The Santa Clause 4: The Title-Rentention Clause

Was 2006 a great year for movies? Well, it was no 1995. Where was 2006's Sudden Death? Its Virtuosity? Maybe I don't know because I spent a quarter of 2006 in England, a country where Judge Dredd is just starting to make the rounds. So I've missed some notables, such as Volver, The Last King of Scotland and Pan's Labyrinth. Since I only spent 3/4 of 2006 in the civilized world, I am only going to offer 3/4 of a top ten.

THE TOP 7.5 OF 2006:

1. The Departed
2. United 93
3. Inside Man
4. Children of Men
5. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
6. The Prestige
7. Wordplay
7.5 The Queen (I saw the first half on a plane)

Better than I thought it would be:


Worse than I thought it would be:

13 (Tzameti)

About as good as I thought it would be:

Lucky Number Slevin

Eric Hoyt's Best Films of 2006, or Another Damn List


The Top 10 Films of 2006

1. Children of Men
2. L'Enfant
3. United 93
4. The Queen
5. Volver
6. Letters From Iwo Jima
7. Iraq in Fragments
8. Borat
9. Mutual Appreciation
10. The Departed

* Apocalypto
* Deliver Us From Evil
* Marie Antoinette
* Old Joy
* Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

Movies 2006: No Time! There's Never Enough Time!

Jessie: "No time! No time! There's never enough time!"
Zack: "C'mon Jessie! You have to sing!"
Jessie: "Sing? Sing? I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so...scared!"

Time's been a bitch this year, and based on seeing others' lists/commentary/etc., I think I missed a lot. In lieu of using some sort of back-in-time powers, here's a few I liked this year.

Best Movie I Never Want to See Again
United 93

Best Movie That Fucks the Cynicism Away
Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Best "Thinking Sucks" Movie
Miami Vice

Best French Movie That Looks Like it Came Out in the 1960s (No, not you - have a seat Mr. Army of Shadows)
13 (Tzameti)

Best Movie That Will Be Remembered As Scorsese's Scent of a Woman
The Departed

Best Clint Eastwood Movie Since Unforgiven
Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Laugh-Out-Loud-And-I-Don't-Mean-Just-a-Smile-With-An-Appreciation-For-Wit Movie

Cinema Twilight: The Best of 2006

I title this column "Cinema Twilight" because it is my reluctant acknowledgment that movies seem very well to be in the twilight of their relevance. As Cosmodrome's panel extrapolates on the cinematic year that was, starting with a declaration of our Top Ten lists, I suspect what might drive some of our arguments will be what role films should play in an age when they can no longer lay a claim on the title of most cutting edge art form. Part of the problem has to be the fact that most of the great films of any given year go unseen. As cinema audiences dwindle, are films to be relegated to the same camp as all the traditional high arts that died (lost wide audiences) long ago? Or does this lack of relevance mean that the only thing to be gleaned from movies these days is entertainment, pure and simple? In short, how can cinema keep up with HBO's The Wire?



Day One (1/19/07): For Your Consideration

Day Two (1/22/07): Dystopia Has No Future

Day Three (1/23/07): Not THAT Bad


The 15 Best Films of 2006

2006 was a great year for film, as has been every year since 1878. In my opinion, if the year sees just one great film released, that makes it a great year for film.

Drum roll, please...

The 15 Best Films of 2006

15. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (Albert Brooks, U.S.A.)

14. Dreamgirls (Bill Condon, U.S.A.)

13. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, U.S.A.)

12. Volver (Pedro Almodovar, Spain)

11. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, United Kingdom)

10. The Puffy Chair (Jay Duplass, U.S.A.)

9. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, U.S.A.)

8. The Queen (Stephen Frears, United Kingdom)

7. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, U.S.A.)

6. Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski, U.S.A.)

5. L'Enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France)

4. Why We Fight (Eugene Jarecki, U.S.A.)

3. Letters From Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, U.S.A.)

2. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, U.S.A.)

1. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, U.S.A.)

Keep the reels turning.

