2006 Film Year in Review

dir: Andrew Moshos

It was the best of years, it was the blurst of years, to quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons reading something written by one of thousands of monkeys typing away at thousands of typewriters. There were a few really good films this year, a lot of crappy films, but there were a lot of mediocre films too. Mediocre movies are worse than outright shite movies.

The industry supports its sluggardly, Jabba the Hutt-like self with the sheer quantity of stuff that it pumps out, never its quality, and is utterly dependent upon our compulsive need to distract ourselves from the fact that we are all going to die soon. The more shlubs like me keep trying to watch everything that gets made, the more content the Hutts are that the public is dumb enough to keep handing over their money in vast quantities.

So, in a way, it’s my fault that more crappy films keep coming out.

Still, I got to see a lot of films I liked this year, and less that made me want to unleash an apocalypse of brimstone and wasabi on the film making world.

As I have said before, there is no pretence to objectivity or some authoritative stance on my part. My opinion is no more accurate or verifiably 'correct' than anyone else's including yours, and I don't claim to be a film expert in any way possessed of superior faculties or aesthetic sense than any of you. So everything comes with the healthy proviso of being in my not so humble opinion.

So enjoy, or not, it's up to you.

Best action / drama / men acting like men film: The Departed. Not being a huge fan of Infernal Affairs, I had low expectations of Scorsese and his cast of thousands making this Hollywood via Boston remake. I was amazed. Great dialogue and decent actors acting with the poise and desperation of the guy trying to pick up at a bar just before closing time.

Runner up: Exiled, the Johnny To film from Hong Kong (via Macau). The gun fu flicks from the late 80s early 90s are back, baby, and they’re better than ever. And Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery in his hey day, and, against all expectations, makes the Bond franchise interesting and entertaining again.

The "I Thought I Just Saw Something" Best Horror Film award goes to The Descent. It’s rare that you can complement a film for being reasonably intelligent, ultra violent and gruesome, terrifying and claustrophobic, and having a cast of women whose job it isn’t to just look pretty and get their tops wet so that they can run around screaming with their breasts bouncing around all over the place. This film worked on the heap of levels that it needed to in order to make it not just a great little horror film, but a good film overall.

Honorary mention / guilty pleasure: Hostel, Slither for their cheesy enjoyability.

Lamest horror shemozzles: The awful Wicker Man remake, the pointless and dull Hills Have Eyes remake, the misconceived Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning prequel (except for R. Lee Ermey). There’s just something about remakes.

The "My Gods, This Flick was Actually Funny" Award for Best Comedy goes to Little Miss Sunshine. It sounds like another generic flick about a dysfunctional family learning to be all functional through triumph, tragedy and hugging, but it manages to become more than the sum of its quirky parts. Solid performances from a good cast made this little gem a pleasure to sit through, and it built upon the good will it earns from its breezy beginning. You’ve never had so much fun watching an 8 year old dance to Super Freak.

Honorary Mention: Thank You for Smoking, and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan or whatever the fuck it is called is still a human rights atrocity, but still funny. Sasha Baron Cohen’s remarks at the recent Golden Globe awards perfectly mirror the rich vein of obscenity he remains happy to dig into. He informed the audience, upon receiving an award, that he got to see much of the beauty of America whilst making the film, but also its dark places. The places he was referring to were the anus and testicles of his obese co-star Ken Davitian. Classy.

The “Just Not Fucking Funny in the Slightest” award goes to the morass of profoundly unfunny comedies represented by Nacho Libre, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Date Movie, The Break-Up, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. If I smiled once during these movies, it would have only been when they ended.

The "Goddamn, Human Relationships Really Do Suck" Award for Most Depressing Drama goes to Candy. A film about drug addiction is necessarily going to be fairly depressing, but this film manages to be even more depressing than I could have imagined. It starts off with the believable slide into junkiedom in a reasonably credible way, then piles on the misery further. Without preaching, it manages to represent the horrifying flatness of life in the shadow of the needle. Even if Abbie Cornish overacts all over the place.

The "OMFG, Australia Still Has a Film Industry?" award goes to Kenny which succeeded where few Australian movies or comedies do: with critics and with audiences. It’s a strange, funny and endearing character study of a salt of the earth-type guy who almost talks too much and allows us, the great unwashed, to all to bask in the glow of his gentle decency for an enjoyable hour and a half.

After all the hype of last year, it was good to have the local industry quiet down a bit. Ray Lawrence’s follow-up to Lantana, Jindabyne, wasn’t as bad as many people feared, but suffered from having outsourced the two lead roles overseas, and from the pretentiousness that pervades all of his work.

This year is going to be one of those “The Australian Film Industry is Dying!” years, mark my typed-by-thousands-of-monkeys words.

The "You Really Shouldn't Make Films About This Stuff" Award for Good Films with Extremely Difficult Subject Matter goes to David Slade’s Hard Candy. It’s bad enough to have such stories about kiddie fiddlers end up being entertaining and visceral experiences, but when you throw sadistic madness and the ethics of vigilantism into the mix as well, it’s enough to make you punch yourself in the head out of sheer confusion as to how you’re supposed to feel.

My "Big Fucking Deal" Award for Most Overrated Film of the Year goes to Babel. Yeah, I know, it’s got Cate Blanchett and an international cast of tens and it’s about deep and complex things. Even with the sterling acting performances, so what? Storylines in Neighbours have more believable connections to each other and better resolutions.

