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List Maniac, Film Division

by Josef Woodard

Todd_Reynolds.jpgNEW YEAR, NEW MUSIC:
The in-town live music calendar for 2007 kicks off with a brainy
bang tonight and tomorrow (January 11 and 12), as digitized N.Y.C.
violinist Todd Reynolds performs with videographer Luke DuBois at
the Contemporary Arts Forum. In Still Life with Mic, we get a blast
of experimental but accessible new music with visuals attached and
interwoven, courtesy the provocative Iridian Arts series.
Reynolds’s diverse résumé includes work with Steve Reich, Yo-Yo
Ma’s Silk Road Project, Bang on a Can, and Ethel, and his solo
projects place him at the juncture of conventional violin
virtuosity and laptop-aided, sinuous/cerebral grooves.

LISTOMANIA, CONT’D: The hopeless film critic
within — an obsessive trait known to many, whether or not payment
is attached to the practice — can’t help but fall into roundup mode
around the turn of each year. It’s a holiday tradition, spilling
over into January, as we babble and bicker about our best-of lists
and survey the landscape of what was. Was this neurotic condition
known in the 19th century? There may be no cure. But it’s a
relatively harmless affliction, unless arguments come to blows.
Below is a baker’s dozen-sized list of the best films of 2006, in
the interest of trying to give closure to the year’s cinematic
fruits. The list is site-specific, only including those films that
have shown up in Santa Barbara, which still gets some of the
late-breaking, Oscar-timed releases late, being outside the
limited-release market. Still unseen in this area code at press
time, for instance: Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima and
David Lynch’s Inland Empire.

Of those screened here, Dreamgirls, bolstered by the stunning
work of Jennifer Hudson, must be the sentimental feel-good flick of
the year (despite the weakness and period faux pas of its music),
and the goofy-sweet Nacho Libre — Jared (Napoleon Dynamite) Hess’s
sophomore charmer — may be the year’s guilty pleasure. The slacker
Zen-like Old Joy is an Oregonian film with hypnotic, Eastern
sensibilities, and Mel Gibson’s stirring Apocalypto soared,
whatever the transgressions of Gibson, the man. Little Miss
Sunshine is the year’s sleeper sensation, with something for
everyone, including sentimental resolutions to wild card
situations, and Alan Arkin in pottymouth mode. From the more
serious, real-world side, Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (second
installment still on its way to Santa Barbara) wrapped WWII
lore — and war, generally — in valid question marks, and United 93
introduced the 9/11 subject to cineplexes with unexpected grace,
artfulness, and taste.

One Cinephile’s List: Little Children (Todd Field), Volver
(Pedro Almodóvar), Apocalypto (Mel Gibson), Flags of Our Fathers
(Clint Eastwood), The Departed (Martin Scorsese), Factotum (Bent
Hamer), Nacho Libre (Jared Hess), Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan
Dayton, Valerie Faris), United 93 (Paul Greengrass), Tsotsi (Gavin
Hood), Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt), A Scanner Darkly (Richard
Linklater), and Dreamgirls (Bill Condon).

MEA CULPA, #1: In last week’s roundup of the
prime CDs of 2006, at least one glaring omission must be corrected.
What list worth its salt would be complete without mention of the
brilliant example of human electronica, Thom Yorke’s The Eraser
(XL)? Last year, Yorke toured with his band Radiohead and passed
through SoCal’s urban areas. We dream of the day the band deigns to
return to the Santa Barbara Bowl, where its shows a few years ago
were among the most memorable in the Bowl’s history.

TO-DOINGS: Music of a worldly sort comes to the
intimate and inviting UCSB MultiCultural Center Theater this month,
starting with a warm wind of forró music from northeastern Brazil
on Friday night. Rob Curto’s Forró for All is a dance-happy group
based around the N.Y.C. accordionist’s jazz-spiced variation on the
forró tradition. Another calendar marker for so-called world music
fans is next Thursday (January 18) at the MCC, when Wang Fei
performs the traditional Chinese Guqin music on the instrument
known as the qin. (Got e? fringebeat@independent.com.)

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