Here’s to hoping that 2007 is a better year for film and toasting the few and far between good films of 2006. I must say there certainly wasn’t any banger moments for big Hollywood hoopla, but the more independent, documentary and foreign type films really rocked my world.
del Toro really knows how to put out a spooky tale and does a perfect job at it. Between The Devil’s Backbone and now one of the best films of the year, Pan’s Labyrinth, he has the perfect touch with the twisted and nightmarish when it comes to children and their stories. Pan’s Labyrinth will be the morbid twisted fairy tale to stand the test of time. The film has subtitles, but they are irrelevant, cause you don’t need them; I didn’t even realize I was reading subtitles about 15 minutes into it.
The story is set in 1944 when a young girl and her mom end up with a bastard of a man. Mom married a military captain who is a vicious and heartless man who only wants a son and Ofelia’s mom is looking for someone to take care of her and her daughter. The captain spends his time beating up and torturing people to find out who is part of the resistance. To escape the dark and morbid reality, Ofelia escapes into a world of fairies, big fat mean frogs, a spooky Faun and she’s the princess. Beautifully shot and well told, Pan’s Labyrinth is rich and certainly will stick to your insides.
Little Miss Sunshine
Never forget that no matter what size you are or your age you can always get your freak on. Little Miss Sunshine has a wonderful cast and an even better story line. A family that at first appears as distant and singled out learns on a weird trip to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant that they are there for one another and are a lot closer than they thought.
Capturing a young audience with both rich and humanistic characters and a hip South African Kwaito artist, Zola, producer Peter Fudakowski played his cards right. Intriguing and luring, Tsotsi, keeps the audience completely attached to the character. Creates a sense of empathy for a thug that should deserve no forgiveness, but rises above it all and earns forgiveness and hopefully a second chance. Based on the novel by Athol Fugard, Tsotsi is set in modern times for expense reasons and to prove even a post apartheid South Africa still has it’s problems, but can rise above it all just like the character. Tsotsi was written in 1980 with a setting in the South African apartheid and a character that isn’t given a second chance at the end, a producer choosing to take the meaning of the story more over the exact story makes a more successful film. A few shots too close to the eye line to keep the audience tide with the lead character are a little over done, but can be forgiven for the richness surrounding those shots. The film is much about poverty vs. wealth and violence vs. compassion; the production design gives us the contrast even in the ghetto between Tsotsi’s dark rich and bare shack compared to Miriam’s warm, soft and inviting surroundings. The music compliments every scene and the actors bring out their best over coming some very rough and emotional moments.
Tsotsi is a rich and powerfully emotional film that will move the audience and aspire even those who may not agree with the quality of story.
The Last King of Scotland
Finally Forest Whitaker gets a little attention. Here is a man who has played in one awesome role after another and filled the character’s shoes completely, but he has never found that role that has lead him to Oscar credit this might very well be his chance. The Last King of Scotland is powerful and tense and Whitaker gave Idi Amin more finesse and humanity than he deserved. The most impressive part to this film was the lack of blood, most films that depict barbaric figures, in specific some of Africa’s more bloody moments, are very graphic and gory just to prove a point. Director Kevin Macdonald and Screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock took the sensible approach giving the audience everything they needed to see this man for who he really was without all the blood, violence and gore.
Catch A Fire
From a powerful storyteller and director, Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence), Catch A Fire is a heartbreaking and heroic South African journey. Based on a real-life hero, Patrick Chamusso, this political thriller of a normal everyday guy who lives a close edged life during the new Africa under apartheid. He coaches, provides for his wife and two daughters and stays out of the politics; keeps his nose clean until Colonel Nic Vos suspects him of a sabotage against the oil refinery. Wrongly accused and put through brutal torture, not only on himself, but his wife too, Patrick begins to fight back and becomes what they have accused him of. Be prepared for a powerful and heart tugging tale.
The Good German
It’s 1945 in post war Berlin and George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire has found themselves mixed up in the middle of Joseph Kanon’s novel “The Good German”. Intrigue, mystery and adventure follow suite as U.S. Army war correspondent Jake Geismar (George Clooney) becomes involved with solving the mystery of an x-girlfriends, Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), husband’s disappearance. Jake finds his driver Tully (Tobey Maguire) a little suspicious, that he should, Tully has a few black market connections, which might be Jake and Lena’s only way out of Berlin or possibly the death of them. Nothings wrong with a little drama and thrill in your holiday movie watching and certainly nothing wrong with a little beautiful to go along with it; eye candy and talented actors and shown in black and white, The Good German is a classic watch.
Shut Up and Sing
Rock on Dixie Chicks. Spend a day in their shoes, see what it was like to be the country music’s lead female group to speak their minds against our noble president. Shut Up and Sing is a documentary that follows the Dixie Chicks lives through out the past 3 years of tours, marriage, death threats, family, political attacks and making music after the comment about Bush. I’m glad we are in another country fighting for their rights and freedom of speech (keeping women from being hidden and abused), but all along we are suppose to oppress our true believes and stay under an invisible veil in our own country.
What makes all of this wrong is not only the opposition the government took against these 3 young ladies, but what we as a nation did. What ever happened to freedom of speech and having our own beliefs? I must question, would the same exact interrogation had happened to a male who would have spoke the same way? Is it time for us to burn our bras again?