Here it is, my definitive list for the Top Ten Films of 2006. But before we get to the main attraction, there are a few honorable mentions to give out. So, without further adue, my review of 2006 in the Movies.
1. Superman Returns- I really liked this movie; I mean, sure there were problems, but it was a return to the Superman I grew up with. I thought Brandon Routh was at times so eerily similar to Christopher Reeve it almost seemed like he was channeling him. The effects were spectacular. It might have cracked the top ten if I had seen the 3d version.
2. Clerks II- Fantastic return to form for Kevin Smith. It's not that we don't think you can do movies without Jay and Silent Bob, it's that we just don't want you to. Features a great tell your friends about it moment when Randal reenacts the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a so gross you aren't sure you should laugh moment involving a donkey. If there hadn't been another comedy that also had great tell your friends about it moments and an even more gross so you aren't sure you should laugh moment, this might have made the top ten.
3. The Illusionist- A great movie in many respects. A good story line and fantastic acting (even by Mary Camdon) just aren't enough to overcome the fact that it was predictable. My poor friend Danie had to hear the entire rest of the plot about 20 minutes in. It was still enjoyable, and for the people who didn't see the twists coming a mile away, I wouldn't be surprised if it were much higher on the list.
Just Missing the Top Ten
The Queen- Helen Mirren is incredible, and the movie is very well done. I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I was disappointed with the Prince Charles character, I never really believed it was him, whereas sometimes with the Queen and Tony Blair I would forget they were actors. Very interesting film, gave me a perspective on the British royalty I hadn't really considered before (granted, I hadn't really considered the British Royal Family at all.) It felt like an episode of the West Wing at times as well, and I don't mean that disparagingly.
Blood Diamond- I had this in the top ten until a few days ago. This was a great year for movies, and so some are unfortunately going to be left of the list. This movie was great because it took a very serious subject that many of us probably don't know too much about and made a fantastic action thriller out of it. Leo was amazing in this film, and my respect for him as an actor grows more and more with every new role he takes.
And now, the actual TOP TEN LIST 2006....
Funny, challenging, disgusting: this movie can be described in many different ways. Ultimately, I'm most impressed with Sacha Baron Cohen's ability to disappear so completely within the character that you forget he's just an actor. I also applaud him for showing us the uglier sides of our selves, but also for giving us a good laugh at the same time. And while Clerks II had its tell your friends moments, Borat was full of them from beginning to end. I know, because I was at a party the day after I saw it, and along with some others who had seen it, we ended up retelling pretty much the entire film while laughing hysterically. And if you want a gross don't know whether to laugh or puke moment, naked wrestling is for you.
After I saw it, I couldn't stop analyzing it. Like the Illusionist, it was a good story on a great subject (magic) with amazing acting (come on who doesn't want to see Wolverine vs. Batman?) but it also had one of the most talented young directors working today, Christopher Nolan (Memento), and he did a fantastic job with this film. And unlike the Illusionist, there were plenty of things that had me scratching my head until the reveal. A film much like a magic trick, plus it had Scarlett Johanssen. Mmmm, Scarlett.
8--THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
This was the funniest movie of the year, in my opinion. The fact that it came out so early is probably the only thing costing it Oscar recognition. The performances are top notch, even by Mrs. Cruise who makes you forget she was ever Joey. The script has just the right amount of heart to go with the huge helping of parody, satire, and sarcasm that it serves in no doubt unhealthy portions. It manages to have a happy ending without being cheesy or too syrupy (unlike the comedy Oscar is favoring) and totally stays true to itself at the end as a good satire should.
7--THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED
A must for anyone interested in the film industry. This could be one of the most important films in regard to the film industry ever. This is the movie that caused the MPAA to break there own strict no piracy rule and make an illegal copy. There were many revelations in this film that shocked and surprised me, and by no means am I ignorant to the industry. And it is as funny as it is unsettling. The subject matter was handled expertly. Documentaries can be difficult in pacing and in storytelling, but this one got it just right. As soon as I finished watching it, I started it again and watched it with the commentary.
