Monday, January 01, 2007

My Favorite Films of 2006 (or What To Do on A Lazy New Years Afternoon? Post the Millionth Top 10 list on the Interweb)

The waning days of December leading up to New Years eve sees traditional media and bloggers bombarding their respective media spaces with top 10s for everything. Amusingly (or not), The Reeler even has a top 10 list of top 10 movie lists. Perhaps even more interesting is the LA Times with a survey of how many of the American studio power players as well as the more common folk interact with the glut of media out there. David Hudson over at GreenCineDaily also looks at things from an online perspective. So do you dip into the mainstream pool or follow the long tail? I tend to do a fair bit of both.

The bulk of my Twitch-related content (the non-KBT screenings stuff has all moved over to tends to be viewed on imported DVD (If you want to wear the film-geek badge proudly, you better have an all region DVD player, and it cannot hurt to have DVDBeaver near the top of your FireFox bookmarks). Curiously, all but one of the films on the list below was actually watched in the cinema, proving (in its own small way) there is life in the old darkened house yet - in spite of endless commercials, electronic devices emitting rings, bleeps and back-light-pollution, not to mention the teenage skewed multiplex programming. Adieu 2006.

10. El Aura (Argentina) – A mature fusion of noir stylings, heist structure and a just a wee bit of mysticism, Fabián Bielinsky’s sophomore film was a movie that had so many individual scenes stick with me upon importing the DVD. Multiple viewings are in order to soak up just exactly what was accomplished here. The death of Robert Altman was certainly the most talked about film-wise in 2006, and with good reason considering just a fantastic career, but Bielinskys passing a such a young age (he was 47) so early into a promising career is more tragic. It is sad to think of the many great films that are not to be.

9 The Host (S. Korea) – Could we give any more coverage to a single film in 2006? What movie can withstand the weight of such high expectation? Joon-ho Bong’s blockbuster monster movie devoured the Korean Box Office (and screen counts). It is the film that War of the Worlds should have been (Spielberg toasts things in the end, Bong most certainly does not). The Host and Memories of Murder are required viewing on how to change tone and genre both effortlessly and gracefully.

8 Exiled (HK/China) – Easily the most fun I had in a cinema in 2006, Johnny To’s Exiled is a 180 degree flip from his tense and gritty Election films. Continuing to show the world what the phrase tour-de-force directing is all about To manages to splice macho gangster tropes and Spaghetti Western mise-en-scene into something very special. On top of all this he manages to poke a little fun at the HK guns and triads genre while still crafting one of the best entries. Anthony Wong, who is always top-notch, is a nothing short of a deity here.

7 Little Children (US) – I must admit that In The Bedroom left me more than a little cold for much of its run time. But Todd Field’s choice of adapting a Tom Perotta novel and taking the bombastic Lars Von Trier approach of moral fable-izing America is a winner. Black humour and across-the-board fantastic performances almost render the line between satire and drama moot.

6 King and the Clown (S. Korea) – I liked the other Korean Box-Office monster as well. A lot. I cannot think of a movie as relentlessly entertaining as this one all year. I think I watched the entire film with a grin from ear to ear. Shakespeare has never been brought to the big screen like this, and the world is a better place for it.

5 Prague (Denmark) – Can a story be told entirely through body language? Prague makes a bold and successful attempt to do just that. While he may have been a bit soggy as the Bond villain, Mads Mikkelsen is all presence and subtlety in Ole Christian Madsen’s tale of a crumbling relationship on foreign soil.

4 Brand Upon the Brain! (Canada) – Guy Maddin’s giddily insane self-portrait set in Iceland and featuring (of all things) brain-fluid harvesting would have been Number 1 on this list if it was not so similar to his previous film Cowards Bend the Knee. Despite not necessarily breaking new ground, Maddin pushes the exhibition art-form by screening the film with a live Orchestra, Narrator, Foley Artists and Castrato. The most unique theatrical experience for sure.

3 The New World (US) – OK, so technically this is a 2005 release, but most of us regular film-goers had to wait for the ‘cut’ version to expand outside of major US cities. Even missing 15 minutes Terrance Mallick’s epic and intimate retelling of the Pocahontas legend is sublime. I wish there was more of this big-budget arthouse fare at the multiplex, oh wait a minute…see #2.

2 The Fountain (US) – Unfairly savaged both critically and commercially, Darren Aronofsky’s often delayed film was a heady fusion of poetry and grand science fiction, religion and science, love and death. Was there a film that split its audience more than this one all year? I have little doubt that this film will be highly regarded 20 years from now much like certain other science fiction masterpieces which were met with questioning looks back in their day.

1 Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico) – Guillermo del Toro’s movie, for me, felt as hyped as The Host, with its bow in Competition at Cannes and when I caught up with it many moths later in Toronto, it fully met and exceeded expectations. Simple and straightforward as any children’s story, powerful and harrowing visually, and ultimately it packed a powerful closing punch, both emotionally and in dry consideration of faith. While 2005’s Chronicles of Narnia was offensive insofar as it was about as bland as bleached flour, El Laberinto del Fauno was sort of the Spanish re-imaging that got everything right.


I'll leave you with a grab-bag of other films from 2006 which did not make the list...Links go to Twitch Reviews where available.

Honorable Mention: A Prairie Home Companion, Children of Men, Miami Vice, Behind The Mask, The Departed, The Banquet, Brick, The Descent, Cashback

Curiosities: Curse of the Golden Flower (spectacle) Blood Tea & Red String (feminine whimsy), Apocalypto (fetishistic gory period actioner), Naboer & Hard Candy (both stylish psychological thrillers), Fido (Zombie Comedy), Borat (gleefully pushes the envelope of tastelessness), Severance (confident horror-comedy), Un Crime (Noir), Funky Forest (?), Special (alt-comicbook comedy), Idiocracy (Blunt Satire), Princess (challenging anti-whimsy, violence and pornography), Shortbus (it's feel-good hardcore sex drama!).

Animated - A Scanner Darkly.

Sequel/Remake - Clerks II, The Departed

Sad I missed - Marie Antoinette, When the Levees Broke, Paris Je T'aime, War of Flowers, A Dirty Carnival, The Queen, Taxidermia, Inland Empire, Volver, 4, CSA: Confederate States of America, Letters From Iwo Jima.

Some messes I would have rather avoided - Mission Impossible III, Macbeth. Invisible Waves has to be the biggest disappointment of the year - a total misfire of all that talent!)

A few 'Top-10-ish' films caught in 2005, but were released wider in 2006, in case you are wondering. - The Pusher Trilogy, Mindgame, El Metodo, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, The Proposition.


Anonymous nslan said...

Hi Kurt,

Glad to see that the "King and the Clown" is on your Top 10 favourite films of 2006. Although not perfect, I believe it is one very unique and solid piece of cinematic work worth exploring in-depth. I hope it will make it to the final 5 for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

A group of us has actually come together and work on a website to promote its awareness to discuss some of the social / political / historical issues behind the movie for Western audiences). It's at Please feel free to check it out.

In addition, I'm also looking forwards to catching Pan's Labyrinyth, the no.#1 movie on your list. I've seem good reviews on this but have yet to get a chance to watch it.

3:00 a.m.  

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