Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Favorite Movie Picks of 2006

As an addendum to yesterday's post recording the Manny Perry Movie Club's year end movie poll, I offer today my own individual ballot as well as a recap of the movies I'm still feeling as we begin a new year

My Year-End Top Movie List (gut reaction scores)
1. Brokeback Mountain (9)
2. Match Point (8)
3. V For Vendetta (8)
4. The Departed (8)
5. Blood Diamond (8)
6. The Squid & The Whale (7.5)
7. Transamerica (7.5)
8. Akeelah & The Bee (7.5)
9. Tsotsi (7.5)
10. Water (7.5)
11. The Prestige (7.5)
12. Casino Royale (7.5)

My Year End Top Movie List (reflected rankings, including non-movie club selections(*), listed alphabetically)
Apocalypto* Masochistically violent, possibly racist, but in many ways unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan*
Probably the funniest movie I’ve seen in many years. I think it’s the kind of comedy Andy Kauffman envisioned 30 years ago.

Brokeback Mountain (9)
One of the few adaptations from a book that preserves the literary qualities of the source material.

Casino Royale (7.5)
Bond’s reboot finally gives the franchise the post-Cold War perspective it’s been struggling to find for over a decade, oddly enough, by going back to the hero’s origin from the hottest period of the Cold War.

The Departed (8)
Leonardo DiCapprio is now officially off my “I Hate Leonardo DiCapprio List.” Taken along with Blood Diamond, the man has turned in some stellar work this year. Scorcese not only delivered his best film since Goodfellas, but may have topped that definitive critical and commercial work.

Though I’d only objectively rank it an 8 if it were a movie club selection (as it may very well be this week), subjectively, it is hands-down my favorite movie of 2006. The songs work. The actors work. The chemistry on screen is tangible. Dreamgirls delivers old-school, hardcore movie musical magic.

The Heart Of The Game (7)
Inspirational sports documentaries are nothing new, but few offer such a unique perspective on the importance of girls in sports, or tell their stories with as much (forgive the pun) heart.

Munich (7)
A grim, riveting film about the politics of retribution and mutually-assured destruction. "An eye for an eye leaves all the world blind."

The Queen (7)
A landmark performance for Helen Miren. Her sensitive, emotionally restrained, but insightful performance as one of the most unscrutable persons on the planet is truly Oscar-worthy.

The Squid & The Whale (7.5)
A highly personal tale that any child of divorce should find a piece of themselves in.

Tsotsi (7.5)
Africa’s struggle to cope with entering the modern era has inspired a wave of films (Tsotsi, Blood Diamond, and Catch A Fire, all opening this year) and shown a spotlight on the personal struggles that have inspired a political movement.

V For Vendetta (8)
An action film in the vein of Blade Runner and Alien that presents a dystopian future as a metaphor current political and social problems. V for Vendetta may wear its message too much on its sleeve to attain the status of the previous films, but it certainly proves the Waschowski Brothers have not squandered their talent after The Matrix.

Water (7.5)
Women have typically gotten the short-shrift in film, either as the subject or the maker. Water deftly gives a perspective to Western outsiders and illuminates the harsh injustice for women in arranged marriages by framing the entire narrative from the point of view a child.

Movies I haven’t seen yet, but I’ve heard really good things about and hope to see soon:
Half Nelson
Pan’s Labyrinth
Children of Men

Little Miss Sunshine. This movie got the best reviews of nearly any film this year. And, while I found it enjoyable, it honestly failed to make any impression on me that lasted beyond the movie theater parking lot. It is a prime example of when critical praise is more hype than substance.

The Science of Sleep. This film could easily also be on my best of the year list, but ultimately, despite the fact I really enjoyed it, I think it falls short. I appreciate the fact that Michel Gondry left the film unresolved in many aspects. The structure of the film appropriately reflected Stephane’s deteriorating mental state, but the screenplay would have benefited from collaboration with Charlie Kauffman, who is not only a master of incorporating Jungian and Freudian concepts and images to illuminate the characters’ conflicts of the conscious and the subconscious mind, the id and the ego, and their often conflicting personal motivations and desires, but he also creates an emotional resonance within each character and scripts them as seemingly realized persons beyond just their quirks. Gondry, it seems, only gives you an impression of most of the characters. My defense after the seeing the film, and still is, if the film is from the point of view of Stephane, and all he knows of his neighbors and associates is his impressions, imaginings, and preconceived notions, then perhaps the characters are appropriately realized. Unfortunately, even Stephane is not even completely realized, so, at the end of the film, the audience doesn’t fully understand his motivation, confused as it may be.

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