Friday, December 22, 2006

An Army of Movies:
My Top 30 for 2006

Or maybe that should be an army of films, since I do tend to gravitate towards the art house. And this year, few big-budget spectaculars captured my imagination. Granted, I quite liked Déjà Vu, Casino Royale, and the underrated Superman Returns, but I wouldn't necessarily describe them as great.

As for why I compile a top 30 instead of a top 10, it's simply because I find 10 titles too restrictive, even if it's the end-of-the-year standard. I see a lot of fine films and want to recognize as many of them as possible. Anything beyond 30 seems like overkill, so I list most docs and re-releases separately. In other words, it's really a top 50, although I try to pretend otherwise...

Since I caught 300 films this year, my top 30 represents 10%. Unfortunately, that means I had to give the boot to the eminently enjoyable Russian Dolls and Wristcutters - A Love Story, because I couldn't find space for them. (The latter remains undistributed, which is a shame.)

Where possible, I've provided links to my Amazon and Siffblog reviews.

The Tops:
1. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville) [1969; first US release]
2. The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
3. Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt)
4. We Go Way Back (Lynn Shelton)
5. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden)
6. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
7. Inside Man (Spike Lee)
8. The Intruder (Claire Denis)
9. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
10. Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke)

Bonus: Click here for Lynn Shelton's Harvey Danger video. Band leader Sean Nelson served as music supervisor on We Go Way Back.

Runners-up:11. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom) [I actually caught this in 2005]12. The Queen (Stephen Frears)
13. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater)
14. Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry)
15. Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
16. Time to Leave (François Ozon)
17. Heading South (Laurent Cantet)
18. The House of Sand (Andrucha Waddington)
19. Lemming (Dominick Moll)
20. Friends With Money (Nicole Holofcener)

Note: Because I had to review it for Amazon, I watched The House of Sand twice. It holds up. The undeserved hostility directed towards Friends With Money sank a film I found more meaningful--if prickly--than Lovely and Amazing. As Cyndi Lauper, by way of the Brains, once sang, "Money changes everything." We're all obsessed with the almighty dollar, so why don't more filmmakers explore the issue? And I've said it before, but y'all slept on Dave Chappelle's Block Party. For shame!

Second Runners-up:
21. The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry)
22. Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski)
23. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu)
24. Little Children (Todd Field)
25. Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff)
26. C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée)
27. United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
28. Brothers of the Head (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe)
29. The History Boys (Nicholas Hytner)
30. Idlewild (Bryan Barber)

Note: I haven't seen Letters From Iwo Jima or Inland Empire, and it looks like I won't be able to until January. 12/28: By now, however, I have seen Children of Men and Dreamgirls--and liked both very much. Bill Condon and Alfonso Cuarón haven't let me down yet (granted, I haven't seen Cuarón's much maligned Great Expectations, but that's a conversation for another day...). Nonetheless, I'm leaving 'em off for now. To find a spot for even one means kicking something else to the curb, and that's a move I'm unwilling to make at the moment. Suffice to say, I wish audiences had embraced Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Idlewild as warmly as Dreamgirls. And as much as I admire Volver, a return to form after the misfire that was Bad Education, Pedro Almodóvar is coasting too much on his considerable charm. As for Babel, I think it's one of the most overrated films of the year. Excellent acting aside, there isn't much "there" there.

Documentaries:1. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)? (John Scheinfeld)
2. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig)
3. Darwin's Nightmare (Hubert Sauper)
4. Sketches of Frank Gehry (Sydney Pollack)
5. Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple
(Stanley Nelson)
6. Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Jonathan Demme)
7. Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
(Sam Dunn, Scot McFayden, and Jessica Joy Wise)
8. Heart of the Game (Ward Serrill)
9. Who Killed the Electric Car? (Chris Paine)
10. This Film is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick)

Note: I haven't seen Iraq in Fragments or Deliver Us From Evil. Who Is Harry Nilsson isn't currently available in any form. Once I've transcribed my interview with the extremely gracious Mr. Scheinfeld (The US vs. John Lennon), I'll create a link to it.

Re-releases1. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr)
2. Spirit of the Beehive
(Víctor Erice)
3. Classes Tous Risques
(Claude Sautet)
4. Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus)5. Mouchette (Robert Bresson)6. Camera Buff (Kryzstof Kieslowski)7. Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (Peter Whitehead)8. Love Streams (John Cassavetes)9. Brigitte and Brigitte (Luc Moullet)10. I Am Cuba (Mikheil Kalatozishvili)

Endnote: I reserve the right to tweak this entry before the end of the year. The titles aren't likely to change (much), though I may mess about with the order, with the exception of my number one picks, which are pretty solid. 12/26: I just made my first change, trading Spirit of the Beehive for Half Nelson (Spirit now replaces Damnation on the re-release list). How could I forget Half Nelson? Thanks to the poster who reminded me. Click here for my top 10s for 2003-2005. All images from the archives, which means I can no longer recall the original sources, but official sites are the most likely culprits. Titles: Army of Shadows, The Proposition, The Science of Sleep, Who Is Harry Nilsson, and Mouchette.


Anonymous said...

How could you omit AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH?

kathy fennessy said...

Because I haven't seen it. 300 may be a lot of films, but I still missed plenty of good stuff.

Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff ... I just loved Dave Chappelle's Block Party more than words can express, but I have to admit I'm with the masses in thinking "Friends With Money" was just a shallow mess .. but maybe it's just because I'm a certified dude

kathy fennessy said...

I think sometimes movies become indistinguishable from their subjects. There are some shallow people in "Friends With Money," but I don't think it's shallow in the slightest. That said, it's a particularly "female-centric" approach to the subject of money--as opposed to, say, "Wall Street" or "The Boiler Room"--i.e. what the lack of or abundance of disposable income can do to female friendships. Suffice to say, my male friends hated it, but they liked "Lovely and Amazing," which I found terribly overrated. I still haven't seen "Walking & Talking."

Anonymous said...

Wow! Words cannot describe how honored I feel that you included "We Go Way Back" on your list (and so high on it!) of illustrious films. Thanks, Kathy!

kathy fennessy said...

Every film on my list has an alter ego. Yours actually has two: "Old Joy," because it concerns a look at the past through a Northwest perspective, and "The Intruder," because it, too, refuses to sentimentalize past events or provide easy answers. And because I know how much you admire her. :-)

Anonymous said...

Very good list. I'm surprised that you didn't include Half Nelson. It's one of my personal favorites, and you praised it highly when you reviewed it.

kathy fennessy said...

You're absolutely right. That was a major oversight on my part. Thank you for reminding me. I have since revised my list (and noted the revision).