2006 in Film: Parting Shots

Dispensing first with the standard among the year’s top-10 lists – The Departed, with a cast-list that amounts to an embarrassment of riches, and a return to familiar, brutal territory, you would expect Scorsese to better his source material (Infernal Affairs) at almost every turn, and that he did – save for the closing act, which was quite literally, brainless.

Largely ignored in most year-end lists, was Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble released too early in the year? Or is it notable only for it’s simultaneous release to theaters and DVD? On a budget that probably couldn’t sustain The Good German’s craft services, Soderbergh makes quiet statements about the nobility of work, while handling the all-amateur cast and rural locale with a far-less patronizing touch than another recent release that traced some of the same lines, Phil Morrison’s critically celebrated Junebug (2005).

A Scanner Darkly, The Fountain, and critical lightning rod Marie Antoinette all scored points for their grandiose visual charm, only to fail to provide proper plot development and substance with equal measure. The three are worth at least a cursory viewing, if only for a general road map for where the current class of taste makers are heading. I can’t help but fault Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep with suffering from the same woes, but the cardboard and crocheted dream sequences in the director’s post-Charlie Kaufman era stick as the high mark of invention this year, as far as eye-candy for eye-candy’s sake.

Quality comedies seemed to be in short supply, though Fernando Eimbcke’s Duck Season stands out as a Mexican coming-of-age import that manages to keep the sugar-sweet cuteness in check. Not that anyone ever walked out of Talladega Nights feeling any smarter, but you will see John C. Reilly more than hold his own in tandem with Will Farrell, matching his improvisational bursts blow for blow. Doing more with less was the other “road-trip in a bus gone awry” comedy The Puffy Chair, warts and all, worthy of a second viewing over big brother – Little Miss Sunshine, whose caricatures seemed to be assembled using indie-quirk mad-libs.

Todd Field’s Little Children offers one of the best takes on suburban ennui since American Beauty, while flying somewhere below the Oscar radar. Former Bad News Bears child star Jackie Earle Haley returns to the screen after a thirteen year absence to deliver one of the year’s genuine creep-out performances.

Best foreign offerings (that were available to Northwest audiences): Clean, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Volver, plus Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, recommended for any In the Mood for Love era Wong Kar-Wai fans.

In what essentially is an escort mission from point a to point b, the “sci-fi” film tag on Children of Men is unwarranted for a “world is fucked” scenario so simple and unfortunately, plausible. An eye-rolling lapse in the final few seconds is fair trade-off for the surprisingly funny moments (most often provided by the brilliantly cast Michael Caine), the breadcrumbs of hope, and a one-take battle sequence, fifteen or so minutes long, that would cause Spielberg to shake his fist jealously in Alfonso Cuarón’s general direction. With the impression still fresh in my mind, if I had to point to any one film for best-of distinctions, this is it.

Also notable: 49 Up, Babel, Cavite, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, For Your Consideration, Inside Man, Scoop, Stranger Than Fiction, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Not yet seen: L’enfant, The Queen, Mutual Appreciation, Old Joy

Posted by Ted Zee on December 31st 2006 | Home Page | 4 Comments Subscribe to this site's feed

4 Responses

  1. spencer Says:

    agreed on almost all points, but 1995?

  2. spencer Says:

    oh, and for your consideration was all bitter, no funny.

  3. Ted Z. Says:

    Junebug – 2005. Check. Thanks Spencer.

  4. вуз Says:

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