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Chris Dashiell
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Year-End Wrap-Up
by Chris Knipp

2006 was a very solid year with excellent mainstream films-- including Scorsese's The Departed, basically a brilliant remake; Clint Eastwood's conventionally crafted but brave two-feature examination of WWII and the ideas of "heroism" and "the enemy"; Zwick's lively African action flick seasoned with global politics and economics Blood Diamond; and De Niro's somber personal CIA history The Good Shepherd. Frears' The Queen is a dramatic look at the royals and Tony Blair, and Todd Field's Little Children revives the well-worn topic of suburban unease. Alan Bennett's brilliant, touching play about growing up and values in education The History Boys, filmed by his stage collaborator Nicholas Hytner, should be appreciated by more people. It's a pity A Scanner, Darkly, Linklater's recreation of Philip K. Dick's book about the ravages of drugs, may be more off-putting, because it's splendid work. David Lynch's return to edge in the three-hour Inland Empire will alienate many, but if you respond to it you may find it to be the most exciting thing on this English-language list.

There is a separate roster of foreign films because of the size of this category. A couple of these will be known to most filmgoers: they are Babel and Volver. Not so many people in the USA, unfortunately, will see Gabrielle, Clean, The Child, or Days of Glory on the big screen. It's great that The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, an Eastern European ER for realists, has made a strong showing on US best lists--even of it didn't come to many of our theaters it is a classic statement. Sadly, Bielinsky's richly haunting nourish character study The Aura represents the last by this young Argentinian director who died after making it, when he had just begun to show his utter originality and brilliance.

The shortlist includes some acclaimed performances: by Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and Peter O'Toole in Venus; and though the film itself didn't make these lists, there's no question that Forest Whittaker gives an awesome, terrifying performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. This is where one knows how good a year it was -- when one sees the depth of the shortlist and wants to single out other films for mention that didn't even make the lists. There are many other documentaries that might be included. Let me add that "Most Overrated" doesn't mean those films aren't worth watching. Happily a number of the "unreleased" are soon coming to American theaters, and they're exciting too. But a few of them it seems will never come, or even be issued on DVD, and that's a sad fact of film life one must hope that time will remedy. (Where there are DVD's or they're soon coming it's indiccated here.)

The Lists (alphabetical within category)

AMERICAN AND ENGLISH DIRECTORS
Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick 2006)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese 2006)
Eastwood's Iwo Jima Diptych (Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima 2006)
The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro 2006)
The History Boys (Nicholas Hytner 2006)
Inland Empire (David Lynch 2006)
Little Children (Todd Field 2006)
The Queen (Stephen Frears 2006)
A Scanner, Darkly (Richard Linklater 2006) DVD

BEST FOREIGN
The Aura (Fabián Bielinsky 2005) DVD
Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu 2006)
The Child (L'Enfant, Dardennes brothers 2005) DVD
Clean (Oliver Assayas 2005) DVD
Days of Glory (Indigènes, Raschid Boucharib 2005)
Fateless (Sorstalanság, László Koltai 2005) DVD
Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau 2005) DVD
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu 2005) DVD
Le Petit Lieutenant (Xavier Beauvois 2005) DVD
Volver (Pedro Almóvar 2006)

BEST DOCUMENTARIES
An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim 2006) DVD
Who Killed the Electric Car? (Chris Paine 2006) DVD
Iraq in Fragments (James Longley 2005)
The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom 2006) DVD

SHORTLISTED
Brothers of the Head (Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe 2006) DVD
The Devil Wears Prada (David Frankel 2006) DVD
Duck Season (Temporada de patos, Fernando Eimbecke 2006) DVD
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck 2006) DVD (Feb.)
Heading South (Vers le sud, Laurent Cantet 2006) DVD (Feb)
Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski 2005) DVD (Feb.)
The Prestige (Christopher Nolan 2006) DVD (Feb.)
Three Times (Hou Hsiau-hsien 2005) DVD (Mar.)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass 2006) DVD
Venus (Roger Mitchell 2006)
Wassup Rockers (Larry Clark 2006) DVD

BEST 2006 FILMS YET UNRELEASED IN THE US
Bug (William Friedkin 2006) US release 2007?
Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré 2006)
Flanders (Bruno Dumont 2006)
Lights in the Dusk (Aki Kaurasmaki 2006)
The Singer (Quand j'étais chanteur, Xavier Giannoli 2006)
News from Afar (Noticias Lejanas, Ricardo Benet 2004)
Play (Alicia Scherson 2005)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach 2006) US release March
Zim & Co. (Pierre Jolivet 2005)

BEST LONG-DELAYED U.S. FOREIGN RELEASE
Army of Shadows (L'Armée des ombres, Jean-Pierre Melville 1969)

MOST OVERRATED
Borat (Larry Charles) DVD (Mar.)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón 2006)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck 2006) DVD (Feb.)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro 2006)

WISH I'D SEEN BEFORE I MADE THESE LISTS
Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas 2006) DVD

©2007 Chris Knipp
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