Moments out of Time 2006

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the films of the year

By Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy

Flags of Our Fathers: how the whole movie is suspended between the desperate “Where is he?” and finding out who “he” is…

• The calm, ecstatic beauty of the opening shot of A Prairie Home Companion: Mickey’s Dining Car glowing in the night, the turned back of narrator Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) visible through the window as he finishes his cheap meal, pays, and rises to step out into a heartland street painted with light and color after rain…

• Business-as-usual in The Departed: Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) disappears into a back room for a while. When he comes back to reenter the conversation, he’s wearing a bloody apron. We never know why….

Brick: The Bad Guy’s (Lukas Haas) mom interrupting a rec room showdown with offers of cookies and apple juice…

Half Nelson: Ryan Gosling’s heroin-addicted teacher storms into the drug-dealer’s hangout to tell the charismatic fellow (Anthony Mackie) to stay away from a little girl he’s taken under his wing–and gets detoured by the lure of shooting up….

• A lively mandrake root swims in a pan of milk beneath a pregnant woman’s bed—Pan’s Labyrinth

Beowulf and Grendel: A dead-white, clawed hand strikes straight up out of the sea, reaching for Beowulf (Gerard Butler)….

Letters from Iwo Jima: fountains of blood and flesh as Japanese soldiers suicide by grenade … heard, in Flags of Our Fathers, as distant underground thwumps…

Casino Royale: The philosophical quarry assures the gunman who’s got the drop on him that the second kill is … he would have said “easier,” but he’s already dead. Ice-cold Bond (Daniel Craig) puts his own period to the sentiment: “Considerably.”…

Miami Vice: a hi-def aerial shot down into the warm, velvet-dark Florida night, sensing almost more than seeing the opalescent wake of a fast boat making its way up the Inland Channel…

• The abstract regional overviews that open each chapter of Days of Glory, and fade into the photographic reality of a landscape about to become battleground…

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Great Nation of Kazakhstan: A Southern gentleman of a certain age being obliged to explain that he is “retired,” not “a retard”…

• In For Your Consideration, the two screenwriters of Home for Purim are asked to name their ideal spaces. One (Bob Balaban) says, “Chicago.” The other (Michael McKean) says, “Under my mother’s kitchen table.”…

Shortbus: enjoying a smoke in a sensory deprivation tank…

• The way Madolyn’s (Vera Farmiga) toes curl under as she makes love with Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio)–The Departed

• In Apocalypto, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), crouched in a tree high above bloodthirsty pursuers, whips around at the sound of a growl, to spy a fiesty kitten … but turning back, he comes face-to-face with a huge, black, plenty pissed-off jaguar mom….

• In Volver, Raimunda cooks up a storm for a film crew, then sits down to charm them–in closeup–with a song. Penélope Cruz brought back to passionate life in Almodóvarland…

• “Who is that sad little person?”–Nigel the haute couture designer (Stanley Tucci) registering the style schlub that is Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), in The Devil Wears Prada

Man Push Cart: Perpetually bereft Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) pockets a days-old, abandoned kitten in a New York alley….

The Good German: Bellied up to a bar, George Clooney’s driver (Tobey Maguire) kisses off his boss because it’s after working hours … and Clooney’s lost love (Cate Blanchett), now a whore, turns to drawl with Dietrichian despair, “I’m off the clock, too.”…

• Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) explaining in Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby that he is “Frawnch” (hell, “Reeky Bubby”–Will Ferrell–knew that!)…

Taxidermia: Leaning far back in his chair, a masturbating man (Csaba Czene) shoots gouts of fire from his member….

• In Wordplay, mild-mannered Al Sanders, perennial also-ran in the annual American Crossworld Puzzle Tournament, finishes first in the 2005 edition, then realizes he has forgot to fill in two now-obvious words at the very beginning–and hurls his earphones to the floor….

• In Little Miss Sunshine, soulmates seated side-by-side at dinner–alienated teen (Paul Dano) and Proustian prof manqué (Steve Carell)–sink into numb horror as Dad (Greg Kinnear) spouts bromides about “winners and losers.”…

Beowulf and Grendel: Having murdered Grendel’s father, King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) stares into the inhuman eyes of the hairy trollchild (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson) and is moved to unaccustomed mercy–dooming himself and his tribe….

• “Heavy lies the crown … sorta thing…”: Frank Costello gets Shakespearean, The Departed….

• Stranded on a Scottish moor, Elizabeth The Queen (Helen Mirren) meets and matches the gaze of a regal stag….

• Well-met on a black beach: General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe), Baron Nishii (Tsuyoshi Ihara) and a beloved horse; civilized men and an emblem of old-fashioned warfare, casualties all in Letters from Iwo Jima

United 93: Hardly heard, and the more heroic for that: “Let’s roll.”…

• In Apocalypto, Flint Sky’s (Morris Birdyellowhead) slow dying, on his knees, but not bowed; “Travel well.”…

A Prairie Home Companion: The Johnson Sisters, Yolanda (Meryl Streep) and Rhonda (Lily Tomlin) in the dressing room, flowing from conversation to a shared chorus of “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” as–it being a Robert Altman movie, after all–the camera driftily zooms into the makeup mirror to watch them embrace, then eases out again for Rhonda’s “Singing is the only thing that puts me right.”…

Pan’s Labyrinth: At the head of a banquet table sits nightmare, an eyeless, corpse-skinned demon, devourer of babies; in a corner, a heap of discarded shoes, chilling evocation of Holocaust….

