Films seen 2006

"~" after title indicates at-home viewing
"/" before and after title indicates a repeat viewing
"sXX" in place of number indicates short films (fewer than 45 minutes long). Three cheers for YouTube.

001. (4 Jan) Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)~ ***1/2

002. (4 Jan) /Broken Flowers/ (Jim Jarmusch, 2005)~ ***1/2
003. (7 Jan) Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005) *1/2
004. (7 Jan) Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)~ ****

005. (14 Jan) Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)~ ****
006. (15 Jan) Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordon, 2005) ***
007. (19 Jan) Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)~ ****
008. (20 Jan) Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski, 2003)~ ***

009. (22 Jan) Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005) ***1/2
010. (22 Jan) Transamerica (Duncan Tucker, 2005) **
011. (28 Jan) The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)~ ***1/2
012. (29 Jan) The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005) ***
Need to see this again. Or, perhaps, I just need to see the original, longer cut, which sounds more like what I want this movie to be.
013. (30 Jan) Junebug (Phil Morrison, 2005)~ ***
014. (4 Feb) /Blue Velvet/ (David Lynch, 1986)~ ****
015. (5 Feb) Caché (Michael Haneke, 2004) ***1/2
016. (11 Feb) /The New World/ (Terrence Malick, 2005) ***1/2 [Up from ***]
There we go.
Give me another two viewings, I think, and I'll be able to safely see this as the masterpiece it quite probably is.
017. (12 Feb) Manderlay (Lars Von Trier, 2005) ***1/2
018. (14 Feb) Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990)~ ***
019. (18 Feb) Croupier (Mike Hodges, 2000)~ **1/2
020. (18 Feb) The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)~ ****
021. (19 Feb) Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)~ ****
022. (20 Feb) Saboteur (Alfred Hitchcock, 1942)~ ***1/2
023. (21 Feb) Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)~ ***1/2
024. (22 Feb) Date Movie (Aaron Seltzer, 2006) *
I hate my friends.

025. (22 Feb) Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)~ ****
026. (23 Feb) Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)~ ****
027. (24 Feb) Raising Arizona (Joel Coen, 1987)~ ***1/2
028. (25 Feb) Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)~ ***
029. (26 Feb) The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005) ***
s01. (9 Mar) Puce Moment (Kenneth Anger, 1949)~
s02. (9 Mar) Kustom Kar Kommandos (Kenneth Anger, 1965)~
030. (11 Mar) Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2005) ***
s03. (11 Mar) The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)~
031. (11 Mar) The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999)~ ***
s04. (11 Mar) /The Heart of the World/ (Guy Maddin, 2000)~
s05. (12 Mar) Hospital Fragment (Guy Maddin, 1999)~
s06. (12 Mar) The Wold Shadow (Stan Brakhage, 1972)~
s07. (12 Mar) Stellar (Stan Brakhage, 1993)~
s08. (12 Mar) Prelude 2 (Stan Brakhage, 1996)~
032. (15 Mar) Bubble (Steven Soderberg, 2005)~ ***1/2
033. (16 Mar) /Good Night, and Good Luck/ (George Clooney, 2005)~ ***1/2
s09. (18 Mar) Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) (David Lynch, 1966)~
s10. (18 Mar) The Alphabet (David Lynch, 1968)~
s11. (18 Mar) The Grandmother (David Lynch, 1970)~
s12. (18 Mar) The Amputee (David Lynch, 1974)~
s13. (18 Mar) Lumiere (David Lynch, 1995)~
s14. (18 Mar) /Lumiere/ (David Lynch, 1995)~
s15. (18 Mar) The Cowboy & the Frenchman (David Lynch, 1988)~
s16. (18 Mar) /Lumiere/ (David Lynch, 1995)~
Wow. Just wow.

