Firstly, I still need to catch up on a fair number of movies from 2006. Science of Sleep, The Fountain, Devil Wears Prada, Rocky Balboa, Last King of Scotland, Half Nelson, Volver, The Painted Veil, and Breaking and Entering are all on my list.
Secondly, honorable mention goes to the following movies, in no particular order. Monster House, Little Children, Mission Impossible III, Hard Candy, Inside Man, The Descent, and A Scanner Darkly all ranged from very good to great. But they didn’t make it into the top ten, which goes as follows:
Half of this Australian Western is awesome. The other half is pretty good. And the whole package can’t help but make an impression. Here’s the thread. We had threads on almost all of the movies in my list, so I’ll link to them. But be warned that many of them have spoilers. Click at your own risk!
The writer of Training Day, David Ayer, writes and directs a different take on the Training Day formula of two guys driving around Los Angeles, getting in trouble. It doesn’t entirely work, but it’s brash and, to its immense credit, refuses to play by the rules. Here’s the thread.
Run through the jungle! More Mad Max than historical epic, which is what makes it work so well. Here’s the thread.
Steven Soderbergh doing what he does best: using a camera and some really good actors (who, in this case, aren’t even actors) to tell a simple story. This was apparently too high-falutin’ for you guys, because there is no thread. Eight bazillion posts on X-Men III and nary a word on Bubble!
A really cool dark fairy tale of a rollercoaster ride that convinced me that Paul Walker can act. I know, I know, go ahead and laugh. But I figure any movie that can compel me to rent Eight Below and Into the Blue has gotta have something special going for it. Here’s the thread. Note that I don’t particularly recommend Eight Below or Into the Blue.
Children of Men
It’s pretty odd that this comes from the director of Y Tu Mama Tambien and a Harry Potter movie, because it’s not only really smart socio-political sci-fi that makes V for Vendetta look like the ridiculous comic book that it is, but it also features some of the most exciting “action sequences” I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s the thread.
Probably the best and most airtight noir movie since, well, an actual noir movie. Suck it, LA Confidential! Brick is bold and refreshing, but still buttoned up and by the rules. Here’s the thread.
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan in top form, doing some amazing Memento style tricks with narrative. This is one of those movies you see once to be floored, and then a second time to be even more floored. Here’s the thread.
An adult fairy tale that refuses the leave the real world behind, capturing the horror of childhood and populating it with some truly memorable monsters, and not just the kind you’d expect. It’s brutal magical realism that stands as the pinnacle of Guillermo del Toro’s curious and fantastical career. Here’s the thread.
It’s hard to articulate why this is as the top of my list. Among the factors are director Paul Greengrass’ technical acumen, some superlative work from a cast of unknowns and non-actors, and the way it viscerally recounts the events of 9/11 without being exploitative. But the bottom line is that even after seeing it three times, it still hits really hard. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a movie that captured so well an event that was so significant. Here’s the thread.
That’s a 2005 movie! And back when I saw it, I wrote this:
“Far, far from the glitz and budget of Ocean’s Eleven, Soderbergh has created a very good movie about a quite different kind of love triangle. Martha, a middle-aged woman working at a creepy doll factory, Kyle, her younger coworker and “best friend” and the newly employed Rose, who is about Kyle’s age. This was really a movie without any big dramatic moments, as such, but rather had a theme of low-key desperation. About being stuck in a hopeless situation (expounded by the fact that they are in what truly is regarded as the land of opportunity, to see these people, in the world’s richest country, is truly unsettling).
I doubt this will get a very wide release, which is a pity because it sure as hell is better than Ocean’s Eleven.”
This is easily solved by remembering that time is relative and apparent simultenaity can be illusional. An observor far from earth and moving at relativistic speeds might well place the film in 2006 rather than 2005.
If you watched it, I have little doubt that Half Nelson would somehow make it to the top ten.
Science of Sleep and Volver are typical Gondry and Almodovar works, where you can cynically claim that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all. So as interesting and entertaining as they were, it felt rather throwaway in lieu of other great titles appearing during their run.
