Is it the 90s yet?
Ok, I'm mostly joking.
Greetings, Movie Lovers!
Although 2006 did see the same amount of disparity like 2008 and 2009, that's not to say there were not some good - if not great - films to behold from this year. In truth, a couple of the films on this list I could easily see myself placing in my Top 50, or even Top 20 films list of all time. Another thing I will give the slate of movies available from this year is that it does break the pattern from those that came after it. There weren't many animation standouts as Pixar's offering was "Cars", and while I do not have anything against that movie, it's not a Top 10 now nor will it ever be. The horror lineup was a little bit dry as well with some of the better ones in recent memory coming a few years after this (see previous Top 10 posts).
No, this year felt like it belonged to more the indie scene with a decent lot of comedy, drama, and even a thriller or two. Thankfully, said releases were some of the brighter outings of the year.
Without further delay, here is my Top 10 Film list of 2006:
10. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
I literally had about 5 or 6 titles that I was swapping in and out for this particular spot on the list; films that are arguably, or may not even so, better than the second chapter of the Pirates series and that I also hold to a high regard even beyond just their technical merits. A few that come to mind are "Blood Diamond", "The Hills Have Eyes" remake, "The Proposition", and "Accepted" (hey, it still cracks me up 10 years later). Why, then, choose "Dead Man's Chest"? First, I can't help but find the series interesting now as it has become the scapegoat for which Johnny Depp fans like to hurl their frustrations at and blame for his current and often repetitive on-screen persona. Perhaps that is partially true, along with Tim Burton, but I still find this film to be pretty damn good. Perfect? No, however it still has the wittiness of the original; I love Bill Nighy as Davey Jones; Bloom's and Knightley's characters haven't quite reached the agonizing level of nauseating from "At World's End", and the story is also fairly straight forward as opposed to its sequel. The special effects also deserve mentioning as they were quite impressive for that time and something one would easily expect from Disney.
Once more, sure, it does not hold up to some other films that could have also filled this spot, but it's a movie I still keep pretty close.
9. HARD CANDY
Not only is the acting, especially from Page, outstanding in this film, but it's also such a morally polarizing feature that you cannot help and watch it all the way through. One side of it is that how difficult it is to watch the near-demented acts of Hayley (Page) on this man that was previously a stranger to her; though, on the other side of things, she presents an intriguing argument for her claims and one starts to support her cause. It's not for everyone, to be clear, but I found it to be a powerful film on the senses.
8. STRANGER THAN FICTION
7. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
6. THE DESCENT
This one came as a bit of a surprise for me. Having only viewed for the first time last Halloween, I had previously put it off because I had heard good things and yet not enough from the synopsis drew me in on a "must-see" level of excitement. Be that as it may, "The Descent" was hands-down one of my favorite films from last year's Octoberthon. The acting isn't superb by any means and the characters do make a handful of the same ol' bad decisions that must be some sort of criterion when making a horror film, but what I will say is that this film nails all the right notes enough of the time to make me love it. The atmosphere already came built-in with the underground cave setting; the execution did not solely rely on jump scare tactics; and the creatures from this little slice of Hell are effectively terrifying in their own right. I also enjoyed how the filmmakers did not belittle Sarah's character as just another generic Scream Queen. She is given the opportunity to using some cunning logic to stay alive despite the obviously bleak peril in front of her.
This movie was great and could easily fit on my Top 20 Horror Films of all time. If you love some horror, check this one out!
5. V FOR VENDETTA
Stylishly entertaining and scary to a degree, "V for Vendetta" is one of those rebellion-type films that I find to be infinitely re-watchable. I'm not so much saying that it's the best of its kind, as I'm sure there are plenty in its field that cast a shadow; however, Hugo Weaving's portrayal of V has become an underground icon with the sort of charisma that I will not look away from when presented the opportunity. Another reason why I would not say that "V" is at the top of its particular class because the film itself is a little cartoon-ish and the story is muddy from time to time. That being said, I've always enjoyed the action sequences, and the 3rd Act gives me chills nearly every time that I see it. Natalie Portman gives a strong effort as well, and lends a believable human side to V that might not have been there otherwise. All in all, I do not have much more to add here. The film is a straight-forward action drama with strong acting to carry its story's heavy weight.
