Monday, January 01, 2007

Preston Jones' Best Films of 2006 / Oklahoma Gazette

1. "United 93," dir. Paul Greengrass
Riveting and raw, "United 93" accomplished what seemed nearly impossible to many: humanizing and dramatizing one of our country's most wrenching tragedies without once slipping into sentimentality or insincerity. An expertly mounted fusion of documentary technique and fictional conjecture, it's a disquieting experience that holds you in a vice grip until its breathless, inevitable climax. This doesn't unfold like a film, it plays like a searing collective memory.

2. "Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious
Nation of Kazakhstan," dir. Larry Charles
No mainstream comedy was funnier — or more satirically devastating — than Sacha Baron Cohen's full-bore assault on the American way of life. While Borat Sagdiyev became horribly over-exposed in no time flat, his endless parade of PR whoring couldn't diminish the side-splitting prowess of this fakeumentary which peeled back the colors that don't run to reveal some of the less savory traits of those living in the U.S. and A. Very nice!

3. "Pan’s Labyrinth," dir. Guillermo del Toro
A masterful synthesis of gruesome reality and limitless imagination, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a bedtime story for grown-ups; forget the smug pomposity of M. Night Shyamalan's farragoes — Guillermo del Toro is Hollywood's dreamweaver par excellence. Deftly mixing eerily tangible set pieces with a genuinely unnerving performance from Sergio Lopez, del Toro surveys the war-torn lands of post-Franco Spain with heart and humanity.

4. "Shut Up & Sing," dir. Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck
Ravaged by red-staters for speaking their minds, the Dixie Chicks found themselves adrift with an eroding fanbase and an uncertain future. Instead of calling it a day, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire dug deep and re-connected with their passion. Far more than a portrait of a band in crisis, "Shut Up & Sing" is a penetrating, poignant examination of the fall-out from free speech.

5. "The Departed," dir. Martin Scorsese
Bullet-hard and drenched in sanguine kinetics, Martin Scorsese's Westernization of the HK cult classic "Infernal Affairs" feels like an overdue homecoming; with period pics and Dylan docs out of his system, Scorsese fires on all cylinders to plumb the lives and lies of these sons of Boston — Jack Nicholson's live-wire portrayal of evil incarnate elevates everyone's game and the sly final shot feels like floating on air.

6. "Little Miss Sunshine," dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
7. "Casino Royale," dir. Martin Campbell
8. "Notes on a Scandal," dir. Richard Eyre
9. "The Proposition," dir. John Hillcoat
10. "The Queen," dir. Stephen Frears


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