My “I Didn’t Get It” award goes to Hidden (Cache), the Michael Haneke movie. I just don’t get what the big deal was. Tedium punctuated with a splash of blood that seems to come out of nowhere. And I got the last scene on the steps, it’s just so very “So?”

The "Isn't a Horror Film Supposed to be Scary?" Award goes to, in a split decision Silent Hill and the inevitable Saw III. Silent Hill couldn’t scare your grandmother on the scariest day of the year, and had one of the most unintentionally funny film endings I’ve seen in ages, especially since it unintentionally copies the ending of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. And Saw III? The derelicts responsible confused torturing mannequins with being able to create a tense or anxious atmosphere with which to scare an audience. It just randomly destroyed characters you don’t know in pointless ways. Reality television and those Springer-like shows do the same, but I guess that’s horror of a different kind.

The Porn Masquerading as Art Award goes to John Cameron Mitchell for his pretentious and badly conceived Shortbus. Yes, I'm sure there's artistic merit in showing three guys blow each other, or groups of people going at it like they’re rabbits on Ecstasy, but the notorious flick Caligula had the same crap and didn’t pretend it was a touching, meaningful film about how everyone in the world is connected through hot guy on guy sex.

The ‘real’ sex in ‘real’ movies trope is getting a little tired.

Best all CGI extravaganza: nothing this year, thanks. I was more than happy to catch up on DVDs of Samurai Champloo and Texhnolyze to not require an animated CGI masterpiece to slake my thirst for animated glory this past year.

The "I'm an Intemallectual Because I've Watched a" Documentary of the Year Award goes to two flicks: In the Shadow of the Palms and Michael Winterbottom’s Road to Guantanamo. One film purports to show what life was like in Iraq just prior to the invasion in 2003, and just after. The other meshes documentary footage and scripted drama to depict the brutality of a world where treating people worse than animals can be justified by mumbling “terrorism”

Snappiest and Most Difficult to Understand dialogue goes to Brick, a high school noir punctuated with the kind of language Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would have laughed at but ripped off all the same, had this film not ripped them off in the first place. I know, I know, that time travel stuff gets confusing.

The "If I Had a Girlfriend, She'd Kill Me" Award for best big budget science fiction flick goes to Children of Men. I know at least one person who would hotly dispute this, but for me, this flick was a visceral and moving portrait of our current world gone mad at a time not too distant from now at all. Technically amazing, see-sawing from thrilling to chilling, I think it’s one of the decade’s keepers. Runner up: A Scanner Darkly, which was far more enjoyable and entertaining, but more modest in scope. It should never have worked with that cast, that director and that animation, but it really did. The best low budget sci-fi is that which fucks with your head, and, like Philip K Dick’s best work, this film delivered.

The 'Personal is Political and Vice Versa' Award goes to Phillip Noyce’s Catch a Fire. Wanna know what turns people into people willing to die in order to destroy the status quo, in this case the Apartheid regime of South Africa? Torture them and their families. After that, for some strange reason, they feel like destroying shit and killing people. I don’t understand it myself, but I think the people this well-made and well-acted flick is based on might have some inkling.

V for Vendetta was one of the most eloquent arguments for citizens to get up, stand up, and take down their governments when they go too far, that you’ll ever see in a cinema or on DVD. But since it’s based on a comic, and it had a guy in a Guy Fawkes mask, and it’s dressed in the apparel of an action film, no one took it seriously.

Stinkers or major let-downs of the year for me were, amongst many others: Renaissance, Happy Feet, Cars, Clerks II, Miami Vice, The Black Dahlia, X Men 3, Super Ex-Girlfriend, Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast Food Nation, Brothers Grimm, Casanova (awful, just fucking awful), and Cars

The second worst film I saw in 2006 was M. fucking Night fucking Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water. Whatever you think about his other films, and I’ve cut him a lot of slack in the past, this flick was shocking, self-indulgent and horrible to at least five of the senses that we possess as a species.

The absolute worst film I saw from 2006 was the French film How Much Do You Love Me? Which would have been diabolical and just fucking aggravatingly awful in any year it had been released in. Oh, even I, with a gargantuan and pantagruelian vocabulary cannot describe how wretchedly awful every single second of screen time of this film was. Kill people if you have to in order to not watch this film.

To finish on a high note, these are the films that brought joy to my heart, and are the kinds of flicks that keep me going back to the cinema for more, because I am at heart not a masochist, but a lover of life and its aesthetic pinnacle on the cinema screen:
The Descent, The Departed, Casino Royale, Brick, Hard Candy, Children of Men, V for Vendetta, The Prestige, Little Miss Sunshine, United 93, The Inside Man, Scanner Darkly, Borat, Thank You for Smoking, Kenny, Slither, Exiled, Election 2 and The Banquet.

If I had to pick one film, it would be The Prestige. A film no one else cares about did absolutely everything for me, and I can’t convince anyone else as to why. It doesn’t matter, more for me, more for me.

Thank you and good night. Opinions, agreements and disagreements are not merely sought, but prized. Feel free to add your 0.0001 cents' worth.

2nd annual etc etc
”Maybe I'll just sit here and bleed at you” - Brick