034. (27 Mar) /The Squid and the Whale/ (Noah Baumbach, 2005)~ ***1/2
035. (2 Apr) V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006) ***
036. (2 Apr) Head-On (Fatih Akin, 2004)~ ***
s17. (3 Apr) /Puce Moment/ (Kenneth Anger, 1949)~

037. (5 Apr) Thank You for Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005) ***
038. (7 Apr) Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)~ ****
039. (8 Apr) Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006) ***
s18. (8 Apr) /Lumiere/ (David Lynch, 1995)~
040. (9 Apr) Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005) ***1/2
041. (14 Apr) Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2004)~ ***
042. (14 Apr) /Punch-Drunk Love/ (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)~ ***1/2
043. (16 Apr) /Dead Ringers/ (David Cronenberg, 1988)~ ****
044. (29 Apr) United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) ***
045. (30 Apr) Friends With Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006) ***
046. (30 Apr) The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)~ ****
047. (30 Apr) Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 1995)~ ***1/2
048. (6 May) L'Enfant (The Child) (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2005) ***1/2
049. (12 May) Mission: Impossible III (J.J. Abrams, 2006) **
050. (19 May) Da Vinci Code, The (Ron Howard, 2006) **
051. (24 May) Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, 2000)~ ***1/2
052. (27 May) X-Men: The Last Stand (Brett Ratner, 2006) **
053. (29 May) The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2006) ***
054. (30 May) Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)~ ***
s19. (31 May) Green Oasis (Kumiko Osanai, 2005)~
s20. (31 May) Jumping (Osamu Tezuka, 1984)~
s21. (31 May) Sunstone (Ed Emshwiller, 1979)~
s22. (31 May) Videotape Study No. 3 (Nam June Paik & Jud Yalkut, ?)~
s23. (31 May) The Hearts of Age (Orson Welles & William Vance, 1934)~
055. (1 Jun) Down in the Valley (David Jacobson, 2005) ***1/2
056. (2 Jun) Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Jonathan Demme, 2006) ***1/2
057. (4 Jun) /Manderlay/ (Lars Von Trier, 2005) *** [down from ***1/2]
058. (5 Jun) Friday Night (Claire Denis, 2003)~ ***
059. (6 Jun) The Break-Up (Peyton Reed, 2006) **1/2
060. (6 Jun) Dave Chappelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry, 2005) ***1/2
061. (9 Jun) Stay (Marc Forster, 2005)~ *1/2
s24. (10 Jun) Not I (Neil Jordon, 2000)~
062. (10 Jun) Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)~ ****
063. (11 Jun) A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006) ***
W/O. (12 Jun) The Chumscrubber (Arie Posin, 2005)~
Oh my god is this movie awful.
064. (14 Jun) /Dave Chappelle's Block Party/ (Michel Gondry, 2005)~ **** [up from ***1/2]
065. (15 Jun) The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)~ ***1/2
066. (16 Jun) An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006) ***
067. (17 Jun) The Sword of Doom (Kihachi Okamoto, 1966) ****
068. (18 Jun) /Last Days/ (Gus Van Sant, 2005)~ ***
069. (22 Jun) Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)~ ****
070. (24 Jun) /Kiss Kiss Bang Bang/ (Shane Black, 2005)~ ***1/2
071. (25 Jun) Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)~ ****
072. (28 Jun) Click (Frank Coraci, 2006) *1/2
073. (28 Jun) Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006) **1/2
074. (30 Jun) A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006) ***
075. (1 Jul) The Devil Wears Prada (David Frankel, 2006) **1/2
s25. (3 Jul) Fireworks (Kenneth Anger, 1947)~
s26. (3 Jul) Night Music (Stan Brakhage, 1986)~
s27. (3 Jul) Eye Myth (Stan Brakhage, 1972)~
s28. (3 Jul) /The Wold Shadow/ (Stan Brakhage, 1972)~
s29. (3 Jul) Stellar (Stan Brakhage, 1993)~
s30. (3 Jul) The Dante Quartet (Stan Brakhage, 1987)~
078. (5 Jul) The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006) 1/2*
079. (6 Jul) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006) **1/2
080. (9 Jul) La Promesse (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 1996)~ ****
081. (11 Jul) /Neil Young: Heart of Gold/ (Jonathan Demme, 2006)~ ***1/2
082. (15 Jul) /Caché/ (Michael Haneke, 2005)~ ***1/2
083. (15 Jul) Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)~ ****
084. (17 Jul) Lady in the Water (M. Night Shyamalan, 2006) **1/2
This movie is either totally great or a total disaster. I need to see it again, and this is a placeholder rating in my opinion.
085. (21 Jul) Clerks II (Kevin Smith, 2006) ***
086. (22 Jul) /Superman Returns/ (Bryan Singer, 2006) *** [up from **1/2]
s31. (23 Jul) Desistfilm (Stan Brakhage, 1954)
s32. (23 Jul) Wedlock House: An Intercourse (Stan Brakhage, 1959)
087. (24 Jul) McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)~ ****
088. (26 Jul) World Trade Center (Oliver Stone, 2006) **1/2
089. (29 Jul) Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997)~ ***1/2
090. (29 Jul) /Lady in the Water/ (M. Night Shyamalan, 2006) ***
091. (31 Jul) Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1959)~ ***1/2
092. (2 Aug) Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain, 2001)~ ***1/2
093. (4 Aug) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay, 2006) **1/2
094. (4 Aug) The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005) **1/2
095. (5 Aug) Strangers with Candy (Paul Dinello, 2006) ***
096. (5 Aug) The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)~ ****
097. (6 Aug) Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981)~ ***1/2
098. (7 Aug) The Night Listener (Patrick Stettner, 2006) **
099. (7 Aug) The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)~ ***1/2
100. (8 Aug) /Wet Hot American Summer/ (David Wain, 2001)~ ***1/2
101. (8 Aug) Run Ronnie Run (Troy Miller, 2002)~ **1/2
s33. (8 Aug) Rejected (Don Hertzfeldt, 2000)~
s34. (8 Aug) Welcome to the Show/Intermission in the Third Dimension/The End of the Show (Don Hertzfeldt, 2003)~
s35. (8 Aug) Billy's Balloon (Don Hertzfeldt, 1998)~
s36. (8 Aug) Ah, l'amour (Don Hertzfeldt, 1995)~
102. (11 Aug) Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2006) **1/2
103. (12 Aug) Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, 2005)~ **
104. (14 Aug) Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006) ***1/2
105. (16 Aug) Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) **1/2
106. (17 Aug) /Goodfellas/ (Martin Scorsese, 1990) ****
107. (23 Aug) /Casablanca/ (Michael Curtiz, 1942) ****
108. (24 Aug) /Fight Club/ (David Fincher, 1999) ***1/2 [down from ****]
109. (26 Aug) Kicking and Screaming (Noah Baumbach, 1995)~ ***1/2
110. (26 Aug) /Rushmore/ (Wes Anderson, 1998)~ ****
111. (27 Aug) The Illusionist (Neil Burger, 2006) **1/2
112. (30 Aug) /Citizen Kane/ (Orson Welles, 1941) It's Citizen Fucking Kane, you know what the rating is
113. (31 Aug) /Pulp Fiction/ (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) ****
114. (2 Sep) Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean, 1999)~ ***
115. (3 Sep) Gabrielle (Patrice Chéreau, 2005) **1/2
I need to see this again.
s37. (3 Sep) /Rejected/ (Don Hertzfeldt, 2000)~
116. (6 Sep) Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) ****
117. (8 Sep) /Being John Malkovich/ (Spike Jonze, 1999)~ ****
118. (8 Sep) /Magnolia/ (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)~ ****
119. (10 Sep) Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)~ ****
120. (11 Sep) Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)~ ****
121. (13 Sep) The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) ****
122. (13 Sep) Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)~ ***1/2
123. (15 Sep) Hollywoodland (Allen Coulter, 2006) **1/2
124. (15 Sep) The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006) ***1/2
125. (17 Sep) Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006) ***1/2
126. (20 Sep) Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993) ***1/2
127. (20 Sep) White (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)~ **1/2
128. (20 Sep) Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)~ ****
129. (23 Sep) Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002)~ ***
130. (23 Sep) /The Black Dahlia/ (Brian De Palma, 2006) ***1/2
131. (23 Sep) In My Skin (Marina de Van, 2002)~ ***1/2
132. (25 Sep) What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001)~ ***
133. (27 Sep) Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1998) **1/2
134. (28 Sep) The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)~ ***
135. (30 Sep) Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969) ****
136. (1 Oct) Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)~ ****
137. (1 Oct) Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)~ ****
138. (4 Oct) The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003) **
139. (5 Oct) The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005) ***
140. (7 Oct) The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) ***1/2
141. (8 Oct) /The Departed/ (Martin Scorsese, 2006) **** [up from ***1/2]
142. (9 Oct) Mamma Roma (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1962) **1/2
143. (11 Oct) War Photographer (Cristian Frei, 2001) **1/2
144. (12 Oct) /Requiem for a Dream/ (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) ***1/2
145. (14 Oct) Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006) **1/2
146. (14 Oct) House of 1000 Corpses (Rob Zombie, 2003)~ **

