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Harry's Top Ten Films Seen In 2006!!!

Hey folks, Harry here. As usual – my top ten list is very rigid. It’s made up of the films that I have seen in 2006. Of the films released physically in 2006, the one I’ll probably wind up watching the most in my life would have to be V FOR VENDETTA, but I saw that film at BNAT 2005. I don’t do runner-ups, I make a strict top ten list. This has been one of the harder years, as there were a great many films I loved that were released and shown to me. There were a lot of films that came out that had superior performances, but the films were just flat, over-wrought or just self-aware. To make my list, they have to be films that I want to see over and over again. It can’t just be a film that I walked out of the screening drained. Film isn’t just about reality, it isn’t just about realism and honesty. Film is also about fantasy, entertainment and magic. Here’s my list… 10. HATCHET Ok – this is a film coming out later in 2007, but this is a film that is PURE FUN. Are there better plots, better acting, better films? Sure. I’ve got a list of about 15 films I could place in this spot – and over the past week, they’ve been here. However, I have to say – as I looked at the 16 or so films that were under consideration for this final spot – I just kept coming back to what I honestly felt. Which film was HARRY’S pick… that I wanted to say – hey… I’m different from just about everyone else – that I would be that person that would herald a film like EVIL DEAD II or HALLOWEEN – the year they were made, not upon their 20th Anniversary. HATCHET is second only to ROCKY BALBOA for the best film experience in a theater I’ve had all year. And I had it twice during FANTASTIC FEST. Director Adam Green is the real deal – and Victor Crowley is a friggin fantastic horror icon waiting to be unleashed upon all y’all. To me, this was my find of the year. The film that I didn’t expect anything from. It was just a DVD that came in the mail, that squeaked into FANTASTIC FEST – and then performed so wonderfully. I pick this because only someone as goofy as me, would pick this. It’s a great time and one of the best I’ve had this year. 9. APOCALYPTO This is just a tremendous motion picture. Mel finally makes a film where the hero survives. Finally there’s a great film set within the Mayan empire. I love how normal he makes the tribal relations seem. How they play practical jokes, share in their humor and lives. I love how matter of fact everything in this film is. The chase is one of the greatest sequences in film this year. It’s stunning. The art design, cinematography and direction with essentially a 100% novice acting group is stunning. The film feels like something timeless. I also love the politics of the film and how they’re not on the surface, but underneath the story. This is essentially the story of one family surviving a horrible situation… but under all of that – you have the fore-shadow of the death of a major culture, civilization cannibalizing itself and the nature around it. Just one of the best films this year. 8. THE DEPARTED I have to say, from the moment I heard that Scorsese was going to direct a remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS – I had a whole series of conflicting feelings about it. It was a great story, a great film. Certainly Scorsese is a great director, but for that reason, there was that part of me that wanted Scorsese to stay away from the remake, but I would rather Scorsese take on this remake than the host of hacks that were waiting in the wings. Then I saw the film and goddamn it, Scorsese made it his own. While watching the film, I never thought of the original. I didn’t miss Hong Kong and the Chinese neon. I wasn’t anticipating what was coming next, I was simply in the story. Scorsese directed an amazing cast and didn’t let them showboat, he held them in, letting them fly only when they needed to. I saw this 3 times in the theater and loved watching it play the audience. Shocking them with its twists and making them laugh with the film instead of at it. This is a really great film from Scorsese and one I can’t wait to add to my DVD library. 