The SOMB Best Films of 2006...
Posted 20 February 2007 - 02:06 PM
What's so appealing about the SOMB film thread is that our appetites are omnivorous, ruling out nothing on principle. It's a willingness to exult just as much in the understated and layered performance of Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson as in the sight of Sascha Baron Cohen wrestling naked with his bloated, hairy manager in Borat. A casual scan of what SOMBIES enjoy in their films might seem stranger than fiction. One man's sex with a mule (Clerks 2) is another man's lilting lullabyes (Prairie Home Companion).
Still, a closer look reveals that even seemingly disparate films like agrimorfees #1, Happy Feet, and Bob Loblaw's and yours truly's favorite, Apocalypto, are not as unlikely bedfellows as it would seem. Both are allegories about once-great civilizations confronting famine and climate change... both draw their inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s archetypical hero’s journey...and both feature tense scenes in which our intrepid hero, having marched a great distance, is presented before a high tribal priest...the only difference: In one movie, the priest wants a pebble for his thoughts, and in the other, he wants your head on a plate.
One common theme that seems to continue is the lust for violence, not all that surprising round this male dominated corral. The Departed, Casino Royale, and The Proposition all placed prominently as we lapped up the testosterone.
Yet amidst all the carnage emerged three films in our top 10 in which the narrative is driven by one gentle heart...that of a little girl...in need of salvation....
...so sit back all you softies and enjoy the SOMB 50 best films of 2006.
Posted 20 February 2007 - 02:38 PM
Read all of my stupid song parodies here. Latest song improved/ruined: "Once Again" by Girl Talk.
Listen to my stupid song parodies, recorded a capella via cell phone, at vocalo.org .(search 'agrimorfee')
Read the slowly developing history of classic putative rock band The Anderson Council at my cheap, bland blog
Might as well throw my Last.fm page here, too.
Posted 20 February 2007 - 02:55 PM
- So what do you think of their chances of making the list, Dickie V?
- Oh, I don't know...it's gonna be close, baby. That Mr. Lazerascu may be dying in the movie...but he's a PTP, baby...a prime time player. You can never rule out Tom Cruise, either...if he takes his pills, then MI3 just might make it, baby...and, of course, there's the ubiquitous smooth charms of Sammy L. and his Snakes. I don't know; even though Soderbergh is a thouroughbred, a Clydesdale, baby, I'm gonna have to say that this one is right on the.......
Directed by: Stephen Soderbergh
From Roger Ebert's 4-star review:
Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" approaches with awe and caution the rhythms of ordinary life itself. He tells the stories of three Ohio factory workers who have been cornered by life. They work two low-paying jobs, they dream of getting a few bucks ahead, they eat fast food without noticing it, two of them live with their parents, one of them has a car. Their speech is such a monotone of commonplaces that we have to guess about how they really feel, and sometimes, we suspect, so do they.
I haven't made the movie sound enthralling. But it is. The characters are so closely observed and played with such exacting accuracy and conviction that "Bubble" becomes quietly, inexorably, hypnotic. Soderbergh never underlines, never points, never uses music to suggest emotion, never shows the characters thinking ahead, watches appalled as small shifts in orderly lives lead to a murder.
Everything about the film -- its casting, its filming, its release -- is daring and innovative. Soderbergh, the poster boy of the Sundance generation (for "sex, lies and videotape" 17 years ago) has moved confidently ever since between commercial projects ("Ocean's Eleven") and cutting-edge experiments like "Bubble." The movie was cast with local people who were not actors. They participated in the creation of their dialogue. Their own homes were used as sets. The film was shot quickly in HD video.
And when it opens in theaters, it will simultaneously play on HDNet cable, and four days later be released on DVD. Here is an experiment to see if there is a way to bring a small art film to a larger audience; most films like this would play in a handful of big-city art houses, and you'd read this review and maybe reflect that it sounded interesting, and then lose track of it. In a time when audiences are pounded into theaters with multimillion dollar ad campaigns, here's a small film with a big idea behind it.
As the film opens, Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) awakens, brings breakfast to her elderly father, picks up Kyle (Dustin Ashley) at his mobile home, stops at a bakery, and arrives at the doll factory where they both work. He operates machinery to create plastic body parts. She paints the faces and adds the eyelashes and hair. During their lunch hour in a room of Formica and fluorescence, they talk about nothing much. He doesn't have time to date. He'd like to get the money together to buy a car. He'd like a ride after work to his other job. Martha, who is fat and 10 or 15 years older than Kyle, watches him carefully, looking for clues in his shy and inward speech.
Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins) begins work at the factory. She is introduced to the work force and provides Kyle with a smile so small he may not even see it, but Martha does. How should we read this? In a conventional movie, Kyle would be attracted to Rose, and Martha would be jealous. But "Bubble" is more cautiously modulated. Martha, I believe, has never allowed herself to think Kyle would be attracted to her. What she wants from him is what she already has: A form of possession, in the way he depends on her for rides and chats with her at lunch. Nor does Kyle seem prepared to go after Rose. He is shy, quiet, withdrawn, smokes pot at home, keeps a low profile at work.
Rose at least represents change. She takes Martha along to a suburban house that she cleans, and Martha is shocked to find her taking a bubble bath. Rose explains that her apartment, which she shares with her 2-year-old daughter, only has a shower. "I'm not too sure about her," Martha tells Kyle. "She scares me a little."
Rose asks Kyle out. In a bar, they share their reasons for dropping out of high school. Their date goes nowhere -- not even when Rose gets herself asked into his bedroom -- because Kyle is too passive to make a move, or maybe even to respond to one. He's too beaten down by life. "I'm very ready to get out of this area," says Rose, who observes that everybody is poor and there are no opportunities.
I am describing the events but not the fascination they create. The uncanny effect comes in large part from the actors. I learn that Debbie Doebereiner is the manager of a KFC. That Misty Dawn Wilkins is a hair dresser, and her own daughter plays her daughter in the movie. They are not playing themselves, but they are playing people they know from the inside out, and although Soderbergh must have worked closely with them, his most important work was in the casting: Not everybody could carry a feature film made of everyday life and make it work, but these three do. The movie feels so real a hush falls upon the audience, and we are made aware of how much artifice there is conventional acting. You wouldn't want to spend the rest of your life watching movies like this, because artifice has its uses, but in this film, with these actors, something mysterious happens.
I said there was a murder. That's all I'll say about it. The local police inspector (Decker Moody) handles the case. He is played by an actual local police inspector. We have seen a hundred or a thousand movies where a cop visits the crime scene and later cross-examines people. There has never been one like this. In the flat, experienced, businesslike way he does his job, and in the way his instincts guide him past misleading evidence, the inspector depends not on crime-movie suspense but on implacable logic. "Bubble" ends not with the solution to a crime, but with the revelation of the depths of a lonely heart.
Some theater owners are boycotting "Bubble" because they hate the idea of a simultaneous release on cable and DVD. I think it's the only hope for a movie like this. Let's face it. Even though I call the film a masterpiece (and I do), my plot description has not set you afire with desire to see the film. Unless you admire Soderbergh or can guess what I'm saying about the performances, you'll be there in line for "Annapolis" or "Nanny McPhee." But maybe you're curious enough to check it out on cable, or rent it on DVD, or put it in your Netflix queue. That's how movies like this can have a chance. And how you can have a chance to see them.
Metacritic Rating- 63
Ranked Highest By:
Posted 20 February 2007 - 03:41 PM
49. The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Directed by: Jeff Feuerzeig
From Allison Benedikt's (Chicago Tribune) 3 1/2-star review:
After his first tab of acid, dosed backstage at a 1986 Butthole Surfers' show in New York, the scrawny, scruffy and wide-eyed singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston smacked his manager with a pipe, putting him in the hospital, ran away to New Jersey, sent members of Sonic Youth on a wild goose chase after him, spent 24 hours in Bellevue, was released mistakenly due to a clerical error and opened at CBGB that night.
"In terms of creating a legend," says ex-girlfriend Kathy McCarty in Jeff Feuerzeig's excellent documentary, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," "he's done absolutely everything right."
Feuerzeig, who makes wise and liberal use of Johnston's home Super 8 films and tape diaries, has crafted a deeply disturbing yet disarming look at one remarkable artist and the age-old relationship between creativity and insanity.
First thing's first: I lied. Daniel Johnston is not a remarkable artist. Though Feuerzeig does his best to puff up Johnston's importance and influence--just as another great doc about music and madness, "Dig!," did for its subject, the Brian Jonestown Massacre--the childlike singer's nasally, off-key warble, simpleton lyrics and limited guitar repertoire are pretty unimpressive, no matter how much love he gets from arbiters of cool such as Matt Groening, Yo La Tengo and Thurston Moore.
