Friday, March 02, 2007

The Invisibles #17: 'Entropy in the UK: Part 1: Dandy'

All of my Invisibles trades are a bit beat up. Apocalipstick in particular seems to have been dropped in a puddle at some point, and is all wrinkled and water damaged. My Say You Want a Revolution went missing at some point, and I had to replace it earlier this year. The others have various folds and creases all over them, a testament to the journey they’ve been through. After reading the series for the first time, I went on an evangelistic mission to get as many people to read it as possible. These trades have been through at least ten readers, and it was that continual passing around that kept the series fresh for me for so long.

I've taken down my posts on The Invisibles because they're all coming out in book form. The book, Our Sentence is Up, features revised and expanded versions of each blog post, covering every issue of The Invisibles, plus an extensive interview with Morrison himself. Visit your local comic store and order a copy now!

The Invisibles #16: 'London'

I’d imagine that someone reading these issues as they came out would have quite a tough time with ‘London.’ For one, Dane hasn’t appeared in the series for nine issues, and on top of that, this issue is a followup on stuff that happened back in the series’ very first arc. Even knowing the basic idea of what’s going on, it’s still tough to keep up with everything that happens here. But, I’m glad that Morrison gave us such a challenging issue, it keeps things interesting even on the fourth read.

I've taken down my posts on The Invisibles because they're all coming out in book form. The book, Our Sentence is Up, features revised and expanded versions of each blog post, covering every issue of The Invisibles, plus an extensive interview with Morrison himself. Visit your local comic store and order a copy now!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Invisibles #15: 'Sheman: Part 3: Apocalipstick'

‘Apocalipstick’ wraps up the Sheman arc by throwing everything into chaos. The structure of the first volume is odd, in that we only get four issues with the team united. There really isn’t a status quo to disrupt, but this arc has made us care enough about Fanny and King Mob that it’s a great cliffhanger when they’re captured by Sir Miles at the end. The fact that things are constantly changing gives it the feeling of being one huge story, rather than a serial narrative in which the goal is just to get to the next issue. That said, I think things work better in Volume II, where we get to see the team together more, and through that, come to understand the characters in a deeper way.

I've taken down my posts on The Invisibles because they're all coming out in book form. The book, Our Sentence is Up, features revised and expanded versions of each blog post, covering every issue of The Invisibles, plus an extensive interview with Morrison himself. Visit your local comic store and order a copy now!

Babylon 5: 5x09-5x11

After thoroughly enjoying the buildup of the telepath arc, I ran into some issues with the way these three episodes wrapped it up, particularly the finale of ‘Phoenix Rising.’ But, there’s still interesting stuff going on, and on the fringes, the plot elements that will presumably dominate the rest of the season begin to develop.

The thing that appealed to me about the telepath arc was the way that Byron had built this entirely different community within the station, a world that was warm and connected, no matter what was going on outside around them. The others might have been suspicious about them, but that suspicion primarily came out of the fact that Byron was breaking out of the traditional paradigm for handling telepaths that was established by the Psi Corps, he wanted to create a world in which telepaths were normal, not an other.

Having seen the way that Talia and Lyta suffered over the course of the series, the appeal of this is clear. Why should they be forced to limit their potential achievement and keep humans from being uncomfortable. With Lyta in particular, this was the logical direction of her arc. She’d been doing basically the same thing for a season now, and this evolution was great.

However, things went awry when they became aggressive, and went after the Alliance. My issue with the way this plays out is that it doesn’t seem true to the character we’ve already seen. I suppose the revelation that the Vorlons were responsible for the creation of telepaths was supposed to provide the motivation for Byron demanding a homeworld, but it just doesn’t make that much sense. Telepaths may have been created to fight in the Shadow War, but only a few of them were actually involved. The vast majority of human telepaths wouldn’t have even learned about the war until it was over, and we have no indication that Byron himself was involved in the fighting.

