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2007-01-01 - 8:21 p.m.

It's guest blogger Tom Ronca! Remember, IHoP does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by guest bloggers, especially from LA.


The end-of-the-year 10 best list is so ubiquitous, that any addition to the collected encomium is unnecessary in almost any category of pop culture one cares to name, and no category more so than Film. Rather than provide a service that so many others (many more qualified than yours truly) have already, use the following as a guide to not necessarily the best of 2006, but the ten or so films that you may have missed -- and shouldn’t have!

10 FILMS THAT CAME IN UNDER THE RADAR

1.) CAVITE - written and directed by first-time filmmakers Neill Dela Llana and Ian Gamazon, this taut thriller manages to engage the viewer from beginning to end, despite (and really, in some ways because of) the paltry resources that went into its’ making.

2.) DARK ARC - A ridiculous romantic comedy masquerading as a pretentious Art-house film? Or vice-versa? It’s difficult to say, but Dan Zukovic’s second feature has all the makings of a cult-film legend, if anyone decides to distribute it, that is. I don’t think you’ll get a chance to see this one in the theaters, but supposedly it’ll make its way to DVD in ‘07. Be on the lookout for it.

3.) THE FOUNTAIN - Darren Aronofsky’s sci-fi romance is not without it’s flaws (the emotional high-point of the film arrives too early; substitutes visual EFX for actual content one too many times for my liking), but there is no more ambitious narrative from a major studio this year than this one. In addition, it’s just stunning to look at.

4.) INLAND EMPIRE - David Lynch’s latest feature is both a culmination and an expansion of all his earlier work. Not really a story at all, but a kind of extended cinematic meditation on fame, identity and ultimately, mortality. Laura Dern gives this years’ best performance. This is the film from Lynch I have been waiting for, I have to say.

5.) LADY VENGEANCE - Chan Wook Park’s third and final film in his “revenge” trilogy (following ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ and ‘Old Boy’), continues the perfect balance between thriller and character-driven drama that was started in the first two; and brings it all to a satisfying conclusion, to boot.

6.) LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE - I think a lot of people skipped this one because they thought it might be a bit too ‘twee’ (to borrow a word from the regular host of this blog), but really shouldn’t have. It’s genuinely funny and avoids sentimentality at every turn. Great ensemble performances and spot-on direction from first-time feature filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. What’s not to like?

7.) OLD JOY - It’s difficult to summarize this film, because nothing happens in it, yet... everything does. Two old friends take a hiking trip into the Cascade mountains and return, ostensibly unchanged; but not. See it for yourself and decide. Directed by Kelly Reichardt and starring Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy).

8.) PAN’S LABYRINTH - Ms. Carino’s review of this film in yesterday's blog entry does greater justice to it than I could. Guillermo del Toro’s fairy tale for adults might be the most powerful film experience I had this year. See it.

9.) THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES - The Brothers Quay second feature is another fairy tale for adults, and a labyrinthian one at that. Gorgeous visuals, and as usual with any film from the Quay boys, seems designed to hypnotize the viewer into some sort of waking dream state. Well, I like that sort of thing anyways...

10.) A SCANNER DARKLY - Richard Linklater’s adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick novel of the same name takes some missteps here and there (gives away way too much, way too early in the proceedings), but nonetheless is satisfying, and in some ways, captures the ‘spirit’ of a PKD story better than any film adaptation to date. And really, Keanu’s not bad in this one at all. ...Really...

THE BEYOND GOOD OR BAD AWARD this year goes to Crispin Glover’s WHAT IS IT?, a freaked out bit of cinematic art therapy that I can only surmise came about as some sort of bar bet between Glover and Matthew Barney as to who could out-weird the other -- well Barney made DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 this year, but Glover wins hands down with this tale full of sound and fury, acted out almost entirely by snails and thespians with varying degrees of Down’s Syndrome and/or cerebral palsy. Uhh, no, I’m not kidding...

And the AND KIDS LIKE IT TOO! award this year goes to Takashi Miike’s THE GREAT YOKAI WAR -- think Terry Gilliam’s ‘Time Bandits’ by way of Japan and you’ll have some idea of the delights of this Asian import. It’s silly, but enjoyable by all.

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