In which V attempts to whittle down an entire year's worth of excellent cinema into a mere five absolute best films.
Here we go again, it's the annual Top Five Films list. I had a tough time paring this down to only five. It's been an unusually good year for films. Meanwhile there's a Twilight Zone marathon on TV which I am presently missing out on, so let's get this party started. Trailers included this year because trailers are fun.
Note: some of these films may technically have had a limited release in 2006, or were released last year in other countries. I'm counting them this year, as this year is when they finally arrived at a cinema near me. Also, these are in no particular order, as I loved them all equally.
5. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer This film is based on my most favorite book of all time, so maybe I'm slightly biased in choosing it. But hey, my list = my rules. Y'all know how some books just seem unfilmable? I always wondered what a film version of Perfume would look like, but just couldn't figure out how it could possibly be done and retain the feel of the novel, particularly a controversial (and potentially very graphic) scene towards the end. So when I heard there was to finally be a movie, I had mixed feelings. When you love a book as much as I love Perfume, there's a mixture of excitement (Yes! Finally the world will know the genius of my favorite book!) and unease (No! They're going to totally eff this up and ruin it!). My unease ebbed considerably when I heard it was being directed by Tom Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame), and when I finally saw the film in January (driving to another city for the privilege) I was not disappointed. It's visually stunning, beautifully told, and very very strange. If you've not already seen the film, please do watch the trailer - I guarantee you'll be intrigued.
4. Sunshine I think maybe I was more impressed by this than a lot of other people were. As was the case for 3/5 of this year's films, Sunshine required a short drive out of town, as my own town gets skipped over for most arty or foreign films. Despite a somewhat dodgy plot twist towards the end, I found this to be a profoundly beautiful and moving film. I'm especially glad I had the chance to see it on the big screen, as the sun itself is a major character in the film, and at times as a viewer I felt almost consumed by it myself. The premise here is that in the near future, the sun is dying. A group of selfless, brave people go on what is essentially a suicide mission to jump-start the sun and save the human race. I found it to be a powerful statement on sacrifice and honor. Also, for probably the first time in my life, I was made aware that the sun, while amazing and fascinating and beautiful and necessary for life, is also COMPLETELY TERRIFYING. Stars Cillian Murphy, of whom I am especially fond, and directed by Danny Boyle who is IMHO a true cinematic genius.
3. The Prestige One of the most unique stories I've seen in quite a while. Stellar acting from Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (am also especially fond of Christian Bale, and would be even if he weren't Batman). The plot is convoluted and defies summarizing, but you'll be drawn right in and mesmerized by it. Much of the story centers around a seemingly impossible magic trick, and when the trick's secret is finally revealed, you will just about pee your pants. I saw this with my mom in a full cinema, and I kid you not, there was a collective gasp of utter shock. I love this film because it caught me off guard. It surprised me, it kept me guessing. That doesn't happen a lot with modern popular cinema. Modern popular cinema is usually crap (see also: Knocked Up, Delta Farce, Baby Geniuses). The Prestige is a 100% Quality Experience.
2. 300 If you had told me a few years ago that there was going to be a film of Sin City, and that not only would they NOT totally eff it up, but that it would actually look like Frank Miller's comics had come to life, and that it would be completely awesome and kick the whole world's ass, I would have said "yeah okay, whatever." Because speaking of books that are supposedly unfilmable, I would have to say that most everything ever created by Frank Miller would have to be unfilmable by nature. He has a particular visual style, and when it comes to adaptations of comics, it is absolutely crucial that you retain the visual atmosphere of the source material. Frank Miller? Can't be done. Impossible. And yet, they made a film of Sin City, and it kicked the whole world's ass. Flash forward a couple of years. If you told me they were going to make a film of 300, and not only would they NOT totally eff it up, but it would be even better than Sin City, I would have been more than a little incredulous. But they made that film, and it was even better than Sin City. It's epic, y'all. It's ultra-violent and lurid and visually stunning.
I was talking to my friend and fellow comics maniac B last week, and posed this question: why is it that Frank Miller's comics are utterly unfilmable, yet the films based on his work are 100% Quality and awesome and kick the whole world's ass? And on the flip side of the coin, you have Alan Moore, who writes flawless stories and via his graphic novels pretty much hands you a storyboard, and it would be damn near impossible to eff that up, and yet all the films based on his comics are generally shit? Feel free to discuss this amongst yourselves, it is a riddle for the ages.
1. Pan's Labyrinth This definitely ranks up there among the most tragic, heartwrenching things I've ever seen. Essentially, it's the experience of war through a child's eyes. She has a special adventure. Did it really happen? Or was it just a child's way of coping with events that no child should ever endure? I've seen this three times now, and every time I wind up crying buckets. Emotionally, this film is a hard punch to the stomach. I'd consider this a must-see for the entire world.