Monday, January 08, 2007

Top Ten Films of 2006

(this list is not yet finalized...keep checking back for the next couple of weeks)

Best Films of 2006

To be honest, if I could only have seen the top three films on this list, I would have still been satiesfied. They are nothing less than three directorial milestones in one year. One director (Stallone), against all odds, revived a ruined franchise with a poetic film of grace and beauty. Another (Scorsese) made a return to his roots on the mean streets (although these streets are Irish and not near Scorsese's familiar NY territory), and shocked the world when we realized just how Scorsese's "off" films (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Bringing Out the Dead, Kundun...all of which have their admirers, to be sure, but they aren't his bread and butter) had changed him as a filmmaker...for the good of us all. I honestly still stand by my opinion that The Departed is the best film Scorsese has ever made. Finally, the third (Altman) left behind one of the most distinguished careers in cinema history with a subtle, beautiful swan song (The Prairie Home Companion). All three wonderful milestones. In fact, for me 2006 was one of the great auteur movie years in the past ten years or so. My top ten list generally reflects that (although one of my heroes, Clint Eastwood, is nowhere to be found as I haven't seen EITHER of his films yet). So there are holes, but also some linearity in that navel-gazing cinescape that is auteur criticism. The list is still in flux, probably until the last week or so of January. Then I'll lock it.

  1. The Departed (Scorsese)
  2. A Prairie Home Companion (Altman)
  3. Rocky Balboa (Stallone)
  4. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (Gondry)
  5. Little Children (Field)
  6. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Puiu)
  7. Brick (Johnson)
  8. Little Miss Sunshine (Dayton/Faris)
  9. The Descent (Neil Marshall)
  10. The Proposition (Hillcoat)

runners up (in a weaker year I could have easily made a top ten out of these films): Hostel, Awesome...I Fuckin' Shot That, The Queen, United 93, The Break-Up, Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Superman Returns, Edmond, The Hills Have Eyes, Silent Hill, V for Vendetta, Iraq in Fragments, Happy Feet, Monster House, Thank You For Smoking, Mission Impossible III)

Some random awards (personal)

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed (duh)

Best Actor: (tie) Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed (Leo moved beyond the Robert DeNiro comparisons and went right into Brando territory in Scorsese's latest)

(tie) Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa (interestingly, Stallone, an actor clearly at a different place than his younger counterpart, somehow pulled off the same career trajectory; his performance in Rocky Balboa is career-defining...great news for Stallone)

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, Little Children (revelatory)

Best Supporting Actor: Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland (shamefully ignored during awards season; Affleck knocked it out of the park in this self-referential confection; the movie's ok, but Affleck dazzles)

Best Supporting Actress: Lily Tomlin, A Prairie Home Companion (why isn't Lily Tomlin in everything?...I don't know either)

Screenplay: Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion (this is not the best film Altman ever made, but I think these may be the finest words he ever directed; Keillor's words are precise, natural, lyrical, moving, modest, and downright hilarious)

Cinematography: For some reason, this award always seems to go to the longest movie of the year (Braveheart, The English Patient, Shakespear in Love, etc.) or the busiest-looking arthouse fare (Se7en, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.). But for me, the wonderful marriage of egotistical pop filmmaker (M. Night Shyamalan) and the greatest cinematographer in the world (Christopher Doyle) in The Lady in the Water gave me the most indelible images of the year.

Foreign-Language Film: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (buy it, experience it, survive it)

Animated Film: Happy Feet (which just barely missed my Top Ten, it's that good)

Nonfiction Film: everyone went gaga over Al Gore and his pesky environment this year, but Iraq in Fragments was the most entrancing nonfiction experience I had in 2006)

Ensemble: without a doubt, A Prairie Home Companion

Debut Film: Brick (Rian Johnson)

Debut Performance: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson

Notes? Thoughts? Diatribes? Start using that comment function, ya'll.

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