a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Halftime Report, or: A Feeble Attempt to Play Down A Bout of Rote Shameless Self-Promotion

Since everyone's doing their Top Ten-So-Far these days, why not? As you barely need telling, the real meat and potatoes -- or at least the award-friendly fare -- come out in the year's final third. I'd very much like to say eff that, brandish words like "pompous" and "sheep," etc. But I can't, not when a good portion of my favorites so far are actually holdovers from last year -- or worse, two years ago. Perhaps I'm the pompous sheep, or whatever. I don't pretend to know.

Anyway, here's my purely alphabetical list of not ten, but eleven favorite 2006 movies that I've seen (note: and I've already gone and switched a title or two around!):

Brick (Rian Johnson)
Clean (Olivier Assayas)
Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu)
Down in the Valley (David Jacobson)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck)
Inside Man (Spike Lee)
L'Enfant (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardennes)
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman)
The Sun (Alexander Sokurov)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass)

And there you have it. Three of those I'd place above the rest, and I'm thinking that, since it's been growing in my memory -- and since what little I caught during a DVD test scan was just fawesome -- a second go of Block Party will have it climbing the rungs. I won't go into what will and won't make it. (You can go to my 2006 grades list if you really care.)

In any case, far more interesting is what filmmakers have, by my calculations, already flopped. I can't say I was stoked for the latest from Paul Weitz, but I in no way anticipated the moribund attempt at reinvention evidenced by American Dreamz. (Ditto, I guess, with Danis Tanovic, whose L'Enfer effectively kills the post-mortem Kieslowksi trilogy.) But genuinely crushing were new films by Terry Zwigoff and Laurence Cantet, who produced two films -- Art School Confidential and Heading South -- that found them taking the easy route into smug condescension, creating films that motivated purely by hatred. Oh, and the latest Quays long player bit something fierce. But you probably guessed that.

On the flip side, who could have guessed that I'd come around on Larry Clark? Dude got humanity -- or at least some subjects he doesn't clearly despite -- with Wassup Rockers.

I can't guess what will round out my list -- except, at least, that one of them certainly won't be Scoop -- though titles I'm simply anticipating include De Palma's The Black Dahlia, Maddin's self-proclaimed "first foreign film" (i.e., made in American) The Brand Upon the Brain!, Ceylan's Climates, Bong's SoKo creature feature The Host, Lynch's Inland Empire, Gondry's non-Kaufman-ed The Science of Sleep, Almodóvar's Volver, Fincher's Zodiac, and, of course, Brisseau's Exterminating Angels. Also, Daft Punk's robot drama Electroma better get a stateside distributor.

Finally! Shameless plugs! An interview with New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz accompanies a review (towards the bottom) of the doc featuring him: the anemic but still heart-able crosswords porn (basically), Wordplay. Also, as ever, Rep.


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