(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.
We’re changing the format a little bit for this installment of the series. This is not exactly a top five list or even the five films we deem most worthy of a 2006, “best of” list. Instead, it’s more like a primer on the films of 2006. A remembrance if you will. Here are five films that were mentioned by most of the writers here that most define 2006 or in some way stuck in our collective consciousness for one reason or another. Another reason for this change is simply because of how awesome 2006 was in film. Second probably only to 2007. So go back in time with RowThree in remembering 2006…
Before getting started, a few honorable mentions (besides the titles already mentioned above) that barely missed the cut, but on any other day could well have worked their way to #1:
Volver, Brick, Half Nelson, Little Children, Wind that Shakes the Barley, Miami Vice, Lives of Others
5) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
– This is one sensual movie. Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of the incredibly popular (at least in Europe) novel of the same name is visually sumptuous and creates a tingling sensation as you watch it. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (“one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages”) is a man with an incredibly fine tuned sense of smell who makes it his life’s quest to find the perfect scent – something that will tap into deep human emotions and potentially help him to reconnect to society. Grenouille has no actual body odour of his own and this seems to have created uneasiness in anyone he meets and has pushed him to the fringes of society. Until he is brought on as an apprentice perfumer, his tether to humanity is pretty thin. He becomes enormously successful in creating new perfumes, though, and becomes convinced that he can actually create that perfect scent – through whatever means necessary. Dustin Hoffman turns in an odd and overly large performance which doesn’t seem to fit with the film, but it doesn’t detract from the intoxicating nature of the experience. The last hour, for me, was simply riveting. – BOB
– – “Well, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, you will have the opportunity now to prove yourself. And your grandoise failure will also be a lesson in humility.”
4) The Fountain
– The Fountain is one of those very few great austere ‘big idea’ science fiction features that tend to take about a decade or two to be fully appreciated (see also Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solyaris). Really, even compared to those three in parentheses, it is a deceptively simple story the point of which can be summed up in a few words: “Make the most of the time you have,” or “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Darren Aronofsky bathes the screen in twinkling honey-coloured cinematography, particularly in the most challenging chapter of the film involving a hairless Hugh Jackman floating through space in a glass bubble with a sentient tree towards the nebula known as the Mayan heaven. Jackman and his queen/lover/tree are played by Rachel Weisz (here like another version of heaven) the other two plot threads that are much more typical cinema fare, yet all tie together thematically. The first involves a conquistador mission to South America in search of the fountain of youth and a 20th century scientific quest to halt cellular aging (and it could be reasonably argued that the Jackman character from the present is eventually the man in the bubble floating through space in the future). The final culmination, set to the tune of a wonderfully powerful Clint Mansell score, is wondrous and somewhat head-scratching, in all the right ways. The film, as it turns out, is not for everyone, but considering the universal themes and basic message at its core, it should be. – KURT
– – “For every shadow, no matter how deep is threatened by morning light.”
3) Children of Men
– Children of Men is a rather difficult film to evaluate. Although its ambitions are amongst the highest of any film of 2006, its massive scope and subtle delights of brilliance are much greater and far too numerous to absorb completely in one sitting. Many shots have layered meaning; so layered you will want to pause them in an effort to analyze them more effectively. The screenplay does little to spoon feed the audience yet captures the nuances of Clive Owen’s tremendous performance in which his character’s journey of self discovery and purpose; or finding hope and meaning in an otherwise dreary existence is truly moving and deeply affecting. A performance of exquisite depth and range. Some claim Children of Men is the Blade Runner of our generation. This is not a far-fetched claim, although not because they’re similar in message, substance, or even quality but because Children of Men is as important to the sci-fi genre now as Blade Runner was in 1982.
– – “As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”
2) United 93
– Barely a film, you would swear this is more like a fortuitous documentary; as if someone happened to have cameras in all of the major stations in play on that horrible day in 2001. The news footage of the day looks like a movie while the movie actually looks more like real life. The editing involved with this film to make that happen is simply jaw dropping and the use of non-actors (in fact some are the actual people responding that day) was a stroke of brilliance and probably what helped make the film so believable and heartfelt. One of the most emotional, compelling and well made films of the decade, United 93 is perfect. Perfect.
– – “Hi mom, it’s me… this really kind woman handed me the phone and told me to call you.”
1) Pan’s Labyrinth
– Pan’s Labyrinth is a cross-genre movie that gets it all right. It’s a war movie. It’s a fantasy. It’s a character-driven drama. And, in an unconventional way, it’s horror and not for the faint of heart; nor for those who’ve slaughtered the child within on the alter of harsh reality. Del Toro masterfully interweaves the real and surreal elements of the story, balancing them perfectly to create a flawless mix of real tension and magic. It speaks to the fears of our inner child wearing an adult shell and it speaks to our sense of horror at the world and life we’re surrounded with by painting a child’s demons and nightmares as vividly as Ofelia experienced them. Del Toro masterfully interweaves the real and the surreal elements of the story, balancing them perfectly to create a flawless mix of tension and magic. It’s said that at Cannes the film received a 22 minute ovation; it’s true that every second of that applause was completely earned and deserved as this is clearly Del Toro’s masterpiece. An odyssey that must be seen to be believed.
– – “A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world.”
We’ll see you in a couple weeks with our picks for 2007.