The most striking thing about my Top Ten this year, I would think, is that it only has five films on it.† An explanation is due.
Over the past few years, Iíve found myself increasingly steering away from the middle of the road when it comes to cinema.† This is not to say that I donít appreciate quality filmmaking wherever it appears, whether in a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster, an off-center indie flick, or a 60-minute network cop drama.† If itís good, itís good, and I hope I am always able to recognize it and never afraid to say so, whatever the potential consequences to my critical reputation (assuming, for the sake of this explanation, that I have such a thing).† However.... What I find changing is the level of enthusiasm I can muster for quality filmmaking when it is in the service of stories or characters or ideas that just arenít interesting.† For most critics, calling a movie Ďinterestingí is usually either very faint praise or very sneaky criticism.† For me, it is neither; it is a statement that 1) the movie is trying to rise above the pitifully low ambitions that characterize the bulk of mainstream multiplex fare, and 2) it meets the baseline criteria a movie must meet to hold even the possibility of inspiration for me.† You see, greedy cinecist that I am, I want to be inspired by every movie I pay 11 bucks to see.† I enter the theatre with my mind and heart wide open to inspiration, and I will accept that inspiration whether it be emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or even just comical.† I want to sense something in me, some feeling or faculty, being elevated by the experience of watching the film.† I am generous, no doubt to a critical fault, in meeting halfway some films that scarcely deserve it, merely because they are interesting, and so represent for me the possibility of such inspiration.† But, as the years roll on, I am less and less able to feel much in the way of personal excitement for those that are not.†
I have therefore made the decision that, from this point forward, I will only include in my Top Ten list films that, in addition to fulfilling all the usual requirements of top-quality direction, acting, writing, cinematography, art direction, etc., have also met the additional burden of inspiring me.† This will frequently exclude some of what many people consider to be the best movies of the year.† This year, it excludes The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen, Panís Labyrinth, Blood Diamond, and numerous others that might have found their way onto my list in previous years.† Some years, it will not be difficult to fill my Top Ten list with films that meet all my criteria; this year, I cannot honestly do it.† I saw many perfectly fine films in 2006, but only five offered me the inspiration that I seek.† I will do my best to explain why.
1. United 93
3. Half Nelson
4. Old Joy
©2007 dondi demarco