Now that I’ve got a bambino there’s less time to just skedaddle to see a film, any film, the way I used to, but I try to stay abreast of current releases as best I can, and if we miss the good ones, they’re on NetFlix and in the house a few months later. Though I’ve hardly seen a fraction of the films released this year, I think I can say that 2006 has been a pretty weak year for film, just as 2005 was before it. I have seen a mere three this year that I’d recommend to anyone, not counting “American Hardcore”, a film I’d recommend, but to very few if you know what I mean. Still in the NetFlix queue or awaiting theatrical release that might join this list: “Street Fight”, “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”, “I Am a Sex Addict”, “The Puffy Chair” and “Little Children” – all which look great & hopefully are. Here’s what I want you to see in lieu of these:
1. UNITED 93 – This film is a masterpiece. I have never been more affected by a film, except perhaps the first time I saw “Apocalypse Now” in the late 70s or when I saw “Scenes From a Marriage” during my engagement – it is seriously that gripping. Everything you felt as September 11th, 2001 unwound itself will come back just as powerfully, and it’s icing on the cake that many of the “actors” in this film are actual FAA personnel playing themselves, reliving that day for the cameras. Everything they do, and everything that the people of the doomed flight do and say, is so natural and believable that you have to remind yourself that you’re not watching a reality show or a hidden camera that was recovered from the wreckage. There’s no fanfare or soaring music when Todd Beamer tells his fellow passengers “let’s roll” – in fact, he tosses it off carelessly & as part of a larger sentence – which is probably the way it happened in real life. This is truly a masterful achievement, and if you loved director Paul Greengrass’s “Bloody Sunday” as I did, well – this one’s even better.
2. BRICK – At the end of this suburban high school potboiler noir, I just had a huge laugh, like, “what the hell did we just see??”. Huge points to the director for immense creativity – grafting all the cliché language and mannerisms of 1940s noir films onto a film set in the most sterile & soulless Southern California high school imaginable (as opposed to, say, New York at night or swinging Paris). You have to rewind the DVD over and over to get what these sleuthing shamuses are saying, but it’s worth it, as it’s usually ridiculously funny once you mentally translate the hardboiled vocabulary of noir films into real English. It’s also a pretty good whodunit as well. We need more films that take absurd risks like this one.
3. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP – Saw this in the theater a few weeks ago, having been dumbfounded by director Michael Gondry’s previous film “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. While not quite as jarring or well-acted as that one, “The Science of Sleep” is still a funny and ultimately tragic film of fantastical mental illness and thwarted romance. I am a fan of everything I’ve seen Gael Garcia-Bernal in, and he’s on camera in just about every frame of this one – and naturally he’s great. Remember how everyone got so hyped-up about “Being John Malkovich” because it was soooo weird and different? This is at least 100 times more unique and crazed as that exceptionally mediocre film, and is touching and genuinely sad to boot. It’s like “Adaptation” – strange and unlike much you’ve seen before, but understandable and connected to real emotions that you’ll recognize. I dug it.