Kurt Cobain didn't wear a Daniel Johnston T-shirt to the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards because Johnston's songs about Casper the Friendly Ghost blew his mind. He wore the beat-up old shirt because Johnston was a symbol, a so-so musician whose insanity made him seem pure. Pure like Van Gogh. Pure like Warhol. And in art, purity equals greatness.
Raised as the spiritual outsider in a conservative Christian family, the shy and insecure Johnston spent his childhood in the basement, drawing, recording and fixating on John Lennon and a woman named Laurie, the muse behind much of his work, including the perfectly titled cassettes "Songs of Pain" and "More Songs of Pain." After running off to join a traveling carnival and landing in Austin, Texas, Johnston's obsessions turned to the devil, kicking off a decades-long and exhausting series of manic highs and dark lows.
He worked at McDonald's for much of his time in Austin, and after a brief appearance on MTV became a local celebrity, signing autographs and taking business meetings in the Golden Arches' plastic booths. The music scene embraced Johnston and his tapes "Yip/Jump Music" and "Hi, How Are You?," both recorded on a $59 Sanyo boombox. (Without the means to dub, Johnston rerecorded the tapes every time someone requested a copy.) He was even named Austin's singer-songwriter of the year, despite his near inability to play the guitar.
But for each achievement, there was deep, dark mental anguish, troubles that couldn't be attributed to circumstance. Johnston was in and out of mental hospitals, putting lives in danger and making most everyone around him--from A&R reps to fans to family--either uncomfortable with his constant proselytizing or just plain scared. Feuerzeig recounts it all with clear-eyed candor, turning to Johnston's battered friends and family for insight and empathy and to Johnston's tapes and drawings for an inside look at his illness.
He weaves together interviews with Johnston's beleaguered manager, his childhood best friend and Austin Chronicle editor and Johnston supporter Louis Black, but it's the narrative told by Johnston's now-elderly parents and how they relate to their son's lifelong battle with manic depression that cuts through.
"Everyone loves the idea of the crazy artist," newspaperman Black says at one point, and he's right. Now 42, with a gut and mop of gray hair to prove it, Johnston's legend has only grown, and he's currently a successful artist on the gallery circuit and bona fide indie hero. But he's a ghost of his former self and still lives with his parents, good souls who never had the luxury to romanticize their son's creative demons or worship him for his so-called artistic purity. They're too busy trying to keep him alive, on the right meds, and worried, even fearful, about how he will survive when they're gone.
With humor, honesty and awe, Feuerzeig's portrait may love Daniel Johnston, but it won't give his parents much hope.
Metacritic Rating- 77
Ranked Highest By:
Raleigh St. Claire- #2
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:04 PM
"Oh sweet freedom carry me along
We'll keep the spirit alive on and on"
48. Running Scared
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
From Roger Ebert's 3 star review:
Speaking of movies that go over the top, "Running Scared" goes so far over the top, it circumnavigates the top and doubles back on itself; it's the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness. I am in awe. It throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Then it throws in the kitchen sink, too, and the combo washer-dryer in the laundry room, while the hero and his wife are having sex on top of it.
I never tire of quoting the French director Truffaut, who said that he was interested only in movies that were about the agony of making cinema or the ecstasy of making cinema. "Running Scared" eliminates the middle man. It's not even about making cinema. It's just about the agony and the ecstasy.
The movie stars Paul Walker. You won't catch him acting in "Running Scared." The movie never slows down enough. He simply behaves, at an alarming velocity. After an opening flash-forward that features a car crash, the movie flashes back to a drug deal that goes bad. All the crooked cops and drug dealers in the room are killed, except for Joey Gazelle (Walker) and a guy who tells him to take all of the guns and lose them. Actually, maybe some other guys survived, too. This is the kind of movie where the next scene starts before the body count.
Gazelle hides the guns in his basement. His son Nicky (Alex Neuberger) is best friends with Oleg (Cameron Bright), the Russian kid who lives next door. Oleg's father Anzor (Karel Roden) grew up in Russia watching John Wayne’s "The Cowboys" over and over again, maybe 1000 times. But Anzor only had a 10-minute version of the film. So profoundly did it affect him that he had an image of the Duke tattooed on his back. When he came to America and saw the whole movie, he found out Wayne gets shot. This was so traumatic that he turned bitter, beat his wife and terrorized his son, who steals a gun from the Gazelle's basement and shoots his father, wounding him right about where the sheriff's badge would be.
This is very bad because that is the same gun that killed a cop in the shootout. So Joey Gazelle has to race all over town trying to find the gun and collect the slugs that came out of it (this process involves both impersonating a doctor and chewing gum, although not at the same time). Meanwhile Oleg runs away, so Joey and Nicky have to find him to get the gun back.