I could understand why Byron would want a homeworld, but his actions just don’t match with what we’d seen of the character before. The shift from peaceful guy, just looking to protect his people, to manipulator of the Alliance is too abrupt. Again, you could argue that the capacity for manipulation was always present, but the whole arc hinges on us believing that he’d take any measures to get a homeworld, and that just doesn’t feel motivated.

My other major issue with the way the arc plays out is that the plot completely deprives our characters of agency. We know Byron and Lyta, and all they do is lock themselves in a room. Some random other telepaths go out and attack people, but there is no coordinated effort. I think it would have worked better if we had Byron create total chaos on the station by having the telepaths read everyone they encounter and put that information out across the station. They threaten to do it with the secrets of the Alliance members, but that threat is never paid off, rendering it essentially meaningless. The telepaths would have the capacity to bring the station to a halt, I don’t think locking themselves in a room is the best way to make a point.

Now, you could argue that Byron didn’t want to abuse his power and resort to thought violence, but that refusal winds up dragging the story to a halt. I would have had Byron declare Babylon 5 a telepath homeworld, and go full on with the telepathic powers. I don’t remember the exact rules of telepaths in this world, but I’m sure they have better attacks than hitting people with bars. Couldn’t they wipe minds and erase memories, or even give people different identities? That would really mess things up.

So, as things play out, Byron basically watches things fall around him, while the rest of the crew tries to clamp down on the chaos. However, lost in all this is Lyta, who is totally stripped of agency. I loved the beginning of the arc because it gave Lyta a power she never had, the power to choose the life that she wanted. But, once she’s made that choice, she winds up just standing near Byron, not doing anything. On one level, I have an issue with the woman character being made subservient to the man’s agenda, particularly considering she has more power than him. It could have been interesting to reverse traditional roles and have her physically protecting Byron, but we get none of that. She does nothing and at the end of the arc, she just walks away from him.

Again, you could make the argument that this was intentional, evidence that Lyta was being manipulated by Byron and lost her agency in the process. I suppose all my problems with the story could be equated to Byron’s personal flaws, that he doesn’t have the vision to really change things, instead choosing to retreat and just hope that someone acts for him.

Throughout, he has a desperate desire to martyr himself, and the logical ending to that is him committing suicide and going out in a mess of flames. However, the way that scene plays out, it seems completely arbitrary that he chooses to kill himself. You can’t do a dramatic suicide when there’s five minutes of buildup with him just standing there. Plus, there didn’t seem to be any particular reason for him to kill himself. He didn’t want to go back to the Psi Corps, but I didn’t understand what in particular drove him to kill himself. If the whole scene had played out faster, with more intensity, it might have given the sense that he had no choice. Alternatively, they could have had him kill himself to take out Bester and the Bloodhounds, thus creating a new paradigm for telepaths, free of their two greatest influences. But, it didn’t happen that way and I was left thinking that this finale must have looked better on paper than it did on screen.

On the periphery of these goings on, we got some interesting stuff. I liked seeing the scene from ‘Deconstruction of Falling Stars’ in context, though I’ve got to wonder if JMS was constrained in some way by having to match this episode to what we’d already seen. One thing that bothered me was the expositional recap at the start of each of these episodes, I guess the show didn’t do a ‘Previously on Babylon 5,’ but these just felt goofy.

The best moments of ‘Phoenix Rising’ focused on Garibaldi, and the lingering consequences of his ‘abduction’ experience. When talking about season four, I said I was annoyed by the reset button being hit on his character. I still think that’s true to some extent, all the character work done in the first chunk of the season was pretty much invalidated when the old him is brought back. It would have been a bolder call to have him actually betray Sheridan, just because he disagreed with the direction of his policy. However, if the reset button does have to be hit, I’m glad that there are consequences to that hitting.

The rage he feels towards Bester is great, and I love the fact that Bester placed an inhibitor on him, to avoid being the victim of revenge. However, such psychic deviousness from Bester only underscores how limited Byron and his crew were in their approach to getting a homeworld. The final scene shows Garibaldi falling off the wagon, a moment that sets up a bunch of potentially interesting stuff for him.

