave Kehr's blog. Great site. I will visit often. I especially liked your ten best list. Gald to see someone championing "Shadowboxer," a seriously underrated movie!

Anonymous said...

I really admire your impeccably ethical style. This is one of the more personal and most honest 10 best lists that I read this year!