The Death of Airplanes, Babies, Leftism, French Aristocrats, Ancient Mayans and, of course, Mr. Lazarescu

A year in cinema is only as good as the movies one gets to see. And this year I saw more movies than I have since 1996 (when I think I might have seen every movie that was released, including Sgt. Bilko, The Pallbearer, Celtic Pride and I'm Not Rappaport).

But here are the ones that made the top of my list ten years later, most of which are about death in one way or another...

1. United 93
2. The Proposition
3. Old Joy
4. L'Enfant
5. Battle in Heaven

Aside from its obvious distastefulness, this Italian or Spanish United 93 campaign is also sort of...awesome.

6. Miami Vice
7. 13 (Tzameti)
8. Marie Antoinette
9. Apocalypto
10. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

L'Enfant is one of the two films on my Top 10 that involves a cruel fate for a baby. The other is Battle in Heaven, in which a baby is (accidentally?) murdered, unseen. Apocalypto, on the other hand, delivers a more optimistic baby scenario.

The Player


Up until yesterday, I'm pretty sure that Robert Altman was the most important living American film director.

If you go over to Europe, it gets cloudy, what with all of those obscenely old, partially to wholly blind auteurs who are somehow still making movies (Antonioni, Godard, Bergman, Resnais).

But here in the States, we breed our own form of filmmaker with his/her own form of contributions. Altman was that rare distinctly American filmmaker who introduced a style. Sure, he learned the rules of the game from The Rules of the Game, but there were very few other films (from Renoir or otherwise) that preceded Altman's virtuosic use of ensemble. And though it can be said that His Girl Friday or this or that Welles film feature actors talking over one another, it was not until Altman that sound was so meaningfully manipulated. Now, not only did actors talk over one another, but conversations would flow into and out of each other on the soundtrack, usually very slowly and subtly, from the foreground and background of the image, creating the aural equivalent of what Bazin had discussed with relation to deep focus photography. Altman became the preeminent Aural Bazinian Realist.

Lars' Dogmas

Dogma 95 is nothing if not enigmatic. Among its contradictory elements are Dogma 95’s simultaneous rejection and embodiment of auteurism and its inconsistent and confusing attitude towards democracy and the public.

On the one hand, Dogma 95’s manifesto is an explicit challenge to New Wave and auteurism: “The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because of the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby . . . false! To DOGME 95 cinema is not individual!” This philosophy found its way into the Dogma Vow of Chastity’s tenth and final rule, which announced that “The director must not be credited.” In other words, Dogma films would renounce the possessory credit by banishing the director’s name from the credits.

The Simpsons Movie? How About The Simpsons Cinema!

"For the average consumers such as ourselves, television is virtually an anonymous medium."

Rosalind Coward

If there is a medium that fully realizes the ideas of postmodernism – the deconstruction of authorship, the dismantling of fixed meaning, the collapsing of high and low forms of culture into a completely undifferentiated vacuum of Mass Art, and the championing of irony – it must be television. For some of these very reasons, television is only of partial interest to me. It is not the medium that I love, but it is a medium from which, I believe, cinema can learn.

The Simpsons has become the longest-running situation comedy in television history, and for good reason. Like many television series, The Simpsons has created its own universe that seems to exist, whether we are watching or not. Jeffrey Sconce confirms this with the concept of the “haunted TV,” the unique electronic presence of which suggests “that even after a program is over and the receiver [is] turned off, the television set itself still loom[s] as a gateway to oblivion simply by sitting inert and watchful in the living room.” Though this characteristic is most acutely realized with serialized television, it was also true of classic Hollywood movies. Read on...

Harvey Scissorhands

If there has been one ego to overshadow those of recent American film directors it is that of Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein’s legacy will be his almost obsessive penchant to interfere in his director’s projects, most notoriously and emblematically re-cutting the pet-opus of America’s most prominent auteur, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was the one New Hollywood filmmaker who had escaped the bloated ambition and consequential downfall that befell his contemporaries. Cimino, Coppola, Altman, Polanski, Beatty, Bogdanovich, Spielberg and Friedkin had all made their epic flop by the mid-1980s. Scorsese had already conceived of his by 1977, but he did not get around to making it until 2002. It was Gangs of New York. Read on...

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