Friday, December 29, 2006

2006: The Year In Film

For this writer, 2006 was a year of disappointments. Foremost among these were Clint Eastwood's two-sided account of the Battle of Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. The first, in my estimation, was a consequence of a very clunky flashback structure, and the second, though I would argue still good, does not attain the heights of the director's best -- that is, it eschews the autobiographical quality that has long made Eastwood the favorite of hard-core auteurists, myself included. Secondary was one of the most enthusiastically reviewed films of the year, Martin Scorsese's The Departed. In short, as I have argued elsewhere, The Departed marks a troubling turn in the director's art, away from the critical stance that ennobled his otherwise brutal corpus. Then again, I have never been a huge Scorsese fan, though I bow to no one in my admiration for Eastwood.

As such, 2006 was a weird year for me in that I would rank neither of my favorite current American director's new releases among this year's best. At the same time, there were few American films to take their place. To be sure, 2006 seems to me to be a truly bad year for the American cinema. Then again, as I consider those films that I did choose to include, 2006 has the makings of a pretty good year -- I haven't even had the opportunity to see two highly regarded Asian films from the past twelve months, Jia Zhangke's Still Life and Tsai Ming-liang's I Won't Sleep Alone. Moreover, 2006 included a couple of very strong European holdovers from the previous year, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and L'Enfant (which I would have included were it not on my 2005 list). A recent indieWIRE survey, parenthetically, placed these two films as the best works of the year.

So, 2006 does seem to be better than it might appear initially, though I will admit most of the films that I would argue confirm this status are still without theatrical distribution in the U.S., which I suppose is topic for another time. In the meantime, if you haven't already, buy yourself an all-region DVD player and become acquainted with European and Asian websites -- that's how you're going to see the best in world cinema circa 2006.

For those films that might qualify, Ten Best Films, along with Fourteen Seconds, Seen Film and Termite Art will be hosting a blog-a-thon over the next couple of days, where collectively the many learned authors and readers of these sites will share their opinions on the best of world cinema. Here is a list this year's respondents (which will be added to in the coming days):

Michael J. Anderson, Ten Best Films
Lisa K. Broad, Ten Best Films
Pamela Kerpius, Seen Film
Mike Lyon, Fourteen Seconds
Michelle Orange, Ten Best Films
Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega, Ten Best Films
Matthew Singer, Termite Art
R. Emmet Sweeney, Termite Art
Alberto Zambenedetti, Termite Art


Matt Singer said...

"...that is, it eschews the autobiographical quality that has long made Eastwood the favorite of hard-core auteurists."

Dude, you're going to get into another lengthy argument a la our endless discussion of Flags if that's your most notable criticism of Letters From Iwo Jima.

And though I haven't seen quite a few of the films on your list -- I don't think you're being fair calling it a bad year for American films just because you didn't like Eastwood's movies and Scorsese's. I have it on good authority (i.e. from talking to you) that you don't really see too many American films.

If I wanted to I could say this was a terrible year for documentaries because I didn't see many I liked, but the fact remains that I didn't see many at all.

Michael J. Anderson said...

Evidently Mr. Singer does not agree with my assessment of 2006 as less than stellar (at least among American films). While its true that my not liking certain films is not proof of a year's inferiority, neither is Matthew's enjoyment of those same films. Still, it is my assertion that few films from the past twelve months equal the ten best American movies that we get most years. I would argue that there are both fewer great American films than is typical, and that there is also a lack of depth in films of quality behind this top group. Feel free to disagree, but I can't see how some lesser Eastwood's and Scorsese's make even a good year. After all, it looks as though THE DEPARTED is going to get Scorsese his best director prize, which of course represents a career achievement prize but prompts the question whether it is one of the director's best? (And with this, I suspect you can guess how I might argue for another year's superiority over this one.)

P.L. Kerpius said...

You guys bicker like lovers! Jeesh!

Matt Singer said...

No, we argue like ex-lovers.

CNC said...

Hi Mike, good to meet you over the holidays. We had a nice trip back to new mexico from cold nebraska.
Give our love to Lisa K., we are so proud of her. We are looking for our favorites too on your spot. Some movies we love are any Hal Hartly movie, Dead Man, Fight Club, Raising Arizona, and Henry Fool (off the top of my head). Talk to you all soon
love Auntie C