7. ROCKY BALBOA This is exactly the film it needed to be, not just for Stallone, but for the audience that was waiting for Stallone to be Rocky Balboa one last time. Seems some people are taking potshots at this film for merely preying upon nostalgia, but the fact is – if we were only fond of the character, then we would have accepted ROCKY V, which I absolutely rejected. I hate ROCKY V, most of the time, I like to pretend it didn’t even exist. That said – ROCKY BALBOA is the film that follows in the steps of ROCKY and ROCKY II. It isn’t the cartoon that I loved in ROCKY III and ROCKY IV. RB exists in that realm of “a hard knocks life.” BALBOA lives in a tough world… that world where you’re expected to simply become a memory, to become a person meant to sign autographs and tell remembrances from your past. And this is a story about a man who feels he has one new memory to give everyone. One last time to show those around him that he wasn’t great long ago, that he wasn’t living just in the past, but that he has the ability to stand toe to toe with the best and say that he was and is Rocky Balboa – and there will never be another like him. That said – I love the story. My heart ached for Paulie when he got let go. Rocky having to breakthrough to his son was powerful. Balboa trying to connect to a new person – yet still honoring Adrian – is wonderful. Yes, I grew up with Rocky films, and I’m glad to have one to share with my fiancée and say, “See, ROCKY is cool!” ROCKY BALBOA was a great film. 6. THE FOUNTAIN I kinda can’t believe that this isn’t in my top 5. This film is a transcendent joy. For me, it’s such a brutal and lovely filmic poem to the power of wasted moments of misdirected love. It makes you want to make every moment count, take every walk in the snow, go to everything, be everything and love every moment you have love. The score is brilliant, the photography gorgeous. If there’s a reason it’s this low on the list, I’d have to say it is how much it takes out of me while watching. It’s a film that just works me over emotionally, leaving me exhausted, yet thrilled by cinema at Aronofsky’s hands. A brilliant film. Absolutely love it. 5. THE HOST I love this film. Usually when I love a Korean film, it rushes to the top of the list, because ordinarily… that country puts out the most powerful works of cinema that I see in a given year. Well, this has just been an extraordinarily strong year for the domestics. That said, THE HOST is the best full on monster movie since JAWS. Now I know most people don’t consider JAWS a monster film, but an adventure film, but that’s the same here. This creature may be “fictional,” but that’s only because it hasn’t jumped out of the Han River yet… And many critics will be comparing this film to JAWS, but honestly – to me, it feels a bit more like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, but instead of Aliens abducting a family member, it’s a river creature. I know so many of you haven’t had a chance to see this film yet, so I’ll be very careful about what I say, but this film has a lot more going on, than just a monster that comes out of a river. There’s government conspiracy, a distrust of not just the United States, but the South Korean government as well. This film has a lot on its mind. Tonally, it is very complicated – especially for Americans that are unfamiliar with Korean culture. This isn’t Japan with an internalization of emotion. Koreans feel and emote greatly. They wallow in emotion, and the grieving scenes in this film are not comedic, but very real. Just not the way we’re used to seeing the Asian cultures we see cinematically. Or Americans for that matter. But trust me, in the last year, I’ve become intimately familiar with the emotional realities that exist in that culture. This film will blow most of you completely away. 4. 300 Just fucking wow! The final film of BNAT 8 was just incredible for me. I was wide awake, without even the slightest hint of low energy… and this film fed my brain the octane to get crazy excited to the point where I couldn’t sleep for the next 10 hours. Zach Snyder has taken not a leap forward, but a quantum leap forward in his career with this film. This is a film that I could watch with no sound, with sound and with my favorite music playing over. The imagery is so lush, so hypnotic, so crazy that there’s no need for drugs, alcohol or any stimulant – this film is a constant eruption of stimulation. The fighting is hypnotic, the music is awesome and I literally can not wait to see it again and again and again and again. This is what I dreamt of when I watched SIN CITY. This is PURE entertainment. Vibrant cinema. And Exciting like very few movies are in a year. I can see putting this film in my DVD player on repeat for a week at a time. SERIOUSLY. However, it’s an impossibly long time till it hits DVD. An amazing film. 3. CHILDREN OF MEN This film and the next three just absolutely own me. Cuaron’s film is effortless science fiction, a black satire of the immigration issue that we’re engaged in here in the United States. But really – immigration is becoming a global concern for all developed nations, with the media and the governments of the world. That said, at no point during the film does it feel like a two-fisted message film about immigration. Instead, it’s just a breathless science fiction tale told with the honesty and ferocity of the best dramas we see. This is the best science fiction film of the last decade. There is a level of cinema at play here that is truly daunting. Earlier this year, THE PROTECTOR had a single take long shot that took my breath away… well forget that, here Cuaron does it so well that I just dropped my jaw and bugged my eyes – but never pulled out of the story. It was cinematic technical brilliance without sacrificing the story or the emotional involvement with his story. In fact, it was working on two parts of my brain at the same time at pure top levels. I was analyzing and simply engaged both without one out-weighing the other. In other words, bliss. 