You understand I am giving only the bare bones of the plot. I barely have time to explain why Oleg, who has asthma, is befriended by a hooker (Idalis DeLeon) who gets him a fresh inhaler at gunpoint. And how Oleg is kidnapped by perverts who are so evil they have a body bag in their closet, and how Nicky's mother Teresa (Vera Farmiga) comes to the rescue, extremely decisively.
Meanwhile, Joey is attacked with an acetylene torch by a mechanic who mistakenly sets himself on fire; Joey delays extinguishing him while screaming, "Where is my gun?" Oh, and there's the scene in the hockey rink where a crime boss has his hockey stars slam pucks at the hero's teeth. Just in case that scene might somehow lack interest, it is shot in black light, so everything glows like a purple necktie at a stag party. Yes, there is extreme material here. The opening sex scene is startling in its exploration of the Midlands. It is certainly a big surprise how the John Wayne tattoo gets shot. The perverts are so creepy, they belong in a Satanic sitcom. All of this is done using strong characterizations, crisp action and clear dialogue; this isn't one of those berserk action movies that looks like the script was thrown into a fan and the shreds were filmed at random.
Wayne Kramer, the filmmaker, writes and directs with heedless bliss. He's best known for "The Cooler" (2003), that splendid Las Vegas movie about how a casino hired William H. Macy to stand next to lucky gamblers, so their luck would turn bad. Kramer is such an overachiever that he actually succeeded in getting "The Cooler" an NC-17 rating for a sex scene starring, yes, William H. Macy. Some would say it starred Maria Bello, but that would be missing the point. The scene had to be trimmed for an R rating, leading to a bitter complaint from the 52-year-old Macy: "I have been working out for 30 years, staying in shape in the dream that someday I would get to play a sex scene. Finally I get one, and they cut it." The Macy specialty they cut out of "The Cooler" ends up in this movie on top of the washer-dryer, in a thrilling combination of sex and the spin cycle.
One of the pleasures of the movie is how supporting characters are given big scenes all for themselves. Karel Roden has a Tarantinian soliloquy on his childhood obsession with the Duke. Vera Farmiga decisively escapes the cliche of the Thriller Hero's Wife, becomes the Hero's Thrilling Wife, and makes the neatest kills of the movie. Cameron Bright, who played the child containing the reincarnated husband of Nicole Kidman in "Birth," seems to be a child containing the reincarnated Philip Seymour Hoffman in this one. Chazz Palminteri is such an evil cop that the planes of his face seem to have shifted into a sinister new configuration; I saw him in January at Sundance, where he was pleasant and smiling, and here he looks like a Batman villain who tried to shave with Roto-Rooter.
If you stand way back from "Running Scared," the plot has certain flaws. For example, close attention to the ending will reveal that Joey Gazelle spent the whole movie risking his life and the lives of his son, his wife, and the neighbor kid in a desperate quest for a gun that he didn't really need to find. Don't be depressed if you miss this detail; Joey Gazelle misses it, too. Doesn't matter. The gun is only the McGuffin. If you don't know what a McGuffin is, the good news is, you don't need to know.
Metacritic Rating- 41
Ranked Highest By:
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:10 PM
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:15 PM
Just a heads up, but you've got the Daniel Johnston blurb text under Running Scared too.
We had 42 votes this year where as I believe we had less than 30 last year.
123 films were voted for. After we get to #1, I'll list the rest in order.
Ouch on that Metacritic rating.
Glad to see that beat the first two.
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:17 PM
Ouch on that Metacritic rating.
Glad to see that beat the first two.
All the more reason to celebrate the upset. God bless the SOMB.
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:23 PM
Some people are a lot like slinkys... kinda useless, not really good for anything -but still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs
"After much thought into this, I have finally come to a conclusion as to why the ‘Meet the Spartans’ commercial is so funny:
It is an interesting choice to have Sanjaya sing ‘I’m not gay,’ as his final words on earth. As he is plummeting into a seemingly bottomless pit, he does not say ‘dear god no,’ ‘I love you mom,’ or even simply ‘argh.’ He instead takes the moment to reaffirm to the world, in spite of their doubts, that he is not a homosexual. Not only that, but he continues to sing, despite falling to his certain death. The distinct lack of plausibility of this situation is what produces giggles from our mouth. It is the antithesis to the belief that ‘it’s funny because it is true.’"
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:31 PM
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it."
