Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Best Movie of 2006?

Click the link.

I sat in a darkened cinema for what must have been nine and a half hours yesterday, not counting food- or herb-related breaks. AMC had all five best picture nominees showing the day before the Academy Awards are handed out. $30 got me admission to


The Queen

The Departed

Letters From Iwo Jima,


Little Miss Sunshine,

plus all of the fucking popcorn I could force down my gullet (I ended up eating one entire bag, during BABEL), a 32 oz. beverage (had one the whole day, Mr. Pipp), and the company of about 300 - 400 other people also interested in what the best films of 2006 are supposed to be. And since 2006 was not my best year for movie-attendance, I missed all but LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. I left after LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA ended, so I only got 4 movies and a shitload of junk food for my dollars...

...dollars rarely better spent! I loved getting 4 must-see movies into my brain in one day! Not that there wasn't any downside, three movies may be my limit for one day. LETTERS deserved more attention than I was able to sum up by the time it ran. My back is screaming this morning. I ate 14 pounds of crap, and only released about 2 pounds of it back into the environment (what, are my arms filled with popcorn and Mr Pibb now?)...

I guess I enjoyed a day of mass consumtion.

But it was great for comparing nominees.

BABEL was touching, much less of a downer than I had heard described. In fact, it may have been a bit overly sentimental at points. But it did evoke tears, as it tried to demonstrate that despite the things that separate us, we cannot escape the connection our shared humanity provides us. I don't know if mixing up the narrative worked to the effect the filmmakers intended.

THE QUEEN ends up being the movie among the Best Picture nominees that I liked best (but not my favorite film of 2006, which you know if you clicked the link). The acting, the writing, the cinematography are all exceptional, and the movie had a higher humor quotient that I expected. Helen Mirren will earn the best actress Oscar, there's little doubt, and she deserves it. The word that comes to my mind to describe her performance is effortless. This movie, LETTERS, and my choice for best film all have deep in their hearts the theme of duty, especially attending to duty after you've been defeated...

THE DEPARTED was a very entertaining, and well-acted. I really enjoyed the movie's sense of humor, rather twisted. The movie did not blow me away. I expect that DEPARTED will get best picture tonight, which isn't terribly problematic for me since the movie I liked best isn't nominated in the Best Picture catagory anyway (it did get an Best Director nomination, but we already know that Scorsese will be getting Best Director tonight for RAGING BULL and GOOD FELLAS); and I enjoyed DEPARTED plenty. I liked the nod to CAPE FEAR when Billy is doing those push-ups in his jail cell, ala Max Cady...

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA shows you the Japanese perspective on the Battle of Iwo Jima, a battle that we see the American perspective on in director Clint Eastwood's first release of 2006, and this film's companion, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. Didn't see it! Can't compare it! But if you did see it, you may realize watching LETTERS that you are now rooting for the other side. I am surprised that there haven't been any outcries calling Eastwood an "enemy sympathizer" They'd be utterly wrong, of course, but since when has that stopped someone with that point of view from speaking out? Humanity is well served by our own attempts to understand the people we don't agree with, so for that reason alone, LETTERS is one of the best films of 2006. I was getting pretty cranky and grumpy by the time this movie ended, so I may need to watch it again. This time, I won't watch it until after I've seen FLAGS. One thing I need to add is that I was a little disappointed at the effects showing the American forces arriving and landing at Iwo Jima. It looked like CALL OF DUTY to me.

I exited after the credits of LETTERS finished. I did not stay to see LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, because as in the case of UNITED 93, I watched it on DVD some weeks back. I thought it had funny moments, and the cast is exceptional, but ultimately I thought the movie was overrated, and I think it suffered for being labeled a comedy. I think it's a family drama with a lot of dark comedy. I may have enjoyed it more if that was I was expecting.

Another note I have to make: DREAMGIRLS is pretty much as good as any of the nominees...and Bill Condon was royally screwed, because it looks like he directed 2 of 2006's Oscar-winning supporting performances, not to mention one of the best films of the year.

And for my favorite movie of the year, UNITED 93? Well, I have to start by saying that anyone that is making a film related to the events of 9/11, has this huge built in advantage: American's shared memory of the events. Those images and sounds have so much power built into them, that there's a large responsibility attached to the handling of that subject matter. This is acknowledged in the choice of Oliver Stone to make not a political movie about 9/11, but a movie about one of its major rescue events. So the documentary-style approach of Paul Greengrass is perfect for the movie he has ultimately fashioned. For example, I recognized only one actor in this movie, Denny Dillon, she of DREAM ON. A result of his approach is a realistic day-to-day feeling of UNITED 93, until the days terrible events start playing themselves out. Because the actors are not recognizable, a second viewing of this movie is recommended. There's a lot I could say about this movie, but I just want to say this:

See it, no matter how you might dread the experience. If for no other reason, to see a great dramatization of America's very first response to the threat of Islamic terrorism. It is a fitting tribute.

Watch it again, because while the documenary approach annonymizing the characters works to the movie's benefit, a second watching helped me better understand the storyline.

BURRRPPP! Ahh, there goes some more Mr Pibb...

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Blogger Alex said...

Thanks for the reviews, and welcome back!

12:31 PM  
Blogger TRS said...

Thanks for continuing to check out my blog! I was ill Sunday, so it was easy to write for a little while...

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Mariel said...

Great work.

4:44 PM  
Blogger TRS said...

Thank you! I am flattered.

5:07 PM  

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