Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Years in Review: 2006

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Ohs Decade with a year-by-year retrospective of the movies I watched and (sometimes) loved. All due apologies to Nick Davis and Nathaniel Rogers for co-opting portions of their own decade-end features. I crib with love!

[Previously: 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005]

As 2006 came hurtling to its end, I was feeling more than a little dissatisfied. While I had been completely won over by a pair of indies -- the burgeoning juggernaut Little Miss Sunshine and the genre-snatching Brick -- over the summer and had been thoroughly fascinated by The Fountain and charmed by Shortbus in the fall, the year was ending without any movie truly knocking me on my ass. That feeling got blown away most palpably as I sat down to take in Alfonso Cuaaron's Children of Men. Nothing beats that feeling -- that static-charged feeling as you're watching something you know right then is something you'll treasure forever.

It's a good thing, too, because almost the entire crop of Oscar movies that year disappointed me. The Queen was a good movie with a very good Helen Mirren performance but nothing really to talk about, much less nominate for Best Picture. Dreamgirls was inconsistently paced and had uneven performances. The Good Shepherd was largely dull. Flags of our Fathers was abominable. Babel certainly had its virtues but its message felt muddy. As for The Departed...I still find it to be merely adequate, I'm sorry.

The Year in Matt Damon: A career year -- with The Departed and The Good Shepherd -- and I'm still somewhat shocked that Oscar nomination never materialized. Seriously, if he gets his second nomination for Invictus, on which performance's behalf should we be most offended? The Departed? The Informant? The Talented Mr. Ripley? I could keep going. For a while. Before I get to Invictus.

The Year in Tilda Swinton: Another year spent in the cry-freeze for our Tilda. So just this once...

The Year in Cate Blanchett:
The decade's other pale-skinned superstar had a busy '06. Still basking in her Oscar afterglow, Cate went with solid awards-bait this year. The results were mixed. Babel succeeded, though her own part in it consisted of a slow bleed-out while Brad Pitt freaked out around her. The Good German just didn't hold together on any level, particularly the chemistry between Cate and co-stars George Clooney and Tobey Maguire. But then there was Notes on a Scandal. Wonderful, histrionic, campy Notes on a Scandal. "HERE I AAAAAAAM!" screamed Cate, and Oscar voters sprinted to her.

Best Theater Experience: Fuck the backlash, I saw Little Miss Sunshine three times in the theater and loved it every time. I know why people piled on that particular backlash -- too bright, too happy, too much dancing -- but I fell in love with that family, from Toni Collette chomping on that popsicle to Greg Kinnear's flailing alpha tendencies, to the look on Steve Carell's face when he realizes how bugnuts the "Superfreak" routine is. I'll stand by that movie any day. Though a special runner-up notice goes to my NYC trip for Thanksgiving, where I was first able to partake of New York's limited releases, in this case seeing The History Boys in Chelsea and Volver in the East Village.

Click below for the best movies of 2006...

My Top 10:
1. Children of Men
2. Pan's Labyrinth
3. A Prairie Home Companion
4. Little Miss Sunshine
5. Brick
6. United 93
7. Shortbus
8. The Fountain
9. The Descent
10. Inland Empire

My feelings on Pan's Labyrinth are close to my feelings for Return of the King -- loved it intensely after my first viewing, don't have any basis to move it from its lofty perch in my Top 10, and yet ... I don't ever really think about it much. The Pale Man, of course. That image is indelible. Sergi Lopez sewing up his own face. But I've never cared to go back into it. Not that rewatchability is the end-all of this Top 10. I've only seen United 93 the once; The Fountain too. But those movies have blossomed in my memory.

I kind of love what a jumbled mishmash this list is. Prairie's welcoming rhythms, drawing you into the concentric circles of that repertory company, alongside the deliberate impenetrability of Inland Empire. Shortbus and The Fountain and The Descent exploring human isolation from three couldn't-be-more-distinct angles. My radar was pinging all over the map in 2006, and I love that.

