Monday, February 12, 2007

Best and Worst of 2006

by Brian
Jumping the gun on this a little bit, since there are still a few movies out there that are technically 2006 releases. But I thought I'd do the hard work of ordering more than 130 movies now. But first, a few comments on the year that was (a month and a half ago):

--If things continue on their current course, I'll remember 2006 as the year that the bottom fell out of the Dallas independent film market. So many movies that didn't play here, that I thought would have in previous years. Of the film's on indieWIRE's Critics Poll, four of the top ten and six of the top 20 have yet to play here. I realize that this sounds like a silly complaint to those who don't even have stuff like Pan's Labyrinth playing near them, but it really bothers me all the same.

--2006 was the Year of the Decent. As you'll see from my year-end list, I found a lot of movies that I was at least OK with, and I saw very few that I strongly disliked. Of course, this is mostly because I try to avoid things that I think I'll hate - there's no Little Man or Hostel to be found on my list. But in general, I didn't feel like a lot of films really let me down.

--On the other hand, nothing really knocked me out, either, except for the top two films, and one of those was made over 30 years ago (but not released in the US until 2006, so it's eligible for the list as far as I'm concerned). Last year, there were 5 that I thought were truly exceptional (see that list here).

And thus, without further ado, the best films of the year (subject to change, but unlikely to do so):

1) Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
2) Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville)
3) The Prestige (Christopher Nolan)
4) The Queen (Stephen Frears)
5) Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Jonathan Demme)
6) Brick (Rian Johnson)
7) Inside Man (Spike Lee)
8) Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón)
9) Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom)
10) United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
11) Akeelah and the Bee (Doug Atchison)
12) An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim)
13) World Trade Center (Oliver Stone)
14) The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky)
15) Sweet Land (Ali Selim)

Clink "Link" for the rest of the year, meticulously ordered by preference. SPOILER: Running with Scissors was my least favorite. END SPOILER.

VERY GOOD (20): Clean; Volver; Block Party; The Proposition; The Notorious Bettie Page; Little Miss Sunshine; The Departed; Marie Antoinette; Tsotsi; L'Enfant (The Child); Sophie Scholl: The Final Days; Monster House; Fateless; Cars; A Prairie Home Companion; Cavite; The Heart of the Game; Idiocracy; Flannel Pajamas; Letters from Iwo Jima

ALSO GOOD, IF NOTHING SPECIAL (39): Casino Royale; Lemming; Half Nelson; Glory Road; Shortbus; Babel; Little Children; Rocky Balboa; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; The Good Shepherd; Bubble; The Pursuit of Happyness; Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan; Find Me Guilty; Down in the Valley; Duck Season; 13 Tzameti; The Good German; A Scanner Darkly; Factotum; Stranger Than Fiction; The Last King of Scotland; Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World; Why We Fight; Running Scared; Eight Below; Thank You for Smoking; Wah-Wah; Strangers with Candy; Favela Rising; My Country My Country; Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles; The Bridesmaid; A Good Year; Come Early Morning; Fast Food Nation; Game 6; Wordplay; Darwin's Nightmare

DOESN'T SUCK (31): Don't Come Knocking; 16 Blocks; The Devil Wears Prada; The Painted Veil; Notes on a Scandal; Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos; Jesus Camp; Apocalypto; V for Vendetta; Ask the Dust; The History Boys; Venus; Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas); Lonesome Jim; Friends with Money; Art School Confidential; Sketches of Frank Gehry; Peaceful Warrior; Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man; The Illusionist; All the King's Men; Renaissance; Curse of the Golden Flower; The Science of Sleep; Infamous; Deja Vu; The Nativity Story; Winter Passing; Breaking and Entering; Mission: Impossible III; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; The Da Vinci Code

SUCKS (22): Lady Vengeance; Miami Vice; Drawing Restraint 9; Hollywoodland; Copying Beethoven; Catch a Fire; Factory Girl; Flags of Our Fathers; The Descent; X-Men: The Last Stand; Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Trust the Man; Hard Candy; Superman Returns; Dreamgirls; The Break-Up; The Lake House; Firewall; Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor); Blood Diamond; The Architect