147. (15 Oct) The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006) **1/2
148. (15 Oct) Jackass Number Two (Jeff Tremaine, 2006) ***
149. (17 Oct) Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006) **
150. (18 Oct) Since Otar Left... (Julie Bertucelli, 2003) **1/2
151. (19 Oct) Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987) ****
152. (21 Oct) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005)~ **1/2
153. (21 Oct) /The Truman Show/ (Peter Weir, 1998)~ ***1/2
154. (22 Oct) Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) ***
155. (23 Oct) /Election/ (Alexander Payne, 1999) ***1/2
155. (24 Oct) /Good Night, and Good Luck/ (George Clooney, 2005) ***1/2
157. (26 Oct) The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) ***
158. (28 Oct) The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) **1/2
159. (29 Oct) Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006) **1/2
160. (30 Oct) Running with Scissors (Ryan Murphy, 2006) **
161. (30 Oct) /The Prestige/ (Christopher Nolan, 2006) ***1/2 [(way) up from ***]
162. (1 Nov) The Celebration (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998) ***1/2
163. (5 Nov) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006) ***
164. (6 Nov) Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2005) **1/2
165. (8 Nov) /Me and You and Everyone We Know/ (Miranda July, 2005) ***1/2
166. (10 Nov) The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999)~ ***
167. (11 Nov) Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006) **
Japan - ***1/2; Morocco - **; Mexico - *1/2

