Commentary on favorites in various categories:
Best Feature Film- After seeing United 93, I was certain that nothing else to come could match it. Babel proved me wrong.
A stunning web of stories, each containing a smoldering cinematic and emotional resonance, I left the theater shaken to my
core, the experience seared into my brain. I'll never forget it, and believe it is the best film of 2006.
Best Lead Performance, Male- There was no shortage of excellent work this year, but Sacha Baron Cohen's
half-real/half-fiction turn as a racist yet lovable third world reporter was truly a movie character for the ages.
Best Lead Performance, Female- - Perhaps I'm being lame in picking the most praised performance of the year as my favorite,
but Helen Mirren's delicate portrayal of the stalwart monarch was as close to pitch perfect as is imaginable. As for my 5th
place choice of Kate Beckinsale, I only argue that it is incredibly rare that actresses are well cast in action hero roles,
and she looked ass-kickingly good during every moment of Underworld: Evolution. I could have picked Judi Dench for 5th place,
but I enjoyed Beckinsale a thousand times more.
Best Supporting Performance, Male- Brad Pitt's performance as an ordinary, frantic husband [in Babel] trying to save his
critically injured wife was explosive without going over the top, gentle without being too soft, and terribly moving without
begging for our sympathy. Easily his best work to date.
Best Supporting Performance, Female- If there was a category simply titled "Best Performance of the Year, Male or
Female", Rinko Kikuchi would have my vote. No other performer was as brave, as raw, or as heartbreaking in their understanding
and illustration of agony and frustration. In a better world, Kikuchi would be an instant worldwide star. In this one, hopefully
she'll win an Oscar.
Best Direction- Alfonso Cuaron created the most fully realized, dazzling, and frightening world to be on the screen in
years. The ultra-long shots were mind-boggingly in their complexity, unforgettable in their intensity.
Best Screenplay- Guillermo Arriaga's script for Babel accomplished the nearly impossible; taking entirely different characters
scattered throughout the globe, telling their story through a shifting chronology, and making each and every individual sympathetic
and relatable, all of this seamlessly.
Best Cinematic Moment- I was tempted to simply list United 93 as the best cinematic moment. The entire film was practically
in real-time, each jarring sequence building until the climax. Even the most naive audience member knows that the passengers
will fail to save their own lives, but nonetheless the overwhelming desire to see it end nicely results in the most startlingly
vicious and jarring scene of the year. Close behind is the climax of the Japanese girl's segment in Babel, which had the most
shattering rejection and personal defeat I can recall in years.
Best Breakthrough Performance- My reasons for placing Kikuchi at the top are visible above. But Daniel Craig's James Bond
had wonderfully human textures lacking in every previous incarnation.
Best Ensemble- Althought great distances separate the majority of Babel's cast, their stories lean on one another, bringing
tremendous importance and weight to every other performance.
Best Cinematography- Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography may be the best of the new millennium. The long takes allow for
a constant increase in pressure that most filmmakers can only dream about achieving, making Children of Men the most extraordinary
technical achievement of the year.
My Own Category: Most Overhyped Films of the Year
1. Pan's Labyrinth
3. Letters From Iwo Jima
My Own Category: Best Underseen Film of the Year
(Films that grossed $20 million or less, major theatrical release concluded)
1. Art School Confidential
2. Marie Antoinette
- I actually liked Letters From Iwo Jima, but found it lacking compared to the vastly superior Flags of Our Fathers. On
the other hand, I didn't like Pan's Labyrinth or Dreamgirls, and could do without either.