19 January 2007

the Top 10 films of 2006 (part I)

I don't have the energy to finish this tonight, so here's the first 5. The next five shall come soon.

1. United 93


starring: Lewis Alsamari, J.J. Johnson, Trish Gates, and David Alan Basche
written and directed by: Paul Greengrass
R, 111 min, 2006, USA/UK

Read my original review

Back in May, I called this "a masterpiece in every way imaginable, a stunning and gut-wrenching film that makes a case for being the best American film of the decade and the most powerful piece of cinema since Schindler's List (1993)." When viewed against the atrocity that is Oliver Stone's World Trade Center (2006), it looks even better. Greengrass captures perfectly the horror and confusion of September 11 in a film that looks like it may be too powerful to win major awards, as people understandably don't want to relive it. There aren't many films that can make such a claim. Clearly, this is the best of the year.

2. Little Children


starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, and Jackie Earle Haley
written by: Todd Field & Tom Perrotta, from the novel by Perrotta
directed by: Todd Field
R, 130 min, 2006, USA

Read my original review

It turns out not many people liked this film nearly as much as I did, but I fell in love with the muddled morality, the depiction of a suburbia where fidelity is not a given, and the belief that interpersonal relationships are as fragile as they come. Todd Field directs some of the best performances of the year from Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, and Jackie Earle Haley, who's return to the big screen is one of the great surprises of 2006. In just his second film, Field does not repeat himself; he does not hammer you over the head with symbolism. He trusts you are on his wavelength, or at least can get there quickly. It really is a wonderful film, despite what you may hear to the contrary.

3. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story


starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Shirley Henderson, and Keeley Hawes
written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on the novel by Laurence Sterne
directed by Michael Winterbottom
R, 94 min, 2006, UK

Meta films are all the rage these days, which generally means there aren't any good ones. So, it's refreshing to find a gem like Michael Winterbottom's look at a British film company struggling to adapt a novel no thinks is possible to film. The leading man is worried about the height of his shoes, his co-lead has a "proper sexual thing" for his character's love interest, the battle scenes look horrendous, and no one has any confidence the film will actually be any good. As Coogan says, "This is a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post about." The film is engaging, inspired, and, best of all, funny. Meta can be so cliche, but when it works, it soars.

4. Moartea domnului Lazarescu


starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Gabriel Spahiu, and Doru Ana
written by: Cristi Puiu and Razvan Radulescu
directed by: Cristi Puiu
NR, 150 min, 2006, Romania

Here's some interesting numbers for you: Moartea domnului Lazarescu has a Metacritic score of 84, a couple of critics awards, and has shown up on 16 high-profile top 10 lists. Here's the interesting number: it grossed less than $80,000 domestically. So it may just be the most critically revered film per dollar in film history. Why? Well, 150 minutes of an old man dying doesn't sound like much fun, and it isn't. But, it is incredibly moving and makes profound statements about the state of heath care in the 21st century. It's not a film you'd want to watch more than once, but once should be enough.

5. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan


starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell, and Pamela Anderson
written by: Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer, from a story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips
directed by: Larry Charles
R, 84 min, 2006, USA

Read my original review

Sacha Baron Cohen's raucous comedy has been as well documented as any film this year, from the publicity stunts to the controversy to the pending lawsuits, and for those of us with an affinity for Da Ali G Show, highly anticipated to boot. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. Cohen's performance is one of the most daring ever put on film. Not only does he not break character surrounded by people unaware they're in a comedy, but he does so in scenarios where he's in very real danger of getting his ass kicked. Brando never ran that risk.


Don't forget the Lovesick Blog-a-Thon right here, 14 February 2007. Fun for all ages.


johanna said...

What's a meta film?

johanna said...

Is that a film about making a film?

lucas said...

sort of.

or, as wikipedia says: "the style of the film-making shows that the film is a metaphor about the production of the film and that the audience is tied in with the drama unfolding on the screen."

johanna said...

ah. So The Big Picture wouldn't necessarily be a meta film (although it could -- it's been a hell of a long time since I've seen it)

i can't remember what we used to call rock songs about being a rock star in high school, but those usually weren't any good either

ryan said...

Thanks Lucas... this gives me some stuff to put in my queue. Looking forward to the next 5.

Alex said...

Good choices... :P Glad you liked United 93, it's fairly underappreciated by lots.