Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Best Films of 2006...So Far

Some of my favorite bloggers recently posted mid-year roundups of their favorite music so far this year. I was inspired to do the same with film.

Bear in mind I haven't yet seen United 93, Art School Confidential, The New World, Slither, Why We Fight, The White Countess, Water or On A Clear Day. (Neither have I seen these, less likely to impress me much: Cars, The Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns, Nacho Libre, or Inside Man, all of which I do want to see eventually.) 2006 has been a disappointing year for film so far, as was 2005, but as always there are some gems to be found if you look hard enough.

1. The Notorious Bettie Page - Add to My Queue
This movie isn't the striptease you think it is. Although there is plenty of nudity (fearless nudity on actress Gretchen Mol's part), it is more beautiful than erotic. Sensitive, smart, and surprisingly sweet, this movie reminded me of my favorite film biography, Tim Burton's Ed Wood. It has surprising empathy and maturity, and I was blown away by the (queer) filmmakers' integrity in handling religious material. And the soundtrack is excellent. I'll certainly be buying this on DVD.

2. My Dad is 100 Years Old - Guy Maddin page
Though Maddin directed this short (16min.), it's just as much Isabella Rossellini's film. She wrote this thoughtful elegy to her famous father, Roberto, and she plays all the parts (including her parents). It incorporates memorable imagery (her father's belly, a reversal of the typical mother's pregnant belly) and offers a very original look at film history, placing Rossellini in the context of figures like Hitchcock and Selznick.

3. Three Times - Add to My Queue
Very reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love, 2046) yet completely in keeping with Hou Hsiao-hsien's previous work. Romantic, visually gorgeous, slow and moody with a great soundtrack. I'd like to see this again.

4. L'Enfant - Add to My Queue
The Dardennes bros. have done it again. This is one of their finest films, harrowing and artistically uncompromising.

5. Wordplay - Add to My Queue
A surprisingly entertaining documentary. It may not be inspiring like Spellbound--unless you count that craving to do a crossword puzzle you'll have for a week after seeing it--but the cast of characters is delightful and the energy and enthusiasm of the film are contagious.

6. Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story - Add to My Queue
Delicious postmodern treatment of a 18th century novel that seems quite postmodern in spirit. Lots of dry British humor. One of Winterbottom's better films.

7. An Inconvenient Truth - Add to My Queue
Just see it and decide for youself. It's fascinating and refreshingly intelligent. Everyone else has said this, but it's true: if only Gore had run his campaign like this, he might have--well, not only won (he did that), but triumphed. But maybe failure brought out the best in his character. We'll see what happens, for better or for worse.

8. Evil (Ondskan) - Add to My Queue
This school makes Lord of the Flies look like summer camp. The protagonist is no simple hero--he's something of a bully, in fact--but that layer of complexity makes the film more satisfying.

9. Friends with Money - Add to My Queue
It isn't Nicole Holofcener's greatest work, but it's very solid. The jury's out on Aniston's ability to command the big screen, but she's aided here by some incredible talents, including Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, and Simon McBurney in a breakout performance you're bound to enjoy.

10. Clean - Add to My Queue
Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte raise this drama about a recovering addict to a higher level. It's no Irma Vep, but it's worth a viewing.

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