Landmark Theatres Suck
Here is my lame-bot top 9 films of the year. It seeps of such sadness because the "indie/world" theatres in Denver suck. Case in point, Little Miss Sunshine is STILL playing at the Mayan (it has been there since July). The Queen is still at the Chez Artiste (it has been there since October). There is the Starz Film Center, but it's so damn expensive I never get to go. I actually miss Ft. Wayne because of the cinema center. Plus, most of the movies I watch are old, not new, so I will later publish my top 25 new/old films, and it will be much better. So here's my top 9 of what I was able to see.
TOP 9 FILMS OF THE YEAR
1. Three Times by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Yes I am totally cheating right off the bat. This was released in 2005, but it never came to Denver. So I had to wait for it to come out on vids IN 2006 and it was easily the best movie of the year. I don't have sweet amazing abilities like Paco, but I know that as of May he hadn't seen this yet either, so I feel justified in including it. I don't know what to say about it because words cannot come even close to doing it justice. If you're familiar with Hsiao-Hsien, you will know that this is true. There is no way to describe his beautiful and subtle story-telling. You can't do it. Not the general you, but you, the person reading this right now, cannot do it. I defie you.
2. The Cave of the Yellow Dog by Byambasuren Davaa. Ever since I saw Mongolian Ping-Pong I have been in love with Kiddie movies from Mongolia. This is another one. This is also recorded as 2005, but it came to Denver in 2006. That's my story. And this story is simple, touching and beautiful.
3. The Last King of Scotland by Kevin Macdonald. This was totally in my face. The ethical implications and moral questions it raised were about as subtle as the symbolism in Jean Cocteau's Orphee (namely, not subtle at all). But they were still really good questions. In the tradition of Fernando Meirelles, Macdonald forces us to think in a pretty direct way how our indifference to oppression in the two-thirds world is detrimental to the alleviation of said suffering. For this I am grateful.
3. Volver by Pedro Almodovar. I've never been a giant fan of Almodovar or Spanish Cinema in general. Maybe it's their proximity to France (one of the film capitals of the world) or perhaps it is that Bunuel set the bar too high and no one can live up to it now. I don't know. Regardless, this seemed to be El Ano de Pedro with the tour of Viva Pedro (five of his earlier films) as well as the theatrical release of Volver. The reason it made the list is that I think it is a step in the right direction for Almodovar. It lacks his usual reliance on suspense and thrill. There is still the annoying supernatural crap that is always there (kind of like why I hate Orphee), but it worked in this case. It is stripped down with gentle and compassionate dialogue and story movement. Not a masterpiece at all, but it is progress.
4. Little Miss Sunshine by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. I know. I'm sorry. I can't help myself. Many people think this was the most over-rated film of '06. '06's Napolean Dynamite. Here's my theory. There is an emerging New Wave in America that is taking its cues from the French New Wave. There are a number of films over the last 5 years that are minimal and quirky, mostly centered on the nature of family dysfunction. Things largely kicked off with Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums and have progressed with Noah Baumbach's The Squid and The Whale and continues with Little Miss Sunshine. I would give you more examples but I can't remember right now. Anyway, this is a trend I like. Little Miss Sunshine is the weakest of these, but it is among them. Plus Dwayne is totally Josh Fortney and auto-bonus points for using Sufjan Stevens (especially because this could be a stretch, but when they cut to Frank, it's right at the part when Sufjan would be singing "I've made a lot of mistakes" and then cuts away, if it wasn't instrumental. If that was intentional it is totally sweet)
5. The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky. This would have been lower if it would have enjoyed greater commercial success (yes, I'm petty). It also seems a bit coincidental that there are 'three times' that are addressed in the film. Ripoff city. But this time it's not just the same actors, but the same characters as well. Hsiao-Hsien times two. But as usual, Aronofsky is super-odd in both his story-telling and dialogue. It also raises some goodies about mortality and crap.
6. Sweet Land by Ali Selim. Charming as hell. That's all that needs to be said. Not Amelie charming, but charming nonetheless.
7. Running with Scissors by Ryan Murphy. This had to make the list out of respect to Augusten Burroughs. Anytime there is a book-to-film adaptation of a book you love, it can't meet your expectations (c.f. Everything is Illuminated). This was also the case here. There's always great stuff that is left out, and it's never the way you picture it in your brain. Despite all this, Running with Scissors did much to approach my expectations, and because I figured it would be lower than my expectations, it thereby exceeded my expectations. Casting notes: Joseph Cross as Augusten was brilliant. Gwyneth Paltrow as Hope was a bad move in my book. Maybe if they dyed her hair black. Hope has black hair in my brain.
8. Wondrous Oblivion by Paul Morrison. I'm a major sucker for uplifting films with British kids in them (Billy Elliott, Dear Frankie). Plus there is some sweet overcoming racism action. Not exactly great film-making, but it's a heart-warming romp.
9. Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo del Torro. I didn't get to see this yet. It's only in NY/Chi circulation. But it's an adult fairy tale. This reminds me of Roald Dahl's adult fiction, which is phenomenal. I realize it is a punishable offence to put a movie on here I haven't seen. I have no excuses. So, number nine only because it makes me think of Roald Dahl.
There you have it. Paco's list will rule the hell out of mine. I did a lot of old-timey watching this year.