We find year-end lists and year-in-reviews immensely satisfying to read and terrible to round-up, as they tend to run together and congeal like some giant entertainment journalism blancmange. That said, a selection of 2006 summations:
Slate just launched its annual Movie Club. This year’s players: Dana Stevens, the LA Times‘ Carina Chocano, the Boston Globe‘s Wesley Morris and the Onion AV Club‘s Keith Phipps. It’s only getting going at the moment, but the discussions are always a highlight of our year. Phipps:
Maybe it was just that, at the end of the year, so much left me unmoved that the stuff that made an impact looked even better. I saw a pattern of settling into acceptable mediocrity in 2006, and it worries me. Dana, I was thrilled that you dubbed Children Of Men the movie of the millennium. I’m not quite sure why others weren’t as bold in their praise for a film that technically, dramatically, and thematically risked so much and made those risks pay off. So much else out thereâ€”whether art house- or multiplex-boundâ€”simply got the job done and called it a day without taking any real chances.
Scott Foundas offers up the LA Weekly‘s own critics’ poll. A smaller sampling than indieWIRE‘s poll, and there is some crossover, though LA Weekly‘s version does include the addition of a "Worst Film of 2006" category (winner: "Lady in the Water").
David Hudson at Greencine Daily offers his own impressions after an immensely prolific year:
2006 was a year in which critics – professed, self-professed or neither – did a lot of fretting about the state of film criticism. In the mainstream media, the story crested twice: in May, when anyone who could tap a keyboard demolished The Da Vinci Code and yet the unwashed masses flooded theaters to see it anyway; and again a month later, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. What’s more, the masses rubbed salt in the wounds by making both DVDs mega-sellers. They wanted to see it again! And again! And they still don’t care what you think about that, either.
David Denby at the New Yorker dwells on another of the year’s favorite topics: the rise of the small screen, be it on an iPod, a laptop or a (drool) two hundred thousand dollar home theater set-up:
All in all, high definition is a big improvement over standard digital imagery, though in truth I admire it without loving it. To arrive at a film print ready for exhibition, the image has to go through at least four generationsâ€”from negative to positive, and then back and forth againâ€”and, by the end, the multiple printing produces some minor softening and darkening of color. I like the way color blends on film: the image is painterly and atmospheric; more poetic, perhaps, than a digital image; lyrical rather than analytic.
At the New York Times, David M. Halbfinger finds that while 2005 may have been the year of Successful Serious Films, in 2006 "[t]he big money was to be made making people laugh, cry and squeeze their datesâ€™ arms â€” not think."
At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir prefaces his best-of list with some general thoughts on the state of indie film:
The term "independent film" has hovered on the edge of meaninglessness for many years, in fact, and 2006 might be the year it finally fell off the cliff. The Independent Spirit Awards has dropped the label, after its list of honorees last year virtually duplicated the Oscars. What we have today in the market formerly known as indie (MFKI) is a two-tier caste system, with the levels almost entirely disconnected from each other.
Strange that what started out as a solo venture became a collective enterprise. This has happened to me throughout my life, from elementary school comics newsletters up through independent film projects that were originally intended only as screenplays, but that ultimately morphed into self-directed ventures involving dozens of people whose only shared trait, it seemed, was a willingness to get drawn into another person’s obsession. Everything’s different, nothing’s changed.
The crew at Not Coming To A Theater Near You has their own nicely laid-out retrospective page.
At MSN Movies, Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy offer a selection of "images, lines, gestures, moods from the films of the year…" that’s a refreshing collage of the year that was.
And we’ve been overcoming our year-end malaise by savoring the pleasures of reading about two films we loved, "Pan’s Labyrinth" and "Children of Men," movies that manage to desnark even Anthony Lane. (We also particularly liked David Edelstein‘s observation that Emmanuel Lubezki‘s long takes in "Children of Men" "make you realize how merciful editing can be, since every cut reminds you, on some unconscious level, that youâ€™re not really in that place at that precise instant, dodging (or getting torn up by) bullets and bombs.") Of course, we’ve also been poring over reviews of Roberto Benigni‘s "The Tiger in the Snow" and positively gloating with schadenfreude. "Remember that manic, rambling Oscar acceptance speech, when Benigni leapt around the auditorium? That might have been charming for two or three minutes, but imagine two hours of it," writes G. Allen Johnson at the San Francisco Chronicle. Hee.
Alright, January. We’re ready. Bring on "Blood and Chocolate."
+ The Movie Club (Slate)
+ The Critics Speak (LA Weekly)
+ Random bullet-point-fire. 2006. (Greencine Daily)
+ BIG PICTURES (New Yorker)
+ Pirates, Penguins and Potboilers Rule the Box Office (NY Times)
+ Hurray for Indiewood! (Salon)
+ 2006 (The House Next Door)
+ 2006 Year In Review (Not Coming To A Theater Near You)
+ New generation, old joy (SF Bay Guardian)
+ Revenge of the sloth (SF Bay Guardian)
+ The Year In Movies: Moments Out of Time (MSN Movies)