4. THE PRESTIGE
- or - the Christopher Nolan film that somehow tends to be one of the more forgotten films in his catalog because it had the unfortunate luck of dropping between two highly successful Batman movies.
Likewise starring Christian Bale in addition to Hugh Jackman, "The Prestige" is a greatly entertaining film about dueling magicians in a quest for celebrity by seeing whom can pull off the biggest mind-bending magic trick - to the degree of life-endangering insanity. One of the more interesting aspects of the story is how it shows right off the bat that the acts are staged, which eventually leads to the two leads pressing the envelope further and further until they acquire a new, dazzling piece of transport technology from Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). Of course, the rivalry extends much further than that of the stage show to the point of being a heavy influence on each other's personal lives. I've always been a fan of Nolan's style of storytelling, and "The Prestige" is no different. It appears to be pretty simple on paper, though the 3rd Act trick appeases in ways that Nolan has always been known for.
3. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Here's all you need to know: Alan Arkin is a loving, yet foul-mouthed and cocaine-snorting grandfather. If you have yet to see "Little Miss Sunshine", you may now proceed to do so.
If that's not enough to satisfy, this film is also a wonderfully charming dark dramedy about a broken family that decides to go on a road trip in a Volkswagen bus so that the youngest member of the family, Olive (Abagail Breslin), can participate in the Little Miss Sunshine competition. Just to give you a better understanding outside of Arkin's character personality, the family also consists of a moody teenager (Paul Dano), the mother (Toni Collette), her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her suicidal brother (Steve Carell). The movie that ensues is nothing short of golden. Based on the premise, one could argue that it's destined to end predictably, and that could very well be true, but it's still one that you should seek out to see as it can be related to by about any American family in existence.
2. THE DEPARTED
Seriously, I still can't believe it took this long for Martin Scorsese to win an Oscar. What's funnier than that is if I were being honest, "The Departed" isn't even his best film - it is fantastic, don't get me wrong - but still not his best. Although, what "The Departed" is for sure is the right to be called one of the best films of 2006; truthfully, it's not even close to a bulk of the films released that year. The story has the signature grittiness of a Scorsese mob hit and he gets 110% from all his actors, especially Jack Nicholson in what has been his last shining performance to date; not to mention that most everyone enjoys a good double-cross plot and seeing which side of the law's fence can do it better. I feel this film additionally marks the official comeback (so to speak) for DiCaprio whom had not been able to break the Jack Dawson mindset of his fans in the past near decade and showed everyone why he should be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.
I cannot imagine that hardly any movie fan has yet to be exposed to "The Departed", but if you do land in that category - what are you waiting for?
Lastly, my #1 film from 2006:
1. PAN'S LABYRINTH
People always talk about "love at first sight", and more appropriately in this case, "love at first viewing", and that latter phrase perfectly describes me for "Pan's Labyrinth". Not only was it the first foreign film I had ever seen at the cinema, but it was so well done that it was instantly a shoe-in for my first owned foreign film. Between the fantasy, horror, violence, and innocence, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a film that I can find little to no faults. From beautiful in one scene to brutal in the next, Guillermo Del Toro may have made a movie here that is nothing short of a masterpiece - and I do NOT use that term lightly, if ever. Following young Ofelia in post-Civil War Spain, we watch as she finds a labyrinth that holds the promise of an immortal utopia, especially in comparison to her current home life run by Vidal, her new step-father whom is about evil as he is sadistic.
I'd sincerely enjoy to go on and on about this film, and yet, funny enough, the more I like a film, the more difficult it is to talk about it without feeling like I've spoiled the hell out of it. If you're in the movie crowd that doesn't mind subtitles - Go. See. This. Movie. It has grown to be a favorite of mine, and I'll be watching it for years to come.
Thank you for reading!! See you next week for my Top 10 Film list of 2005.