year in review 2006
Critic: Ann Morrow
1. The Queen
surprisingly involving and unexpectedly droll portrait of
Her Royal Highness in the weeks following the death of Princess
Diana, this intelligent re-creation deserves a triple crown
for its direction, writing, and acting. Helen Mirren’s subtle
interpretation of the (ostensibly) fusty Elizabeth II is the
performance of the year.
of three movies this year to twist and turn on symmetry and
multiplicity, Christopher Nolan’s atmospheric presentation
of rival magicians locked in an escalating battle for supremacy
is psychologically thrilling.
Scorsese’s latest violent crime drama is about two undercover
agents (Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon) who intersect—and
mutually disintegrate—on both sides of the law. Twisty, gritty,
and popping with compelling performances.
Aranofsky’s sci-fi meditation takes a tragedy affecting a
married couple (Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz) and elaborates
on it through the past (her novel) and future (his dreams).
What the time-tripping story lacks in substance it makes up
for in romantic and visual audacity.
V For Vendetta
pop extravaganza that cuisinarts George Orwell for the 21st
century, distinguished by Hugo Weaving as the most articulate
and dashing anti-hero of the year.
directed, and extensively researched by the superlative British
realist Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday), United
93 re-creates the heroic flight of the fourth 9/11 hijacking
with astringent sensitivity. Powerful and dreadful.
Fast Food Nation
thorough and hard-hitting critique on the meatpacking industry
served up as an Altman-style drama (with the added dollop
of a memorable bit by Bruce Willis as a macho manager).
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious
Nation of Kazakhstan
ridiculous, and occasionally disgusting, Sacha Baron Cohen’s
infamous comedy also deserves props for the sheer chutzpah
of its political incorrectness.
Thank You For Smoking
clever, funny comedy about a tobacco PR man (Aaron Eckhart)
that tackles a not-so-funny topic.
this year’s Crash—as in its interlocking stories of
racial disharmony are overwrought (and overrated) but the
ambitious technical merits of the filmmaking almost overcome
the punishing plot.
Worst of 2006
A petty gangster tries to recover a murder weapon, with his
young son in tow, subjecting the boy to all the depravity
an urban hell can offer. Even worse, the gangster is played
by Paul Walker.
Running with Scissors
psychodrama that wallows in every execrable confessional-memoir
junky sequel to the wonderful Thai actioner, Ong-Bak.
When a Stranger Calls
unscary remake of the chilling, 1970s stalker cult classic.
The Wicker Man
unscary remake of the chilling, 1970s Druid cult classic.
Critic: Shawn Stone
1. A Scanner Darkly
Richard Linklater combined animation and live action to bring
Philip K. Dick’s unfilmable, hallucinatory story of fascist
police surveillance and mind-bending drug use to the screen.
political drama about the British royal family’s hapless response
to the death of Princess Diana, and how new Prime Minister
Tony Blair saved their well-born hindquarters. Helen Mirren’s
performance is the heart of the film.
Flags of Our Fathers
Eastwood’s widely ignored World War II epic about the taking
of Iwo Jima, and the price paid by the battle’s survivors.
Grant and Mandy Moore in American Dreamz.
satire of American Idol, Islamic terrorists and George
W. Bush. Laughs, tears and a suicide bombing on national TV:
What more could one ask for?
understated dramatization of what might have happened on one
of the 9/11-hijacked planes. In what could have been a maudlin
drama, director Paul Greengrass showed an eye for small emotional
this ice-cold French thriller from director Michael Haneke,
intimate surveillance tears a family apart.
latest opus is overlong, operatic and messy, but the sense
of evil is pervasive and the climax is devastating.
reinvention of film noir in a high-school setting worked because
the hard-boiled ’40s dialogue was played straight—and because
it’s easy to accept teens as thoroughly corrupted.
reinvention of the Bond franchise, with darker themes and
action, and a meaner Bond to match in Daniel Craig.
An Inconvenient Truth
Gore explains global warming in a way that charms and horrifies.
He should maybe run for president or something.
Worst of 2006
1. Lady in the Water
Night Shyamalan officially “lost it” with this stupid fable.
