Criticism

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?

-Jeff

THE DISCUSSION:

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 LISTS:

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.

So Much Dancing and Singing in the Streets - World Cup Soccer on US TV


Can we talk about the TV coverage of the World Cup for a moment?

The World Cup, as it seems, is a pretty big deal, and TV is a big part of why it’s great. Germany’s fairly hospitable time zone for US viewing (in comparison to those nightmarish early-AM matches from the Far East in ’02) and the fact that the Teutonic sun stays out until about 9:45PM this time of year means that live games can be seen all day on the ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 family.

We all know about the difficult time soccer/football has had here in the US for any number of reasons (Is it OK to call it soccer? Too pretentious to call it football?) and I’m not even going to get into that discussion. But as a casual fan and admirer of the beautiful game who has watched something like 12 hours of soccer on TV in the last three days, I’ve noticed a few things about how this game is presented to the US.

As Bono (of course) so eloquently puts it in ESPN’s promotional spots for the Cup, “It’s a simple thing, a ball and a goal.” He then reminds us that once every four years, this simple thing closes shops, stops wars, changes the world, does more than politicians ever could, and so on. These spots were the opening salvo in ABC/ESPN’s campaign to bludgeon its viewers repeatedly with soccer’s profound importance in the world. ...more

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...

Will Reggaeton Find a New Beat?

The weather around Cosmodrome HQ has been getting warmer as of late and that means only one thing: Reggaeton. Apartment windows open up, car windows roll down, and soon all the streets are filled with crashing waves of Latin dance music that had been formerly concealed by winter weather. Don't get us wrong, we're into Reggaeton - it makes us feel all woozy inside. (And I'm embarrassed to admit what it makes my thighs want to do.) But after a quick look at the history of Reggaeton, it seems that it began in the late 90s and only becoming widely known after "Gasolina" rocked TRL and your local disco. Given that reggaeton is past its infancy, we must ask: Why, after being around for so many years it hasn't progressed past the same (unbelievably dope) DUM beDUMbum beat (called Dem Bow) in every one of its songs?

Since June is proclaimed by Cosmodrome to be Reggaeton Awareness Month, we've decided to preview for you the PSA that the Cosmodrome PAC has put together and will hopefully run constantly on every channel across this country.

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...

The 9/11 Trope

I have seen very few of my favorite movies in the theater. This is just one of the realities that young cinephiles must accept. Even when I go see Chinatown or Blue Velvet in repertory cinemas, it isn't the first time I'm seeing those films. A lot of the magic happens on DVD.

United 93 gave me a magical theatrical experience, the likes of which I can only remember feeling twice in recent memory (Requiem for a Dream and Birth).

Going in to the Tribeca premiere, my expectations were occupied by the questions the trades have all been asking about the film: "Are audiences ready for a movie about 9/11?" and "How tasteful will the film be?" For me, the answer to both of these questions has to do with how "definitive" the film attempts to be - if it achieves the status of being the "definitive" 9/11 movie, then audiences are probably more likely to accept it. At the same time, it is precisely that aim for "definitiveness" that strikes me as distasteful.

Though the extra-textual United 93 marketing campaign will self-righteously try and paint the film as "the definitive 9/11 movie" (as Paramount will try to do later this year for Oliver Stone's World Trade Center), United 93 itself manages to avoid such self-importance in at least three ways. Read on...

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