Elsewhere, we get the introduction of a new threat to shipping lines, which I’m assuming is the Drakh acting through the Centauri. So far, the Drakh are the only servants of the Shadows that we know are still around, so it would be logical to connect them to the keeper and the eventual captivity of Centauri Prime. It’s looking like these first few episodes are the highpoint for Londo and the Centauri, at least until the Vir regime begins. One issue I have with the Alliance scenes is that they always play like Sheridan and Delenn are parents, presiding over a bunch of squabbling children. It’s a bit condescending, particularly the way that they continually manipulate them. It’s usually towards good ends, but if you’re serious about this Alliance, maybe it’s best to be honest with the members. Of course, upfront honesty pretty much kills a surprise ending, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Over on Centauri, we get some good stuff with G’Kar in the palace. While I enjoyed the early comic stuff, I was left wondering why G’Kar wasn’t off helping to rebuild his homeworld. They tried to justify his bodyguard position by claiming that it would solidify the Alliance, but it winds up diminishing him a bit. I would have made a more explicit mention of the idea that G’Kar was there to try and ensure that old grudges don’t start again, working in a diplomatic role, not just muscle.

I was glad to see some of this addressed with the return of Na’Toth. Seeing her forces G’Kar to question his new role, and also puts Londo in an uncomfortable position, the sins of his past made manifest before him. This episode again revisits the imagery of one of the series’ best episodes, ‘The Long Twilight Struggle,’ in both the literal flashback and the scene at the end, with G’Kar and Londo looking out at space through a ship’s window. It’s such loaded imagery, the return still packs an emotional charge.

During the attempt on Londo’s life, he sees an alien create, who stops the knife in front of him. Things go weird, and I’m guessing this is the moment where the Keeper is implanted. It’s been such a journey for him, and it’s sad to see it end with him on a gradual descent into madness. Presumably, the Alliance will find out the Centauri are behind the shipping line attacks, and the Drakh will be pushed back onto their world. This will lead to a bunch of warfare, culminating in the world we saw during the future scenes in ‘War Without End.’

Seeing how the rest of the series has gone, I think those flash forward scenes were a brilliant choice. At this point, we’ve got a pretty peaceful status quo, and Londo seems to have been forgiven for all his crimes. However, I remember watching ‘The Long Twilight Struggle’ and thinking that he has to die, no character could be allowed to live after doing this. Even though he’s changed and grown, his old actions will catch up with him, and lead to his descent into madness and eventual death.

I’m curious to see where the series leaves off on his arc. I’m guessing we’ll see the start of his decline, and then be able to fill in the gaps ourselves. But, I would love to see a return to the time period of ‘War Without End,’ and perhaps find out what Sheridan and Delenn were doing there.

So, this run of episodes had some great moments, but I was ultimately let down by the end of the telepath arc. After setting up a morally ambiguous, complex situation, everything gets forced back into a good/evil paradigm, and the element that is other ultimately must be destroyed. But, we’ve got a bunch of interesting threads out there, and it should make for a strong closing run for the series. Only eleven episodes to go.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Babylon 5: 'Secrets of the Soul' and 'Day of the Dead' (5x07 & 5x08)

So far, season five of Babylon 5 has harkened back to the tradition of season one, doing a bunch of standalone stories, without any sort of overarching narrative goal. The major difference is the complexity of the characters and situations. Even though the stories may be standalone, we don’t get any easy resolution. These two are both really strong episodes, though very different.

‘Secrets of the Soul’ at first seems like a fairly regular episode, continuing the telepath storyline, backed with a Franklin subplot. But as it went on, I realized that the episode featured only three of our regular cast members! I think this is the first episode since he arrived that didn’t feature Sheridan, and a very rare episode that didn’t feature Garibaldi. Odd, I’d imagine that bothered a lot of people, but I was thrilled to spend the hour with Byron and Lyta, and their ongoing intrigue.

But first, I’ll just say that the Franklin plot was right on the level of most of his standalones, not very good. I’m guessing it was meant to foreshadow what could happen with the conflict between telepaths and humans, but the makeup and acting on those aliens felt artificial, and I didn’t really care what was going on. It was about a season one level of quality.