168. (15 Nov) /Sin City/ (Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez, 2005) *** [down from ***1/2]

Why did it take me three viewings to realize just how misogynistic this movie is? I guess I was just too wowed by the technical brilliance and gripping storytelling (which both unsurprisingly survive) to notice the first two times, which is frankly kind of embarassing. It also probably didn't help that I saw this for my introductory film class and that in the subsequent discussion group one kid, who I had previously heard talking on his cell phone about what "bitches" a couple of girls were (like eight times he said "bitch"), argued that the Clive Owen segment was the best because the gun-wielding prostitutes were "so hot and badass" and that Jessica Alba's vapidity didn't matter because she was "so hot, I mean seriously." I think he also said something about Brittany Murphy, but by that point I was too busy ignoring him to be sure.

169. (15 Nov) Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006) ***

On one hand, I'm sure Stranger Than Fiction is bullshit. For one, it doesn't seem to be playing by its own rules; if Will Ferrell the person can hear the narrator's voice, why can't Ferrell the character?; and how can Emma Thompson's author/narrator say "little did he know" w/r/t Ferrell's imminent death when, because of her narration, he does in fact know?; and even if you accept those transgressions, wouldn't they suggest that Ferrell the person is somehow distinct from Ferrell the character and should therefore be able to escape the fatalistic binds of Thompson's story? And for two, Forster is admittedly kind of a hack, dragging the audience from emotion to emotion with every manipulative trick in the book. This is seriously like TV-level work here, except for the neat visual tricks he pulls at the start of the film, but then again on second thought no, he stole that from Fight Club.

But. Regardless of the rule-breaking, the Kaufman-lite concept remains awesome; had I somehow gone into this thing uninformed, I probably would have cheered when Ferrell interrupts the opening voice-over. And then there's the performances, which are roundly terrific. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are unsurprisingly great, but it's Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal who own the film. Ferrell has plenty of time to be funny (and he is), but it's in his graceful navigation of his character's surprisingly tricky emotional progression that he really impresses, and his romance with the glorious Gyllenhaal is among the year's best. Even in stuff like Elf and Anchorman, there's just something about Ferrell that makes him tremendously appealing and believable as a man in love, and Stranger Than Fiction's focus on how the relationship, along with the ramifications of the film's concept, affect Ferrell on a personal and emotional level is actually quite moving despite Forster's hand-holding.

Yeah, yeah, I know. But at least I didn't fall for Babel, right? Right?

