2006 was not what I would consider a year for great movies. So much Hollywood formulaic garbage crammed into the local cinemas, I had a hell of a time coming up with a "Top Ten Best" list. Another factor was how difficult it was to find a theatre where films of interest were playing. Where I live, the two closest theatres are Colossus (Famous Players) and Strawberry Hill (Cineplex Odeon). Not exactly what I would call independently oriented. Most of the good films were at least a forty-five minute drive away and I ended up missing them. So, in the spirit of cynicism, I will mention some of the movies I saw this year that I enjoyed, followed by a brief list of films I wish I would have seen, but must now wait until they come out on DVD.
1) Babel: Inarritu’s latest installment of what appears to be a trilogy. Three separate stories overlap, working with themes of fear, ignorance, alienation, and love. Genuine performances, even by Brad Pitt, with beautiful cinematography compelled me to consider this the best film of the year. A+
2) The Proposition: Gritty, minimalist western set in the Australian Outback. Flawless camera shots and a pared down, rugged script that blends stark landscapes with punctuations of bloody violence. Nick Cave, a great songwriter, penned the script. A+
3) The Prestige: Many critics commented about the formula of this film, that it was too predictable. I did not find it as such, perhaps because I was so engrossed in the story I did not want to sit and figure it out. I guess sometimes formula works. While not perfect, the suspense building was great, the sets and atmosphere dark and moody. Much in the same way V for Vendetta was, this was simply good story telling. But maybe I’m a sucker for magic. A-
4) Little Miss Sunshine: Simple, cute story with quirky characters and some good dialogue. Not usually one for the “feel good” movies, but I enjoyed this one. B+
5) The Illusionist: Another film about magic, not quite as good as The Prestige, but with amazing performances and atmosphere. Based (loosely) on a dark short story “Eisenheim The Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser, this film blends love and deception with more magic. A
6) The Departed: When Scorcese wants to, he can really weave a story of mayhem. The tension builds and builds in this one, leading to an over the top finish, which I think may also be its downfall. Classic performances as one would expect from the cast, but not necessarily landmark. Still, well worth watching. B+
7) Lady In The Water: Not Shyamalan’s best, mostly due to what appears to be a flawed script from the start. But he makes you want to believe so badly, that I never walk away from his films disappointed. Mythical and epic, yet sincere in its delivery. B
Runner ups: Apocalypto, Thank You For Smoking, V for Vendetta
Movie Wishlist (not seen yet): The Last King of Scotland, Flags of Our Fathers, An Inconvenient Truth, The Science of Sleep, Half Nelson
I guess that’s about all there is to say for now. Who knows what will pop out at the awards ceremonies this year, not that they’re ever a true barometer. Feel free to post any lists you have, or mention some films that I may have missed.