Gloriously beautiful, and with a Wizard of Oz-esque storyline, this was a fabulous film. The only reason it's not much higher is the amount of violence. While I understand the need for the violence in this film, in part because of the time period of the story, and also to highlight the difference in the little girl's fantasy world and the real world, I also felt that at times it was more graphic then it needed to be. Overall though, the look of the film was exquisite, and the acting was top notch. I also loved the ending, you weren't sure what to believe, leaving it up to your judgement as to whether it was really a happy ending or not.
5--A SCANNER DARKLY
Finally, the way to make Keanu a good actor, draw over his scenes. Done in the style of Waking Life (also directed by Richard Linkletter) this movie was sort of made twice. They filmed it as live action, then with a computer animation program, actually animated it on top of the film itself, lending a surreal feel to the film. It's an animated film, and yet at the same time it seems like live action. This approach worked perfectly for this story, based very faithfully on the novel by Phillip K. Dick. A movie about drugs, family, and reality, it succeeds on all levels, even with Keanu. I've had it from Netflix since December. I really need to buy my own copy and send this one back.
Originally, I had no desire to see this. I thought it was too soon, and imagined that the film would be preachy and overly patriotic. It is neither. It is filmed in documentary, you-are-there style, and runs in near to real time, adding to its effectiveness. The film not only focuses on what happened on the one hijacked flight that failed to make it to its destination, but also in the main control room for the FAA, the headquarters of the military's air defense, and the air traffic control towers of New York, Boston, and Cleveland, giving us a very real look at what was happening behind the scenes on that fateful morning. A very powerful movie that I liked in spite of myself.
Many are calling this a return to form for Martin Scorsese, but personally, I feel that The Aviator and Gangs of New York were both better films then this one. And by no means is this film in the class of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or Mean Streets, but it is still a really great movie. In almost anyone else's hands, this would have been strictly a genre picture, but under Scorsese's skilled direction, it is a masterpiece. There are so many nuanced and breathtaking performances in this film, I don't know how only Mark Walberg is nominated. The only thing that held the film back for me was the performance of Matt Damon. At times he was good, but at times I had a really hard time believing him. Mainly every time he had to show indignation or anger. I think he's much better when he's restrained such as in Talented Mr. Ripley. The rest of the films strengths, however, more then make up for Damon's negatives.
AND THE NUMBER ONE FILMS....
That's right, there's a tie. I've been trying for nearly a month to decide which film I liked better, but I believe both are utterly brilliant. It's rare that two films in one year would become among the greatest films I've ever seen, but that's the case here.
I list this one first since I previously blogged about it. My feelings for it have not changed. Feel free to go back and read what I wrote right after I saw it. It's rare for a movie to leave itself so open for interpretation, but it is awesome when it is done right, and The Fountain does it right. There is little doubt in my mind that Darren Aronofsky(Requiem For a Dream, Pi) is one of the finest directors of all time.
CHILDREN OF MEN
So is Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner form Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien). He tackles huge and troubling subjects with real and tangible characters even in unfamiliar places. In this film, he makes a possible future seem all too terrifyingly real in a documentary/noir/post-apocalyptic sci-fi film that stays with you long after the credits roll. The fact that Michael Caine isn't being mentioned for a best supporting actor borders on criminal as he steals every scene that he's in, managing to provide the film's funniest moments as well as it's saddest. Ultimately, it isn't too hard to imagine such a future as being possible, and it reminds us not to lose sight of or take for granted the hope that we do have.
Until next time, get caught up on your movie watching, because the Oscars are Sunday, and my predictions are forthcoming.
On a sadder note, my thoughts and prayers go out to TCU alum and reigning NFL MVP Ladanian Tomlinson and his family. His father died Friday afternoon in a car crash just south of Waco.