170. (18 Nov) Little Children (Todd Field, 2006) *1/2

As the credits began to roll, Matt stood up, sighing, a scowl across his face. He stepped past a crying woman and glared down at her. Matt was angry. "How could anyone fall for that ridiculous, lazy, condescending piece of shit?" he thought angrily. "I can't believe that was from the same guy who did In the Bedroom." He wondered why anyone would adapt a novel by removing everything good about it and then making the what was left way, way worse. "The book was a satire," he thought. "It was funny. A child molester's self-castration wasn't treated as the dramatic climax. And sure, the narration in the book was kind of smug and annoying, but it was still funny. Condescension is not funny. It's just annoying." As he worked his way to the bathroom, the noise of Little Children's noxious voice-over buzzing in his ears, his disgust for the film rose. It would be a long time before he would forget Field's disrespect for his plastic characters, the heavy-handed literary quotations or the smug superiority that positively oozed from the screen. Matt was angry. He unzipped his pants, and took a piss.

171. (18 Nov) Buffalo '66 (Vincent Gallo, 1998)~ ****

Is there any director currently working as contradictory as Vincent Gallo? While displaying nowhere near the level of control he held in The Brown Bunny five years later (costume designer? really?), Buffalo '66 still looks to be the work of a raging narcissist (writer, director, composer and star), yet in both of his films to date, Gallo casts himself as utterly pathetic losers, self-loathing and desperate for human attention; would a true narcissist allow himself to beg for Christina Ricci to hold him or curl up in the bathtub like an eight year-old? Not to mention the tension between the film's grimy surface and bizarrely tender heart: the grainy photography that mutes the film's colors yet is still often beautiful, Gallo's loving treatment of Ricci's character, the optimistic and romantic finale. Gallo has the remarkably assured style of a born filmmaker; moments like the photo-booth scene and the shoot-out at the strip club (or that marvelous shot of Gallo driving over the salt field in The Brown Bunny) stand among the best of modern independent cinema.

172. (22 Nov) Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) ***

It's very much to Casino Royale's credit that the thing I had the most trouble buying was the final hand of the poker game (a flush, two full houses and a straight flush? Holy shit, and not to mention how could Bond have been in the hand long enough to hit it with 4-7 of spades?). So no invisible cars or ice fortresses or villains with electric arms or giant space lasers; in fact, there's no real fancy technology at all, just guns and brute force and big ropes ropes hammered against testicles, which ouch.

And that's why Casino Royale is the best Bond film since probably Connery's days; it's gritty and violent, genuinely brutal, and Daniel Craig, with his cold eyes, boxer's nose and tank's build, makes the perfect Bond. He's easily the best since Connery, and the first that's genuinely scary; he's the only one you can really buy as capable of indiscriminate murder, which is exactly right. Bond should be a menacing sociopath, not a charming rapscallion.

So the franchise's reinvention is awesome; keep it up. Unfortunately, Martin Campbell is still little more than an amiable hack, and definitely not what the new Bond needs. For every awesome bathroom brawl, there's an action sequence rendered incomprehensible by Campbell's graceless direction. Combine Casino Royale's sensibility with a talented, gritty stylist, and you'd have something special; someone give that Wolf Creek guy a call.

Oh, and fuck Paul Haggis. The dialogue in the romantic scenes between Craig and Eva Green (alluring in a thankless role) is seriously torturous. And yes, I know there are three credited writers, but I still blame him; he's earned it.

173. (24 Nov) The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006) ***

Have you ever noticed that critics always complain about the assembly-line mediocrity of most Hollywood cinema, but when a director releases a flawed but truly ambitious and challenging studio picture, they inevitably line up to kick his ass? What's up with that? Yes, The Fountain is somewhat pretentious and occasionally silly, but that's a biproduct of Aronofsky's outsized ambition, and I can count the number of mainstream directors to which the phrase "outsized ambition" can be applied on one hand. What's most heartbreaking for me about the critical establishment's not just dismissal but outright disdain for Aronofsky's vision is that, at heart, it's not even a science fiction film. It merely uses sci-fi tropes and images to explore a basic facet of the human condition: coming to terms with death. I'm seriously amazed at the lack of reviews that acknowledge that Aronofsky makes it possible--I would argue probable--that the future-set segments of The Fountain are taking place entirely within Hugh Jackman's grief-stricken mind as he struggles to cope with his wife's death.

