I gave myself til the end of January to post this list, hoping to catch up on all the end of the year releases that don’t reach most screens until January. Well, it’s the end of January, so it was time to commit to my list. After all, year end lists become less and less relevant the farther away from the end of the year they come.
I didn’t get a chance to see every movie I wanted to see from 2006, but I did catch a lot of them (46 and counting). Movies that I wanted to see by have not yet seen include Pan’s Labyrinth, The Last King of Scotland, Little Children, Flags of our Fathers, Jesus Camp, Deliver us from Evil, Hollywoodland, and The Good German, so that’s why none of them make the list. No worries, as this won’t be my last word on the year in movies (that’ll come around Oscar time).
For most of the year, I thought 2006 to be a pretty crappy year for movies. But, while putting this list together, I realised that it turns out that there was a lot of good movies this year, just not necessarily at the multiplex. Instead, it was a year of disappointing and diminishing returns for heavily promoted movies, especially during the summer. But if you sought out good movies, there was some great ones to be seen. So, if you’re down on the year in film, maybe you just weren’t seeing the right movies.
Honourable Mentions: Children of Men, V for Vendetta, The Prestige, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Conversations with Other Women
10. The Queen– As with last year, I kick off the list with a Best Picture nominee. It won’t win, but Helen Mirren is a mortal lock to win Best Actress, and she deserves it. More than just a showcase for a great performance, the movie is a brilliant snapshot of a moment in time in British history that served as a turning point in its public consciousness.
Review pull quote: “It’s a fascinating drama about the shift in modern Britain from tradition to the media-driven celebrity culture of today, that is delivered with a light, comic touch. The film hits on all notes, accomplishing the impossible: making me sympathise and care about the plight of the Royal Family.”
9. Wordplay– Criminally overlooked by the Academy, who not only did not nominate Wordplay for Best Documentary Feature, but also didn’t list it amongst the fifteen finalists for the award. While movie after movie during the summer left me feeling blah, a documentary about crosswords delivered the fun that pictures like Superman Returns and Cars failed to deliver. And I don’t even do crosswords.
Review pull quote: “The advertising for the movie bills the stars of this movie as Shortz, Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina, Bob Dole, and The Indigo Girls, and each do appear and give interesting interviews on their enjoyment of crossword puzzles (Stewart is particularly entertaining, while Clinton makes me wistful for a president that can do the Times crossword in pen, instead of one who would probably have to staff out the Jumble).”
8. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan– While a flawed movie with little replayability, and scoring lower in my review than others above it on this list, Borat delivered an experience unique from every other movie I saw this year: it was hands down the best time I had at the movies all year. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard and as uncontrollably as I did while watching this movie, and for that, the movie should be commended. I appreciate art in cinema as much as anybody (and more than most), but a great night out is equally significant. In fact, there’s art in that as well.
Review pull quote: “You won’t believe the shit that comes out of Borat’s mouth, no matter how prepared you thought you were going into the movie. It was the lewd humour that I was hoping for when I watched The Aristocrats, the kind where I had to bury my face into my wife’s shoulder or my own hands at times because it was so awkward… and so awkwardly funny.”
7. An Inconvenient Truth– I kiddingly suggested that you should see every movie on this list with my lj-cut (well… half-kiddingly), but if I were to recommend to everyone reading to see just one movie on this list, An Inconvenient Truth is it. Climate change is an imminent threat that we all need to be aware of, and do something about. Sure, there are other ways of finding out about it, and I encourage them all, but why not go with the cliff notes version?
Review pull quote: “The film presents the information in a clear, engaging matter. Or, at least as engaging a manner as a 90 minute powerpoint presentation on scientific principles and climate change by Al Gore could be. Which, is a lot more than you’d initially think it could be.”
6. Inside Man– An electric thriller that keeps you guessing throughout, delivered with intelligence and style. Spike Lee became relevant again with this movie, then even moreso with When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which deserves a mention here, even though I considered it ineligible for the list as a TV movie/mini-series.
Review pull quote: “Lee juggles these characters, motives, and plotlines magnificently, creating a slow-burning heist film where things generally aren’t as they seem.”
5. Casino Royale– Finally, a big time, heavily-promoted, franchise film that delivered! It only took until December. But when Hollywood finally delivered, it did so in glorious fashion, and I’m not even a big Bond fan. Or, at least I wasn’t before this movie.
Review pull quote: “Had the franchise continued in the direction it was heading, its possible that I wouldn’t have even bothered seeing the next installment. With this exciting new direction, I now look forward to the next installment almost as much as the next Batman or Spider-Man installments.”
4. Brick– I discovered this movie because of 2006 year end lists, and now I must pass it on to you. See it now before it becomes a Donnie Darko-type cult hit, and you’re forced to hate it. (Of course, let’s hope it doesn’t. And even if it did, that wouldn’t change the fact that this movie is excellent).
Review pull quote: “Beyond the noir-trappings, the story is truly gripping, building in intensity until you’re on the edge of your seat as the climax plays out. I was as excited by movie’s action as I was impressed by the film’s inventiveness.”
3. United 93– The most deeply affecting movie of the year, United 93 might also be the best movie of 2006. But this isn’t just a list of what is “best”, it’s also a list of what are my favourites, and a representation of the year in film as experienced by me. That’s how a film like Borat can come before Children of Men, and why this is only third. While I was blown away by the movie and how it taps into the experience of 9/11, I don’t know if I could ever watch it again. But I highly recommend you watch it at least once.
Review pull quote: “Like the best art, United 93 is challenging, difficult, and compelling. It offers no answers, no resolution, and no release. But it is a haunting reminder of what happened that day, and more importantly, what it felt like to live through that day, a reminder that is more necessary than one might imagine, as our feelings of the situation have been numbed and hardened after years of exploitation of the event by our media, corporations, and politicians.”
2. Little Miss Sunshine– Whereas Little Miss Sunshine is probably my favourite movie of 2006, and it only gets the number two spot. How does that work? I’ll explain in a second. In any case, I love this movie, and have seen it more than any other movie from 2006. Of course, the internets are full of people raving about this movie, so maybe I just kept it from being number one to be different. Or, since there’s now a growing backlash against it, maybe I’ve been influenced. Ah, I’m not going to sweat it, second place is pretty good. Who knows? Maybe something will happen to the winner, giving the spot to the first runner-up?
Review pull quote: “In the end, you’ll be surprised that a movie filled with world-weary, cynical characters will end up being one of the best celebrations of the human spirit to have come along in years.”
1. The Departed– Possibly the best movie of the year, and probably my second favourite movie of the year, that’s how The Departed grabs the top spot from the other two. A perfect blend of excitement, intensity, performance, and art, The Departed is a movie that is as entertaining as it is acclaimed. This is what happens when Martin Scorsese stops making movies to try and win Oscars and just concentrates on making a great movie… which ironically could end up winning an Oscar.
Review pull quote: “The story is gripping throughout, with enough white-knuckle tension to keep you at the edge of your seat, and enough subtlety to make you think about all its dimensions throughout. By the time the bloody third act rolls around, I was so engrossed by the proceedings that I’m not sure I blinked until the resolution had played out.”