However, I loved the developments on the Lyta side of things. Back in season four, she and Zack seemed to be building a connection, and it’s smart to use that as the background for their conflict over the telepaths. Zack is rather oblivious to Lyta’s changing priorities, still thinking that the station can use her for their own agenda. I really sympathize with her feeling of being used, she only appeared on the show when they needed her, but never seemed to really integrate into the inner circle. I’d imagine the experience with Talia made them reluctant to let a telepath in, and now that coldness has backfired.

The conflict between mundanes and the telepaths is a bit obvious, not really breaking new ground, but I think it works because of the tension it creates between Zack and Lyta. He clearly has some feelings for her, but unwittingly sends her off to Byron, where they have sex. I liked how she took control in the scene, just taking off the top to initiate the series’ first sex scene.

I was actually quite impressed by this sequence, it did a great job of telling the story visually. The cutting between the two of them together and Lyta’s mind created a seamless, building mood. The Vorlon experiment imagery is great, and it does a good job of tying this storyline to the series’ overarching mythology. I felt like we’d always sort of known that the Vorlons created telepaths, but this confirms it, and having that knowledge out there changes the way that Byron sees things.

The scenes where we see the other telepaths watching Lyta and Byron having sex give things a weird quality. We’ve already got the cult vibe going on, and this makes them seem even more odd. Of course, one could also read it as the telepaths unified on a deeper level than humans, less aware of the boundaries between them. I’d imagine a lot of this storyline came out of JMS’s time in a cult, which someone alluded to in the comments. Any further details on that?

The end of the episode shows Byron moving to a more aggressive stance, and I’m guessing the conflict will be escalating soon, and we’ll see the telepaths moving to a more obvious villain/threat role. I like the dynamic they have, and I don’t see them as villains. But, I also sympathized with Magneto, and I feel like it’s the same basic conflict here, between the status quo and the future. If I was an average person in the world, I wouldn’t want Byron around, but as a viewer, I find his vision of a new world just as compelling as Sheridan’s. The final speech raises parallels with many minorities, particularly the Jews and Israel, and we all know how stable that’s turned out. I’m expecting some major upheaval soon.

‘Day of the Dead’ flips the cast for a really great episode. I’ve been waiting for this one ever since I heard that Neil Gaiman wrote an episode. I loved Sandman and I was curious to see what he did with these characters. I’m not sure how much input JMS had, but this one felt totally organic to the world, drawing on a lot of deep continuity to create one of the most satisfying standalones in the series’ whole run. I’d guess Neil must have been a pretty big fan of the series to craft an episode like this.

The basic premise reminds me of Buffy’s ‘Conversations with Dead People,’ and this episode may have been an influence there. I loved getting to see some characters from the show’s past, particularly Morden. He was the series’ most charismatic individual villain, and now he’s tormenting Lennier even from beyond the grave. The scene where Lennier asks Delenn how her ‘partner’ is was extremely awkward, and Morden’s speech indicates that Lennier’s jealousy is going to lead him to do some bad things down the line. He certainly seems more aggressive, actively seeking out the dead for some reason. I suppose Delenn’s marriage pushed him over the line, destroying any illusion that he could be with her and sending him down a more violent path.

I like Londo getting the chance to see Adira one more time. After all he’s been through it’s nice for him to get one more moment of happiness, even though we’re painfully aware that it won’t last for long. By this point, Londo seems resigned to his fate, and will just enjoy the good things he encounters along the way.

I hope that they explore more of Lochley’s junkie past, mostly because it’s so different from where the character is at now. Everyone seems to have some issues in their backstory, but her’s sound pretty severe, and I’d imagine the weakness that first drove her to drugs could cause issues in her governance of Babylon 5. The best thing I can say about that story is that even though we’d never seen Zooey before, I still found her visit really interesting, and I wasn’t wishing that another character was in there. That said, I do feel like it was a huge missed opportunity not to have Sheridan visited by Anna.

