23 February 2007
  my top 10 of 2006

it is so much harder to choose the ten best movies this year then it was in 2005. really there were only two or three movies that came out last year that i think really deserve any mention, but there are at least 15 movies that came out this year that i really enjoyed. nevertheless, i narrowed it down to my ten faves and here they are:

10. strangers with candy. . . forget little miss sunshine. i really think this was the best comedy of 2006. i was so glad that one of my all time favorite tvs shows got resurrected this year (and especially that almost all of the actors from the show returned). amy sedaris is without a doubt one of the funniest women alive. watch any of her letterman appearances on youtube (like this one) and you will be on the floor. for anyone who loved the show, this movie couldn't have disappointed you. if you saw this movie and didn't like it then i don't want to be your friend anymore.

9. i'm going to tell you a secret. . . i suppose most people wouldn't give this movie a second thought, but i thought it was really entertaining and, at times, insightful. madonna's second documentary has little in common with her first, truth or dare, but that is actually good. it paints a picture of madonna's personality that fans haven't seen before. i actually think that you don't have to be a madonnaphile to enjoy igttyas though. anyone who likes music documentaries would probably be interested in the filmmaking here. the opening sequence of madonna dancing to the beast within mix of "justify my love" alone is enough reason to see this film.

8. notes on a scandal. . . cate blanchett is certainly the actress of the year 2006. she seems to have been in just about everything. but watching her beat up dame judi dench in notes on a scandal was probably her high point for me. scandal is one of those movies that really rises above its plot. the story is simple. but it is written so creatively, and its two lead actresses are so captivating that i was actually surprised by what should have been predictable events. this year has really proven that the best movies being made nowadays are not being made in hollywood. i can just imagine what a u.s.-american filmmaker would have done to this story (and it's not pretty).

7. little children. . . director todd field is my discovery of the year. after watching little children, field's second film, i went out and bought his first, in the bedroom. i can't believe i missed this when it came out 2001. field tells stories about suburban u.s. ennui better than anyone else. i think that little children was really the best written film of 2006. it is smart, creative, nuanced and thought-provoking. it didn't hurt him either that he got two of my favorite actresses, kate winslet and jennifer connelly, to play the lead female roles (alongside patrick wilson, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors as well). if you like todd solondz or lars von trier or other directors making movies about the fractured "american dream," then i think you will really this.

6. a prairie home companion. . . the more i watch this movie the more i like it. i fell in love with garrison keillor on the radio during the summers i spent in new hampshire as an undergrad. this movie really captured the comic spirit of the show, but mixed it with something much more profound. this film really has very little plot, but, more or less, i think i would characterize it as a non-dark comedy about death (if that is possible). it sort of defies genre. it chronicles the ways different cast members of the radio program "a prairie home companion" deal with the death of a castmate as well as the demise of their program. it is touching and sad, but filled with these hysterical moments that make the sadness bearable. the irony of this being robert altman's last film is dumbfounding.

5. blood diamond. . . if cate blanchett is the actress of 2006, then leo dicaprio probably deserves the actor title. i think the academy got it right by nominating him for this role rather than his turn in the departed though. it is maybe the best performance he has ever given. but it isn't just dicaprio that makes this film great. it is a terrific story, not just about civil war and the illegal diamond trade, but about journalism, international politics, academia, race, class, gender, language. . . it goes on and on. i think students in the social sciences should really watch this before doing any sort of field work. it shows how complicated the role is of the u.s. intellectual overseas, and it does it without providing any clooney-esque easy answers.

4. babel. . . gonzález-iñárritu leads a pack of great mexican filmmakers this year. (and even though i agree with him that the mexican film industry has been sharing great works with the rest of the world for generations, i am glad that, 2006 has finally brough mexican films to national prominence in the u.s.) babel follows in the tradition of gonzález-iñárritu's other works amores perros and 21 grams. in some ways, i think babel could actually be watched as a sort of sequel to these movies. it builds on themes he has worked with previously, but he approaches them in new and exciting ways. this movie is really gripping and i can't wait to see what he does next.

3. manderlay. . . okay, okay, i know that this movie is maybe, technically, actually a 2005 movie (that's where it came out every place else in the world other than the u.s.), but since i saw it this year i am classifying it under 2006. manderlay is the latest film in lars von trier's "u.s.a.: land of opportunities" trilogy that began in 2003 with dogville. it is, as usual for von trier, provocative and controversial. i stand by my argument that even though he is danish, lars von trier makes the most insightful movies about the u.s. you will watch this movie and think, that is true, that is true, that is true. he communicates things in a way that you have never thought of it before. manderlay left me feeling a little ashamed but at least a little more informed as well.

2. hard candy. . . i put this movie on over christmas break and i do not lie that i watched the entire thing standing up. i couldn't sit down, i was so shocked and energized. i ended up watching it three times in one week. the bulk of hard candy is simply two actors, patrick wilson and the AMAZING ellen page debating about relationships between teenagers and adults. at times the viewer feels sympathy for both characters in this story, but, in the end, the movie doesn't really provide any winners. the movie just sort of leaves you feeling that the new millenium is an era of sexual sickness, and nobody is escaping it. (just a word of caution, this movie gave me some of the worst nightmares i have ever had. but watch it anyway!)

1. the da vinci code. . . was there any doubt? the code has quickly joined john and i's high rotation viewing list alongside twister, showgirls, drop dead gorgeous and erin brockovich. this is a rare eminently viewable, immensely entertaining movie that is also an intelligent, well crafted film. ron howard managed to do what very few filmmakers have: he took a book and he improved upon it on screen. i just don't understand why critics dissed this movie. it was unfair. other than tom hanks' questionable leading performance i don't have much to criticize about it. people called it shallow? the greatest coverup in human history?1? people called it boring? a story about events that could change the face of the earth?!? i could watch this over and over again (and i have). it is the best movie of the year.
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