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky - The Fountain
Alfonso Cuaron - Children of Men
Guillermo Del Toro - Pan's Labyrinth
Paul Greengrass - United 93
Rian Johnson - Brick

Best Actor:
Matt Damon - The Departed / The Good Shepherd
Will Ferrell - Stranger Than Fiction
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Brick
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson
Hugh Jackman - The Fountain

Best Actress:
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Laura Dern - Inland Empire
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada

Best Supporting Actor:
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
Steve Carell - Little Miss Sunshine
Stanley Tucci - The Devil Wears Prada
Greg Kinnear - Little Miss Sunshine
Sergi Lopez - Pan's Labyrinth

Best Supporting Actress:
Emma Thompson - Stranger Than Fiction
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Adriana Barazza - Babel
Meryl Streep - A Prairie Home Companion

Five Films That Have Endured
The Devil Wears Prada
Casino Royale
Notes on a Scandal
Lady in the Water

While rewatchings of Prada haven't made me hate Adrian Grenier's character any less, but the rest of the movie just breezes by. Dreamgirls may not have been my favorite movie, but it's a musical that certainly has its moments, and that Jennifer Hudson thing sure worked out pretty well. I made mention of the operatic lesbo delights of Notes on a Scandal which should be inspiring midnight revivals and cultural referencing well into this decade and beyond. As for Lady in the Water, it endures as an almost unfathomable act of directorial hubris that really must be seen to be believed.

Five Films I Should See Again
The Departed
Stranger Than Fiction
Marie Antoinette
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Children

I so hate being the turd in the punchbowl re: The Departed. I suppose I'll keep giving it a shot until it clicks or until the quest drives me off the roof, Martin Sheen-style. I loved Stranger Than Fiction SO passionately, and it was SO resoundingly dismissed by everyone else that something needs reconciling. Iwo Jima perhaps benefitted too much, in my estimation, from NOT being Flags of our Fathers. And Marie-Antoinette and Little Children were both stylized renderings of overly familiar genres that perked my interest but demanded second-looks that got lost to the avalanche of whatever movies came out next. A truth that makes this whole "Movies I Should See Again" conceit feel like a wonderful pipe dream, but I soldier on.


Rbelle said...

What needs reconciling is how everybody else could be so blind. I absolutely adore Stranger than Fiction, and maybe I somehow fell victim to cheap ploys, or something, but I really don't care. Will Farrell is just great reigning in his usual manic personality, but Emma Thompson totally steals it. It's my favorite performance of hers since Sense and Sensibility, and I like pretty much everything she does. I was so disappointed that this movie got dismissed, but maybe the year only had room for one quirky, well-acted, feel-good movie in Little Miss Sunshine.

I'm also glad to find someone else who was blown away by Children of Men. I know someone who wanted to walk out of the theater after the first five minutes, and others who declared themselves "disappointed" but ... I *genuinely* don't know what they were expecting. The movie delivered what it promised in the previews, but more, and it was funny, and frightening, and just really, really hopeful, in its way. Besides, Clive Owen makes one hot reluctant hero.

JA said...

Thirding the Stranger Than Fiction love. A wholly underrated flick. Anybody who chalked it up to nothing more than a Charlie Kaufamn rip-off wasn't paying enough attention. The film's a delight. One of my favorite Maggie Gyllenhaal performances, too. "Actually it's my weekly evil-conspiracy and needlepoint group." Love.

I caught half of Pan's Labyrinth on TV (HDTV!) over the holiday and I still love the movie and I still call BALONEY on that movie's haters too, esp. with regards to lil' Ivana Baquero's performance as Ofelia. She breaks my heart every time.

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Let me also jump on the Stranger than Fiction band wagon. I absolutely love that movie and have had to watch it every time it was on cable, especially for that one part where Ferrell starts playing the guitar, and its a song Maggie knows and then they start making out and the actual song kicks in. I absolutely love that brilliant scene.

Teev said...

I, too, am a fan of Stranger Than Fiction, partly because I have a thing for movies where the telling of a story affects reality. I don't know how to explain that or if there is a term for it. Movies like Big Fish or Baron Munchausen or The Fall (and sort of The Fountain and Adaptation). Inkheart looked like it might be like that too but it also looked dumb. Is there a way to describe that better? Anyway, I love movies where that happens and I thought Stranger Than Fiction was great.