Sunday, January 21, 2007



2006, huh? Done and gone, you say? Would it be wrong to say good riddance? It was a good year for Black Sheep but not a great year for film. Before September rolled around, I thought we were doomed. I had only caught a handful of enjoyable films and been subjected to heaps of mediocrity. Enjoyable times but forgettable ones. Luckily, a few surprises came through in the fall quarter, making this yearend list possible (for a while I didn’t think it was going to happen).

Last year around this time, I had only been reviewing films for a few months. I’ve now banked an entire year’s worth of reviews that are being read by hundreds of strangers every month. It’s a beautiful progression and I thank you all for reading and showing your support.

I’ve been cramming so many movies in this last week and I’m happy to bring you … BLACK SHEEP’S BEST OF 2006. Before you get to the results, I’ll preface by saying that I try my darndest to see as many movies as I could but ’m not a professional with time to see everything that hits the theatres, I can’t see everything. I tend to avoid films I know I won’t like so this list is based on a long list of films I took chances on. I saw over 70 new movies in 2006 and I give you my favorites in all the regular categories. I’ve also added a category or two and tweaked others. This year, the screenplay category has been broken up into adapted and original. The best independent film has been changed to the Best Little Think Piece … the nominations there represent some of the smaller films of the year that speak volumes despite their small frames. And finally, I’ve also introduced an animation category, which I’ve named, The Trevor Adams Animated Feature Award, after my friend / roommate / business partner. He is a talented animator that makes me watch more animated features than I normally would.

Just like last year, I’m announcing my nominees two days before the Academy announces theirs and I will announce the winners two days before the Oscars are televised. Regular Black Sheep reviews will start back up in a couple of weeks. I think I need a tiny break because all these movies are starting to look the same. Enjoy the rest of awards season and here’s hoping the Academy doesn’t screw everything up this year like they did last.

Happy 2007!


- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Making Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
- Casino Royale
- The Departed
- Dreamgirls
- V for Vendetta


- Death of a President
- Half Nelson
- Hard Candy
- Little Children
- Little Miss Sunshine


- Bon Cop, Bad Cop
- For Your Consideration
- Idlewild
- The Omen
- Sorry, Haters


- Cars
- Happy Feet
- Monster House


- Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
- Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
- Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
- Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
- Michael Sheen, The Queen


- Cate Blanchette, Notes on a Scandal
- Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson
- Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
- Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
- Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada


- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Making Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, Todd Phillips
- The Departed, William Monahan
- Little Children, Todd Field and Tom Perrotta
- Notes on a Scandal, Patrick Marber
- The Painted Veil, Ron Nyswaner


- Babel, Guillermo Arriaga
- Half Nelson, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
- The Queen, Peter Morgan
- Stranger than Fiction, Zach Helm
- United 93, Paul Greengrass


- Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Making Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
- Aaron Echkart, Thank You for Smoking
- Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
- Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
- Forest Whittaker, The Last King of Scotland


- Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
- Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
- Helen Mirren, The Queen
- Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil
- Kate Winslet. Little Children


- Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
- Stephen Frears, The Queen
- Paul Greengrass, United 93
- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
- Martin Scorcese, The Departed


- The Departed
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- Little Children
- The Queen
- United 93

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Written by Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

The trouble with foretelling the future in film is that you need to make it credible. The viewer must be almost instantly immersed in a world that is unlike their own, be it entirely or just slightly. If successful, the viewer has the potential to form insights regarding the world they currently live in based on where it looks to be headed. If it fails, every intention the director weaves into the film will be lost on untrusting eyes. Alfonso Cuaron’s near apocalyptic CHILDREN OF MEN opens in a coffee shop in London where the patrons stare in a state of numbed shock at the newscast that announces the death of the world’s youngest human being. Baby Diego was all of 18 years old. There is no one younger because the human race has inexplicably stopped reproducing. The film is set only 20 years from now. Unfortunately, by carefully avoiding over-explaining how humanity got to this point, CHILDREN OF MEN misses achieving that level of authenticity necessary to fully engross the viewer, albeit just narrowly. Yet as more time is spent with the characters of this future, it somehow transforms into a compelling testament to the hope that keeps humanity going no matter how dire the state of the world. Given our current sliding slope towards an increased spread of apathy and despair, Cuaron has crafted an important film that serves as both a reminder and a tool to unify the global population … or at least the film-going one.

Part of the reason CHILDREN OF MEN fails to convince from the start is because of another device designed to foretell the future, the movie preview. To draw us into the intensity of the film, the preview shows an explosion that lead character, Theo (Clive Owen), just misses being killed in. This scene takes place early in the film and, given that this particular preview has been running even longer than most as the release was delayed by three months, the knowledge that the bomb is coming detaches the viewer as they brace for the blast. Had it been a genuine surprise, the shock itself would have served to announce the severity of the times, leaving the viewer as frightened and uneasy as the Londoners of 2027. The missing desperation allows for more time to make sense of what defines this future. While Cuaron’s clues to explain humanity’s collapse are clever and creative, the viewer is still left alone to play catch-up, trying to piece everything together on their own. Of course, it becomes clear that understanding how it happened is entirely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that’s where the road leads but the ground is not solid enough to get a good bearing, making it difficult to see past the details.

Surprisingly, the film is still surprising. And thankfully, once it does catch you off guard, it continues to do so until you understand what it means to need to survive at all costs. Theo must deliver Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to The Human Project, a group of the world’s greatest minds dedicated to the rebirth of the human race. At the risk of pointing out the film’s obvious symbolism, Kee is the “key” to this project as she is the first woman to conceive a child since Diego. Her miracle, although unexplained, inspires everyone she encounters to do right by her and protect her unborn child. As those who are accustomed to varying degrees of selfishness shed their ego-serving ways, their true colors shine through. Even those are meant to stop Kee so that they can use her baby to further their own purposes in the world ahead, from underground terrorists to an army that doesn’t care who they blow up as long as something is being destroyed, are powerless in the presence of the potential savior she is carrying. It’s as though everyone has given up and decided that their actions are meaningless and Kee’s baby gives them a hope so pure it is unlike anything they ever knew before all the trouble began, as if they too are reborn along with the child.

What was impossible to imagine at the start becomes so vividly real that the viewer cannot help but be wrapped up in the urgency of Kee’s need for a successful mission. Cuaron gives no reason at any time to think CHILDREN OF MEN will have to end happily out of a necessity to appease its audience. He makes every step of Kee’s journey arduous and exhausting. After all, she is over eight months pregnant; her odyssey would be hard for anyone. Only she is not simply carrying a child. She is carrying the fate of humanity at a moment in history that could mean the difference between a chance to begin again or an otherwise likely extinction. Being only 20 years away, there could already be a “Kee” amongst us. Though hope sometimes feels difficult to muster, CHILDREN OF MEN shows us we will find it again when we least expect to and it will keep us alive when we need it most.