As always, December brings with it a slew of retrospective lists. And as in 2004 and 2005, the first of my own year-end wrap-ups is the annual Slant magazine feature, in which yours truly and editor Ed Gonzalez offer up our own opinions on the last twelve months' best and worst films.
(Shamelessly self-promoting side note: I wrote the intro)
Slant magazine's 2006: Year in Film (Slant magazine)
Love your work in Slant. Too bad neither good Ed nor you put horror films in the year's best. Too bad!
Posted by: Bruno Packer | December 16, 2006 at 03:29 PM
I've never written a comment before, but this seems the right time. So thanks Nick for a good year's work, you're one of the few whose opinion I really value. And greetings from Austria!
Posted by: Markus Rauchenwald | December 16, 2006 at 08:19 PM
Hah! Little switcheroo up there near the top? (Heart of Gold / A, Inland Empire / A-) Films change, naturally; great list, great work this year, Nick.
Uh, exactly which horror films did you have in mind ... ?
Posted by: Joseph Young | December 16, 2006 at 09:33 PM
Hostel, by Eli Roth.
Marebito, by Takeshi Shimizu.
They both are gonna be in my TOP TEN of 2006 for sure.
Nick and Ed tend to put horror films in their Best of the year lists. Kind of shocked they didn't this year. =(
Posted by: Bruno Packer | December 16, 2006 at 09:53 PM
Thanks for the kind words, everyone.
Joseph - The Heart of Gold/Inland Empire "inconsistency" isn't the only one on my list this year. I also gave Miami Vice an A- (lower than HoG's A), and put The Fountain (3 stars) ahead of Borat and Mongolian Ping Pong (both 3 and a 1/2 stars), as well as Heading South (3 and a 1/2 stars), which I decided to leave off my list entirely (it's probably #21 for the year).
The reason for these decisions is, quite simply, that this is how I currently feel about the films.
Bruno - I would have gladly included a horror film on this year's list if I'd really loved one. But I didn't much care for Hostel and - unfortunately - didn't see Marebito.
Posted by: Nick | December 16, 2006 at 10:10 PM
Kind of sucks you didn't see Marebito. It shows a very interesting use of DVideoCam technology. I bought the DVD in bargain sale. Only $3.45! It opened in the U.S. back in December 2005, so technically it is a last year's release, but it opened here March in 3 theaters or something. It only was out one week!
I don't think yours are incosistencies. TOP TENS are a matter of taste more than brains, and if you feel like that, you don't have to apologize. My favorite critic (in printed press) around here lists his favorite films in his anual Best of the Year article. He even gave some films 6/10 grades but put them above the 8/10 and 9/10 ones.
Stay cool. And I don't if you are Jewish but Happy Hanukah!!!
Posted by: Bruno Packer | December 16, 2006 at 10:29 PM
Bruno - I'm not apologizing for the inconsistencies. Just pointing them out. As Joseph remarked, opinions about films naturally change. And my Top Ten is, in the end, simply my best attempt to state something (personally) definitive about 2006 at this particular point in time.
Anyway, since I generally find llst-making a somewhat arbitrary process in the first place, I'm sure - given my experiences over the past few years - that I'll start wishing I'd ordered the list slightly differently two weeks from now...
Posted by: Nick | December 16, 2006 at 11:17 PM
Yeah I figured something like that was the case. I wasn't trying to derogate Nick's top ten, just jesting a bit on logical inconsistencies that don't really have anything to do with anything. Regardless of whether I agree with a critic's selections for December-January listing, I enjoy seeing different perspectives on the year - that is, as long as films like Little Children, Babel, United 93, etc don't make appearances, however jaundiced that sounds. :P
Posted by: Joseph Young | December 17, 2006 at 04:55 AM
Joseph - I just went through your Babel review. Couldn't agree more! Can't understand the love for this film besides the consequence of effective star-whoring campaigning. Good work!!!
Posted by: Bruno Packer | December 17, 2006 at 09:12 AM
Even if I still don't quite get what you and the rest of the Slant guys see in Miami Vice, kudos on your nod for The Fountain. I'm tired of reading condescending dismissals of the film by so many of your peers. Three Times has been sitting on my desk for a week... I get the impression that it's the sort of film one must really give themselves over to, so I've been waiting for the right time.
