Dec 28, 2006

Favourite Films of 2006

If it is at all possible I try to see one film a week during the course of the year. You could say my type of film is one that is well written, with strong characters, hopefully not star driven and relying on action sequences or special effects. Sometimes the plot to me is secondary to the richness of the characters presented. I particularly like large ensemble casts and do prefer something that is unpredictable or unconventional. If a film was directed by Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson or Hal Hartley there is a fair chance I will like it. So to my 10 favourite films of 2006. It was very difficult to narrow it down to ten, I had to leave out films I enjoyed such as "A Prairie Home Companion", "Flags of Our Fathers", "Junebug", "Walk the Line", "A Scanner Darkly", "Fast Food Nation", "The Wind That Shakes the Barley", "Tristram Shandy", "The Departed", amongst others. Also half of these films were released internationally in 2005, but of course they didn't reach our shores until this year. I have left "Babel" off this list, as I have only just seen it and I would like more time to ruminate on it. I would say there is a fair chance it will appear on next year's list.

1. The Squid and the Whale, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Now I may concede that there were important films released this year, dealing with bigger matters, but no movie gave me more enjoyment then this one. The story of a Brooklyn family tearing itself apart, it is as once darkly funny and heartbreakingly tender. Jeff Daniels and the magnificent Laura Linney have never been better. Based on the director's own experiences as a teenager, I think this gives it the human element that makes it so special.

2. Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee.
Now "Crash" was a good movie but this should definitely have won the Oscar. Centred around 2 terrific performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie is incredibly moving about a love that no one is allowed to speak of. Rewarding on every level the journey these men take will leave you enriched and touched at once. The cinematography is truly spectacular as well. Oh and if I hear one more "Brokeback" joke I will throw up, people grow up.

3. United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass.
A movie that had to be made outside Hollywood, no recognisable stars made you concentrate on the film instead. I shudder to think of Bruce Willis leading the passengers revolt. Everyone knows the story and I can understand some people not wanting to see it. But as a piece of verite cinema you will not find better. The cast are truly special and the tension built up in the film will leave you speechless for the final 20 minutes.

4. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by Tommy Lee Jones.
Mr Jones' directorial debut was a surprising delight of 2006. He has crafted a richly rewarding tale of justice, friendship and revenge set on the Texas-Mexico border. Eschewing all forms of stereotype, it is a modern day western that retains the human touch. This film for me managed to get better from beginning to end, by which I wanted to see more. Barry Pepper has never been better as the border patrolman who learns a very valuable lesson.

5. The New World, directed by Terrence Malick.
My favourite film of all time is "The Thin Red Line", the director's previous, his take on the futility of war and the folly of man. So any new film from Mr Malick should be treasured. Dismissed by some as too slow or impenetrable, I found the story of Pocahontas and John Smith to be endlessly fascinating and at times breathtaking. A Malick film will normally not concern itself with plot but focus on the characters instead. A breath of fresh air in the glib world of Hollywood franchises, if you are looking forward to Spiderman 3, this isn't probably for you.

6. Little Miss Sunshine, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
Everyone who I have spoken to seems to have loved this gem of a movie. A family, literally on a journey, the characters are so richly drawn it is hard not to love this film. Toni Collette and Steve Carell are particularly outstanding as brother and sister trying to make sense of the drama encircling them. At times extremely funny it still manages to tug at your heart without ever resorting to cliche. Oh yeah, the soundtrack features Sufjan Stevens and Devochtka.

7. Capote, directed by Bennett Miller.
Three words, Philip Seymour Hoffman, are enough for this film to make my final list. His performance is truly stunning. In portraying the iconic writer Truman Capote he shows why is quite possibly the finest actor on the planet today. He actually makes Capote quite an unsympathetic character but it is impossible to take your eyes off him.

8. The Road to Guantanamo, directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Part drama, part documentary, this is a must see for all those concerned with the state of our world. The true story of 3 British Men of Pakistani heritage wrongfully imprisoned after their capture in Afghanistan is as close as you will get to a real life experience on the big screen. I came away feeling angry and yet inspired by the courage showed by the men involved. Michael Winterbottom is not only prolific but also the most versatile director working today.

9. Jindabyne, directed by Raw Lawrence.
For me this was the best Australian film released this year. Powerful, mature and multi layered it managed to depict a slice of Australian life in a true and moving way. A story of deception that ultimately tore a small town apart, it featured wonderful performances from the entire cast. Laura Linney was her usual great self but John Howard and Deborra Lee-Furness have never been better. The cinematography was special as well.

10. Syriana, directed by Stephen Gaghan.
Now this was a Warner Bros movie, with an all star cast, but thankfully due to George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's involvement it turned out to be a thought provoking and intelligent affair. The story of international espionage and oil dealings is very prescient for these times.

5 Comments:

  • At December 28, 2006 , Blogger Oz said...

    I recommend Brick for this year if you haven't already seen it and the Devil and Daniel Johnson is a great music doco.

    The Science Of Sleep looks good.

     
  • At December 29, 2006 , Blogger James said...

    Great list mate. I'll post my Top 5's for the year soon but a lot of those end up on my list.

     
  • At December 29, 2006 , Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

    Nice list. Squid and the Whale was my favorite movie last year. Startlingly good stuff. You should check out the Departed when it comes down under. It was shockingly great.

     
  • At December 29, 2006 , Blogger Wayne said...

    I enjoyed both Brick and Devil and Daniel Johnston. They would have made a top 20 i think.

    Same goes for The Departed, saw it recently, a definite return to form for Scorsese, probably had it at about 11 on my list.

     
  • At December 29, 2006 , Anonymous geoff said...

    I missed out on a lot of good ones this year. There's just not enough time with all this blogging bizzo and going to gigs! Out of the ones I've seen, really enjoyed Capote and Syriana..

    I'd include V for Vendetta and Children of Men to my top list too.. Looking forwards to Stranger Than Fiction. Go Britt!

     

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