The 2006 Movie Round-Up Spectacular (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying That I Haven’t Seen All The Movies This Year And Post This Post)
Ah, the movies of 2006.
Ron Howard taught us that you can still make oodles of money on a bland and boring blockbuster book adaptation, and Pixar reassured us that all gas-guzzolling race cars really want is love, and that you won’t find any Asian cars on American roads.
Bryan Singer showed us how much Superman resembles Jesus, minus the facial hair, and Brent Ratner proved that he indeed has not an iota of talent, hence the mess that is X-Men 3. Johnny Depp was in top form in the otherwise ho-hum Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, and Tom Cruise surprised me with the ‘not-badness’ of his third Mission Impossible effort. And apparently people still go to see movies with Tim Allen, as both The Shaggy Dog re-make and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause brought in over 60 million at the box office respectively. Finally, Al Gore demonstrated that he is indeed human, with his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, about the dangers of global warming and climate change.
Sacha Baron Cohen triumphed in 2006 in Borat, a film that most describe as hilarious, but I haven’t seen it yet, so that’s why this year-end review is sketchy at best. And I also didn’t see Martin Scorsese’s new masterpiece, The Departed, so you can stop reading this post right now if you’d like. Oh yeah, and I haven’t seen Volver, Pan’s Labyrinth, Little Children, either of Clint Eastwood’s war epics, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu or that Ken Loach one that did well at all the festivals.
Some of the best movies I saw this year were smaller, more independent offerings. Thank You For Smoking is one of the better satires I’ve seen in a while, Little Miss Sunshine had a terrific ensemble cast, and even though the road movie structure is over-used, there were enough interesting characters to make this a surprisingly affecting movie, without feeling too quirky. The Queen was a great character study, and provided amazing insight into events of the recent past. Helen Mirren, if such things matter, will be the one to beat come Oscar night. Michael Mann’s Miami Vice was as stylish as anything Mann has made, and even though I couldn’t begin to tell what the plot of the darn thing was, it was just so cool that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.
A Prairie Home Companion showed Robert Altman at the top of his game in his final film. While not as resonant as Gosford Park, Home Companion had an outstanding cast, including Garrison Keillor playing himself. Its themes of loss and nostalgia make it an appropriate coda to his prodigious career.
Michael Winterbottom’s ‘adaptation’ of Tristram Shandy, with the cheeky subtitle A Cock and Bull Story, is my guilty pleasure of the year. It’s about a film crew trying to make a film version of a book that pretty much everyone agrees is un-filmable. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are terrific, and the whole thing is an enjoyable riff on Fellini’s 81/2, complete with the same music. This is a small movie that no-one would confuse for a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s a brilliant bit of comedy.
The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert De Niro, is not as bad as the critics are saying it is. It seems that the majority of critics are complaining about its length, and yes, at 167 minutes, it’s hard to argue with that. But I was so completely taken in by the story of the history of the CIA, that the three hours seemed to fly by. Damon is outstanding as the quiet, spymaster, and we do get an amazing sense of his character, from childhood to middle age. This is real espionage; the double-crossing, the long waits, the pain of self-sacrifice. It’s the anti-Casino Royale, and a fascinating slice of pseudo-history.
But don’t get me wrong, Casino Royale rocked. It had everything a Bond movie typically doesn’t have, and was a pure joy from start to finish. It could quite possibly be my favourite film of 2006, but I’ll let you know in March, at which point I’ll have hopefully seen most of those others I admitted to having not seen. I don’t even have a good excuse, like living in South Korea. Unless you consider living in Port Perry a good excuse.
Of course, those were just the movies that I saw in 2006 that were actually released in 2006. One of the greatest movie moments for me this year was watching the entire Apu trilogy, a series of three films directed by Satyajit Ray in the late 1950s, titled Pather Panchali, Aparajito, and Apur Sansar. These have long been on my list of films to see, so my thanks goes out to the Scugog Memorial Library, which has a selection of films unrivalled by any other video rental store I’ve ever been in. Ray’s films chart the life of Apu, born to a poor family, who spends his early childhood in the Indian countryside, then living in Calcutta, going to university and eventually marrying and having a child. Through Apu’s eyes we watch India turn from colonial possession to independent country, and we watch a young boy struggle to find his place in the seeming anarchy (to the Western eye that is) of modern India. Ray pours his heart and soul into these movies; they are so moving, and peppered with all sorts of characters, that by the end of the final film, Apu felt as real to me as any other popular cinematic character. These are beautiful films that kick-started and helped foster India’s rich, cinematic tradition.
That about does it for me. Another year, and another bunch of movies, and an even longer list of movies to catch up on. When people (usually older) complain that there aren’t any good movies being made any more, they’re wrong. There are more movies being made now than any other time in history, and more good movies then any other time in history (no, that doesn’t include the future), it’s just having the time to find them and watch them all that’s the hardest part.
So bring on 2007 and more movies, and old movies, and hopefully we’ll even make a movie (if the JAG brotherhood is up for it). Happy New Year, yadda, yadda, yadda. llewopemearg