In these sort of episodes, I always dislike when they try to get some plot tension in there. In Buffy’s ‘Restless,’ I just want to enjoy the dreams, not deal with the first slayer, and here I don’t really care about Garibaldi’s attempt to get in touch with the rest of the station. Though, I suppose you could read it as his attempt to avoid dealing with Dodger. That storyline was hurt by the fact that we don’t know where Garibaldi’s at with Lise. Are they still together, or have they broken up. If they’re still together, his reluctance is understandable, but as is, they just flirt and go nowhere, just like last time. But, we don’t know why he’s acting this way.

Elsewhere, we get a pretty fun story with Rebo and Zooty. The idea that they’re going to drop comedy and focus on politics could work as a jusitification for the show itself. Substitute comedy for sci-fi, and this could be JMS, claiming he’s making major points, but getting ignored because he’s working in sci-fi, not a traditional serious genre. Ultimately, I’d agree with Sheridan’s point that the reason we fight for freedom is so we can create art that brings us joy. The creation of fiction is a noble pursuit, and the work of someone like Jon Stewart is a testament to the fact that comedy can illuminate people as well.

Neil Gaiman did a great job with this episode, he has the style and voice of the show down, and does manage to get some of his own ideas in. The show doesn’t do too many formally experimental episodes, and I feel like this one works better than the two news episodes, though it’s not up to the level of ‘Deconstruction of Falling Stars.’ This is a brilliant conceit that allows us to go deeper with the characters, and at this point in the show, that’s really what we want. No plot is going to match the Shadow War, so the focus should be on continuing the characters’ journeys. That’s what season five has been about, and it’s the primary reason I’ve been enjoying it so much.

The Invisibles #14: 'Sheman: Part 2: 'Day of Nine Dogs'

‘Day of Nine Dogs’ is another fantastic issue, again giving us information that is critical to understanding the series’ cosmology, but goes over your head the first time through the series. Reading it again, it’s clear that you haven’t really read the series until you’ve read it the second time....

I've taken down my posts on The Invisibles because they're all coming out in book form. The book, Our Sentence is Up, features revised and expanded versions of each blog post, covering every issue of The Invisibles, plus an extensive interview with Morrison himself. Visit your local comic store and order a copy now!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekend Update


I wasn't particularly caught up in this year's Oscar race. The acting races were pretty much set in advance, and the movies I really cared about weren't nominated. I was glad to see The Departed, and particularly Scorsese, get some recognition, but it wasn't a really important year to me. At least Little Miss Sunshine didn't win Best Picture, that would have invalidated the whole thing for me. Ultimately, I feel like there's just too many awards shows building up to it, I feel like I've been going over the best of 2006 for months now, and this is sort of an anticlimax.

Blog Critics

As I mentioned a while ago, I'm now doing some articles for Blog Critics. You can check out my articles here. There's only two so far, both adaptations of stuff I wrote for here, cleaned up and refined a bit. The advantage of writing for them is that I can get free stuff to review. Right now, I've got Amy Winehouse's 'Back to Black' and Sia's live album to review. I've got a bunch of other stuff on the way. I have to say, it's pretty cool to have access to stuff in advance, getting free copies just for writing about it. When I started this blog, it was primarily to process the works that mattered to me, now it's led to me getting free stuff. With my Blog Critics stuff, it's going to be less analysis, more traditional reviews, since they frown on spoilers. So, the two places will co-exist, and hopefully my Blog Critics writing will bring more people here. If nothing else, it's cool to get a Google News Alert with an article that I wrote.

Purple Rain

I'm listening to Prince's 'Purple Rain' right now. I'd always heard about Prince, lived through his journey from symbol to the artist back to Prince, but I hadn't really listened to his music. However, after seeing his fantastic Super Bowl performance, I decided to check out his body of work. I'm liking the whole album, but it's the title track that really gets me. There's a snippet of wordless vocals at the end of Tori Amos's 'Hey Jupiter' video that I've always loved, and it's apparently a quote from 'Purple Rain,' which features that same descending vocal pattern, an absolutely haunting line that just hangs in the atmosphere. It's a fantastic song and the rest of the album is great too. I've actually been listening to a lot of 80s stuff recently. I went through a serious classic rock stage back in high school, and I've always been up on 00s and 90s music, but the 80s sort of slipped away. However, I've been spinning a lot of New Order, and have been adding in Pet Shop Boys and now Prince.

