Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Best of Movies 2006 (and everything else)

Okay. I'm a little late since all the other lists are out but I had to play catch up with the movies. So now that we are less than a week away from the Oscar nominations (due out Tuesday, Jan 23rd) and I'm away for work until then, here are my picks for the Best Movies of 2006, as well as the listings of every other 2006 movie I saw and the grade I gave it (in alphabetical order within a grade scale). This is a working list though and subject to change and be added upon.

1. United 93 - (A) Director Paul Greengrass and the cast of mostly unknowns or real life people playing themselves make a relatively unbiased documentary-like gripping film that plainly follows the shock and failure to understand the events that happened on the airplane of flight UA093, on the ground, and in people's minds, all as we hurtle to a devastating conclusion we all (as viewers) know is coming.

2. Casino Royale - (A-) Dark, dirty, Daniel Craig, its the new Double O- Seven and it's downright gritty and action packed with depth and style to spare. Daniel Craig grabs hold of the iconic role and makes the role his own, sexy, slightly psychopathic, and smart in a movie that goes from bounding leaps (literally), to some sexy heartbreak where scars, both on the skin and in the heart, hurt our James Bond as never have before.

3. Letters From Iwo Jima - (A-) A haunting look at the Japanese soldiers that were forced to fight on Iwo Jima while their country slowly deserted them through retreat, rations and supplies. At the heart of this war story, we follow two particular soldiers, one lowly former baker Saigo (Japanese boyband member Kazunari Ninomiya in a terrific performance) and the General Kuribayashio (the always reliable Ken Watanabe) as the war chips away at them little by little just as the movie chips away at us, the viewers, until some horrifying moments of battle that would be disturbing to anybody on any side of the war.

UPDATE: I've shifted my original list here with a late entry on March 17 2007. Everything else has been bumped accordingly but I've left the former #10 (now #11) on the list.

4. The Lives of Others - (A-) 1980's East Germany. A famous writer, his actress girlfriend, and the spy who watched them, in a slow burning subdued thriller that explores each of the three lives that are shattered under Stasi rule. I'll leave it at that before I say anything more, but watch for a quiet but mesmerizing performance by Ulrich Mühe as the watchman peering into The Lives of Others.

5. The Queen - (A-) Queen Elizabeth II tries to understand the public reaction to the death of Diana as we try to understand what kind of person The Queen actually is. Like a high gloss, elitist gossip rag only without feeling intrusive and tabloidy. Helen Mirren's performance is every bit as amazing as they all say it is, and the movie is far more emotionally resonating than one would think a biographical movie about The Queen would ever be.

6. The History Boys - (A-) A deliciously fun look at the educating of a bunch of boys, and the battles of educating our youth. It's serious fun watching Richard Griffiths and Stephen Campbell Moore (as well as a fantastic Frances De La Tour) trying to impend their differing wisdom's towards their boys, and themselves, while Samuel Beckett provides a devastating portrayal as a gay student in love with the dashing Dakin (Dominic Cooper).

7. The Departed - (A-) Stressful to watch and satisfying as hell. Martin Scorcese leads a terrific cast in the remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs.

8. Marie Antoinette - (A-) My pretentious choice of the year. Yes, controversial but I loved it and loved that we saw the bubble that Marie Antoinette lived in Versailles while oblivious to the French Revolution rolling on around her (and just before they roll her head).

9. Cars - (A-) Pixar again creates a full world with talking cars and somehow we really care and feel for them. While the story is a bit more simplistic and clichéd then previous outings, Cars still made for wonderful entertainment telling a classic message story.

10. Dave Chappelle's Block Party - (A-) Not usually my type of music or entertainment and I'm probably the only person that thinks The Chappelle Show isn't the funniest thing in the world, but watching Dave Chappelle be himself as he puts on a block party is both joyous and invigorating to the human spirit.

11. The Devil Wears Prada - (A-) A surprise for becoming a fully rounded story with 3 dimensional villains in a typical fashion story. Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt are fantastic as they scurry around the neutral Anne Hathaway in a career vs. life story that made an enjoyable movie into something slightly more.

Here's everything else in Alphabetical Order within each grade:
An Inconvenient Truth = Ungradeable because it is A Must See

Babel = A-
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing = A-

Blood Diamond = B+
Bon Cop, Bad Cop = B+
The Holiday = B+
Infamous = B+
Notes On A Scandal = B+
The Painted Veil = B+
Pan's Labyrinth = B+
She's The Man = B+
Volver = B+

Brick = B
Dreamgirls = B
Children of Men = B
Flags of Our Fathers = B
Flushed Away = B
Inside Man = B
Invincible = B
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest = B
The Prestige = B
Step Up = B
Stick It = B
Stranger Than Fiction = B
Take The Lead = B (*biased review)
Thank You for Smoking = B
V for Vendetta = B

Akeelah and the Bee = B-
Driving Lessons = B-
Little Miss Sunshine = B-
Monster House = B-
The Science of Sleep = B-
Shortbus = B-
Superman Returns = B-

A Good Year = C+
A Prairie Home Companion = C+
Borat = C+
The Da Vinci Code = C+
The Guardian = C+
Over The Hedge = C+

Failure to Launch = C
Happy Feet = C
The Illusionist = C
Rocky Balboa = C
X Men 3: The Last Stand = C

Last Updated Dec. 3rd, 2007

Other Best of Lists for 2006:
Best of 2006
Best of TV 2006
Best of Music 2006
Best New People Fall 2006

Previous Lists:
Best of Movies 2005


Anonymous said...

why isn't MIAMI VICE on this list?!?!! ;)

My movie of the year was The Proposition.

Vance said...

because apparently after Jamie Foxx ruined his Oscar win by doing Ray, any movie he is in cannot be good (or nominated for an Oscar). Think about it. Dreamgirls was supposed to be a shoo-in but wasn't even nominated for Best Picture.

Anonymous said...

I finally saw United 93 and I'd have to agree that it was one of the best of the year. The movie was brilliantly paced and it made you feel what happened from the varying perspectives. You can't help but get sucked into this movie.

btw, the word verification on blogger is really annoying. i'd be able to type the word if i could read their damn font!

Vance said...

And I keep telling people that the movie United 93 does NOT feel Hollywoodized and actually does justice to the people involved and is NOT gratuitous.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Tony. That was one of the only the best movies.