Saturday, April 14, 2007

Best Movies of 2006

I’ve finally gotten around to seeing enough of the films that I thought might end up as one of my favorites of the year, so here is a belated best of 2006 list. The most notable films I haven’t seen are Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Children and Venus. I don’t see how anyone who isn’t a professional critic could get around to putting one of these together much sooner. I parsed it down to ten this year after rightfully being criticized for taking the easy way out with twenty last year.

Borat

This was an absolutely hilarious comedy that seemingly everyone has seen by now. I like humor that is heavy in irony, and Borat certainly delivers. You have got this idiot character that does and says all sorts of absolutely ridiculous things, yet the joke is actually on the American viewing audience rather than the character. It’s a crowd pleaser and yet also very subversive. I can’t wait for Sasha Baron Cohen’s next project.

Casino Royale

Perhaps a bit overrated, this was still a fun, stylish Bond film that featured great action and drama. I thought Pierce Brosnan was good as Bond, although I nonetheless agree with the consensus that Daniel Craig is better. There are some nice surprises, and some surprises that are a little on the predictable side. I thought the second act was the strongest part of the film.

Children of Men

I feel very strongly this deserved a best picture nomination. The Departed deserved to win, but to me this was its strongest competitor. I love the disturbing world Alfonso Cuaron created. Just minutes into the film a shocking development lets you know that this is not a world with happy endings. From there it’s a grim and mesmerizing ride. Clive Owen is fantastic as usual and this is just a great film.

The Departed

My favorite film of the year was not just a lifetime achievement award for Martin Scorsese. It’s still only been out for a short period of time, but I think this will go down amongst the best gangster films of all time. Considering I love the genre, I don’t say that lightly. To me, this may be remembered more fondly than Goodfellas, although I recognize that may be viewed as sacrilege by some. The cast is perfect. The script is tremendous and completely engrossing. The characters are nuanced and interesting. And it has one genuinely shocking and jarring development after another. So yeah, I really liked this one.

The Descent

I am a big fan of the horror genre, although unfortunately it feels like a good horror film comes along once every few years. That made this a pleasant summer discovery. It isn’t as ironic or funny as a lot of the genre’s films have been in recent years, but it makes up for it with atmosphere and brooding terror. It also made me literally shout out in a theater for the first time in maybe 10 years, although I don’t look proudly upon that moment. The grimmer original ending of the film is better than the American theatrical version.

Devil Wears Prada

I’m not exactly a fashion connoisseur. Okay, so I know pretty much nothing about the subject. Still, this was an absolutely hilarious summer comedy with a sharper humor than I expected. I particularly loved the sarcastic, mean-spirited co-worker character.

An Inconvenient Truth

It’s kind of amazing that with the issue being so important and clear that a movie had as much influence as it did in turning the tide on the subject. But that’s a testament to how well made, direct and compelling the film was. I love documentaries, and this was a really good one.

Inside Man

This is another movie that deserved more credit than it received. Perhaps because it came earlier in the year it didn’t get the recognition it deserved at the end of the year. When Spike Lee is on he is easily one of my favorite directors, and he was most definitely on in this movie. The superb cast keeps you guessing and makes this an ideal action movie with a brain.

Pan’s Labyrinth

This perhaps more than any other movie this year asks for multiple viewings. It’s a really compelling fantasy movie with a sad and captivating mood. I’m still not sure exactly what everything is supposed to represent after three viewings, but in this case that’s a good thing. Nobody likes to be beat over the head with a really overt message. This also has one of the more poignant endings of any of these films.

Stranger than Fiction

I only just recently realized this wasn’t a Charlie Kaufman film. That’s not a knock, because I thought it was better than Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and only slightly worse than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It completely has the postmodern vibe of those films, and is a little more straightforward with some of its jokes. Will Ferrell is funny without going overboard, and you care about the character in spite of a premise that kind of undermines that sort of identification.

A few that missed the cut: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (fun concert film with great music and humor), Hard Candy (really smart little film with a twisted theme and strong execution from the extremely limited cast – perfect little B film), Infamous (it’s really a shame this came out after Capote, because I thought Capote was an overrated film where the main actor overwhelmed the narrative; Infamous on the other hand told an emotional story I didn’t really get from Capote and was a vastly superior film), Last King of Scotland (great performance by Forrest Whitaker and overall a very compelling story, particularly the first half of the movie), Rocky Balboa (cheesy and predictable, much like the series, but also a very fun and at times touching send-off for a great character), V for Vendetta (nice return to form for the Wachowskis after their disastrous follow-ups to the Matrix).

4 Comments:

Anonymous steve khan said...

You forgot about The Prestige.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd can you please explain to me how Borat is some sort of cutting edge social commentary? People have been saying that since it came out. For example, how is naked elevator wrestling a biting commentary on those ethnocentric Americans? I'm not denying that the movie has a message but to say it's some sort of revolutionary bit of satire is a bit too much. Your thoughts?

8:22 PM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I liked The Prestige, but not that much. Maybe it was because I had just seen the Illusionist, but I wasn't drawn in that much. Had a cool third act though for sure.

Revolutionary satire is definitely a bit much, but it was definitely subversive. The naked stuff definitely didn't qualify at all. But as far as the deadpan humor where you're making people laugh to send a message about the fact that they would laugh at that, that's pretty novel and it had a lot to say about the biases and phobias that we all have. So maybe the point has been overstated, but Borat definitely was cutting edge in a lot of ways.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Tyson said...

saw the departed on dvd for the first time the other day, and if you didn't think wahlbergs success with entourage meant anything you need help.

10:31 PM  

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