Brandon’s Ten Favorite New Movies of 2006

1. Children of Men

2. A Scanner Darkly

3. Slither

4. Princess Raccoon – joyous and musical and unbelievably strange

5. Brokeback Mountain – yes, I saw it in 2006

6. Borat!

7. The Fountain

8. A Prairie Home Companion

9. Shortbus

10. The Promise

You’ll have to click on the links to get more thoughts on the movies… took all my thoughts just to gather ‘em all here and put ‘em in order. Was much more impressed overall with the older movies I saw on video this year (see list below). The first two on this list were my “best of the year” and the others are just in place to fake a top ten. Better luck next year!

Honorable mentions to Guy Maddin’s and Isabella Rossellini’s My Dad Is 100 Years Old, John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, We Jam Econo, Joe Dante’s Homecoming, The Hills Have Eyes remake, The Science of Sleep, De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, Takeshi’s Takeshis’, Lady in the Water, and Miike’s Great Yokai War.

Brandon’s Twenty Favorite Old Movies of 2006

1. Black Narcissus – I enjoyed this so much that the review I wrote that night is raving nonsense. I did call it one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, so I’ll take my word for it.

2. The Double Life of Veronique – beautiful in a way that doesn’t even make sense… will have to see it again and again.

3. Spaced, season 1 – good thing I’m accountable to no one with my end-of-year lists, so I can put a TV series up here among all the movies. Watched the whole season twice, and I’d do it again… hilarious and brilliant.

4. Edvard Munch – such a powerful movie, it troubled my mind all year.

5. Scarlet Street – I almost want to lower its ranking to punish Fritz Lang for being so cruel to Edward G. Robinson. So very dark… best noir I’ve seen since Out of the Past.

6. F.W. Murnau’s Faust – c’mon, it’s Faust.

7. Moolaade – best movie on female genital mutilation I’ve ever seen.

8. Dazed and Confused – a good time, a very happy movie.

9. Tokyo Story – not as happy, but an emotional trip… gotta see more Ozu soon.

10. Kageroza – glad to see what Seijun Suzuki did during his “time off” from filmmaking.

11. Touch the Sound

12. The Philadelphia Story

13. Greed (The TCM reconstructed version)

14. La Strada

15. Wages of Fear

16. Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting – made the list as soon as the curator fell asleep and the disembodied narrator started whispering so as not to wake him.

17. Jean Renoir’s The Lower Depths

18. Petulia

19. Mr. Arkadin (corinth version) – Orson Welles in full-on crazy mode… a bunch of amazing scenes loosely stitched together with a ridiculous (and poorly dubbed) framing device. Too weird not to love.

20. Letter From Siberia

Honorable mentions to The Thief of Bagdad, The Newton Boys, Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge, the Judex silent serial, and Fritz Lang’s While The City Sleeps, among many others.

Brandon’s Top Ten Retrospective Screenings of 2006

1. Satantango at the Belcourt in Nashville with Jimmy and Trevor. Nice drive, nice theater, and the kind of movie that changes my feeling about movies.

2. Tales of the Tinkerdee and Handmade Puppet Dreams at the Center for Puppetry Arts – Heather Henson presents some of her father Jim’s early works, and some brand new shorts by indie filmmaker puppeteers

3. Bright Leaves at Agnes Scott. The movie was on DVD, but we got two Q&As by director Ross McElwee.

4. Viva Pedro! at the Landmark – six Pedro Almodovar movies in a week. Got to see Matador, Law of Desire, Talk to Her, The Flower of My Secret, All About My Mother, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and missed Bad Education and Live Flesh.

5. George Pal’s Puppetoons shorts at Lincoln Center with Justin and Trevor

6. Three Mira Nair movies at Emory with Katy, and a talk/Q&A with the director.

7. Pickpocket at Emory. It’s nice when an acclaimed classic lives up to its reputation.

8. Kill! at Emory. It’s nice when a movie I’ve barely heard of turns out to be a brilliant classic.

9. Warren Sonbert shorts at the Eyedrum. Another filmmaker I never would’ve heard about if not for local artist/programmer Andy Ditzler.

