Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ten best movies of 2006

I had planned to hold off on this list until Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" gets a wide enough release to reach my little corner of the world, but that's looking like an unlikely prospect at best, so here goes (one other disclaimer: I realize there are 11 movies on this list, but I just couldn't decide on the final cut, so just deal with it.)

1. "Babel"
Few movies this year have been as divisive as this gem from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, but you can count me solidly in the camp of its supporters. It has more scenes (the Mexican wedding, the Japanese disco) and characters (played most memorably by Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza) that just burned themselves on my brain than any other movie this year, making it my favorite flick of 2006.

"Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story"
No numbers from here on out, just a list of the movies I loved this year. Michael Winterbottom's movie about making a movie, the impossible-to-film novel of the title, was the funniest movie I saw in 2006, chiefly due to a perfect performance by Steve Coogan as the leading man who's all blustery ego.

"Catch a Fire"
Paired with his "The Quiet American," this smart movie about South Africa has made Phillip Noyce today's top director of political thrillers in my book (rivaled only by perhaps Fernando Meirelles.) Led by a searing performance from Derek Luke, it manages to be both a meditation on what drives men to commit acts of terrorism while never forgetting it's also supposed to be an entertaining flick.

"Little Miss Sunshine"
Call this one the people's champ, and I'm happy to join the crowd. I was sure the word of mouth had to be exaggerated on this one, and before the last 15 minutes or so, I still thought so. It redeems itself from being a fairly standard flick about a dysfunctional family with an ending that was like nothing else I saw this year. It's pure schmaltz that goes straight to your heart, and I'm not ashamed to admit that young Abigail Breslin melted mine.

"Dave Chappelle's Block Party"
Count this as the most fun I had at the movies in 2006. From the outset, you get a laid-back Dave who's clearly having fun after freeing himself from Comedy Central (though I'm still waiting for a satisfying answer as to why.) He's as funny as he's ever been, and the music is just superb (except for that pesky Kanye West, who just won't be denied.) The big finale is a reunion of the Fugees, and it doesn't disappoint, but Dead Prez delivered my favorite performance.

"Thank You for Smoking"
I was sure the art of political satire was dead before seeing this smart comedy debut from director Jason Reitman. Count Aaron Eckhart as my dark horse favorite for a Best Actor nomination, if the Academy isn't afraid to recognize a comedic performance. And watch out for Reitman's next flick, "Juno," based on a script by Minneapolis City Pages blogger Diablo Cody and starring the fantastic Ellen Page.

"Akeelah and the Bee"
Is it OK to love a movie financed by Starbucks? Well, I don't drink their coffee, so I guess I can do so with a clean conscience. Besides, what's not to like about a movie with this much heart and endearing performances from Laurence Fishburne and even more so young Keke Palmer? Like political satire, I thought the smart family film was a dead animal, but this one proved me wrong.

"The Departed"
Once he clears that unnecessary Rolling Stones doco from his plate, I really think we're about to see the golden age of Marty Scorsese, starting with this thoroughly satisfying mob movie. Will it finally bring him his Best Picture Oscar? Probably not. It's just too entertaining to be taken seriously by the Academy, though it will surely garner a lot of nominations. Leo DiCaprio manages to stand out in the most star-studded movie of the year, and even if you've seen the source material "Infernal Affairs," this one will still keep you riveted until the finish.

"Wordplay"
Though it's apparently not serious enough to get Oscar love, this documentary from director Patrick Creadon is an entirely charming look at the more-than-somewhat creepy subculture of crossword puzzle addicts. Creadon always treats his subjects with respect, no matter how truly geeky they may be, and the National Crossword Competition that wraps it up is a spirited and suspenseful contest.

"Dreamgirls"
These last two are only last because they're the most recent I've seen, not because they aren't worthy selections. I'm so glad I went to see this on opening day, with a packed house cheering every minute of the arrival of Jennifer Hudson, an Oscar lock for her breakthrough performance as Effie White. Bill Condon's musical manages to pulse with life as it takes on the daunting task of encapsulating the rise and fall of Motown.

"Children of Men"
Perhaps there is hope for "Pan's Labyrinth" after all, since Del Toro's compadre Alfonso Cuaron has managed to worm his way onto one screen in my little corner of the world this week with "Children of Men." That's kinda surprising, because it's a fairly challenging movie. It's also tremendously entertaining science fiction with a solid performance from Clive Owen, and easily one of my favorite flicks of 2006.

So, there you have it. Anything I missed? Please feel free to let me know, and have a great day.

P.S. If you're interested, here are the 24 other flicks that were in the runnning for this list: Match Point, Tsotsi, Madea's Family Reunion, V for Vendetta, Slither, Hard Candy, United 93, An Inconvenient Truth, Nacho Libre, Clerks II, World Trade Center, Snakes on a Plane, Beerfest, Invincible, Jet Li's Fearless, The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, The Prestige, Borat, Volver, Stranger than Fiction, Casino Royale, Rocky Balboa and Night at the Museum. When they're available, I'd say they're all well worth a rental. Peace out.

57 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I agree with you that wordplay won't get much of a look, but I absolutely adored it. I did not want to go but my wife pulled me along, since she does the crosswords in the times.
Glad I went. Good list, I am sure everyone will have their own flavors and stuff.
BTW thought you might find this interesting. I came across this site where the guy has done a list of top ten best opening sequences in movies. He also includes you tube links.