Posted by: Dennis | December 17, 2006 at 03:56 PM
Guys, no worries about the whole "inconsistency" point. It's a complete non-issue.
Dennis - I think a lot of people just expected something wildly different from Vice than Mann ultimately delivered. But hey, to each his own.
And regarding The Fountain, I definitely think it's best to check it out with an open mind, and a willingness to go with it...
Posted by: Nick | December 18, 2006 at 09:21 AM
Hey Nick, I was wondering if you caught the so-called "Unrated Director's Cut" of Miami Vice and your thoughts on that versus the theatrical release.
I ask because I came out of the theater months ago with a negative opinion on Vice, as a result of (I believe now) certain unfulfilled preconceptions I expected the film to deliver. It was always a film I intended to rewatch (due to Slant's/Keith's raves), and I did, the Unrated cut a few nights ago and was surprised at how much it reeled me in. I would say I prefer the Unrated cut, except...I don't remember the theatrical, or any differences save for the opening sequence. The first shot rising out of the water does bring to mind Malick's hallucinatory The New World.
Posted by: Simon | December 18, 2006 at 03:01 PM
I haven't had a chance yet to sit down with the new Unrated Director's Cut of Miami Vice. Hopefully now that the end-of-year crush has subsided, I'll have the time in the coming weeks, at which point I'll try and post my thoughts...
Posted by: Nick | December 18, 2006 at 11:12 PM
I'm kind of sad that L'Enfant appears on both lists; a transparent art-house reach is not something I expected to see appearing in the guts of year-end lists I generally respect. It's a deeply calculated character study (cameras more shakey than United 93 = EXTRA realism), that often feels like it is meant to impress critics willing to excuse pesky things such as coherence and 'entertainment factor' in favor of ... what, I have no idea. Oh, I almost forgot: THE CHILD IS THE FATHER! IRONIC!
In the grand scheme of things, to suggest that the Departed (a movie that I thought was decent enough) is worse than the L'Enfant - on any level - is fucking comical.
Posted by: mpatton | December 19, 2006 at 12:54 AM
I hardly think that the "worse than" label applies, seeing that both were given the thumbs up by this particular critic. I'll let Nick speak for himself, but while The Departed might have been entertaining in the immediately visceral, Tarantino sense of the word, it lacked the soul that has always made me such a Scorsese fan, which is but one of the means by which I am "entertained" by a movie. Your opinion is your own, but to suggest as you did that others are inherently wrong isn't going to make you any friends.
Posted by: rob | December 19, 2006 at 09:01 AM
Deriding L'Enfant as "deeply calculated" is pretty funny considering that your point of comparison is The Departed - an entertaining but rote gangster film without a single fully fleshed-out character, virtually no soul (as Rob said), and a narrative that may be the very definition of "contrived"...
But, um, sorry you're sad about the lists.
Posted by: Nick | December 19, 2006 at 09:08 AM
Btw, very nice list, Nick. Ironically, I'd only watched Three Times the day before the lists were posted (by some incredible stroke of luck, my local Blockbuster had it), so I can understand why you were so gaga about it (Ebert gave it four stars too, but as much as I respect the man's writings, four stars from him doesn't necassarily indicate much...). Not my favorite of the year (for now, that accolade would go to Inland Empire, which I've already seen twice, IFC center be blessed), but even just the first third alone would be a cause for celebration. Otherwise, thanks for adding to my Netflix queue list!
I'd only recommend the Miami Vice UR cut for curiosities' sake at this point, having indulged in it myself (there's a compare-and-contrast peice on my blog). Look at it as the version that would have been released had test audiences had their say in the matter; it's kind of sad to see Mann crumbling a bit under the weight of poor reviews. Give it twenty years and no-BS genre lovers will give Vice its due praise; until then, we just have to keep the coals hot.
Met Ed, Sal and Keith in the city over the weekend as well. Overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe it. Gotta say I'm very grateful to be on board the Slant wagon, even if we all go down in a torrent of flames fueled by the Wayne Kramers of the world.
Posted by: rob | December 19, 2006 at 06:41 PM
I cannot understand this fascination for L'Enfant either. Very good film, but Ed Gonzalez goes full way into hyperbole calling it "a miracle". Give me a break.
