Friday, January 19, 2007

Mobsters, Mayans and Royals, Oh My! The Best Films of 2006

Ahh, 2006 was a great year for movies. Then again that’s what I said last year. I just love movies! It was a year that finally brought snakes onto a plane, the return of Superman (to some triumphantly and to others boringly), and a foreign journalist who took a crap in the middle of midtown Manhattan. What a simply sensational year for motion pictures! And finally the so-called “box office slump” was able to reverse itself, at least slightly. No other form of entertainment can be as fun as checking out the local multiplex or art house. So grab some Goobers and check out my long-awaited list of the best films of 2006:


1) The Departed
"The Departed” is by far my favorite film of the year. Not only is it constantly entertaining, but it’s Best Picture worthy as well. Many know me as the guy who praises the stupidity of films like “Showgirls,” but I actually enjoy well-made films as well. Director Martin Scorsese, who has done nothing for me in the past, has finally made a truly enjoyable thriller with a knockout cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and lastly Leonardo DiCaprio, who simply shines as an undercover cop infiltrating a Boston mob ring. Kudos to that awesome soundtrack! This is brilliant, classic filmmaking on all levels.


2) Little Children
A film that sadly didn’t get the wide release it so deserved (it includes such taboo subject matter as adultery and a pedophile who’s portrayed as a human being!), Todd Field’s brilliant “Little Children” is a film as allegorical and beautiful as it is entertaining. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson play unhappily married adults stuck in suburban hell who start an affair, with their “our kids are playmates” as a cover. This engrossing satirical drama, based on the thoroughly enjoyable novel by Tom Perrotta, is absorbing from the first scene and deserves every award that could possibly be given out.


3) United 93
"United 93” is a harrowing account of the last airplane to be hijacked on September 11, 2001. It was reported that the passengers fought back against the hijackers after hearing of the other flight’s fates. Their courageous intervention prevented the plane from reaching its Washington D.C. target. Paul Greengrass has crafted a disturbing, visceral but ultimately moving film that has to be seen to be believed. It honors those that died. Those who refuse to see the film are missing out on one of the 21st century’s most heart-wrenching and important films.


4) An Inconvenient Truth
How could a documentary staring Al Gore possibly be one of the best films of the year? Don’t ask stupid questions and see this amazing piece of environmentally conscious filmmaking. If you’re not fascinated by the vast scientific facts that Gore presents to us about the dangers of global warming, then you should have your pulse checked. Director Davis Guggenheim has crafted an engaging film that is powerful, entertaining and a devastatingly realistic portrait of the Earth in crisis. This is a film that you’ll thank yourself for experiencing.


5) Little Miss Sunshine
“Little Miss Sunshine” showcases a dysfunctional family on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The Hoover family makes the Griswolds of the “Vacation” series look like the Royal Family. It has an amazing ability to go from sidesplitting comedy to heart tugging drama within the same scene. All the actors are award-worthy including little Abigail Breslin, who just may be the breakout star of 2006. Eat your hearts out Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen!


6) Apocalypto
There seem to be so many things working against this film: overly graphic violence, its a movie about the decline of the Mayan civilization that's not really about the decline of the Mayan civilization, and speaking of which, it’s all spoken in an ancient Mayan language. Call Mel Gibson whatever you want, but he’s a talented director who surprisingly turned “Apocalypto” into the year’s most exciting, exhilarating chase film. Not only it is tremendously thrilling, but it’s also certainly something you haven’t seen before.


7) Cars
Pardon me for saying that “Cars” is the best animated film since “Finding Nemo.” No I haven’t conveniently forgot about “The Incredibles.” I just never found that film to be well, incredible. Even thought it’s title is boring, “Cars” showcases stunning animation, a great story and charming voice work by the likes of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman, and the list goes on. And besides, any film that can crack a Ten Best list that features Larry the Cable Guy must be one awesome flick. This is a movie you want to hug after it’s over. And you’ll never look at your car the same way again.


8) The Queen
Helen Mirren doesn’t just play Queen Elizabeth II she embodies her. She creates a character so deeply layered that you’re just simply drawn to her. Peter Morgan has written a winning script about what supposedly went on behind the palace doors the week after Princess Diana’s tragic death. Elizabeth refused to treat the tragedy as a public circus, but her loyal people were frustrated that this leader could be so cold and stubborn by not acknowledging what happened. Mirren’s character could easily have been the bad guy but her scenes with Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair crackle with wit and authority. And importantly this film is far more entertaining than you’d ever expect.


9) The Descent
“The Descent” is one of the best horror films of recent memory. A sense of dread is created from the very beginning and you don’t know where it’s going until, WHAM it hits you. This is a film that’s scary, gory and most of all, suspenseful. You wont find all three of those in many of the recent excuses for horror. Director Neil Marshall places ordinary, strong woman (who go cave exploring in the Appalachians) in a frightening situation with extremely unordinary underground creatures who enjoy ripping people apart. This is the rare horror movie that is as intelligent as it is scary.


10) The Devil Wears Prada
Forgive me one guilty pleasure upon my list of 2006’s great films. This is a terrific portrait of the horrors of finding a first job and the suffering at the hands of the person in charge who is simply a pain-in-the-ass. We’ve all been there, but “Prada” takes it up a notch. A role Meryl Streep was born to play, Miranda Priestly is the devil of the film’s title. She’s the editor-in-chief of a splashy fashion magazine who makes life a living hell for her second assistant played by Anne Hathaway. Miranda’s demands are simultaneously sadistic and flat-out hilarious, but the one who steals the show is Brit Emily Blunt as the flippant first assistant who has a comment or wisecrack for everything.

Honorable Mentions in alphabetical order:

I told you it was a good year for movies!

Babel, Blood Diamond, Borat, Bubble, Children of Men, Dreamgirls, Half Nelson, Notes on a Scandal, Thank You For Smoking, This Film is Not Yet Rated

Scroll up for my picks for the Worst Films of 2006!

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