Damn Glastonbury-free 2006! How dare you even exist? From this day forth I decree that all years that don’t feature a Worthy Farm related knees up must be stricken from the record books.
Actually I had a really nice 2006, I saw Radiohead twice and went to my first European festival called Pukkelpop. So fuck you ‘First Paragraph Owen’ how about getting on with talking about films. This isn’t a bloody music website y’know.
Reeeet, on with 2006.
First up, the big guns. Well, er, yeah, erm. Hang on, er, well, er, ‘Superman’ came back and er, ‘X-Men’ had a third outing and there was another ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ film and err… Let’s move on shall we.
So while the blockbusters failed to bust a single, solitary block, there was more than enough ‘clever’ cinema out there to make up for it. Leading the way in the ‘let’s go back to the ’70s’ approach to actual FILM making was one Mr Clooney. While ‘Syriana’ was perhaps a little too complex and rambling to really shine, ‘Good Night And Good Luck’ was a piece of work that could hold its head up high with the likes of ‘Network’ and ‘All The President’s Men’. And I really don’t say that lightly.
Five years had passed since the terrorist attacks in America and the film world had decided this was long enough. The results were mixed. While Oliver Stone’s ‘World Trade Centre’ was the big screen equivalent of little Timmy being trapped down the well, ‘United 93’ was atonishingly brave and grown up. Starting with the terrorists calling home to say goodbye to loved ones the rest of the film was tense, gripping and as unschmaltzy as you could hope for.
2006 had a lot of those ‘Films that I like’. By that I mean, a little quirky, a little indie and with a thoroughly neat premise that as a wannabe writer I kick myself for not thinking of. ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ ticked all those boxes, as did ‘Brick’. While in the ‘I could never have written that’ camp were the glorious ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and the thoroughly enjoyable ‘Squid and The Whale’.
Others of note in an above average year included ‘Hard Candy’, ‘The Proposition’, ‘Kidulthood’, ‘The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada’ and ‘Munich’. In the ‘flawed but I like them anyway’ section sit ‘Jarhead’ and the completely lambasted ‘Lady In The Water’.
And finally the film that I’ll probably get a lot of grief for not picking as number one is ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. In any other year Del Toro, that top spot would have been yours. A disturbing, but again uplifting, fairytale as nightmare, it got enough praise at the time, and rightly so, but I’m giving the honour to another Mexican.
My Film Of The Year
In a year of intelligent film-making (almost an oxymoron that) one film stood out as being the best piece of cinematic brain food in years. ‘Children Of Men’ was (and still is) relevant, thought-provoking, hard-hitting, thrilling and damn emotional. The kind of film that can restore your faith in cinema.
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In an uncomfortably not-too-distant future, mankind is on the brink of extinction. The reason; the human race can no longer make babies. With this upsetting piece of news, people have pretty much given up all hope and society is crumbling brick by brick. London has never looked worse. Hull, apparently, was unaffected.
I’m a sucker for a film that, on the surface, seems devoid of any semblance of humanity but actually contains more hope and joy than a million greetings cards. And on the surface ‘Children Of Men’ should be one of the most relentlessy bleak films never made by Michael Haneke.
And the opening half hour is just that. Terrorist attacks, BNP-style governments, Clive Owen wearing a face like a slapped arse, childhood death, disease, etc, etc. When Michael Caine turns up as your comic relief you know your film has happiness issues.
Yet by raising the misery stakes so high the catharsis of joy when hope rears its beautiful head is monumental. A film could spend a bajillion dollars on effects and have nowhere near the emotional payoff delivered by the money shot of Kee revealing her precious cargo.
Its easy to fuck up as gloriously a simple pitch as this one but every man, woman and (well sadly not child) lends preceedings an air of subtley too often relegated to the sidelines. Be it Clive Owen’s quiet breakdown or the 10 minute-plus tracking shot of all out war raging we focus on exactly what is needed to fully immerse us in a future all too believable.
That’s at least half of the films listed in this look back on the decade that have reduced me to a gibbering wreck and ‘Children Of Men’ is no exception. A startling piece of cinema.
And they reference Worthy FM which neatly brings this piece full circle. Hurrah!