47. The Road to Guantanamo
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
From Michael Wilmington's (Chicago Tribune) 3 star review:
Set largely in the Guantanamo Bay prison camps and in Afghanistan, Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' "The Road to Guantanamo" is a mix of dramatic and documentary techniques that hits like a shock wave. It's a fervent, topical political drama of extraordinary impact and ferocity, based on the real-life misadventures of four young British Muslims accidentally swept up in the war against the Taliban and then into the Guantanamo camps.
Step by step, with newsreel detail and the tension of a thriller, Winterbottom and Whitecross pull us into a hell on Earth. As terror piles on terror, they convince us that this must be happening. Which it apparently did.
The film takes us into the prison camps and zeroes in on the physical torment and emotional terror of the prisoners. We see the detainees imprisoned in open cages, allowed only a few minutes a day to eat or exercise, beaten by their guards, humiliated and interrogated (in real life, for hours)--all while being held without legal representation or trial.
Defenders of that lack of due process (target of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo) may rationalize that these measures, though brutal, are required by post-9/11 reality, and that these are, in President Bush's words, "bad men" who deserve harsh treatment to make them reveal the truth and save American lives. But, in this case, as with Alfred Hitchcock's classic thrillers, we are apparently being shown not enemy combatants but the "wrong men."
The protagonists, four young British nationals from Tipton, are not terrorists or jihadists, both in the film's view and also in the final judgment of their captors, who released the three survivors without charges after 261/2 years. In their own account, they were simply young guys traveling to Pakistan for a wedding. After unwisely volunteering for a "humanitarian" expedition inspired by a mosque speaker, they wound up in Afghanistan as the Taliban were being defeated and as streams of civilians were displaced by the conflict.
There, the nightmare begins. One of the four disappears forever. The others are arrested by the Northern Alliance forces, grilled by interrogators. Finally, they are shipped off to Guantanamo, to Camp X-Ray and later, Camp Delta, where they are questionably "identified" as part of a crowd in a photograph with Osama bin Laden--and where the absence of legal restraints allows the initial blunders to be compounded.
The youthful quartet are 19-year-old Asif Iqbal (Arfan Usman), who is traveling to Pakistan to marry a bride picked by his mother; his best man, 19-year-old Ruhel Ahmed (Farhad Harun); and their older buddies, Shafiq Rasul (Riz Ahmed), 23, and Monir Ali (Waqar Siddiqui), 22. Actors play the four in the dramatic scenes, though three of the real protagonists--Iqbal, Ahmed and Rasul--also appear in the film as on-camera interviewees, narrating the story. (There is no official writer's credit.)
Despite the threesome's final release, some may question their story. Others may see a pro-terror conspiracy (or tendency) in the fact that much of "The Road to Guantanamo" was shot in Iran. (Suitable terrain and the excellence of Iran's film industry, rather than politics, were the stated reasons.) But "Road" seems even-handed. The worst guards seem less monsters than ignorant bullies--and some of them are sympathetic.
Many of the prisoners may be guilty, but that doesn't excuse the abandonment of judicial safeguards--which are there precisely to mete out proper justice and prevent just such mistakes. The moviemakers tell the trio's engrossing story with a mix of battering immediacy, precision and discretion that puts you totally in the movie's grip; the camp scenes especially have realism, intensity and a heightened sensitivity to physical and spiritual suffering. Winterbottom has been a brilliant portrayer of contemporary political chaos in movies like "In This World" and "Welcome to Sarajevo." Here he casts his spell again, mixing history and drama as powerfully as Paul Greengrass did in "United 93."
Metacritic Rating- 64
Ranked Highest By:
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:51 PM
Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:55 PM
Both reviews have me interested.
Posted 20 February 2007 - 05:32 PM
I ranked that movie high
You should never vote in SOMBie polls under the influence
Posted 20 February 2007 - 06:34 PM
I ranked that movie high
You should never vote in SOMBie polls under the influence
Posted 20 February 2007 - 10:27 PM
Surprised to see no response to the cool coincidence of Bubble placing just off the bubble. It beat 4 other films by one point.
Note: Your favorite movie of the year on DVD (or another if you already have it) mailed to the SOMBIE who identifies the most references from the teasers. First to answer correctly for each teaser gets a point. Don't PM me as I need my box open...just respond in the thread.
I thought the image of the dudes face was one of the more indelible in the film (the morning after the guys were caught in the middle of the bombings in the desert). I could see where the blindfold part would go unnoticed as it was common throughout.
I ranked that movie high, and I don't recognize either of the top two images you picked. Weird.