Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

06 January 2007

You'd have a happy life if you did the things you like.

2006 was not a stellar year for movies, at least not those within my purview. Although I remain as fanatical a cinephile as ever, the pickings were slim this time around. And then there was the financial factor: for the cost of two evening shows in a movie theater, I could get a month's worth of Netflix DVDs -- up to roughly 25 shows, depending on how long they were and how quickly I watched them -- that I could savor with the aid of mind-altering chemicals, in my robe and slippers, reclining in a beanbag, free to recue and replay if I missed a key bit of dialogue (see Brick, below). No contest at all, which may be why I saw only 13 movies in theaters, while I saw 86 movies on video.

Even that isn't the whole picture, since -- for rather arbitrary reasons -- I decided some years ago to limit my record-keeping to feature-length films. If it looks like I was less of a beanbag potato than usual last year, it's only because the many hours I logged watching Lost, Deadwood and The West Wing were never tabulated. These series were as good as or better than most films I watched, but because of their format, they never made the lists.

Here're the lists, with a wee bit of commentary.

Movies I saw in theaters

A Scanner Darkly: **** 1/2
Richard Linklater's Waking Life was the first major film to make use of the interpolated rotoscoping technique of animation, and it was a solid success. Although A Scanner Darkly is not quite as important a film on its own merits, it makes better use of the technique -- which makes sense, considering the several years that Linklater & co. have had to refine their approach. The blurry limits of reality have been explored many times on film, but rarely have they been portrayed in such an essentially cinematic way.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit
Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
: ****
Considerably less obnoxious than the American version of Da Ali G Show, which veered wildly between subtle satire and infantile dick-waving. Sacha Baron Cohen provided a valuable public service with this hysterically funny mockumentary, not because he pissed off a bunch of small-minded people -- that's like shooting small-minded people in a barrel -- but because he showed a side of America that you'll never see in the news.

Brokeback Mountain: ****
An Inconvenient Truth: ****
Stranger Than Fiction: ****

Casino Royale (2006): *** 1/2
Transamerica: *** 1/2
V For Vendetta: *** 1/2

The Good Shepherd: ***
Nanny McPhee: ***
A Prairie Home Companion: ***
The Science of Sleep: ***
Wordplay: ***

Movies I saw on video

Ratcatcher: *****
Lynne Ramsay's first feature film is the story of a young boy's life in the slums of Glasgow during the garbage strike of the '70s, and if that doesn't sound like a rockin' good time, isn't. But I couldn't look away. I've rarely seen such ugliness portrayed so beautifully; every frame is a poem, and every nuance of every character rings true. It's painful, surprising, haunting, and totally original. Without question, a masterpiece. (Note: unless you were raised in Scotland, you'll probably find the dialogue 90% indecipherable without English subtitles.)

Brick: **** 1/2
Rian Johnson helms the best film noir since Chinatown, translating every cliché of the genre for a gritty, modern-day high school milieu. That kind of modernization can be handled poorly, as it has been in way too many "Shakespeare High" teenybopper flicks, but it's done masterfully here. The tone of this movie is something I don't think I've ever seen before: hardly realistic, and with plenty of mordant humor, but delivered with deadpan seriousness that is somehow self-aware without ever being self-conscious. The bubblewrap snap of the fast-paced, esoteric-slang-riddled dialogue had me replaying almost every scene three or four times to catch every detail, and then when the movie was over I immediately watched it a second time -- something I never do.