10. Spirit of the Beehive at Emory

Only an honorable mention allowed for 2046 at the High Museum since I’d just seen it three times last year.

Brandon’s Five Worst Movies of 2006

1. Kingdom of Heaven (director’s cut) – Not even its May 2005 release date can save this from being the worst movie of 2006.

2. Art School Confidential – The bit at the end – about how the only way to be a successful artist is to be a fraud (the cop) or a notorious killer (our protagonist) – wasn’t worth the whole misguided, hateful, unfunny journey.

3. Hostel – Couldn’t justify filling my head with nightmares of dangling eyeballs meeting power drills. I will be shocked if the revenge ending was supposed to be taken seriously… seemed so sloppy that it felt like a loving tribute to bad plotting.

4. Hellraisers 7 and 8 – I’d heard they were bad, I knew they’d be bad, I watched them anyway. Put the word “Hellraiser” on anything and I’ll watch it. At least they were bad/fun, hence only the number four slot.

5. The Yes Men – Such an obviously funny subject, and from the directors of American Movie. So why does it feel so dull and hastily-compiled? Most unexpectedly crappy movie of the year.

Dishonorable mentions go to Dance of the Dead (for being worse than the Hellraisers, but with lower expectations), The Leopard (for being extremely tedious), Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (for having the most ludicrous script and characters), and Walk The Line (for pointlessly hollywoodizing Johnny Cash’s life)

The Cameraman (1928, Edward Sedgwick)

Buster Keaton’s first film for MGM, and “first film BK made with a prepared script”. Silent. Unbelievably highly rated considering how lame it seemed to me.

Keaton costars with Marceline Day (60+ movies in a decade, stopped acting in ’33, lived till 2000). This is only a year after Sherlock Jr., The General and College, and just a few years before his career had completely devolved into junk like What, No Beer?. The beginning of the end for Buster!

So he “acts” in this one… he has facial reactions, falls in love, looks angry and sad and everything. No more blank faced humor. Scene in a pool changing room that was so long and obvious I started looking at the records on the wall instead of the movie. All sorts of trouble.

Keaton is a “tintype” photographer, charging for portraits on the street, when he meets M. Day. He follows her to the newsreel office where she works, trades in the tintype for an expensive (for him) ol’ beat-up movie camera. Tries to be johnny on the spot with the news, but can’t compete with the big fellas. So Day gives Buster a tip on the Chinatown riots, which Buster covers himself in the only great scene… putting himself in mortal danger with his accidentally acquired new pet monkey sometimes running the camera, making it all the funnier when the news fellas later see the footage and declare it the best camera work they’d ever seen. But first Buster has to be sadly disgraced and lose his girl to a showoffy strongman then he has to disgrace the strongman via a daring speedboat rescue, regaining the girl and securing a job at the news place. And everyone is happy except for the strongman (no girl, probably no job) and me (only two funny scenes, Buster losing his distinctive personality with no apparent gains). Not a waste of time or anything, don’t recommend against it, just sorta personally disappointing.

Sign on the door: “Ladie’s dressing rooms”

American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950, Fritz Lang)

Tyrone Power (very normal looking white guy who wouldn’t live another decade, also starred in Nightmare Alley) stars as the only American who can save the Philippines from the Japanese. Along with his loyal troops (buncha white guys) and a cute French girl whose father was killed by the dirty Japs (Micheline Presle, still alive, later in Sacha Guitry’s Napoleon, Rivette’s The Nun, Demy’s Donkey Skin and Fuller’s Thieves After Dark), Tyrone stays hidden long enough to set up communication lines, kill off some Jap soldiers and local traitors, and help out the good guys until General MacArthur arrives.

Fritz Lang directs, with no particular style or interest. Crazy-eyed actor Jack Elam was supposed to be in there, but I didn’t see him.

Movie had a story to tell and a side to take, and it set right to work telling that story and taking that side. Nothing more to tell. Glad I was able to tape it off cable and didn’t have to spend $20 hunting it down.

Count with me: thirty-three Fritz Lang movies down, four Fritz Lang movies to go.

The Great Yokai War (2005, Takashi Miike)

Would Katy have liked it? One day I hope to find out.

