Best Damn Movies of 2006

And why nearly all you'll see in 2007 is sequels, prequels, and threequels

"At some point, you have to get real about things," Eastwood says. "That may not be appealing to audiences who want a kind of escapism, but these pictures aren't necessarily for the escapist." He's right: The audience did not embrace Flags, which has performed well below Eastwood's usually robust business since its release in mid-October. Eastwood admits he's disappointed but says he doesn't have anything left to prove to anyone, save for himself. "All you can say in the end is, 'Do I like it?' Yes. It's what I intended to do, and because of that, I'm happy."

Indeed, Eastwood seems content, and with no new projects in development, he says he's interested in making only films that ignite his passions as fully as the Iwo Jima saga. "When you're younger and things first start happening to you — for me, it was the 1960s — you say yes to a lot of things. Your agent says, 'Do this, play in this picture because you're in it with Richard Burton.' Then someone asks Richard, 'Why are you in the picture?' And he says, 'Well, because I'm in it with Clint.' But why are we here? I did a lot of pictures like that — you could go through a whole list of them. People lean on you, and like all actors, you think every job's going to be your last job. At that age, you don't wait for the perfect thing that may or may not come along in ten years. But now, if this is the last picture I do, that's fine."

Foundas' Top Ten

1. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, France)

2. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, U.K.-USA)

3. Letters From Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, USA)

4. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania)

5. Happy Feet (George Miller, USA)

6. Inland Empire (David Lynch, USA)

7. Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey-France)

8. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, U.K.-USA)

9. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, USA)

10. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay, USA)


Iraq's Cinema of Longing

A conversation with director James LongleyBy Rob Nelson

James Longley's Iraq in Fragments is a one-man production of startling audacity and aesthetic provocation. It isn't just that Longley (Gaza Strip) worked unembedded in Iraq for two years after the start of the war, gaining access to the stories of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in wartime and risking his life at almost every turn. It's that he used this occasion to make an art film.

Iraq in Fragments has kept the Seattle-based Longley on airplanes and in hotels for much of the past year and is still making its way, accompanied by the filmmaker, around the United States and the world. Between flights, Longley, 34, talked on the phone about his film.

New Times: You've said that the film was made to spur discussion and debate, that it's a political film only "under the surface." But was the style of the film — your choice to make Iraq look immensely beautiful — a political decision? James Longley: Well, the fact is that Iraq is not an ugly country [laughs]. But of course, there are a million ways to film any subject. On some level, the beauty of the film is a reflection of the reality that I found. A lot of Iraq is stunning in that sensual kind of way, with very lovely, earthy colors. I wanted the film to be experiential, for people to really be in this place when they're watching it. I don't want the viewer to be pushed out. I want them to be almost seduced by the visual world, to feel beckoned inside.

Most docs aspire to pure reportage rather than poeticism. Do you find that audiences are taken aback by the film, that they don't expect to see so much longing?Well, that's funny, because I feel that the film is pure reportage [laughs]. If "pure" reportage conveys the essence of a place and a situation, then yes, that's what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to make a film that has a lot of assumptions built into it. If you look at the reporting of Iraq on CNN or PBS or whatever, it comes with political assumptions. I don't blame them: In mainstream media, there's almost no way to escape that kind of issue-driven, news- and event-driven work. For me, the work is a way to play a game with myself as a filmmaker. I'm almost trying to escape my own politics.

When you were shooting the film unembedded, under extremely harrowing conditions, did you think a lot about the politics of embedded journalism?I can't blame any journalist or filmmaker who chooses to be embedded with the U.S. military. I don't think that side of the story is illegitimate; I just knew that it was already being covered.

Has it been possible for you to stay in touch with the people you filmed?One translator I worked with has been seeing the family I filmed, the one with the brick farm, and he says they're all the same, doing well. But Sheik Aws al Kafaji, the Shiite cleric from the film, is apparently in prison. He was arrested by the Americans. I don't know exactly why; I'd love to find out more about that, but it's kind of tricky. He was arrested and tortured under Saddam, so it's kind of ironic now that he would be arrested by the Americans. I imagine him taking a very ironic, darkly humorous perspective on that. I hope he makes it through.

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