Reel Fanatic said...

That is pretty cool, sanjay .. thanks for the heads up .. I'd like to make better use of the Utube vault, but I don't really have the time or energy to sort through it all!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding list. I'll be going and seeing those on your list that I haven't already had a chance to see.

Love your blog in general also. You talk about one of my fave subjects ... movies. I'll be adding you to my blog links.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, dbackdad .. though my list is getting rather unruly already, I will gladly do the same for you

Lee said...

I went to see Babel last night and have been thinking about it ever since. Such a powerful story. What was written in the letter from Chieko at the end?

Reel Fanatic said...

I thought about that for a long time too, lee, but wasn't able to come to any conclusions ... Her story was easily the best in the bunch, and I just loved it all the more because it left us with some hope, but plenty of questions

Anonymous said...

Had an unfortunate experience with trying to see Babel last night (seafood dinner eaten too quickly + front row seat + lots of handheld camera work = pukey feeling) so I think I'll just wait for DVD. I was so disappointed since I'd waited so long to see it. I think STF would be in my top ten. And Confetti and Volver too.

Anonymous said...

On the whole, a strong list (though I still think Babel is an overhyped bore). I'm especially happy to see Tristram Shandy mentioned. I missed Catch a Fire, but it's on my Netflix list.

Anonymous said...

On the whole, a strong list (though I still think Babel is an overhyped bore). I'm especially happy to see Tristram Shandy mentioned. I missed Catch a Fire, but it's on my Netflix list.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I missed many of the films on your list. Off the top of my head, I think I'd go with The Prestige, V For Vendetta, and Thank You For Smoking.

sanchapanzo said...

Cant agree more on 'Babel'.
Isn't this style so similar to 'Traffic' or 'Syriana'?
And since the movie is a bit on the darker side it is bound to take a beating in the Oscars, unlike 'Crash'(kind of similar style) which due to its feel-good factor was a hit in Oscars.

Reel Fanatic said...

I agree that it's similar in style to all of those, Sanchapanzo, but to me it's superior to them all due to its strong character development, something which was sorely lacking in Syriana .. and I have to agree with you about the Oscars .. I think it still might sneak in with a best picture nomination, but it doesn't have a prayer of winning

arvind caulagi said...

ive been dying to watch babel and dreamgirls..but sadly in india...all these movies are only released if they manage to win the oscars....and even if they do relaese..it'll be a heavily edited version...*sigh*

Reel Fanatic said...

Sorry to hear that, Arvind .. on the upside, I'd say Dreamgirls will be the big, big winner this year, and Babel just may sneak in to win a few major awards too

arvind caulagi said...

but somehow every year....the oscars are such a hotch-potch....sometimes i dont understand on what basis they give away the prizes..i mean...its very vague sometimes....and at times its like they are doing someone a favour...just cos they werent given the award the previous year...

arvind caulagi said...

have you by any chance watched any hindi movies???

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you're right about that, Arvind .. they often seem to be given out just because a person has been ignored for too long, no matter if they gave a great performance in that year or not ... I'm ashamed to say I've seen very few Hindi movies, but if you have any suggestions, I would love to try to find some with English subtitles

Linda said...

Good list. I have only commited to my Top 5, still have a few more 2006 films to see before I make my complete Top 10 (or 20, know how you feel)list. I really enjoyed the documentary Neil Young:Heart of Gold, worth a look. The hindi film Water is very good too.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can't believe I forgot all about that doco, Linda ... they showed it at our arthouse theater here in downtown Macon, and it was just a joy to watch

Freudian Slip said...

Thank You for Not Smoking was a great movie, but V for Vendetta not making the list! What's up with that!?!
Matt

Reel Fanatic said...

If the list had gone to 15, Matt, it definitely would have found a home there, but I had to stop somewhere!

Shannon said...

Great list! So many films this year, it's hard to pair them down to 10 or so. Loved Little Miss Sunshine as well as Dreamgirls.

arvind caulagi said...

since you've asked me to suggest a few hindi movies....lets see...
i think you can watch rang de basanti-that's india's entry to the oscars this year, then there's omkara, an adaptation of shakespere's othello, You could also catch up with lage raho munnabhai....which is a sequal of munnabhai mbbs...pls do not miss deepa mehta's water...and even yun hota toh kya hota...india's take on the 9/11...i think this'll do for now...there are lots and lots you can watch...especially the song-dance-drama ones....

Marina said...

Great list. I'm going to keep holding off for Pan since it opens next week and, well, I've already waited this long.

I also really liked your honorable mention list. Great suggestions all around. I'd add "Half Nelson" to the list as well as the German film "The Lives of Others", currently sitting high on my list for the year.

Reel Fanatic said...

I've heard only great things about "Half Nelson," Marina, but it never made it to my little corner of the world, and I don't think it's out on DVD yet ... I'll definitely be seeing it as soon as it is

Anonymous said...

"Tristram", Little Miss Sunshine", Dave Chapelle" and "Departed" also made my list. And I'm going to go see "Children Of Men" today. Great selection!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm virtually certain you will like it, melissa .. I've already seen it twice

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved Thank You For Smoking.

James said...

Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth yet? Curious to get a review on that one.

Reel Fanatic said...

I haven't managed to see it yet, James, but with the success of Children of Men, I'm somewhat confident that it will play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world in a few weeks

Anonymous said...

Thank you for Smokinng was another movie I really wanted to see...

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