In retrospect, this reading seems to me almost unbearably moving. As the film was unspooling, however, its sadness and power seemed more conceptual than actual, a feeling I need a second viewing to confirm (or, hopefully, reject; I'd love to declare this a misunderstood (near-)masterpiece). What I don't need to confirm is the beauty of Aronofsky's images, which match step for step the hugeness and grandeur of his vision.

174. (25 Nov) For Your Consideration (Christopher Guest, 2006) **1/2

Funny, of course, but not really much of a movie. Oddly, For Your Consideration, the first of Guest's films to not follow the mockumentary approach, is also the first to not really pay off narratively; the Oscar thread is concluded with a brief epilogue, and then cut to credits. There's no summation, like the end of the dog show in Best in Show or the concert at the end of A Mighty Wind, but it's not an issue of open-endedness; the thing just kind of stops. Still, it works brilliantly in bits and pieces, which will probably be the case for Guest's work so long as he keeps his brilliant cast together. In A Mighty Wind, it was Eugene Levy who shined brightest by balancing broad humor and emotional resonance; here it's the marvelous Catherine O'Hara as an aging actress getting a taste of potential Oscar stardom. Also: Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, Levy, Harry Shearer, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Ricky Gervais, etc. etc. It's pretty hard to totally fuck that up.

175. (27 Nov) Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (Liam Lynch, 2006) **

I could watch Jack Black in just about anything. Same for Amy Poehler (in a cameo here). Despite that, and despite the awesome and far-too-rare musical performances, The Pick of Destiny is hardly even a movie, and there is no way it works if you yourself are not under the influence of the D's favorite herb.

176. (29 Nov) Mirrormask (Dave McKean, 2005) ***

Never less than visually stunning, and I love the tongue-in-cheek dream logic of its fantasy segments. Unfortunately, it's also partly set in the real world, with a frame story that informs the fantasy in narratively arbitrary ways (the mom would have done just fine without her daughter's flight into fancy, so it's just sort of an excuse to show off McKean's artwork) and in subtextually questionable ones (the daughter must learn to not pull away from her mother and defeat her "evil half," who is dealing with growing up in pretty normal ways: fighting with her parents, experimenting with smoking, hanging out with questionable guys). Nicely visualizes the scary stage between childhood and adolescence, but I'm not sure it comes down on the right side of the argument. Sure is pretty, though.

177. (1 Dec) /A Prairie Home Companion/ (Robert Altman, 2006)~ ***1/2 [up from ***]

Second viewing, and I finally get it: It's about death! People seem to be taking Altman's death as an opportunity to rehash that deep (...not!) reading of his final film, but it is hard not to be supremely moved, especially now, by the simultaneously somber and uplifting attitude A Prairie Home Companion takes toward The End. Death is not something to be mourned but an occasion to remember the life of the deceased, celebrated in this case by community and performance. "The death of an old man is not a tragedy," Virginia Madsen's angel says, and although Altman's millions of fans may not be inclined to agree, his optimism in the face of his own death makes for, on second viewing, one of the loveliest films of the year. Thanks, Bob. It's been fun.

178. (2 Dec) Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (Stanley Nelson, 2006) **1/2

A powerful story told in the single most uninteresting and -challenging way possible. Made up entirely of talking-head interviews and stock footage, Jonestown is to be commended for taking a well-rounded view of Jim Jones and the utopian social progressivism that made Peoples Temple so appealing to its members, but still: if a PBS-level documentary is the best you can do with the medium, why even make the movie?

179. (4 Dec) Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (Liam Lynch, 2005)~ **1/2

Silverman's a genius performer, and her stand-up show is hilarious. Too bad, then, that the show itself only lasted like 50 minutes, forcing her and Lynch to pad out the running length with live-action bookends and musical interludes. These side-trips, while funny, are awkwardly integrated and disrupt the rhythm of Silverman's performance. Also: Why does this, which didn't need musical segments, have more of them than the Tenacious D movie (also from Lynch), which anyone with half a brain could have seen needed to be a full-blown musical? And does that I've been singing "I love you even if it's not hip/ I love you more than black people don't tip" in my head all week make me a bad person? Probably.

