DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: BEST OF 2006

Wednesday 21 March 2007

BEST OF 2006

2006 Year in Film

I'm a little under the weather today, and so I'll repost my Best of 2006 for the blog. Sorry, a review will come tomorrow. I promise.

1. United 93 (dir. Paul Greengrass)

Filmmaking at its finest. An emotionally draining minute-by-minute recounting of the events of 9/11. (Note: don’t confuse this with the lame A&E made-for-tv movie – Flight 93) Greengrass takes realism to new levels by casting the real people in many of the key military and air traffic controller roles in the film. Tension and terror is created from the very beginning and sustained through the whole film and rises to unimaginable levels by the very end in the cockpit of the doomed flight. Available on video now.

2. Little Miss Sunshine (dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Ferris)

A real feel good film, with a hilarious ensemble cast. All performance are great, specifically Alan Arkin who is a scene stealer. Too many indelible scenes and images to count. Available on video now.

3. The Prestige (dir. Christopher Nolan)

A smart film that makes you think, and then think again, throughout the whole film – beginning to end. Christopher Nolan (Memento) tells the story of dueling magicians in turn of the century London. I’ll say no more. It’s is an experience you have to discover with as minimal description as possible. By the end, you will be astounded – I guarantee it. Despite the tepid critical and commercial reception, over time The Prestige I am sure will become a classic film. Available on video now.

4. The Departed (dir. Martin Scorsese)

I think this will be Scorsese’s year. Based on the Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs, it’s all business for Scorsese. Plot rules here. Emotions are kept to a minimum, very tough, and no-nonsense. Watch for hilarious banter from Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen (…just kidding). Available on video now.

5. Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)

In the near future, humans can no longer procreate; Clive Owen agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to sanctuary from the violent streets of London in order to save humankind. Despite the high concept, Children of Men is remarkably simple in plot. It’s a chase film executed to perfection. Half a dozen scenes just blow your mind in terms of terms of suspense, emotion, raw power and technical brilliance. Available on video later this month.

6. Lady Vengeance (dir. Chan-wook Park)

After a 13-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a 6 year old boy, the beautiful and feisty lady protagonist seeks revenge on the man that was really responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow prison inmates she gets closer and closer to her goal. But the end is not what she nor we would expect. Bloody, violent, but also morbidly hilarious, Lady Vengeance is disturbing and revelatory. This film completes Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy – please also rent 2005’s “Old Boy”). Available on video now.

7. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (dir. Michel Gondry)

A documentary about a NYC street concert staged by Dave Chappelle, featuring the Fugees, Mos Def, the Roots, Erika Badu etc. Dave Chappelle is funny, but don’t expect bust-your-gut gags, music is king here. I’m not a big hip-hop fan, but the performances were outstanding. Some of the more personal moments of the NYC residents, concert goers, and certainly Wyclef Jean’s solo performance piano performance at the end make this a classic concert film. Available on video now.

8. L’Enfant (dir. The Dardennes Bros)

Some more powerful Euro-Realism from the Dardennes Bros (see also The Son). L’Enfant is about a street couple/petty thieves who have recently become parents to an infant child. Bruno, the naïve and disaffected father attempts to sell the child for money, without the mother’s knowledge. When she finds out, he attempts to recover the baby and redeem his wrongdoings. My lame plot summary doesn’t do the film justice. A Palme D’Or winner at Cannes, the film is remarkably involving. It’s shot in the Dardennes Bros trademark, handheld documentary, medium-shot-only, style. Available on video now.

9. Last King of Scotland (dir. Kevin MacDonald)

“Last King of Scotland” is a great film, but not just of because of Forest Whitaker’s Oscar-winning performance but because the movie itself is great filmmaking. It’s the story of the relationship between the despotic African leader Idi Amin and his naïve Scottish doctor. Filmed with a unique sun-drenched look, the film practically oozes sweat from the screen. It's intense and thrilling all around.

10. Six Figures (dir. David Christensen)

A cerebral indie film about a young married couple experiencing the financial pressure of maintaining their middle class suburban lifestyle. When the man’s wife is mysteriously attacked and hospitalized, the husband becomes the main suspect. In what could have descended into a formula thriller instead becomes a unique examination of the fine line between trust and doubt in a relationship. With shades of Michael Haneke and Stanley Kubrick, Six Figures is paced deliberately slow and often cold and detached, but the experience is truly rewarding.

The other 10 that didn’t make the top spots, but are terrific films to watch and enjoy:

11. Inside Man – a classic heist film
12. Casino Royale – finally a Bond film that feels like a real film
13. The Descent – a clausterphobic horror film. Truly terrifying
14. Pan’s Labyrinth – Adult version of Narnia. Imaginative and scary
15. The Fountain – Challenging high concept cerebral sci-fi. Not for all tastes
16. Apocalypto – Uncomplicated bloody action adventure. Plain and simple
17. Letters from Iwo Jima – See this over Flags of Our Fathers.
18. Superman Returns – A guilty pleasure. Take it for what its worth
19. Dreamgirls – Great first half, second half lags, but still worth a visit
20. Babel – High drama all around

Some great foreign films that went straight-to-video:

The Pusher Trilogy – a series of Danish gritty and violent crime films. Brilliant.
L’Enfer – Three women who share a connection to a violent incident from their childhood. From a Krzysztof Kieslowski script.
The Conformist (1970) – A reissue of Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic film. One of cinema’s greatest films.

My Favourite Performances of the Year

Lead Actor:

Michael Sheen, channeling Tony Blair (The Queen)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond and/or Departed)
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat)
Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking)

Lead Actress:

Kate Winslet (Little Children)
Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Judi Dench (Notes From a Scandal)
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
Kirstin Dunst (Marie Antoinette)

Supporting Actor:

Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Mark Wahlberg (Departed)
Brad Pitt (Babel)
Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls)
Bill Nighy (Notes From a Scandal)

Supporting Actress:

Abigal Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
The kid from Half Nelson (Half Nelson)
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
Phyllis Somerville (Little Children)

He/She/It deserves something…

Steve-O for putting a leech on his eyeball (Jackass 2)
Daniel Craig for saving Bond
The baby in Children of Men
The Panther in Apocalypto
Tony Jaa in The Protector (you’ve got to see it to believe it)

Overrated films of the year:

Half Nelson – Gosling was great, but the film was not.
The Illusionist – Don’t believe what anybody says, The Prestige is the one to see.
The Queen – admirable but not amazing
World Trade Center – a noble effort, but felt like Made-For-TV territory.
Flags of our Fathers – Sometimes it works, but is overreaching.
Tristram Shandy – just didn’t get it.

Something to challenge yourself:

The Fountain – hit or miss, but it will linger with you.
Brick – Very complex but very unique. The dialogue is so complicated, I had to watch it with the English subtitles on!
Lady Vengeance – its Korean, but give it a try.
L’Enfant – you will be rewarded

Something to enjoy with your partner:

Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Jackass (I’m serious)
Thank You For Smoking


Anonymous said...

Ha, thanks for that - I keep telling people that Prestige is a classic in the making, but few listen. Best film I saw this year - by far...

Alan Bacchus said...

Hey vuk,
Yes, Chris Nolan and the Prestige are 100% genius.