Angels in America: ****
Birth: ****
Blue Car: ****
Broken Flowers: ****
Un Chien Andalou (Andalusian Dog): ****
Dark Days: ****
Dogville: ****
Hamlet (1991): ****
The Hulk: ****
In Cold Blood: ****
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: ****
Kontroll: ****
Mad Max: ****
The Magdalene Sisters: ****
Murderball: ****
Murder On a Sunday Morning: ****
Persona: ****
Priest: ****
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: ****
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist: ****
Sound and Fury: ****
Step Into Liquid: ****
Sweet Smell of Success: ****
The Tin Drum: ****
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election: ****

After Hours: *** 1/2
Apt Pupil: *** 1/2
Badlands: *** 1/2
The Cat’s Meow: *** 1/2
Cheaters: *** 1/2
Chopper: *** 1/2
The Constant Gardener: *** 1/2
Das Boot: *** 1/2
Die Hard 2: Die Harder: *** 1/2
Elephant: *** 1/2
Escape From L.A.: *** 1/2
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning: *** 1/2
Heaven Can Wait: *** 1/2
House of Sand and Fog: *** 1/2
Jesus of Montreal: *** 1/2
Ju-On: The Grudge: *** 1/2
Little Miss Sunshine: *** 1/2
Match Point: *** 1/2
Millions: *** 1/2
Morvern Callar: *** 1/2
Noises Off!: *** 1/2
Paths of Glory: *** 1/2
Primer: *** 1/2
Rashomon: *** 1/2
Something Wicked This Way Comes: *** 1/2
The Straight Story: *** 1/2
The Times of Harvey Milk: *** 1/2
Vera Drake: *** 1/2
The Woodsman: *** 1/2

The Assassination of Richard Nixon: ***
Bus 174: ***
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party: ***
Divine Trash: ***
Door to Door: ***
Eight Men Out: ***
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: ***
The Fabulous Baker Boys: ***
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: ***
Guns, Germs and Steel: ***
Hell House: ***
How To Draw a Bunny: ***
In Good Company: ***
Inside Man: ***
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster: ***
MirrorMask: ***
Owning Mahowny: ***
Richard III: ***
Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic: ***
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold: ***
The Thin Red Line: ***
The Wild One: ***

The 39 Steps: ** 1/2
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: ** 1/2
Mississippi Burning: ** 1/2
Skinwalkers: ** 1/2

Bad Taste: **
Carrie (2002): **
Casa de los Babys: **
Embrace of the Vampire: **


Anonymous Myke said...

Lots of movies with high ratings. If you had to pick, say, a top half-dozen for those with less prodigious viewing appetites, what would it be?

I saw "Brick", that was probably my favorite of 2006. I thought "Scoop" was very funny, in a Woody Allen way.

Last question - why only *** 1/2 for Rashomon?

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you get much sleep in 2006?

2:45 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Sleep? Yeah, I like my sleep. That and eating and movies: pretty much all I need.

Rashomon: beautiful cinematography, ingenious ahead-of-its-time plot construction, and over-the-top, one-note acting by Toshiro Mifune -- and don't get me wrong, Toshiro will always kick ass, but this is not his finest hour -- and the female lead, whose name I forget, who spends the entire movie sobbing and wailing and gnashing her teeth. Yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of cultural nuance and significance I don't understand. Whatever. It was good, but it could have been a whole lot better.

Top Ten:

A Scanner Darkly
An Inconvenient Truth
Broken Flowers
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Sweet Smell of Success
The Tin Drum

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Regrettably) Many of these movies I have not seen or want to see. One question though; why only *** and a half for "Little Miss Sunshine?" A reason why you didn't like it?

10:13 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Welcome, dhani. I'll have to watch my language now! (Just like Tenacious D.)

I did like "Little Miss Sunshine", but I didn't think it was particularly remarkable. (Or remarkably particular, for that matter.) There were all these interesting characters thrown together for a road trip, but I felt like I never got a chance to know any of them half as well as I would have liked. Alan Arkin was great, but he only had a couple of lines. I wanted to know more about what circumstances led the teenager to Nietzsche and voluntary muteness. Why were the parents, each in their own way, so shallow? (What makes someone so insecure that they would choose to become a motivational speaker?)

Lots of unanswered questions, but I still had a good time. Like Napoleon Dynamite, the dance scene at the end was the best part.

6:46 AM  

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