Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, 2004)
As the end of the year approaches and awards season looms, I'm trying to catch up on some critically acclaimed 2006 releases that I missed that might be candidates for year-end awards. (This movie was out in Mexico in 2004 but released in the U.S. this year.) I will say now that this one isn't making my top 10 list, although it had some beautiful black and white cinematography and good performances from its child-star leads, especially Danny Perea. It's a slow, languid movie about a lazy Sunday afternoon at home without adults for three adolescents, and although it's a little inert at first, it does pick up in the last third with some nice, understated moments among the characters that do a good job of catching the anxieties and uncertainties of early adolescents. Eimbcke does some wonderfully evocative things with mise en scene, but the slightness of his story can't always live up to the beauty of his images and staging.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2006)
This one isn't making my list, either, although it's a fitfully funny take on the perils of making an independent film. The conceit is that it's based on a famously unfilmable self-referential novel, so it becomes a very self-referential film, mixing bits of the actual story in with the behind-the-scenes tale of making the film. But I was hoping for more of the story from the novel, which was far outweighed by the in-jokey backstage stuff. I have a feeling I would have found this funnier if I were British and thus more familiar with star Steve Coogan, who is hugely famous over there. As it stands, I found it just a mildly funny entry in the rather played-out "film industry pokes fun at itself" genre.