Friday, January 12, 2007

Top Ten Films of 2006 - Updated

So here's the updated list. Still watching a lot of films, so I won't finalize it for a couple more weeks.

1. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
2. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
3. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman)
4. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
5. Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry)
6. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles)
7. Little Children (Todd Field)
8. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu)
9. Brick (Rian Johnson)
10. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Final Oscar Nomination Predictions

This is old hat by now. Throw out a guess, shot in the dark. It's a crapshoot anyway.

Here they are.

Final Oscar Nomination Predictions – January 9, 2007

Best Picture
The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Best Director
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Steven Frears, The Queen
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Actor
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Peter O’Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Brad Pitt, Babel

Best Supporting Actress
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Rinko Kuichi, Babel
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Original Screenplay
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen

Best Adapted Screenplay
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Thank You For Smoking

Best Cinematography
Children of Men
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Animated Feature
Flushed Away
Monster House
Happy Feet
A Scanner Darkly

Best Foreign Language Film
Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, The Netherlands)
Lunacy (Jan Svankmajer, Denmark)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, Mexico)
Volver (Pedro Almodovar, Spain)
Water (Deepa Menta, Canada)

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.