The Junk Food of Writing

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm allegic to dust.

Oh dear, cobwebs are starting to grow on this blog. Let me just dust them off with my Top 20 on 2006, because I am nearly finished with that year in cinema (I topped out at 98). I hate to rank the top ten, because they're all nearly equal in my eyes. I, however, decided to include some thoughts on my three favorite films from this past year.

1. Old Joy (Riechardt)

Striking many truthful chords in tiny moments, Old Joy is an insightful meditation on near-middle-age malaise. On the surface, it revolves around a hiking trip through the lush, green woods of Portland with two, recently reunited old pals. One is a married thirtysomething on the brink of fatherhood while the other is on the precipice of stoner-oblivion. The interactions between these buddies are appropriately uncomfortable. Old Joy is emotionally charged in the most delicately nuanced way; the true emotions perpetually bubble under the surface. The characters realistically express themselves through facial expression, not over-explicit dialogue. Its title and presentation are richly ambiguous, but Old Joy is among the best of 2006 for its painfully honest depiction of expired friendship and the failure of nostalgia.
2. Duck Season (Eimbcke)

Forget the "Three Amigos" (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron), the best film by a Mexican director was Duck Season. Do not be fooled by its minimalist facade—this little Mexican gem has the capacity to charm the coldest moviegoer with its modesty, dry wit and acute representation of those awkward early teenage years. The film, similar to that confusing and languid stage in life, is all about passing the time. Two young friends, an eccentric pizza delivery man and the pretty neighbor collectively cope with the lack of electricity after a blackout; consequently, they furtively tease out the film’s potent themes concerning the apprehensions of growing up and true camaraderie. Filled with droll humor and authentic, unforced epiphanies, Duck Season’s poignancy really sneaks up on you. Catch onto its wavelength and it will be a delightful experience.

3. Shortbus (Mitchell)

Despite the overbearing ubiquity of multi-narrative films in 2006, no film has come as close to capturing that elusive feeling of interconnectedness like Shortbus, John Cameron Mitchell’s follow up to his breath-of-fresh-air musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The deeply emotional Shortbus succeeds due to its wide scope in tackling the conflicted inhabitants of Manhattan, its brilliant use of Animal Collective’s primal “Winters Love” and the honesty of its characters and performances. In Robert Altman’s wake, Shortbus is the only film to pay homage, and not bastardize or oversimplify, his mosaic paradigm. Unlike other films of its structural ilk, this candid presentation of sex and alienation in an increasingly modern world does not seem overly calculated; it’s entirely genuine. Shortbus is long on ideas—oh, and it’s absolutely hilarious.

And the rest...
4. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Puiu)
5. Brick (Johnson)
6. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Winterbottom)
7. Volver (Almodovar)
8. Mutual Appreciation (Bujalski)
9. Woman on the Beach (Hong)
10. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai)
11. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Feuerzeig)
12. The Hole Story (Karpovsky)
13. Monster House (Kenan)
14. Half Nelson (Fleck)
15. L’enfant (Dardenne bros.)
16. The Painted Veil (Curran)
17. LOL (Swanberg)
18. Iron Island (Rasoulof)
19. Marie Antoinette (Coppola)
20. Children of Men (Cuaron)