Now, I'm not going to start a discussion on The Departed, partly because I found Nick's review about it, well, brilliant. But it fascinated me the way Scorsese shot it: how even though the film lasts for 150 minutes, the first time I saw it I felt like it was 120 minutes long. It was also amazing that such a contrived narratie could be so transparent and lucid at the same time.
Jack's character is definetly a cartoon. Hate him in that role. Could not buy it for a second. DiCaprio's... I don't think so. I was stunned by his perfomance.
Posted by: Bruno Packer | December 19, 2006 at 06:48 PM
I agree with you on the Departed, but wasn't that the point? When I said "calculated" I meant, among other things, the shaking of the cameras and the conscious decision not to flesh out any of the story. Also, were forced to follow the absurdly stupid main character (I mean, who sells a woman's baby and doesn't even half-expect her to be upset?) and the world's quietest baby. I felt like the exercises that the movie went through were the point of the entire movie, without any care toward the results (see: unreasonably stupid character; quiet baby). And for some odd reason, I felt like the brothers were cynically manufacturing "art."
Nevertheless, I wasn't trying to make a point by point comparison of the L'Enfant vs. the Departed, I just feel like the webzines I read are increasingly moving toward the idea that Hollywood = bad, and L’Enfant is somewhat emblematic of that. To the point, does “Best” movies mean that these also were your “favorite” movies?
Posted by: mpatton | December 19, 2006 at 07:40 PM
I think Nick's already stated that his top ten wasn't constructed in such a manner as to definitively rank A film above B film above C film but like most, was simply intended to highlight in his opinion which films emerged as relevant, affecting experiences, without explicitly comparing one to another - if that answers your question.
I do agree, however, that people seem to be succumbing a little too often to the temptation of writing off Hollywood as inadequate and inept, when in my experience I've found both it and independent industries to release IMO passable films at about the same rate. Additionally, I find their IMO utter failures to be equally excruciating. (i.e. Little Man / You Me and Dupree => Little Children / Running With Scissors) Also IMO this is my opinion, lest I assert my erratic preferences and ideas onto other people etc.
Posted by: Joseph Young | December 19, 2006 at 08:54 PM
Rob - I'll have to check out the Unrated Cut of MV at some point, if only for curiosity's sake. But I have a sneaking suspicion I'll find it inferior to the original (since that's the way I feel about most DVD extended/alternate versions).
And glad to hear the Slant mutants didn't scare you away from continuing to contribute to the site :)
Bruno - Thanks for the nice comment about my Departed review, and I second your motion to avoid any long discussion of the film (mostly because I don't have a ton more to say about it).
mpatton - I agree that The Departed strives for narrative contrivance, and I think the film's plot, believable or not, is its most compelling aspect.
As for The Dardennes, I do think their camerawork and minimalist plotting are calculated, but not in an unpleasantly manipulative or disingenuous way. I find their aesthetic very deliberate, and very much their own, but I'd argue that they're not cynical (storywise or filmmaking-wise) but humanistic and quietly spiritual. Then again, one man's masterpiece is another man's you-know-what...
Finally, as Joseph already (correctly) said, my Top Ten films are those that I found both artistically accomplished and emotionally/intellectually affecting. I understand the divide you're referencing between "best" and "favorite," but the truth is that the films on my list are a combination of those two aspects - they're the ones I thought were the best, and the ones I liked the most.
Joseph - While there are more crappy Hollywood films than independent ones, the ratio of quality-to-crap films produced by both H'wood and indie companies is probably equal. Often, I think the perception that critics like to bash Hollywood more than their foreign/indie counterparts is simply because there are SO MANY (heavily promoted) studio offerings foisted upon the public each week - and so many of them stink.
Posted by: Nick | December 19, 2006 at 10:06 PM
I also agree with you on "The Departed". In fact, I actually wasn't a big fan at all. But the top 10 list on Slant was pretty cool. Nice images and choice. I saw "Three Times" also, and it landed third on my Top 10 list (1-Army of Shadows, 2-Inland Empire), but it still was a great film. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to see L'enfant. I also agree with you on "The Fountain". I think it is better viewed in retrospective than when leaving the theater. Even though it didn't make my top 10 list, its on my honorable mention. All in all, unlike previous years, I think this year was a year of independent film, not so much mainstream stuff (this year was pretty much crap).
Posted by: Andres | December 23, 2006 at 06:26 PM