Naturally, I can’t make a list of “Favorite Movies of 2006″ because I won’t get around to seeing even half the promising titles of 2006 for at least another year (including what may prove to be one of my favorite films of the decade, Lynch’s Inland Empire). And you’ll notice I’m not nearly as picky about movies as I am about music. Here are my favorite movies that I watched for the first time in 2006, in descending order of awesomeness:
 
 
 

Come and See
1985, Elem Klimov: Soviet Union
 
Pulverizing. You may think you’ve seen a war movie like this. You have not. This blows Saving Private Ryan to smithereens. Follow teen Florya as he desperately survives the Nazi onslaught in 1943 Belarus.
Borat
2006, Larry Charles: USA
 
It’s possible I haven’t laughed this hard since Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s a partly scripted, partly improvised, politically incorrect romp across the United States, starring comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, a clueless Kazakhstani documentary filmmaker. Cohen pounces on the key ingredients for uprorious laughter: raising the bar for shock, surprise, and discomfort while simultaneously being genuinely funny.
Sátántangó
1994, Béla Tarr: Hungary
 
Satantango patiently observes a poor village during the fall of Communism in Hungary. It is an awe-inspiring work of long, exquisitely composed shots, sort of like Tarkovsky but with a hint of black comedy. I had planned to watch this 7.5-hour butt-number over the course of a week, but I ended up watching the whole thing in one stretch; I think it even pussifies that show-boating Sokurov (whose 96-minute Russian Ark consists of a single shot wandering a museum of four live orchestras and hundreds of extras).
The New World
2005, Terrence Malick: USA
 
The New World is Malick’s fourth feature film in 32 years. Like Kubrick, Malick makes only films that impassion him, and for which he has a clear artitic vision. His tale of the Smith / Pocahontas / Rolfe love triangle is a delicate symphony of crashing societies and cultures. Some directors make cool movies (say, Peter Jackson), others make serious films (say, Martin Scorsese), and Malick makes art.
Begotten
1991, E. Elias Merhige: USA
 
The most disturbing film I have ever seen. It’s the dialogue-less, gruesomely shot story of God disembowling himself to birth Mother Earth, who deposits Flesh On Bone (Jesus) on the planet, both of whom are eventually molested, raped and killed by creatures of the earth. It is extreme, poetic, and perfectly soundtracked. It is “filmed in speckled chiaroscuro so that each image is a seductive mystery, a Rorschach test for the adventurous eye” (Richard Corliss). You may think it’s garbage; I think it’s among the most profound things ever shot.
Brick
2005, Rian Johnson: USA
 
Like Down With Love, this is a daring fusion of old and new styles that looks terrible on paper but works so well in the hands of a talented director. Brick is a modern high-school melodrama told through the lens of film-noir. The writing and timing are so perfect that I couldn’t keep my face from holding a big stupid grin.
Underground
1995, Emir Kusturica: France, Yugoslavia, Germany, Hungary
 
Several Belgrade families survive WWII shelling by producing weapons safely underground, while just two of them, Marko and Natalija, risk travelling aboveground to sell the weapons and bring in new materials. All share in the profits. But the operation is so successful that Marko neglects to tell his neighbors when the war ends. Underground is a brilliantly creative comedy, and an excellent film.
Woman in the Dunes
1964, Hiroshi Teshigahara: Japan
 
An absurd, existentialist masterpiece in which an entomologist is trapped in a giant pit between sand dunes by desert villagers. He cannot escape, so he resigns himself to his fate and seeks ways of collecting water for he and the woman in the house in the pit. Never before have I seen sand shot so personally and terrifyingly.
Inside Man
2006, Spike Lee: USA
 
Spike Lee is taking the Scorsese journey: his early years produced several edgy, unique masterpieces, and now he is settling into a pattern of crafting less daring but more formally perfect (and Oscar-baiting) work. While Inside Man can’t compare to the likes of Do the Right Thing, I’m all too happy to enjoy such a smart, well-acted, well-directed, well-written, flawlessly-paced action drama! This is the only movie on the list I’d feel safe recommending to almost anyone.

 
 
 
Also loved: The Hand, Amateur, Paris, Texas, Ellie Parker, When the Levees Broke, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Manderlay, Hukkle, The Celebration, V for Vendetta, Stalker, Sparrows, and The World.

Advertisements