180. (5 Dec) Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) ***1/2

It's hard to overstate Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's accomplishments here; one of the most exciting modern directors, Cuarón makes mostly all the right choices here, gliding his camera effortlessly through his world and (for the most part) trusting the audience to make out the details among the rubble. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that so effectively creates the feeling of being trapped in chaos, and two sequences in particular (an action scene shot entirely from the interior of a car and a single-shot take of Clive Owen running through an under-siege apartment building), stand among the most powerful of recent cinema. The only thing keeping this from a full four stars is what seems like the hollowness of its message: "everything sucks and is only getting worse." Certain moments, however, call this conclusion into question, most notably the beautiful moment following the apartment chase where the film calms and the fighting stops, all because of a baby. Maybe it was the reliably and distractingly shitty projection at the UGA theater (there was like a fifteen minute stretch in the middle of the film where a boom mic was visible), or maybe it was something else, but I feel like I may have missed something. In any case, I owe Children of Men at least one more viewing. I can't wait.

181. (6 Dec) The Pursuit of Happyness (Gabriele Muccino, 2006) **

Pretty much exactly what you'd expect, so your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for the conventions of holiday-time feel-goodery: the incessant score; the artificial situations inserted into a true story (or at least they feel artificial, which is basically the same thing; just because something really happened doesn't mean it will work as cinema); the cartoonish portrayals of those who would stand in our Hero's way (Thandie Newton is just awful as Will Smith's shrieking harpy of a wife); the cute kid; an American flag in nearly every shot, situating (over and over again) Chris Gardner's story as an example of the American Dream in action. A few powerful scenes, thanks almost entirely to Smith's intense performance, so I guess it's pretty good for what it is. Too bad that isn't very much.

182. (7 Dec) /The Royal Tenenbaums/ (Wes Anderson, 2001) ****

Third viewing, and I like it more each time. It's a pretty clear step in Anderson's progression, moving from the character-based humanism of Rushmore to the more universal concerns that would define the transcendent Life Aquatic (for my money Anderson's best film). It's a film full of great moments, from the opening "Hey Jude" montage to the slow-motion shot of Gwyneth Paltrow exiting the bus to Luke Wilson's suicide attempt, and a terrific if arbitrary soundtrack leading the way to The Life Aquatic's more resonant set of Bowie tunes.

183. (7 Dec) /Bubble/ (Steven Soderbergh, 2005)~ *** [down from ***1/2]

Second viewing. This time, its minimalistic experimentation seemed less visionary and more self-indulgent, Soderbergh trying to be different just for the fun of it. Still, Bubble remains bracingly weird, even moving, and Soderbergh's skill with his unknown actors is still astounding; Debbie Doebereiner's work remains one of the best female performances of the year.

184. (9 Dec) Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick, 2006) **

DiCaprio is admittedly good, but so what? This is still an insufferable, racist Oscar-time message movie, with a pair of white protagonists serving as our guides through an Africa made up entirely of Africans of two stripes: (1) one-dimensional noble savages (typified by an awful - and inexplicably awarded - Djimon Hounsou) meant to tickle the audience's liberal guilt and (2) one-dimensional violent savages there to put our white protagonists in danger. For a while, DiCaprio's charming amoralism is almost shamefully entertaining, but his transformation at the hands of Mother Africa is the worst kind of condescending, both to the audience and to the people currently suffering in the war-torn continent. But, you know, next time you're buying a diamond, be sure to ask nicely that it not be of the conflict variety, mm'kay? Blood Diamond, saving the world one enlightened viewer at a time.

185. (10 Dec) Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006) **1/2

What a shame that such a visually gifted director has to have such a retarded sensibility. Gutsy use of a dead language (without the benefit of serving the story of Jesus getting the shit kicked out of him) plus gorgeous shots of the South American landscape should not equal Rambo in my opinion. Put in the Please Don't Let This Be the Subtext file: The arrival of the [spoiler!] Spanish at the end of the movie representing the healing powers of Catholicism coming into the land after the Mayans had already destroyed themselves morally. It's a great shot, but, as seems to be par for the course for Gibson, it's great style in support of a questionable message. (To be fair, Gibson could simply be foreshadowing the death of the Mayan empire without any regard to religion or morality, but the implicit suggestion that such destruction could not have occurred without the natives' violent and lavish lifestyle is still pretty damn wrongheaded.)

