Making movies. Enjoying movies. Remembering movies.
THE SCREENING ROOM
Let me preface this list by saying that I haven’t seen “Letters From Iwo Jima” yet. That seems like a problem. Then again, if it’s anything like “Flags Of Our Fathers,” I don’t think I have much to worry about. Regardless, here are my top ten films from 2006 which are not “Letters From Iwo Jima.”
10. CHILDREN OF MEN by Alfonso Cuaron
Cuaron has created a completely fleshed-out futuristic world with a level of skill and efficiency not commonly found outside of movies by Lucas and Spielberg. If the film took place in a contemporary setting, it would be a great achievement in realism. The fact that it takes place in a fictional time makes it even more impressive.
9. ROCKY BALBOA by Sylvester Stallone
This is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the year. The “Rocky” sequels have been nothing but a series of missed opportunities. Instead of putting character first, Stallone became trapped by his own formula and created one contrived scenario after another to get Rocky back in the ring. This movie follows that formula but is structured in a way that gives the story top priority and treats the fight as almost an afterthought. Not surprisingly, this makes the fight way more effective by giving the audience a reason to actually care about it.
8. BABEL by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
“Babel” is a much more ambitious yet refined picture than the other two films in Inarritu’s trilogy, “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams.” The movie tells four stories which are tied together loosely by plot but strongly by theme to show that the largest problem with global communication is the fact that nobody listens. It’s unapologetically bold in every way, from its casting to its editing. Not only one of the most complex films of the year, but also one of the most skillfully constructed.
7. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED by Kirby Dick
In this documentary, Dick reveals that the Motion Picture Association of America is even more evil than it appears to be. It’s very informative and loads of fun as the filmmaker infiltrates the all-powerful cultish entity and uses its ridiculous system to his advantage.
6. THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE by Mary Harron
More than anything else, this movie captures the spirit of the real-life Page’s persona. It’s shameless fun from beginning to end. Gretchen Mol returns from the dead with a performance which makes us wonder where she’s been all these years.
5. THE DEPARTED by Martin Scorsese
While not nearly as good as Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s “Infernal Affairs,” “The Departed” is a satisfying remake. Most of the changes are ill-conceived, but the premise is bulletproof and the performances given by the huge cast of stars are riveting.
4. SUPERMAN RETURNS by Bryan Singer
A character as iconic as Superman deserves a movie like “Superman Returns.” It’s a nice throwback to the blockbuster films of the Seventies; as epic as Richard Donner’s 1978 movie, but without the ham and cheese. Singer makes an interesting choice in assuming that the audience is intimately familiar with the mythology. This allows him to skip the origin and tell a story which, ultimately, is far more interesting.
3. CASINO ROYALE by Martin Campbell
Whether or not Daniel Craig is the best James Bond of all-time can be debated, but “Casino Royale” is certainly the best Bond film ever made. The series gets a much needed reboot with this surprisingly faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s brilliant novel. Where it deviates, the groundwork is laid for the mythology which hopefully will be built on in future installments.
2. CLERKS II by Kevin Smith
Smith, who has yet to make a bad movie, revisits his original characters to give us his most mature film to date. Instead of retreading old territory with another typical day-in-the-life comedy, Smith picks up the story ten years down the road at a pivotal moment in the lives of Dante and Randal. It’s a fascinating allegory for the director’s own career, and a poignant look at two beloved characters.
1. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III by J.J. Abrams
Where the first film in the series focused on a plot so complex that explaining it left no time for action, and the second film focused on so much action that the story was written around the set pieces, “Mission: Impossible III” is the best of both worlds, giving us the most compelling story thus far along with the most visceral action the franchise has seen. The movie also works on a few meta-textual levels. In an era where most franchises use sequels as a way of advancing a much larger story, the “Mission: Impossible” series presents variations on a theme, with each installment showcasing the unique talent of a different filmmaker. The result is a very interesting study of what the director’s influence is on the making of a movie. Similarly, “Mission: Impossible III” acts as a companion piece to Abrams’ TV spy series, “Alias.” There are a surprising number of parallels between the two works, and where they differ speaks to the strengths and weaknesses of the two media they represent. “Alias” is much more character-driven, while “Mission: Impossible III” offers a much larger scope.
So there’s 2006 in a nutshell. What’s to look forward to in 2007? One word. “Grindhouse.”
Mike Schindler is a projectionist who took too many critical studies classes in film school. He lives in Chicago.
© 2007 Mike Schindler. All rights reserved.
IMAGES: Universal Studios; Columbia Pictures/Revolution Studios/MGM; IFC; Warner Bros. Pictures; Paramount Pictures; Weinstein Company; Paramount Vantage; Picturehouse; Sony Pictures
Copyright 2004-2007 From Script To DVD. All rights reserved.
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