He cast himself as a writer whose work saves mankind—and made
the villain a film critic. Who’s a scrunt now, buddy?
All the King’s Men
dull adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s novel, with mean,
dull performances by Sean Penn and Jude Law.
Sandler’s smell-the-roses cautionary tale was sunk by its
reliance on bloated special effects and smell-the-farts jokes.
a werewolf shtups a vampire, shouldn’t it be snarly and bloody
and scratchy? That’s what I thought.
Weinstein brothers continued to peddle the same kind of self-important,
faux-prestige crap at their new studio that they did at Miramax.
Critic: Laura Leon
Eckhart in Thank You For Smoking.
Thank You For Smoking
devastatingly funny satire skewered far more than just that
easy target, the tobacco industry. Even the incongruous casting
of Katie Holmes as an intrepid investigative reporter can’t
sink this one from its rightful place as No. 1.
Little Miss Sunshine
and heart, a combination that’s too hard to come by in movies,
along with sublime humor give Little Miss Sunshine
a firm foundation from which to examine the ties that bind.
Flags of Our Fathers
Eastwood’s ode to loss and remembrance, as experienced by
veterans of the battle of Iwo Jima, is simply haunting and
Jack Nicholson’s intermittent lapses into “Jackness,” or the
occasional extraneous scenes wherein cocaine flits through
the air like so much pixie dust. Chances are, you won’t even
notice them, in the presence of outstanding performances by
Matt Damon, as a crooked cop, and Leonardo DiCaprio, as an
undercover cop, both trying to outwit the Irish mob in Boston.
easily could have been one of those oh-so-precious, proper-pedigreed
English movies, but Helen Mirren’s star turn as Elizabeth
II keeps it real.
Craig is Bond. James Bond. End of story. Well, almost. Casino
Royale is a refreshing return to form and style over sci-fi
gizmos and outrageous plotlines. That said, Daniel Craig is
Bond. James Bond.
weird, but a sumptuous feast for the eyes and soul. This is
animation for people who aren’t afraid to think while they
ooh and aah over the cute characters.
the Asian subplot was extraneous, and I’m getting a little
bored with director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s obsession
with parallel storylines all intersecting, but for the most
part, Babel is gripping, and finally gives Brad Pitt
the chance to play a grown man.
Stranger Than Fiction
esoteric and throbbingly literal, Stranger Than Fiction
is made for people who devour books and love words. Maybe
that’s why it died a relatively quick death at the cineplex.
formulaic, at times it spoonfeeds us its political message,
and when Jennifer Connelly shows up and bats her eyes at Leonardo
DiCaprio, poor Djimon Hounsou gets lost in the shuffle. However,
Blood Diamond is an exceptionally well-made and, for
the most part, thrilling adventure that will have you on the
edge of your seat.
Worst of 2006
1. The Da Vinci Code
can’t believe I wasted babysitter money on this piece of crap.
Director Ron Howard apparently feared divine retribution if
he made this turgid potboiler into something alive, moving,
or interesting, so he remained faithful to the original and
let an embarrassed-looking Tom Hanks and an indecipherable
Audrey Tautou run amok, in hopes audiences would follow. I
know, I know. It’s up for all sorts of awards. It’s a “satire!”
I get the point, but still feel that, for the most part, Borat
is insulting and sophomoric. I mean, is it really an eye-opener
to reveal that frat boys or some members of the Christian
Right might be—dare I say it?—bigoted? This is brave filmmaking?
don’t let my 11-year-old son see this. The hope of a potential
franchise must of caused filmmakers to rush this one out the
door, before anybody could realize how truly awful the dialogue
and much of the acting was.
Man of the Year
Borat, in that it preaches to the choir, albeit presumably
a much smaller one. Robin Williams is surprisingly tepid as
a progressive’s wet dream of a candidate, a Bill Maher-type
personality whose left-of-center jibes at the status quo get
him elected, in a fluke, to the nation’s highest office. No
balls, no glory.
Ledger and Sienna Miller, arguably two of the hottest movie
stars today, breathe absolutely no sexiness into a retelling
of the legendary title character that seems oddly more like
American Pie than Shakespeare in Love.