best film: Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is going to be revered as one of the great films of the 21st century. People are either already there or not there yet. Haha. Cuaron’s camerawork doesn’t have a match in this year, or really any other year, and he doesn’t stop there. The narrative is incredibly strong, Clive Owen gives the performance of the year, and the mise-en-scene is as detailed as a Wes Anderson film. Specifically though, the tracking shot during the battle sequences is an all-timer, as is the car chase sequence. I found the ending to be amongst the best of the decade as well. So… I’m an admirer to say the least.
most underrated: Darren Aronofsky’s the fountain is, somehow, ranked #36 of 2006 on the TSPDT list. That’s baffling. It’s one of the more beautiful films of this or any year. I don’t love Hugh Jackman’s performance and that worries me—but 36th is ridiculous. I think it’s a matter of time before this works its way up.
most overrated: I really hope my next revisit of David Lynch’s inland empire is a revelation for me because right now I think it’s tremendously overrated. TSPDT has it #538 all-time which is good enough for #2 of 2006. I can’t find room for it in my top 10. I think my biggest beef is it’s sort of ugly. The rest of Lynch’s work is extremely beautiful (albeit in a brutal Lynchonian world).
gem I want to spotlight: It didn’t make my top 10 but Casino Royale was the spark the James Bond franchise needed. It’s visceral and very physical in it’s filmmaking (I just think of that incredible chase scene). It plays upon the world’s fascination in the 00’s with texas hold’em, but mainly, it’s a vehicle for a very different, and superb, James Bond. Daniel Craig is exceptional.
trends and notables: To me 2006 is a watershed year for the trio of Mexican auteurs who may just very well define this era of filmmaking as much as the Italians with neo-realism in the late 40’s or the French in the 60’s. Cuarón, Iñárritu, and del Toro have the #1, #2 and #8 film of 2006. This isn’t peak- Iñárritu (his two films prior were better and he’d actually hit his peak nearly a decade later) but he’s well established by 2006 and I do think this is peak Cuaron and del Toro so it’s as good a time as any to applaud these great masters. After that story I think it’s worth pointing out Scorsese’s best film of the 21st century thus far and the best of the Scorsese/DiCaprio collaborations. 2006 is an important year for Clint Eastwood as well with his two Iwo Jima movies told from the dividing perspectives of the battle. It’s an ambitious capper to an impressive late-life run started by mystic river in 2003. What a collection of impressive films in a short period of time for Eastwood. 2006 is also memorable for the dueling magician movies. They’re both good but give me Nolan’s the prestige over the illusionist. There are a trio of strong debuts from new filmmakers in 2006. Andrea Arnold is a decade away still from her best work (American honey) but Red Road is a strong debut. Asghar Farhadi would give us fireworks Wednesday for his first archiveable film and Joachim Trier, I’m not spotting any big acting debuts here in 2006 but it’s worth noting the big years for two of our biggest stars. Leonardo Dicaprio had himself a year with both his best performance to date (along with the aviator) and his best film to date in the departed and an oscar nom for blood diamond. Also, Brad Pitt, in 2006, is starting a run of great films with Babel. It’s like he decided to take a step back in 2005 with the failures of troy and mr and mrs smith to work with auteurs and make more artistically significant work. With Babel, Pitt starts a streak of where he’d be a top 10 of the year film in 4 of the next 5 years (assassination of jesse james, Benjamin button/burn after reading, inglorious basterds, moneyball and tree of life. Hell of a run.
best performance male: It’s actually a weak year here. I think it’s mainly because there is a lot of ensemble work in the year’s best films (including iwo jima, babel, little miss sunshine). My top male performance is Clive Owen in Children of Men. He’s fantastic. He’s jaded and tired like a worn-out detective from the noir era or an old Bogart character—a great anti-hero. A very close second is DiCaprio in the departed. He shows such vulnerability and to me, still stands out in a film filled with large characters and great performances (Damon and Whalberg are excellent as well). Lastly, I honestly think I have Daniel Craig here as my third and final mention (at least until I see reprise again).
best performance female: There’s more depth here than on the male side for 2006. There’s no one singular standout- I think you could go with either Helen Mirren in the queen or the young Ivana Baquero in Pan’s Labyrinth as the best performance. Behind those two I’d pick Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette (god I adore that film) and Julianne Moore in Children of Men. I also think Penelope Cruz is deserving of a mention for Volver as is Rachel Wiesz for her performance in the fountain. Wiesz I kind of owe a mention after just barely leaving her off for her work on the constant gardener the year prior.
- Children of Men
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- The Departed
- The Fountain
- Marie Antoinette
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Miami Vice
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|Away From Her||R|
|Children of Men- Cuaron||MP|
|Curse of the Golden Flower- Yimou Zhang||R|
|Fireworks Wednesday- Farhadi||R|
|Friends With Money- Holofcener||R|
|Half Nelson- Fleck/Boden||R|
|I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone- Tsai||R|
|Inland Empire- Lynch||R|
|Inside Man- S. Lee||R|
|Letters From Iwo Jima- Eastwood||MS|
|Little Children- Fields||R|
|Little Miss Sunshine||MS|
|Marie Antoinette- S. Coppola||MS|
|Miami Vice- M. Mann||R|
|Notes on a Scandal||R|
|Pan’s Labyrinth- del Toro||MP|
|Red Road- Arnold||R|
|Rescue Dawn- Herzog||R|
|Still Life- Zhangke Jia||R|
|Syndromes and a Century- Weerasethakul||R|
|Tell No One||R|
|The Black Book- VerHoven||R|
|The Departed- Scorsese, Nicholson||MS/MP|
|The Duchess of Langeais- Rivette||R|
|The Flags of Our Fathers- Eastwood||R|
|The Fountain- Aronofsky||MS/MP|
|The Host- Bong||R|
|The Last King of Scotland||R|
|The Lives of Others||MS|
|The Prestige- Nolan||HR/R|
|The Wind that Shakes the Barley-Loach||R|
|United 93- Greengrass||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives