Monthly Archives: February 2007

Eckhart Elected DA

I don’t know how I missed this piece of news almost two weeks ago. Oh wait, yes I do: I’ve been busy!

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 So Aaron Eckhart will be Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (he shares a few thoughts on the character here). Gotham City’s District Attorney sounds like a natural blend of his roles last year as charming corporate spokesman and obsessed cop.

dahlia.jpgMy fantasy casting has long been Gary Sinese for the role but he’s probably too obviously sinister, while Eckhart should be able to convey a genuine likeability necessary to offset his dark tendencies. He has to make us believe, even as Two-Face, why Bruce doesn’t give up hope for him and still considers Harvey his friend.

Once again Chris Nolan demonstrates his casting genius. The only thing I’m not happy about is the rumor that Maggie Gyllenhaal will be replacing Katie Holmes… as the same character. Sure, K.Ho was the weak link in Batman Begins, but who wouldn’t be when the other links are Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, and Rutger Hauer?

Say what you like about Gyllenhaal’s acting ability (overdone being the operative word, making her the “weak link” in Stranger than Fiction) but not even possession by the spirit of Thespis could compensate for her droopy face and slouchy shoulders. Good gravy, man, you’re making a motion picture! It’s a visual medium! How are people going to appreciate the photographic genius of Wally Pfister if an actress makes the audience look away in disgust!

The only thing inspiring about that piece of news is the fact that MTV used the world “frienemy” in the title (I only recently discovered Mean Girls).

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Would you let this woman spoil your negatives?

Of course not.

Red Carpet Roberry

I’m not going to “liveblog” the Oscars — I can’t watch them because they’re only on cable this year — but as I check in on the updates of winners I can’t let this one pass unremarked.

The Black Dahlia and The Prestige both looked great, but there’s no doubt The Illusionist had last year’s best photography and Children of Men its best camera movement. Either one would have been deserving winners, though Children of Men was the more impressive achievment. The only nominee out of its depth in this category was Pan’s Labyrinth.

It deserved its Oscars for both Art Direction and Makeup — no argument from me there — but there is a difference between what is filmed and how it is filmed. The Illusionist and Children of Men were stunning visually because of how they were filmed, but Pan’s Labyrinth was visually remarkable mostly because of what was filmed. Get it straight!

Great Scott

Since the thread about Cache has filled up the list of Recent Comments, I just wanted to post a link to an older post on Tony Scott which sparked some discussion this week, in case anyone is interested.

Hidden Thoughts

Recent viewings by friends, late-night brainstorming over the phone with another, and comments about Deja Vu have got me thinking about Cache. Two years after seeing it for the first and only time, it remains for me the best film about cinema since Rear Window.

In Cache, Haneke exposes the cognitive dissonance in film audiences (or me at least) by completely dismantling the distinction between voyeuristic video footage and “legitimate” shots that are “part of the film.”

Soon I didn’t know if I should feel unease because a new shot would turn out to be another disturbing recording or if it was “safe” to watch it in passive “movie mode,” which made me uneasy in any case. This sudden awareness of my internal state was an epiphany for me as a moviegoer.

Admittedly my experience of the movie was quite personal but given the first shot of the film I’m sure it was the effect Haneke intended to produce, if not the sensation he meant to enduce, and he did it masterfully. There are no (or few) wide shots or close-ups in Cache, only medium shots that ensure documentary passivity and distance.

Of course, actors are acting in front of rolling cameras, so films are not legally voyeuristic. But unlike live theater in which the conceit of the stage is ever-present to both performers and audience, the cinema screen is like a one-way mirror which cuts off those on stage/set/location from their always anonymous viewers.

Despite audience investment in a film, disclosure — emotional or physical, feigned or genuine — goes only one way. Who is “hidden”? We are.

Deconstructing Babel: Epic Movie and the Illusion of Continuity

I come to bury Epic Movie, not to praise it.
The Critics say it was atrocious,
And a Critic is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Critics spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.

Jim Emerson introduced this weekend’s Contrarian Blog-a-thon with Manohla Dargis’ Valentine’s Day statement that, for critics:

the second-best thing to perfection is often the near-miss, the disreputable and even the despised. Next to discovering a new director, planting a flag in an uncharted national cinema or sitting next to Zooey Deschanel at an event, few things please a critic more than polishing a tarnished career or taking on a dubious cause, particularly if everyone else really hated it.

For my Contrarian contribution I might have offered my positive review of Tideland, which ended up in my top ten of the year amid widespread critical condemnation—24 percent on that sometimes deceptive summary of consensus, the Tomatometer—or, on the other hand, my pan of the near-unanimously praised Pan’s Labyrinth (96 percent).

Dargis’ observation was made in reference to Brisseau’s Exterminating Angels, yet the Tomatometer reveals no more despised film in 2007, if not ever, than Epic Movie. With nothing but a lone if suspect review from Entertainment Weekly in its defense, I can’t think of a more dubious cause than suggesting something meaningful could be extracted from the film.

In defense of my credibility, I’m not instinctively contrarian. For every Tideland that I love or Pan’s Labyrinth that I loathe, there is a Little Children (my #6) or Children of Men (#1) about which I agree with nine out of ten critics. And I saw both Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men months ahead of their US release, long before most reviews much less critical consensus emerged. In any case one of my personal stipulations is never to read a review before seeing a film, which I usually extend to writing about it as well.

For the record, I loathed the unfunniness of Date Movie (I still reckon it’s the worst movie of this century), but I found Epic Movie to be an astonishing confluence of utterly disparate elements into a surprisingly coherent story that satirizes the current fashion of “interconnected storyline” movies. Unfortunately any value in the film went unnoticed, perhaps because most reviews sound like they could have been written before the movie was actually seen. By effectively Mad-Libbing their reviews of Date Movie, critics never gave themselves the chance to notice what even Epic Movie might have to say.

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The AP’s Jake Coyle states: “The film never becomes anything of its own, however; it merely jumps from spoof to spoof, often with tenuous transitions.” While this is a completely accurate description of Date Movie’s series of functionally independent vignette’s stitched together into a Frankenstein of skits, Epic Movie only begins with four completely discordant spoofs but soon manages an impressive integration of sources into a cross-bred story.

The movie announces the absurdity of its modus operandi (indeed of the whole “Blank Movie” subgenre) at the outset when the title is composed by its nine letters being drawn from a conventional epic prologue via DaVinci Code-style floating typography. The first scene then is appropriately a spoof of the Dan Brown adaptation, with an Anna Faris lookalike (Jayma Mays’ impersonation of Farris throughout is an example of the series’ self-parody) using her Tom Hanksian decoding skills to make the most illogical of conclusions.

Accordingly, in the movie’s first demonstration of its non-sequitor methodology, the scene transitions to a spoof of Nacho Libre (tellingly not an epic movie), followed by a spoof of Snakes on a Plane, then one of X-Men. The lack of continuity between these scenes is stark but the transitions are visually seamless, each marked by a clever device (museum painting to Spanish mission, sun through church window to sun through plane window, etc.) satirically illustrating the falacies of logic as well as plot that motivate The DaVinci Code and similar movies but are worn without pretense in the Movie movies.

The purpose of these scenes is to introduce the four lead characters, Peter, Susan, Edward, and Lucy (in reverse order) and the transition from the last of these scenes is the most ingenious and disingenuous of all, morphing school hall lockers into a chocolate factory building. The transition is very slow, inviting us to laugh at its artificiality, like the contrived nature of the scene itself in which the four characters first meet each other.

The movie’s Scary Movie ancestry would naturally lead one to compare their predicament to the characters in a Final Destination movie who must discover how their lives are interconnected, but the more “topical” and appropriate comparison is to that favorite genre of respectable audiences represented by Magnolia, Traffic, Crash, Little Children, and Babel (Oscar-sanctioned all). Epic Movie, finally, explodes the increasingly ludicrous premises of the converging storyline genre, as Dennis Cozzalio reminds us that Babel‘s “connective tissue, the causality that links the four stories is so tenuous that ‘contrived’ hardly seems an adequate description.” During the height of the 2007 Oscar season, criticism of Epic Movie‘s tenuous connections and dissonant transitions approaches a near perfect irony.

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San Fransico Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle offers the insight:

Satire points up and emphasizes truths that have gone unnoticed, punctures pretension and tweaks the self-important. Audiences laugh at the unexpected revelation of truth. ‘Epic Movie’ does none of that.

I can think of no more pretentious and self-important film than Babel, and Epic Movie is a devastating critique of the illusion of continuity attempted by Inarritu and Arriaga. Friedburg and Seltzer’s satire doesn’t puncture and tweak so much as eviscerate and explode the contrivance-based formula of films like last year’s “Best Picture” Crash.

Though it is never mentioned explicitly (in a surprising instance of restraint) the ethnic diversity of the main characters — white, black, Indian, British — makes for an unspoken joke when they discover they are siblings, but it also satirizes the “one of each race” attitude of multiple storyline movies, whether set in Los Angeles or various international locations. Even while mocking Hollywood tokenism, however, in terms of the movie’s own mechanics the four protagonists’ emergence from their cacophony of origin parodies is a wry image of concordia discors.

Yet no degree of plot harmony can derail the filmmakers’ all-consuming obsession with characters suddenly rapping, breakdancing, or just dancing, usually to hip-hop. A late battlefield interlude is so . . . “random” is an insufficient word . . . that it achieves a moment of Lynchian fever dream inexplicability. Such occurrences are so persistent that it seems to be yet another element of continuity-subversion, a corrective deployed whenever the movie starts to make too much sense.

Indeed, spontaneous gyration aside, once the story gets going the various movies it draws from seem increasingly appropriate. The climax of convergence occurs when an outnumbered character (thousands against one) finds the magical remote control from Click and pauses his enemies mid-attack. Substituting for the resurrection of Aslano, it is the perfect Deus Ex Machina, enabling the good guys to defeat their foes a la Steve Carrell’s hyperactive squirrel at the end of Over the Hedge.

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Of course Epic Movie is not a great film. It inherits flaws from Date Movie, namely overlong pauses between dialogue. While such awkward pauses were part of the parody and comedy in Team America, in Date Movie they were simply badly timed pauses to accommodate embarrassingly absent laughter. Epic Movie has similarly slow editing but it is not as obvious as Date Movie.

A momentary spoof of Paris Hilton seems jarringly passé in light of its last-second topicality: references to Lord of the Rings, the epicmost of epic franchises, are conspicuously absent. Indeed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the only pre-Narnia movie parodied (a three-word quotation from American Pie notwithstanding).

Needless to say, the movie has flaws enough that critics don’t need to invent false examples of its ineptitude. Yet Ken Fox ends his TV Guide review by quipping that “the boom mic appears so often it really should get a SAG card and its own on-screen credit.” If Mr. Fox saw the mic more than once then he should blame it on the projectionist, but if he saw the mic the only time I did and is just exaggerating, then he doesn’t understand what breaking the fourth wall is. The boom mic noticeably dips into view a moment after Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) looks at the camera and says “I think I’ve been there before” when the White Bitch points out the “White Castle” where she lives. It is not particularly clever or even funny–one fears Penn was hired just to make the joke work–but Ken Fox & Co. are so prepared for reel-to-reel failure that it is all they see even when the film succeeds at the most obvious of conventions.

For the most part Epic Movie metamorphoses the “Family Guy” referencitis of Date Movie‘s manatee gags into a (nearly) South Park-esque example of plot cohesion from initial apparent chaos. At first, Tumnus’ explanation that his dad mated with a goat is a cheap sex gag, but when Aslo is later revealed to be a hybrid lion-man (Vegas’ Siegfried was his father) the crossbreeding theme emerges as a metaphor for the movie itself. Admittedly the plot isn’t as ingenious as any episode of South Park, but Epic Movie is regardless a notable advancement for the Friedburg-Seltzer duo and doesn’t deserve even less appreciation than its rotten predecessor.

HOT FUZZ

I’m happy not to oblige The Shagadoni’s request to illicitly record Hot Fuzz and send it to him because the fact is, this movie must be seen in the theater. When picking a venue be sure to choose the one with the best sound and biggest subwoofers, because half the fun is feeling the explosion of vibrations that accompanies the mildest of punches.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first 90 minutes are pretty good, then it shifts tone to awesome for the remaining half hour.

I did my homework, watching Shaun of the Dead (for the first time) this week. Some might say Hot Fuzz is not quite as funny as Shaun, depending on what they count as humor. Shaun was more of a comedy (specifically a Rom Zom Com), while Hot Fuzz is a proper “Hollywood” cop movie in its own right, following all the conventions of the action genre as closely as Team America did.

But while Team America ruthlessly deconstructed the Michael Bay movie to expose its absurdity, Hot Fuzz lovingly rebuilds the Bay picture (albeit parodically) and makes me almost reconsider my loathing of Bad Boys II. In fact Hot Fuzz’s recruitment of David Arnold to provide the music is a credibility coup on par with Team America drafting Bill Pope as cinematographer.

The humor in Hot Fuzz doesn’t come from “jokes” — Nick Frost doesn’t have all the great lines like he does in Shaun — but from its style. Its references to other movies aren’t in the form of explicit sight gags as in the Scary/Date/Epic Movies, but in its acutely observed distillation of the genre as a whole; for example, every perp-booking montage is a quintessential example of Tony Scott editing. That said, there are a few direct quotes of other movies but the story provides the necessary context for a couple of them, so to enjoy it one need not be familiar with action movies (but who isn’t?).

If not generically the screenplay is genetically similar to Shaun of the Dead in that many lines of dialogue from the first half are repeated in the second in a new context, but in my opinion it lacks the cleverness and subtlety with which it was done in Shaun, one of that movie’s chief pleasures (“uh, the first one,” etc.). There are also a few lines taken straight from Shaun (“What’s the matter, never taken a shortcut before?” or “Want anything from the shop?”) which remind you of the previous film, as do a couple moments of exquisite gore and the many cameos. Which reminds me, Hot Fuzz is simply filled with known actors and comedians, almost to the point of distraction, though some of them might be not be familiar out of range of UK airwaves.

It will be interesting to discover how rewatchable the movie proves to be in the future, as it is a full two hours. I suspect owners of the DVD will skip to the final act as often as rewatch the whole thing. But at least in the first instance I was entertained throughout and so far Hot Fuzz is the best movie of 2007.

El Iñárritu No Tiene Ropa

Dennis Cozzalio verbalises what everyone else is thinking but reluctant to admit publicly. As his lead image of the biblical tower suggests, Babel is a self-aggrandizing endeavor whose result is ultimately a pile of rubble.

As my 85th place ranking attests, I couldn’t agree more. (For more Cozzalio-inspired goodness, refer to Professor Jennings’ Holiday Midterm.)

Worst-to-Best Ranking of 2006 Films

I’ve been meaning to post this all week, honestly, but it was Matt’s observation that I’m “almost a month late” (I don’t think he meant that in a feminine way) which finally lit the fire under me. So without further teases, here are my thoughts on 2006:

What a great year for film! While 2005 seemed filled with so much preachiness in the theater that the most insightful reflection on terrorism was Batman Begins and the best film was an adaptation of Austen, 2006 returned in a sense to the joy of filmmaking as more than just a vehicle for portentous statements.

Even though many of the following dozen films were officially 2006 releases in the UK, their overexposure especially during the Oscars leads me to leave out of my ranking movies I saw this year but which were released in the US in 2005: Brokeback Mountain, Cache, Capote, The Constant Gardener, Good Night and Good Luck, Grizzly Man, Derailed, Match Point, Munich, The Squid and the Whale, Walk the Line, and The Weather Man.

In their stead I’m including movies I saw in January 2007 but which were 2006 releases in the US: Apocalypto, Art School Confidential, Babel, Déjà Vu, Employee of the Month, Flags of Our Fathers, The Last King of Scotland, and Night at the Museum.

Since I’m loosely following US release dates, I’m also including a Russian movie I saw in 2005, Night Watch, because it wasn’t released in the US till this year. Conversely, however, though Melville’s 1969 film Army of Shadows was finally released this year in the US, it was originally released in the UK in 1978 so I’m going to group it with the other screenings I saw last year of classic film and not rank them: King Kong, Vertigo (35 and 70mm), The Birds, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Passenger, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (70mm), Dark Habits, and Mercano el Marciano.

I know Rosenbaum considers anything shown on a screen as fair game for his annual list and most critics are including Army of Shadows among new releases but I just think it’s unfair to compare newly made films against their predecessors. Otherwise Vertigo would be a Top Ten movie every year.

The most striking thing about this year is that half of the new releases I saw were above average if not good, a much higher percentage than the past few years. With so many good movies ranking them is difficult, so it’s appropriate this post is time stamped because the following order reflects my feelings only at a given moment, which were different yesterday and will no doubt differ tomorrow. Anyway here is my self-indulgent ranking with a comment on each and link while applicable.
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Worst Movie of the Twenty-First Century (#90):

Date Movie (mere recognition in comedy’s stead: visual references to other movies—Kill Bill was a rom-com?—substitute for jokes about them)

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Outright Disappointments (#89–83):

Scary Movie 4 (I haven’t seen the first three so I’m not exactly sure what par for the course is, but they must have been funnier)

Ultraviolet (only interesting insofar as live actors are digitally airbrushed to resemble video game characters in line with its shoddy-graphics aesthetic)

The DaVinci Code (fell asleep twice: my fault or the movie’s?)

The History Boys (would-be Dead Poets Society in fact a delusional pedo fantasy)

Babel (couldn’t find sympathy for any of the stupid characters in this movie)

Miami Vice (perhaps interesting as ambient film intended to create a mood for decorative plasma screens in a club)

Pan’s Labyrinth (most overrated movie of the year, but the shot of the Pale Man opening his hands with stigmata-set eyeballs is still the Image of the Year)

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Sub-Par but could be worse (#82–65):

DOA: Dead or Alive (what you see is what you get)

Waiting (amusing while it lasted)

Underworld: Evolution (dozed off until helicopter crash woke me up)

V for Vendetta (nice production design)

The Pink Panther (not as bad if you consider that Peter Sellers was Clouseau and Steve Martin is playing Clouseau)

Lady in the Water (tedious allegory)

Mission Impossible 3 (better than MI2, but how could it not be?)

Fun with Dick and Jane (better than trailer suggested but completely unmemorable)

American Dreamz (could’ve been great but most of the comedy fell dead)

Firewall (Air Force One retread decent enough but not unique)

The Ringer (everyone but Johnny Knoxville is really good actually!)

Harsh Times (poor man’s Training Day)

Employee of the Month (amusing enough)

The Wicker Man (undeniably more interesting than The Village not to mention its sheer novelty value)

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (never lives up to first five spectacular minutes)

Imagine Me and You (female leads without chemistry, male rivals too sympathetic)

Borat (tamer than expected due to extent of Americans’ credulous tolerance of foreign buffoon)

The Sentinel (president’s schedule from the secret service POV was fascinating but unfortunately only the first ten minutes)

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Par—movies I enjoyed but which were not revelations (#64–41):

The Black Dahlia (victim of expectations might deserve revaluation in time but this year Déjà Vu was the superior revisitation of Vertigo)

Talladega Nights (Anchorman too much to live up to, but worth it for the “sweet baby God” prayer alone)

The Nativity Story (most insightful as soap opera but drops dead upon departure from Nazareth)

World Trade Center (too glossy; amateur footage from that day is always more interesting)

The Notorious Bettie Page (informative biopic but felt like a TV movie)

Clerks II (Randal is only character who can make Smith’s dialogue work, but show is stolen by Pillowpants)

Nacho Libre (better than Napoleon is faint praise)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (more enjoyable than the first but slow second act hinders its rewatchability factor)

The Proposition (Ray Winstone gives surprisingly sympathetic performance)

16 Blocks (managed to surprise me)

The Hidden Blade (too similar to Twilight Samurai)

Just Friends (funnier than expected)

Atomised [Elementarteilchen] (memory vague except that it was a major downer)

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (better than most superhero movies)

The Break-Up (first act positively resembled a stage play and ending favored realism to Hollywood)

The Departed (could have been titled “Cell Phones”; most notable for its nonstop use of background music)

Hollywoodland (informative conspiracy theory primer but most heartbreaking as Affleck’s autobio-pic; however I spent the last half hour waiting for it to end)

Fearless (choreography compensates for Jet Li’s bad acting and preachiness)

X-Men: The Last Stand (a couple bad scenes undermine its greatness)

Flags of Our Fathers (debunking an image via motion picture necessarily implies that propaganda is not inherently negative)

The Last King of Scotland (fictitiousness makes white proxy character even more problematic and ending proved first movie ever to make me physically ill)

Art School Confidential (artistically inferior to Ghost World but captures artists well enough)

Red Road (probably inevitable that no movie could live up to the hugely promising first act, an impressive updating of Rear Window featuring a CCTV operator)

Apocalypto (smaller story and less gore than expected reveals admirable restraint on Gibson’s part)

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Above Par—surprising in a positive way (#40–26):

The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D (still more energy than Corpse Bride)

Lucky Number Slevin (overdue laid-back Hartnett amazingly carries entire movie, but final explanation is too long and remedial)

Night at the Museum (first time in ages Ben Stiller hasn’t been annoying, allowing concept to be the rightful star)

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (The Godfather with sympathetic characters)

Crank (Statham’s Last Action Hero, an ironical if obvious satire of the action genre, but is self-consciousness sufficient excuse for bad taste?)

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (the Quay Brothers’ Tempest—I’m guessing I would’ve liked it if I hadn’t fallen asleep)

Cars (subversively nostalgic about internal combustion engines)

Superman Returns (technically flawless but Supes just too passive)

Inside Man (only Clive Owen could act so well without use of his face in Lee’s delightfully polygeneric flick)

The Matador (first time I’ve ever liked Brosnan, who has great rapport with Kinnear and Davis)

Over the Hedge (funniest movie of the year?)

Monster House (not only funny but a great horror story in its own right, with the best voice performances since Atlantis)

The Illusionist (best photography of the year but sleight of hand is too obvious)

Little Miss Sunshine (unlike Napoleon Dynamite, likeable characters overshadow artificial indie conventions)

Marie Antoinette (creates unexpected sympathy by never straying from the queen’s cloistered point of view)

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Top 25:

Unknown White Male (whether documentary or hoax, still one of the most fascinating pictures of the year)

The Prestige (never difficult to follow jumbled chronology, but final shot was needlessly remedial)

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (a modern Blake, obsessive and comprehensive)

Renaissance (came for the style, stayed for the story, loved both)

Hard Candy (Ellen Page carries two-person play on her shoulders despite faults)

The Fountain (more significant for its microscopic visuals than cleverness of its story)

Silent Hill (most visceral images of the year: what Pan’s Labyrinth thought it was)

Lady Vengeance (thoughtful if disturbing conclusion to Park’s revenge trilogy implicates the viewer as vicarious participant)

A Cock and Bull Story [Tristram Shandy] (keeps adaptation comedy light and fun)

United 93 (welcome yet daring absence of sentimentality and ended where it should have)

Angel-A (on my reading Besson’s fictional autobiography of his filmmaking experiences)

Down in the Valley (a companion piece to Brick, in this case a resetting of the Western in the modern San Fernando Valley)

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (profound final scene of smoke rising from a shared cigarette recreates the Fiery Furnace)

A Bittersweet Life [Dalkomhan insaeng] (razor sharp Western set in modern Seoul)

The Queen (maintains sympathy for all his characters while integration of documentary footage both reinforces and complicates Di’s sainthood)

10. Thank You for Smoking (companion piece to last year’s Lord of War keeps irony afloat by choosing levity over smugness)

9. Night Watch [Nochnoi Dozor] (the most creative effects this year beginning with a psychic abortion, not to mention an intriguing story and great ending)

8. Tideland (a psychological feat to achieve such a gorgeous nightmare that unfairly received the critical denunciation actually deserved by Pan’s Labyrinth)

7. Déjà Vu (best film about cinema since, well, last year’s Cache includes a split screen chase scene De Palma wishes he had thought of)

6. Little Children (a thousand times better than American Beauty)

5. A Scanner Darkly (style brilliantly essential to substance)

4. Brick (budget-conscious innovation produces the most forceful fistfights this year)

3. Casino Royale (best action movie of the year, best song since Live and Let Die, and best Bond movie since From Russian with Love, if not ever, thanks to Craig impossibly making the character interesting)

2. Stranger than Fiction (best theological movie this year)

1. Children of Men (best Christmas movie ever, the story transcending the facile political metaphors for which it was meant)

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Sins of Omission (with pitiful excuses):

Factotum (left cinema too quickly), Hoodwinked (amateur animation put me off but I later heard it was funny), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (trailer overexposure bored me of it before I heard it was good), A Prarie Home Companion, Romanzo Criminale, Snakes on a Plane, Tristan and Isolde

Omissions Beyond My Control (unreleased here):

Ask the Dusk, Bandidas, Beowulf and Grendel, Bobby, The Curse of the Golden Flower, Find Me Guilty, Flyboys (The Aviator whetted my appetite for biplanes, no matter how digital they are), The Good German, The Good Shepherd, Half Nelson, Inland Empire, Letters from Iwo Jima, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, The Painted Veil, The Science of Sleep

Omissions of Intent (just not interested):

Blood Diamond, Dreamgirls, Notes on a Scandal (trailer suggests the overacting spirit of Sean Penn possessed every actress in this film), The Pursuit of Happyness, Venus