We're in the home stretch of 2006, and the movies have already begun getting longer and more important. Critics will be on the lookout for movies chock full of social and political messages to justify their choices as the year's "best," but let's not forget the artistry of crafting a movie that very simply feels right and moves well. One of the greatest films of all time -- some say the greatest -- is F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927), a movie based on nothing more than the most wretchedly old-fashioned love triangle. (Sexy, evil city girl seduces farmer away from his simple, loving country wife.) But Murnau took this story and turned it into cinema poetry. Every shot in some way physically represents the inner turmoil of the characters.
Few filmmakers today can accomplish this; Brian De Palma did it in The Black Dahlia and Martin Scorsese does it in The Departed. A cursory glance at the two films reveals that The Departed is far more accomplished and skilled, but that's deceptive. The difference is that De Palma makes his story serve him, while Scorsese serves his story.