186. (11 Dec) Cabin Fever (Eli Roth, 2003)~ **1/2

Pretty fun, but seriously: What the fuck? It starts out fairly conventionally, then just gets crazier and crazier until the absolutely baffling last scene (the best I can figure, it's Roth playfully undermining the horror movie convention of making the creepy locals as strange and despicable as possible, but I dunno; he maybe just thought it was funny, and he was kind of right). Some similarities to Hostel, what with the college boys (and girls) coming into an alien locale without respect for the locals or each other and being punished for it, although the killer here, coming from within rather than without, is much more effective in this regard than is Hostel's torture-show (after seeing this, I'm pretty sure that Roth is riduculing rather than celebrating his characters' childish behavior). It's a uniquely liberal sensibility among modern horror movies, which only makes the masturbatory revenge fantasy of Hostel's finale that much more despicable.

187. (13 Dec) /The Fountain/ (Darren Aronofsky, 2006) ***

Well, I'm about 90% sure my initial reading is correct, in that the present-day story is the only "real" one, which makes The Fountain an intensely moving film about the acceptance process - in theory. Because I was also right that the sense of sadness and loss that should have been the film's undercurrent just isn't there. Save for the lovely shot of Rachel Weisz (totally bland and wasted, by the way) running away from the camera, there's just very little here to justify Hugh Jackman's devastation. On the other hand, my appreciation for Aronofsky's visuals has only increased; this really is a gorgeous, gorgeous movie. So it's not a misunderstood masterpiece, but it is a hugely ambitious and deeply personal project from a mainstream director, and that's good enough for me - especially when the current (mediocre) screenplay is reportedly the result of numerous forced cuts and concessions.

188. (15 Dec) Failure to Launch (Tom Dey, 2006)~ **1/2

Better than I expected, thanks entirely to the material on the periphery of the central romance (McConaughey and Parker? Wake me up when it's over, please), which is consistently clever and funny. Not much else to say, save for this: I hereby declare that from here on out every mainstream comedy or romance must feature the unspeakably awesome Zooey Deschanel in a prominent supporting role. Failure to comply will result in me not paying to see your movie.

189. (18 Dec) /L'Enfant (The Child)/ (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2005)~ ***1/2

Second viewing, first on video. I suppose there's some criticism to be made that the Dardennes continue to mine the same territory, but when the results are this consistently immediate and moving, it seems dumb to complain. L'Enfant can be seen as a Christian parable, a socialist message movie (with the male protagonist treating everything - even his son - as a commodity to be traded) or just a rousing and involving narrative complete with a chase scene (or, most likely, all three). Whatever your reading, though, L'Enfant remains one of the most sensitive and moving examinations of repentance and forgiveness I've seen - the best of human spirituality made beautifully physical. But it's the Dardennes, so what else is new?

190. (19 Dec) Lucky Number Slevin (Paul McGuigan, 2006)~ **1/2

I'm probably overrating this, since it's hollow and cold and overly flashy, but it's also pretty fun, from the performances to the plot; Josh Hartnett's wise-ass hero is a type but a pleasant one (the razor-sharp dialogue helps), Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are clearly having fun (especially Kingsley; what the hell is that accent, anyway?) and Lucy Liu sure is cute. The twisty plot is self-consciously ridiculous, but I actually kind of liked the big reveal. This thing got trashed by the critics, but I don't think that's entirely fair; it's sure better than most of the major-release shit the studios turn out. At least this shallow trifle isn't boring.

191. (23 Dec) The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro, 2006) **1/2

This respectable prestige picture, on the other hand, sure is. De Niro's clearly a talented director, but his attempts here to replicate the style of classic 70's American cinema result in little more than a hushed seriousness that sucks all the life out of the movie and slows it to a crawl. The narrative's just deathly dull, which some people have argued mirrors the film's thesis that the life of a CIA operative is dull and soul-crushing rather than exciting. Unfortunately, this argument hinges on the assumption that The Good Shepherd is tense or suspenseful (it isn't) or in any way attempts to formally mirror the mental anguish that Matt Damon's operative goes through (it doesn't).

192. (23 Dec) /The Prestige/ (Christopher Nolan, 2006) ****

193. (24 Dec) /Brick/ (Rian Johnson, 2005)~ ***1/2
194. (25 Dec) Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006) ***1/2
195. (27 Dec) Dreamgirls (Bill Condon, 2006) **
196. (29 Dec) /Children of Men/ (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) ***1/2