2. BLACK SNAKE MOAN Last year’s number one film was a movie that came along and just stunned me by a filmmaker that I’d never heard of before. HUSTLE & FLOW. Well, this year – I’ve seen his follow up film twice. The first time – way back in like May. And more recently at the start of BNAT 8. Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved BLACK SNAKE MOAN when I watched it all those months ago. And it was finished back then. That you haven’t seen it yet, aggravates me. Right now, we’d be talking about Oscar Nominations for Directing, Writing, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing and Picture. However, for some reason – this movie is being held for Sundance and an early year release. Don’t get me wrong, I love that OctoButt-Numb-A-Thon got to premiere this, but dammit – this film cockblocked everything that came after it. This is a great small film – made gold by everything that Brewer does best. He gets how to involve music, soul and heart and wrap them around performances without losing story and emotional depth. This is easily the best English Language film I saw in 2006. It’s the best performance that Sam Jackson has ever given. The posters for the film sell the sexual tension that the film waves at the audience, but at the center of this film is a story about one man caring so much about helping someone that he does something he knows is outrageous, that he knows could get him hung, but he does it because he sees a soul in torment, a soul that doesn’t yet know how to ask for help, but needs that help all the same. The music in this film is epic. I live in Austin, home of Antone’s – which is home to the blues – and Craig Brewer just made a film that I wish to God I could have watched with Clifford Antone, who passed away this year. He would have loved this film. 1. PAN’S LABYRINTH Ordinarily – I’d be incredibly self-conscious about putting a friend’s film at number one on this list. I’ve known Guillermo for 9 years now. He spent a few years living here in Austin – and I haven’t seen him in person in nearly 3 years. This past year has been very tough on my friend, I’ve had a great deal of late night phone calls with him, but there’s a reality that came when I played this film at FANTASTIC FEST this year. When I watched PAN’S LABYRINTH – it engaged me as a waking dream and nightmare. One that I never wanted to wake from. When the end credits came, I wept, wept because I was so proud of Guillermo, wept because I didn’t want it to end and wept because I knew it’d be months before I’d see it again. The film is set in the agony of reality and the dream of fantasy – and the care taken in the telling of both is that of the finest craftsman. It is an immaculate conception. Brilliant from beginning to end. Guillermo has made his first MASTERPIECE – and I hope we see many more from here on out, but if we don’t – I can forgive him. When someone makes a perfect work of cinema it’s such a joy simply to watch it. To watch Cocteau’s BELLE ET LA BETE or Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER… it’s a gift we’re given. And I regret that Laughton didn’t direct further gifts, I simply relish the perfection of his acting moments and that one perfect film… Now we have a new year to look forward to. A great many hopes and dreams. There’s films we don’t know to look forward to, and films we hope will live up to what our hopes hope they’ll be. I’m going to try to do a better job of writing about the films I see this year. But you have to understand, this past year is the first time in my life that I loved something more than film. I’m a bit goofy and quite a bit be smitten. I enjoy my little affairs with films, but please forgive my selfish indiscretions. I still love film every bit as much as I have in the past, I just don’t have the time I once had… which was 24/7. Next – I’ll be writing my top ten films I’m looking forward to for 2007. What’d you see in 2006 that you loved, I’m curious to see if you saw something I didn’t – or found something more appealing that I didn’t. Ta Ta.

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