Oh, I don’t mean to impose a time frame on anyone. I’m just going by what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says. But if you guys want all of civilization to fall into chaos and anarchy, dogs sleeping with cats, Space Rangers 2 nominated for PC game of the year, and all that stuff, hey, that’s your bag.
Space Rangers 2 can be nominated for PC game of the year as many times as it wants to be, in my opinion!
I think the movies I’ve particularly enjoyed (in theatres!) this year has been Capote, Tristram Shandy, The King and the Clown (Korean), Wristcutters: A Love Story, Day Night, Day Night and Marie Antoinette.
Science of Sleep I felt could have been much more enjoyable for me, Volver was good, but…, I got a bit bored with the characters in The Fountain, Shortbus was, unfortunately, a pretty trifle.
Little Children was neat, but found me a bit wanting.
I imagine this list will change, because I haven’t yet seen “Children of Men” or “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which stupid Ben Sones is making me wait to see until he comes out here at the end of the month. But so far, the list is:
The Good Shepherd: Great script, very good direction, and some great performances (including a very subtle and difficult lead performance by Matt Damon, and an effortless supporting role from John Turturro). It’s really long but I was locked to the screen the whole time. It gets bonus points because it speaks to an issue very close to my libertarian heart: the way normal people will inevitably abuse power if they are not watched, and how we as a country need to balance our need for safety against our moral principles. Not to go all P&R, but the movie vividly illustrates the point that there are some things more important than keeping the country safe, which is an important and topical reminder nowadays.
Little Miss Sunshine: A terrific ensemble piece, with a great cast that turns in uniformly good performances. Alan Arkin is great and is stretching beyond the sort of role he usually plays; Steve Carrell shows that he can play the role of a normal person and still be very funny. Everyone in it, even the kids (who were unknowns to me), is quite good: with something like six actors, there’s not a bad performance there. The script is somewhat predictable but still totally works, and there are some really, really funny scenes and lines, as well as some really uncomfortable ones. Great movie.
United 93: Making a movie about 9/11 is a really dicey project, but Paul Greengrass gets it 98% right. In an interesting and ultimately excellent choice, the cast is all unknowns (many of the on-the-ground people are the actual people who were involved, playing themselves). The whole movie is very understated and all the more powerful for that. Very respectful, hard-hitting, I felt like I was nailed to my chair when I saw it. He does a great job in conveying the confusion and frustration experienced by all the people on the ground. I had some problems with what he portrayed on the plane (in particular, inventing a traitorous European wuss passenger; and what I took as an attempt to draw an equivalence between the hijackers and their victims), but everything on the plane is very human and believable. This is a movie about a group of common-man heroes that doesn’t go out of its way to portray them as being heroic, because it doesn’t need to. A very difficult subject handled brilliantly.
The Prestige: Some people hate Jagged Alliance 2 because you get 75% of the way through this modern-day, mercenaries-vs-occupying-army squad-based tactical game, and then all of the sudden it turns out that the real threat is a bunch of giant-bug space aliens, who you fight at the end. Who put this stupid sci-fi crap in my army combat game?! If you felt that way, you probably won’t like the Prestige. I loved JA2, and I loved the Prestige, which uses its clever story to really look at some interesting philosophical questions about identity, obsession, and darkness. It’s got great themes running throughout, and they’re told via a terrific story with some great twists and really, really interesting characters. This is a movie that you’ll be talking about and thinking about long after it’s over. It also looks fantastic. Bonus points to David Bowie for a great, understated performance as Nikola Tesla.
Inside Man: Despite being a Spike Lee Joint, this is just your basic clever heist movie. But it works so well that it makes my top 5. The script is great – a fun ride with many twists that actually all works by the end. It’s one of the few “Oh, that’s what is going on!” movies that doesn’t leave you unsatisfied once everything is revealed. The actors are all playing the same roles they always play, but they’re so good at it that it’s still fun to watch.