REALLY BADLY SUCKS (10): Unknown White Male; Lady in the Water; Bobby; Miss Potter; Man of the Year; Poseidon; The King; La Moustache; For Your Consideration; Running with Scissors

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9 Comments:

Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I haven't seen nearly as many 2006 releases as you have, but I've seen enough to make a Top 5:

The Queen
Pan's Labyrinth
V For Vendetta
Children of Men
Little Children

2/13/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

My top for 2006 would be "United 93". Extremely powerful and (seemingly) even-handed. Additionally, on the DVD - watching the the actors meet the families was amazing....

Special thanks to Brian for recommending Brick last year. It finally made it to the top of my queue last month and I enjoyed it immensely. I had to watch it with subtitles to get the language, but I've been doing that a lot lately.

2/13/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Cool, glad you liked it.

2/13/2007 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I'll throw in my top, uh, 3:

1) Flags of Our Fathers
2) Bubble
3) V for Vendetta

I saw others, but I didn't think they were worthy of being in the top 10, but I also don't think I saw anything that sucked. So, yeah, Year of the Decent, I can agree with that.

2/13/2007 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Sherry said...

Happy to see love for the Prestige and Inside Man.

2/14/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Akeelah and the Bee. What? It was nice, and reasonably intelligent, but one of the best of the year? How? Other notables in the category of 'what?' are Sophie Scholl (pedestrian) and Idiocracy (heart in the right place, but not very funny or any near as biting as it should have been).

Otherwise I can pretty much agree amongst those I have seen. Sweet Land is good?

Was meaning to see Pan's and a number of films this last week, but been overloaded with assignments. There are even a couple of good Swedish films out now, apparently.

I'll go and revise my list after those I have seen.

2/15/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

To me, Akeelah was like a sports movie, but a really good sports movie where the characters are well-written and unique, and do stuff that makes sense throughout. And the big contest at the end, while it plays out in an audience-pleasing fashion, also plays out in a way that is thematically fulfilling instead of just being a feel-good underdog thing. And I loved - LOVED - the device that the director uses to show Akeelah spelling out her final word. Really a wonderful moment, I thought.

But, of course, your mileage may vary.

I wouldn't say that Sophie Scholl was pedestrian - seems like an odd word to use. I liked the stripped-down procedural way it went about things. I think that a more "pedestrian" movie would have played it much more melodramtic, no?

As for Idiocracy, I can't really argue. It's just hard to know where to cut off the "Very Good" from the "Good". I thought it was funny and sharp enough to make the cut, but it's no big thing to me.

I liked Sweet Land a lot. Hard to say why (as always). It was also teetering on the edge of the "Best" category, and I almost knocked it back. It has a somewhat clunky framing device, and Alan Cumming's performance got on my nerves a bit (as always). But the story really affected me for personal reasons that I won't get into. And it's extremely well shot, especially given that there's really nothing all that pretty to look at.

So again, mileage may vary, but it meant a lot to me.

2/15/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

the characters are well-written and unique, and do stuff that makes sense throughout.

Yeah, all right, I can buy that. Basically the same (except for the sports movie thing) I'd say for Little Miss Sunshine.

I think that a more "pedestrian" movie would have played it much more melodramtic, no?

I found it to be little better than a German tv-movie. Procedural gives the pretty ham-fisted direction too much credit. The story behind Sophie Scholl and the times she lived and operated in are fascinating in and of themselves, but the film did really very little except film them, and not very good at that. Plus, I didn't like the girl playing the main character.

2/16/2007 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Professor Wagstaff said...

'Stranger Then Fiction' - pretty much agree with where Brian's rated it. The film has a strange contradiction to it. In invidiual scenes and details it impresses by avoiding the obvious (e.g. when Will Ferrell's character tells a work colleagues about a voice he can hear narrating his life, his colleague doesn't react with a 'Have you gone crazy?' spiel). But its overall message and moral is cliched, even trite. Good to see Tom Hulce (even if only in one scene) after a long absence though.

2/24/2007 09:57:00 AM  

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