At the New York Press, the professionally pugnacious Armond White unveils his long-awaited Best Of list…sort of. It’s a "Better-than list," intended to inform the masses of how terribly neglected, practically ignored films like "A Prairie Home Companion" should be championed above over-hyped juggernauts like "Duck Season" and Hou Hsiao Hsien‘s "Three Times." What we particularly like about this list is that it isn’t actually meant for the reading public at all â€” it’s written entirely to snark at other critics, abandoning with arms flung giddily overhead any idea that a year-end list might actually encourage people to look up a film they missed. Not that we don’t always enjoy to some agree Mr. White’s distinctive stylings, but this list is a little heavy on the wild picks even for us. And since when does calling something a "sci-fi feature" count as a dismissal?
DVD Beaver unleashes a hefty collection of "DVD of the Year" top tens. The Onion AV Club takes a different approach, offering instead each staff member’s selection of the best DVD they watched this year.
A sentiment expressed by some last year and more this year: TV is winning. Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, prefaces his best-of list with the following caveat:
[M]y own moviegoing has taken a drastic plunge since last we met for this particular year-end list: just 45 movies from Dec. 7, 2005, to about that same date in ’06. Many were great, but not one had the cumulative effect of 13 back-to-back-to-back Prison Break episodes. The PB story may spend a lot of time in Gooney-Bird Land, but the cumulative effect is riveting…like watching a Sam Peckinpah maxiseries.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s list round-up (which includes Bong Joon-ho‘s top eight â€” no time for ten, or just no inclination?) finds "Brick" writer-director Rian Johnson making similar declarations:
I resisted for a long while. Even as the rising tide of TiVo-wielding friends and coworkers lapped at my doorstep, I stiff-armed them with the dismissive battle cry "I don’t really watch TV." I’m not sure what happened in the past year, but the levee has broken. Big-time. I have no shame. I pimp Lost like no one’s business. I spread box sets of 24 like some modern-day Johnny Appleseed. The scales have fallen from my eyes: any given episode of South Park contains more hilarious and incisive satire than American cinema has offered in decades.
Jonny Leahan noted at indieWIRE a week ago that this may have been a great year, critically, for docs, many of which focused on music or politics or both, but that "high quality and critical praise did not necessarily translate into huge box office numbers." At the New York Times, Charles Lyons observes that the Oscar doc shortlist is dominated by serious themes:
â€œThis is the year of the angry documentary, of the â€˜Take back Americaâ€™ documentary,â€ Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, said in a telephone interview. â€œThe theatrical documentary,â€ she added, â€œhas replaced the television documentary in terms of talking back to the administration. Thatâ€™s one of the only places where one can do it.â€
Back at indieWIRE, Thom Powers of the Toronto International Film Festival suggests that this year’s weight of docs to be reckoned with signals a need to change the way we approach non-fiction film:
Manohla Dargis, normally astute, made this sweeping generalization in her year end round-up: "This year’s crop of nonfiction titles included PowerPoint presentations, cut-and-paste news reports and the usual exercises in dithering solipsism, precious few of which were well considered, shot and edited." She singles out "Our Daily Bread" as "a vivid reminder that aesthetics are part of the documentary ethos, not added value."
But "Our Daily Bread" was hardly alone. The more notable trend in 2006 is how many docs raised the level of craft and aesthetics: ‘Iraq in Fragments’; ‘The Bridge’; ‘Rank’; ‘Beauty Academy of Kabul’. Not to mention fall festival titles, squeezing into 2006 award consideration, such as ‘Blindsight’ and ‘Kurt Cobain About a Son’. Not to mention earlier festival titles such as ‘Black Sun’ or ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ that remain undistributed.
At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman writes that
We may be living in a national Green Zone, but for all the pious postâ€“9-11 bushwa about kinder, gentler, more civil modes of entertainment, last year’s movies weren’t buying it. George Bush hasn’t directly impinged on most American lives, but you didn’t have to look too hard to find a most Baghdadian measure of blood and chaos at the multiplex.
+ The Better-Than List (NY Press)
+ DVD of the Year 2006 (DVD Beaver)
+ The Best DVD I Watched This Year Was… (AV Club)
+ 2006: My Top 10 Movies (Entertainment Weekly)
+ Top 10s, rants, and raves (SF Bay Guardian)
+ Looking Back at ’06: Music and Politics Dominate Documentaries (indieWIRE)
+ Controversy Rules Oscar Contenders (NY Times)
+ Wrapping ’06 and Looking Ahead at ’07: The Lists, The Notable Moments, and the Resolutions (indieWIRE)
+ V For Violence (Village Voice)