The Illusionist: Everyone naturally compares this to “The Prestige” because they’re both about turn-of-the-century magicians, but the films are actually totally different. I won’t spoil the movie, but suffice it to say it’s not a philosophical look at obsession – it fits into a much more run-of-the-mill genre. Even so, it features what I consider the best performances of the year. All three lead actors (Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and some guy I had never seen before named Rufus Sewell) turn in amazing, amazing performances. The first 2/3 of the movie is a riveting cat-and-mouse, one-upmanship game between the three of them, and is one of the most compelling hours of film you’ll see, all because of their terrific acting jobs. Great stuff. Amazing sets, costumes and art direction as well.
The Departed: This is in many ways a typical Scorcese gangster film, but it works because everything comes together quite well. Good script, interesting premise, and some really good acting both from the leads (Leonardo DiCaprio does an awesome guy-cracking-up-under-strain; Matt Damon is similarly great as a nearly amoral cop who is dealing with a lot of strain of his own), and some really outstanding supporting performances (if Marky Mark and Alec Baldwin don’t get nominated, there is no justice in this world). Tense, violent, with some really unexpected twists and some terrific dialog. Well worth seeing.
I’m not going all the way to 10 because that would just involve searching IMDB for some “filler” movies that I saw this year that were decent. This was a really great year for films, though. Yay 2006!
Great list, I totally agree for the films I have seen on the list, and this makes me want to see the others even more.
One thing, I notice that no children’s movies made the list (other than Monster House in honorable mention). Without taking anything away from any of the movies listed here, I would put forth “Night at the Museum” as worthy of either Honorable Mention or possibly #10 on the list. I know, I know, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, lots of slapstick style comedy and a monkey with an attitude…but damnit, this film was one of the most entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny films I’ve seen all year. It was brilliant as entertainment for children, as my younger son could not stop talking about it after seeing it, and even my teenager thought it was good. The cinematography, direction, special effects and costumes were all top notch, and the script and acting were strong enough to carry everything through. If you have kids, it’s a must see, and if you don’t, relax and put yourself into a lighter mood and go see it anyway.
Marsh, along with Good Night, Cache, Grizzly Man, and Three Burials are also 2005. What the heck is going on over there in Britain? Why can’t they play by the normal rules? :) Also, we’re going to have to punch each other in the respective noses until one of us relents on Three Burials. I loathed that movie. Glad to hear that someone liked it, though. Poor Tommy Lee Jones.
Night at the Museum, Slainte? Really? In the trailer, as soon as Robin Williams shows up, my brain sort of kicks into panic mode and starts trying to shove all information about the movie out a little trap door into a mental trash bin where Jakub the Liar and Patch Adams will remain forever unseen.
Rywill, ha! I knew you were going to bring up the German! As soon as I saw United 93 on your list, I thought, ‘I bet he’s going to mention the German guy’. Okay, I’ll have to see The Illusionist now.
Solid list. The only ones I disagree with are Harsh Times (which although I’ve been critical of it in this forum, it was in my top third of the movies I saw in 2005 in last year’s list) and Running Scared, which I liked, but more as a kinda goofy guilty pleasure than an actual good movie.
Apocalypto, Children of Men, Brick, The Prestige and Pan’s Labyrinth would also all be on my list of best movies of the year as well.
Seriously. I know what you’re saying about Robin Williams, but I’ll just say (without spoiling anything) that he only has a small part in the film and it’s the least “Robin Williams-ish” part I’ve seen him play in a very long time. Honestly, it could be anyone playing his part and you wouldn’t notice, it’s that toned down. Owen Wilson is uncredited in the film (for whatever odd reason), and manages to not be annoying (I like him, but sometimes he’s a little too much, you know?). It’s pretty much a Ben Stiller with supporting cast film, and he pulls it off really well. Awesome small parts are played by legends such as Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs. Ricky Gervais (of The Office and Extras) also has a small part that is funny.