The Descent: a group snapshot of six women who can’t go home again…

• In Babel, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) flashing her privates like a lost child’s frantic Morse code…

The Notorious Bettie Page: Bettie’s (Gretchen Mol) Florida shoot, photographed in the saturated primary colors of Hollywood fan magazines; hot Photoplay hues that defined the unambiguous ’50s…

• In Heading South, post-coitum, Wellesley prof Charlotte Rampling oils her Haitian boytoy’s (Menothy Cesar) beautiful body….

World Trade Center: a glimpse of a midtown Manhattan building wall as, unaccustomed and unnoticed, the shadow of an airliner darkens it for a second…

• A mercury-vapor street lamp shining amid palm trees, in Miami Vice–a moment at once mundane, exotic, and realer than real in its vividness…

Blood Diamond: The confessional hush as Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) matter-of-factly recalls the atrocities practiced on his parents when he was orphaned; every word wrapped in years of repression…

• Bond’s howls under ball-breaking torture; unbearable–Casino Royale

Hollywoodland: The Spanish song sung for the last time, George Reeves (Ben Affleck) sits on his bed for a moment, then turns his head to stare straight into the camera … at the private eye (Adrien Brody) who’s imagining how the actor died? at all those ruthless eyes that freeze-framed him as Superman? Then he blows his head off….

• In Talladega Nights, Jean Girard sipping a macchiato in midrace without lifting his helmet bar…

Lady in the Water: Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) curls his lumpy long self up on a couch and smiles adorably, to melt the heart of a shrewish old witch (June Kyoto Lu)….

• In The Descent, what the women spelunkers don’t see, but we do: a dead-white homunculus hunched at the end of a dark tunnel…

• Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), all smiles in Notes on a Scandal, sharing dinner with Sheba’s (Cate Blanchett) high-spirited family, her mental inventory of their flaws worthy of a distaff Iago…

Old Joy: Amid the slow drip and sleepy warmth of a hot springs in the middle of deep-green Oregon forest, an aging hippie (Will Oldham) gives an old friend (Daniel London) a neck massage….

• During an orgy in Shortbus, an old man, once mayor of the Big Apple, shares hard-won wisdom with a beautiful boy: “New York is where people come seeking forgiveness.”…

• Start with some bloody cop business in front of a sleazy downtown apartment house, let the camera rise and drift over the building’s roof to survey an empty lot in the next block where a woman with a baby carriage stops to look at something in the grass, shrieks and runs. Recipe for a bravura Brian De Palma shot, The Black Dahlia

Miami Vice: Detective Gina Calabrese’s (Elizabeth Rodriguez) showdown faceoff against an Aryan Brotherhood thug who’s holding a hostage in front of him as a shield. In a paradigm of professional cool and lethal efficiency, Gina explains to the goon how she can nevertheless safely manage to kill him–and while he’s still listening, does….

• In The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda’s (Meryl Streep) “Is it impossible to find a slim, attractive female paratrooper? Am I reaching for the stars?”…

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) swooping down on Pamela Anderson, dumping her into a sack, and booking…

Half Nelson: Teacher and student (Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps) sit at opposite ends of a swaybacked couch, staring straight ahead, an odd couple united in some semblance of family and hope…

Climates: Gazing into a beautiful woman’s face (Ebru Ceylan) in falling snow, long enough to measure a lifetime’s worth of loss and loneliness … and then she’s simply not there…

Casino Royale: Bond helplessly watching caged Vesper (Eva Green) drown…

• In Brick, our hero’s dreamgirl (Emilie de Ravin) dead in a drainage ditch…

Little Children: In a dark playground, the accused child molester (Jackie Earle Haley) hunches over on a swing … all menace drained….

• Lucy, the dog in Old Joy, always finding a stick to carry, and undeterred when it’s too big…

Shortbus: The lights go out in all the windows of a colorful, handcrafted model that stands in for New York’s skyscrapers, and a trick of shadow turns the buildings into crowded tombstones, a city of the dead….

• At the end of a New York pocket park in Man Push Cart, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) opens his cart for business just before dawn, as the lights in a line of little trees blink out one by one….

The Queen: The royal face arranged as public mask, softening imperceptibly when Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) asks a child if she can place a bouquet of flowers among the great drift of Diana’s tribute, and is told: “It’s for you.”…

A Prairie Home Companion: As Robert Altman’s last set is dismantled around him, Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) noodles on a grand piano adorned by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fedora’d bust: “Gather thee rosebuds while you may…”

• A curl of cigarette smoke in a derelict cinema–The Good German

• “I have to say your vulnerability is really freaking me out right now”–Madolyn (Vera Farmiga) to Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio), The Departed

Flags of Our Fathers: The body of Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) sprawled facedown in a pigpen: dead of “exposure”…