The Future of Thoughts on Stuff

And, just a general note for everyone who reads the blog, but isn't interested in The Invisibles or Babylon 5. It's unfortunate that two huge review projects have to overlap, leaving me little time to write about anything else. But, after Babylon 5 wraps, I'll return to more general blogging, and after The Invisibles wraps, I'll probably take a break from these major series reviews. It's really helpful and enhances the work to write about it, but it's also quite time consuming. But, rest assured, more Morrison will be covered in the future, at some point I'll do an in depth look at New X-Men. But, probably not until the Summer.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Academy Award Nominations 2006

Best Actor
Gael Garcia Bernal – Science of Sleep
Sacha Baron-Cohen – Borat
Daniel Craig – Casino Royale
Leonardo Dicaprio – The Departed
Keanu Reeves – A Scanner Darkly

This was a tough category to narrow the choices down in, but there was only one choice for the winner, Gael Garcia Bernal. He anchors the whole film, his performance brings humanity and accessibility to a character who could come off as closed and unlikable. The final scene with him and Charlotte Gainsbourg is truly powerful.

Best Actress
Asia Argento – The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
Laura Dern – Inland Empire
Bryce Dallas Howard – Manderlay
Ellen Page – Hard Candy
Kate Winslet – Little Children

A lot of good performances here, but Laura Dern’s work in Inland Empire is on an entirely different level from every actor out there this year. She completely immerses herself in the role, going on a metaphysical journey through different worlds and identities. Her breakdown on the streets of Hollywood is the high point, phenomenal acting.

Best Supporting Actor
Alec Baldwin – The Departed
Alain Chabat – Science of Sleep
Brad Pitt – Babel
Jack Nicholson – The Departed
Mark Wahlberg – The Departed

No actor was more entertaining this year than Mark Wahlberg in The Departed, with surging fury and the word “fuck” in virtually every line, he stole the film. His scenes with Alec Baldwin were a particular high point.

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barazza – Babel
Macy Grey - Shadowboxer
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Science of Sleep
Rinko Kikuchi – Babel
Gong Li – Miami Vice

Gong Li may have struggled with speaking English, but her face told us everything we needed to know about the character. Her relationship with Colin Farrell is what makes Miami Vice so special, and few actresses could pull off what she did. No one can look at someone the way she can.

Best Animated
A Scanner Darkly

I only saw one animated film this year, so this one wins by default. But, it is a great film and an interesting use of the medium, certainly a better direction than yet another talking animal film.

Art Direction
Children of Men
Funky Forest
Inland Empire
Marie Antoinette
The Science of Sleep

I’ve got to give this one to the endlessly inventive world of Funky Forest. There was a ton of crazy stuff going on in this film and I was consistently wowed by the weird worlds that they created.

Children of Men – Emanuel Lubezki
Inland Empire – David Lynch
Marie Antoinette – Lance Acord
Miami Vice – Dion Beebe
The Fountain – Matthew Libatique

Miami Vice is the first film that truly embraced the digital aesthetic, and in doing so crafted a movie that captures the world like no other before it. Beyond the quality of the image, the framing and movement was superb. There was the beauty of boats sailing across a seemingly endless ocean, and also the closeness of Sonny and Isabella, dancing together, in a moment together, outside of the world. This is how movies should look.

Costume Design
Funky Forest
Marie Antoinette
Miami Vice
The Fountain

Marie Antoinette managed to convey a period feel without the stodginess sometimes associated with period pieces. The film’s emotional narrative happens in the clothes, and these were good enough to make that work.

Inland Empire
Marie Antoinette
Miami Vice
The Fountain

No other film this year had storytelling as economical and groundbreaking as Miami Vice. And on top of that, the editing created an immersive rhythm right from the first scene. The film is infinitely rewatchable primarily because the editing just gets you to a wonderful, dreamlike place.

