January 14, 2007

MOVIES: Best of 2006 -- the top ten movies

Counting down from #10 to #1:
  • Duck Season -- four characters in a small apartment on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Nothing much happens, but it's the most entertaining nothing you could wish for. A gem of quiet, dry humor.
  • Thank You for Smoking -- sharp satire, with an assortment of beautifully played cameos, and Eckhart's masterful leading performance leading us through it all.
  • Monster House -- genuinely scary, with kid characters who are far more believable than Hollywood's usual adorable wise-cracking moppets. Skillful and smart use of motion-capture technology, wisely backing off a notch from the attempted photo-realism that made the characters of The Polar Express so waxy and disturbing.
  • Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story -- how do you adapt a famously "unadaptable" novel? By giving up on the effort halfway through, and making instead a movie about the failure of the attempt. The levels of meta will drive some folks nuts, but I thought it was marvelous.
  • Ten Canoes -- beautifully photographed movie, leaping between the relatively recent past and the ancient past to tell parallel stories set among Australia's aboriginal people. I sometimes get annoyed at the critics who stuff their year-end lists with movies that have played only at obscure festivals, things that regular moviegoers haven't had the chance to see; and here I am putting that kind of movie on my list. I saw it while on vacation in Australia; it's been picked up for US distribution, but no release date has been scheduled. It'll get here eventually, whether in theaters or on DVD, and shouldn't be missed.
  • Hard Candy -- two superb performances and a smart, crisp screenplay drive this suspenseful thriller. The psychological battle is so tense that it's sometimes hard to watch, but Page and Wilson are riveting throughout.
  • The Prestige -- very cleverly structured script, leaping back and forth in time, and dishing out the clues to its complicated story just fast enough to let us think we're one step ahead, when we're really always at least one step behind.
  • Children of Men -- the surface darkness eventually reveals a hopeful story, a re-telling of sorts of the Nativity. The action sequences are masterfully photographed; the near-future world is both frightening and plausible; and most important, all of the actors are inhabiting the same world.
  • Pan's Labyrinth -- the most striking images of the year, in a movie that beautifully weaves the horrors of the real world with the horrors of the imagination.
  • United 93 -- the smartest casting decision of the year, as a group of mostly anonymous actors becomes the group of ordinary passengers on United 93. An intelligent and respectful imagining of what might have happened on that flight.

A few runners-up, any of which might have made the top ten on a different day, in a slightly different mood: Brick, Little Miss Sunshine, Over the Hedge, A Scanner Darkly, The Queen, Venus, Volver


Ali A said...

I want to see United 93 but just don't know if I can. I should just get over it and see it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on Thank You for Smoking and Tristram Shandy, easily the two funniest movies of the year, and two of the smartest .. It seems like I've been waiting five years to see Pan's Labyrinth, but I think it finally opens wider next week .. at least I certainly hope so!