Friday, January 26, 2007

Smokin' Aces

Seraphim Falls

(The ritual mangling of my last paragraph is back in season, it seems.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Top 10 of 2006

All right, nobody cares about this anymore, least of all me, but for posterior’s sake here it is. I’d been reserving a spot until I could see Inland Empire last night, but it turns out that wasn’t necessary. I’m a David Lynch die-hard, but I think he’s finally made a movie that defeated me. Well, there was Dune, but that suffered from lack of creative control while Inland Empire suffers from too much. To wit, I’m not thrilled about Lynch’s love affair with the POS-1000 or whatever his new digital camera is called. Sure, it’s great that he can shoot when and where he pleases, but that freedom seems to have overpowered his internal editor. I just don’t think he was finished cooking this one before serving it, and as a result Empire plays more like a rough draft for Mulholland Drive than a follow-up to it.

Worse, the fuzzy visual quality prevented me from fully immersing myself in Lynchland the way his dreamlike filmed images allow, and this is a movie that badly needs that kind of immersion – it’s not like you’re going to get caught up in the tightly wound Swiss watch of a plot (although a watch is involved). There are certainly individual scenes and moments to treasure – creepy Grace Zabriskie, dancing Polish hookers, Harry Dean Stanton borrowing money – but I found myself getting irritated as the movie went on at punishing length, and that shouldn’t happen.

At least, I think that’s how I feel. As with much of Lynch, I’ll need to give it another viewing to know for sure – sometimes these things just click into place the second time around. And at least the man himself was present and in his usual endearingly daffy form for the Q & A.

Anyway, onward with the picture shows:

1. United 93 I skipped this one in the theaters, mainly because all the hand-wringing over whether or not the movie should have even been made kind of got in the way of me finding out anything about the actual quality of said film. And I’m glad I did wait to see it from the safety of my own couch, because this is some visceral filmmaking right here. My personal horror of air travel has little to do with terrorism and much to do with the mind-numbing tedium of it all, and Paul Greengrass captures that aspect as well, which makes the eventual climax even more shattering. A must-see…but probably only once.

2. The Departed It’s pretty absurd that this is the movie that will most likely win Martin Scorsese his long-coveted Oscar, but these are the people who rewarded Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas, so whaddaya expect? The Departed isn’t in that league – it’s more like Scorsese putting his legions of imitators in their place by crafting a spectacularly entertaining crime epic. It’s rich with Boston atmosphere, boasts a handful of fine supporting performances (most notably the justly nominated Mark Wahlberg as a perpetually pissed-off statie cop), an exhilarating pace that never feels frantic, and, what the hell, “Gimme Shelter” again. I’m also pretty sure it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s still probably the only movie on this list I could go see again right now with no regrets.

3. A Scanner Darkly Richard Linklater applies the Waking Life animation technique to a Philip K. Dick story and comes up with an engrossingly weird cross between Slacker and The Matrix. Not for everybody.

4. LoudQuietLoud This documentary on the Pixies reunion tour is a bit like the alt-rock version of the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster; rather than talking endlessly about their problems and hiring high-priced psychologists, the dysfunctional band members mostly seethe, self-medicate and ignore each other. Yet they still tear it up onstage.

5. A Prairie Home Companion The sentimental favorite. It’s hard to imagine common ground between Robert Altman and Garrison Keillor…until you actually see this elegiac slice of faux-Americana and discover that somehow or another, it works. One last wisp of alchemy from the master.

6. Thank You for Smoking Maybe not the most subtle satire ever crafted, but it has a top-notch supporting cast and I laughed a lot. What do you want from me? I’m already running out of steam here. Am I at #10 yet?

7. The Prestige Of the two old-timey magician movies in 2006…this is the one I saw. (The other one is in my Netflix queue.) And somewhat to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Christopher Nolan’s sleight-of-hand kept me engaged, Scarlett Johansson wore a variety of cleavagy outfits, and even if the big twist was something of a cheat, I give it credit for sheer chutzpah.

8. Darwin’s Nightmare This documentary on the ecological damage wreaked by the introduction of a predatory fish into Tanzania’s Lake Victoria is a raw, brutal piece of work that left me thoroughly depressed. It would make a good double feature with…

9. Wordplay A light, inconsequential documentary that left me thoroughly delighted. It’s a movie about crosswords that is itself assembled in a puzzle-like manner, and so good-natured it makes even Bob Dole and Mike Mussina likeable.

10. Jackass Number Two I’m putting this one in the Borat slot, not because I’m one of these people with a vendetta against Kazakhstan’s finest, but because I got more laughs per minute from the Jackass gang, and I appreciate that they reserved the lion’s share of the humiliation for themselves rather than unsuspecting rubes.

So…hardly worth waiting for, but there it is.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Hitcher

Flannel Pajamas

Yes, I'm back from Vegas, where the current odds are 100:1 that I will post my 2006 Top 10 by the end of the week.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yeah, I thought I'd have my best of 2006 done by now, too. But I'm off to Vegas tomorrow, so it won't be up anytime soon. I vow to finish it before February! Meanwhile, I forgot to link to this one, which has appeared on many a list but won't be on mine:

Letters from Iwo Jima

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Courtesy of our man Hayden at From Here to Obscurity, here is a two-minute version of The Wicker Man. I can think of way too many movies that would be improved by this treatment:

Friday, January 05, 2007


2007 look-ahead

I know it's bad form to have a 2007 preview out before I've even done my 2006 wrap-up, but I've got a couple late contenders to catch this weekend, so nyah nyah nyah.

[EDIT: Oopsy - fixed the link on the look-ahead.]

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Painted Veil

Year-end wrap-up coming soon...