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Duke Ray’s Most Memorable Moments at the Movies of 2006

January 24, 2007
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I’ll be blunt: Top 10 lists are a lot of hooey. An exercise in hubris. The same goes for most awards for “the Best”
in any artistic endeavor.  (Not that I’m
returning any such awards I have or may receive, mind you.) As author Ken Gire notes in his
“Reflections on the Movies,” the main reason most human beings see a movie (or
any other art form) is not to categorize it, but in the hopes of interacting
with the piece, to encounter moments that move them.  As Jimmy Stewart said,
his main pleasure and hope as an actor was to give people “these little pieces
of time.”

Thus, keeping myself purposefully blind for the moment to yesterday’s
Oscar nominations, I offer up here some moments I had in the movie theaters of 2006
that stick with me the most…

CHILDREN OF MEN. Released Christmas
Day, this thrilling and haunting reimagining of the Nativity story, set in a dystopian U.K. a
few decades in the future, was the one movie of last year that had me
completely in its grip from the opening frame to the final image. Brilliantly, director/co-scenarist Alfonso Cuaron and his
filmmaking partners do not hammer us with a statement, but choose to explore
the question of how different people respond to Hope and how political agendas
can distort that response. In one
moment towards the end, an intense battle pauses… and we see for a moment how
Hope reconnects us to our humanity – authority, rebels, and the crossfire victims alike – and how
tragically its absence dehumanizes us again. A transcendent moment.

CASINO ROYALE. It
was just cool to see James Bond be cool again, what can I say? The moment where Daniel Craig, as the latest
and (for me) second-greatest incarnation of the super-spy, is finally
accompanied for the first time in this “origin” story by the famous John
Barry-penned theme with its stacatto guitar lick… Well, that just put a big ol’
grin on this guy’s face.

ROCKY BALBOA. Something about seeing Sly Stallone really inhabit that character, make
him real again instead of a cartoon… More than a single scene, there’s the
iconic image of this great, incredibly decent character of Rocky with his
pork-pie hat, bringing out the best in himself and the small community of people
around him… just by being who he was made to be. What a great surprise gift. Thank
God for Rocky.

UNITED 93. The final
scene, depicting the heroic passengers’ rush of the cockpit, was about the most
gut-wrenchingly primal, adrenaline-filled, inspiring, sobering scene I hope to
see in a movie…well, ever. So well-done
that I will likely never see it again.

A SCANNER DARKLY. The sad-yet-strangely-hopeful ending of Richard Linklater’s adaptation
of a Philip K. Dick’s novel was the first time that I really felt what I do
when I put down one of Dick’s novels. Somebody finally captured on screen that ambiguous, absurd mixture of anger and resignation, of spiritual hope and deep earthly melancholy.

APOCALYPTO. I will
never look at the Mayan pyramids again in quite the same way.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. The little girl Olive finally shows us her big dance, which her
“choreographer” grandfather cannot be there to see, because “He’s in the trunk
of our car.” That made me laugh. A lot.

I’ve yet to catch up on a number of the noteworthy releases of
last year (including DREAMGIRLS, BABEL, LETTER FROM IWO JIMA, THE QUEEN and
LITTLE CHILDREN), so I hope to collect more “little pieces of time” worthy of
storing up. I welcome hearing yours.

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