Kid has divorced parents, is picked Kirin Rider at an annual festival. Meets a red-faced guy, a cute gerbil muppet, and a hot naked girl:

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Kid must wield the legendary goblin sword and defeat the big evil guy (actor from Loft) and his hot girl assistant:

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Once we have our two opposing hot girls in place, the movie just cuts loose with nutty imagery:

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Awesomely disturbing children’s movie on the level of Neverending Story. Want to some day show this movie to actual children to warp them forever. Will have to narrate the japanese subtitles live, I guess, but it will be worth it. Me, I enjoyed every minute of this cruelly twisted flick.

Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuarón)

First good Julianne Moore movie since 2002. Has it been that long?

Apolitical gov’t flunkie Clive Owen is recruited by ex-flame Moore to help her gang of revolutionaries deliver the only known pregnant woman to a secretive humanitarian scientist group in a devastated and infertile future. The government is against him after he’s targeted as a terrorist, the revolutionary group is against him thinking the woman is better used to serve their own cause, even the undercover prison guard acting as his inside man turns against him. Clive’s only true friend is his old pot-smoking pull-my-finger hippie friend Michael Caine with a post-gov’t-torture braindead wife living out in the country.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Denzel’s partner in Inside Man) is the revolutionary leader after Julianne is killed, Claire-Hope Ashitey is Kee the pregnant woman, and actor/director Peter Mullan is Syd the prison guard.

The whole thing is extremely real. This future has so many intricate ties to our present, politically and socially, in little details scattered among the ruins. It’s all carefully drawn out to seem so real… then there’s the camerawork. Extremely long takes with an amazing amount of stuff going on during each one… stunts and effects and running steadicams, all shot by the guy who did The New World. As someone or other mentioned, the long shots help show you what’s at stake… no cuts to relieve the action, just follow Clive in his panic, showing us how much is at stake, how one slip will blow the whole game. So the movie sets up this real world, then plunks us in the middle of it.

And it’s grim, relentlessly hopelessly grim, dark and dreary, everyone against everyone else, no reason to keep living so they’re all out for their own self interest. It brings us down, down, down, leading up to this very hopeful Dead Man-reminiscent ending but with a great ray of hope, and since we’re so down, that ray of hope is brighter than I can remember seeing in any movie before. It’s Eternal Sunshine + Before Sunset caliber hope. The most positive and negative movie at once… completely thrilling and gorgeous and makes me cry just thinking about it. As someone else said, it’s scary how far ahead this film is over everything else I saw this year.

A couple of weeks later, I still can’t stop thinking about this one. Saw it again with Katy in the new year. It will probably end up as my favorite movie of 2007 as well as 2006.

The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese)

Arrrrgh, I should’ve known better than to trust this movie. A remake with insufficient imagination to justify its existence. A simple thriller with a lot of very good performances, that’s all. I’m probably wrong and it’s probably a Great Film, but I’m gonna go with my gut until proven wrong.

Let’s go: Martin Sheen is the police chief and Leo DiCaprio is his mole. Jack Nicholson is the ganglord and Matt Damon is his mole. Vera Farmiga is the psychiatrist girlfriend. Alec Baldwin is another police guy, and Marky Mark is Sheen’s assistant, one of Scorsese’s new characters.

So what’s different? The relationships with Vera are more developed – she’s marrying Matt and having an affair with Leo. Marky speaks for Sheen, spitting a stream of profanities at anyone in front of him. He kills Matt in the final scene as revenge for Sheen’s death. Most importantly, little things like taking the cellphone out of the evidence bag when Matt first calls Leo and having no recording gear in Leo’s arm cast when the gangsters bust it. Changes for the sake of changing things, removing memorable details that worked well in the original. I like the bit with the psychiatrist and the Marky Mark character – both help justify the longer running time of the remake – but they’ve stripped Leo’s close relationship with the cop boss, making the falling death from the building a lot less meaningful (except through Marky’s revenge bit). I especially don’t get that. I missed Chris Doyle’s cinematography and didn’t appreciate much of the music (especially the Comfortably Numb remake). The move to Boston worked well at least. A perfectly fine movie as long as I hadn’t loved the original. It’s my own fault that I did, I guess.