Foreign Language
Funky Forest
The Science of Sleep
The Great Yokai War
Pan’s Labyrinth

Science of Sleep is what everything Gondry has done before was working towards. You can see pieces of nearly every music video, a lot of Eternal Sunshine and a lot of the man himself. It’s a fantastic achievement.

Funky Forest
Marie Antoinette
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Great Yokai War
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things

Pan’s Labyrinth’s most iconic images were created through the fantastic makeup. The Faun is incredible, as is the guy with eyes on his hands, thoroughly convincing and otherworldly.

Casino Royale
Rocky Balboa
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep

Babel’s rhythmic, looping music united all the stories, and added momentum and heft to the film. It does exactly what a score should, enhance the emotion of the moment and add another layer of aesthetic beauty to the film itself.

‘You Know My Name’ – Casino Royale
‘PJ & Rooster’ – Idlewild
‘Idlewild Blue’ – Idlewild
‘Polish Love Poem’ – Inland Empire
‘Strange (What Love Does)’ – Inland Empire

I’m not sure if it’s the exact title but ‘Strange (What Love Does)’ provides one of the most surreal moments in an already crazily surreal film. Lynch himself does vocals with a classic 50s from hell accompaniment. It’s a great track and works perfectly in the film.

Children of Men
Inland Empire
Miami Vice

It’s difficult for me to assess the different sounds categories, so I’m just doing one. The best sound this year was in Inland Empire, right from the booming, otherworldly tone playing as the title comes up. While you could legitimately take issue with the quality of the PD-150 image, it’s clear that Lynch is still working on a whole different level than everyone else when it comes to sound.

Visual Effects
Children of Men
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep

The Fountain’s crazy bubble imagery was unlike anything I’ve seen before, and the shots at the end were just mindblowing. This is original, beautiful work, that does a lot more than just a bunch of CGI.

Screenplay – Original
Inland Empire
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep

It was written in an unconventional way, but Lynch’s sprawling, epic Inland Empire was the most imaginative, challenging film of the year. It is like anything else I’d ever seen, and that’s reason enough to win the best original screenplay award.

Screenplay – Adapted
A Scanner Darkly
Casino Royale
Little Children
Miami Vice
The Departed

While I loved Miami Vice, it’s not particularly due to the writing, so this award goes to Little Children, a film that was full of ambition and created some of the most fully realized characters I’ve seen in recent films. It never condescended to the audience, letting us fill in gaps and come to our own conclusions. It’s a really strong film, definitely worth looking at.

Inland Empire
Miami Vice
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep

Michael Mann took his art to a new level with Miami Vice. The film is visually beautiful, capturing endless nightscapes in a way that hasn’t been done before, and he allows these beautiful images to tell the story. Dialogue is kept to a minimum, everything we know about these people comes from what we see, and that’s refreshing. I love the fact that he took what was meant to be a summer blockbuster and made a $135 million art film as complex and emotional as a Wong Kar-Wai film. Two directors this year stretched the boundaries of what the medium can do, Mann and Lynch. But, Mann did it just a little better.

Inland Empire
Miami Vice
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep

Well, if you’ve read my top ten list, this is no surprise. Miami Vice was the best film of the year, I’ve seen it five times, and each viewing is a different experience, I’m constantly seeing new things and understanding better how Mann was able to create such a hypnotic work. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out on the best film of 2006.

Nominations (Wins)

Inland Empire – 9 (4)
Science of Sleep – 9 (2)
Miami Vice – 7 (4)
Babel – 7 (1)
The Fountain – 7 (1)
Marie Antoinette – 5 (1)
The Departed – 5 (1)
Funky Forest – 4 (1)
Children of Men – 4
Casino Royale – 4
A Scanner Darkly – 3 (1)
Idlewild – 3
Little Children – 2 (1)
Pan’s Labyrinth – 2 (1)
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things – 2
Manderlay – 2
The Great Yokai War – 2
Borat – 1
Hard Candy – 1
Shadowboxer – 1
Time – 1
Rocky Balboa - 1