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December 22, 2006

Top Ten Movies 2006

Because I happened to see Karina Longworth's contribution to the 2006 indieWIRE Blog Poll, I've decided to put together this year's top ten list a few days early. The indieWIRE blog poll invites everyone to contribute their top ten lists and selections in several other major categories. Once again, I can't help but notice that geography dictates much of what I see, so I'm well aware that my choices have several key omissions, including The Departed (which I have no excuse for missing), Old Joy, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Good German, The Good Shepherd, and Mutual Appreciation, among many others. My list is, once again, dominated by documentaries, but living in DC for much of the year and attending Silverdocs focused my attention much more heavily on docs than other categories. But here are my favorites from the last year:

Best Film: Black Sun, dir. Gary Tarn. I've never been comfortable identifying a single film as the "best" of the year, but Tarn's experimental documentary, based on painter Hugues de Montalembert's memoirs about going blind, was certainly the most engaging film I saw, exploring questions about vision and subjectiivty in complicated ways.

Nine Runners Up, in no particular order:
Iraq in Fragments, dir. James Longley.
Science of Sleep, dir. Michel Gondry.
The Inside Man, dir. Spike Lee.
The Road to Guantanamo, dir. Michael Winterbottom.
Unknown White Male, dir. Rupert Murray.
A Scanner Darkly, dir. Richard Linklater.
Three Times, dir. Hsiao-hsien Hou.
Our Brand is Crisis, dir. Rachel Boynton.
The Puffy Chair, dir. Mark and Jay Duplass.

Best Undistributed Film: The Hole Story, dir Alex Karpovsky.

Best First Film: The Puffy Chair.

Best Performance: I'll go with Helen Mirren's impressive perforamcne in The Queen, but Gael Garcia Bernal in The Science of Sleep (Karina's choice) deserves consideration as well.

Best Supporting Performance: Nick Nolte in Clean. I believe the film is a couple of years old, but since it just now found its way into US theaters, I'll go with that.

Best Director: tie, Spike Lee and Richard Linklater. Lee made two very different, but equally compelling films in The Inside Man and When the Levees Broke. Because Levees more or less debuted on HBO, it probably won't get the critical acclaim in year-end lists that it deserves, but it is one of the most important documents of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, while Inside Man, like Lee's 25th Hour, provides one of the best portraits I've seen of a post-9/11 New York City.

Linklater also made two very different films: the trippy, intellectual, rotoscope animation adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (by far the best adaptation of a Dick novel since Blade Runner) and Fast Food Nation, an activist film that self-critically interrogates the role of activist films.

Best Screenplay: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, dir Michael Winterbottom. Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce. One of the funniest films I've seen in years and a fantastic adaptation to boot.

Best Documentary: Iraq in Fragments. I've already mentioned plenty of docs, but Jesus Camp, Shut Up and Sing, and Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore all came very close to cracking my top ten list.

Posted by chuck at December 22, 2006 11:49 AM

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I saw Black Sun twice this year, and loved it so much I organised a screening at my local cinema. We invited a director of Vision Australia (formerly the Royal Institute for the Blind) - who was blinded in similar circumstances - to talk to us about his experience. Amongst many fascinating things, he told us how much he - like many blind people - loved going to the cinema. I found this very inspiring and a testament to the incredible capacity of this so-called "visual" medium to tell stories, and of our brains to fill in the blanks.

Posted by: Matt Riviera at December 26, 2006 9:04 PM

Matt, that's really cool. Maybe I can set up a screening of Black Sun in my corner of North Carolina at some point.

Posted by: Chuck at December 28, 2006 12:03 AM

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