2006: The Year in Movies

Ah yes, it’s that time of the year again. My obligatory year-end lists of movies, music, and more. Looking back at 2006, it was actually a year of hype, some well-deserved, most of it unmatched. The PS3 is a huge flop, Pirates 2 wasn’t all that, and the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray isn’t going anywhere because no one’s buying them.

In any case, it was a funny year for the arts and media. In my opinion, there was a lot of hoopla but very little to show for it. So most of the stuff on my list aren’t all perfect, they’ve got their share of flaws. Yet in a year full of flaws, beggars can’t be choosers. So first off are the movies of 2006. The best, the worst, and everything in between.

1. The Departed – Scorcese’s best since Goodfellas. Perhaps the best film of the year. Amazing cast. Amazing performances. It was tense, taut and supremely effective. Loved it.

2. Dreamgirls – I predicted this a year ago and I was right. A movie that lives up to the hype, with all its gloss and glamour. You take the best elements of Ray and Chicago and you get this electricity. The movie looks and sounds amazing. Beautifully designed, with high production values. A killer soundtrack. Jennifer Hudson as Effie steals the show but this is really Eddie Murphy’s movie. His best performance. Ever.

3. Cars – By their high standards, Pixar isn’t working on all cylinders here but the movie is still a real treat. In a year bloated with animation, this one stands out in my opinion (even though Happy Feet might get all the accolades). To make animation live and breathe is one thing, but to make objects feel is another. Pixar can do no wrong.

4. The Inside Man – Spike Lee rocks. Heist movies rock. Sure, there are gaping plot holes here and there but the idea of Spike doing a heist film just tickles any fan of Spike’s or of the genre, or both.

5. The Devil Wears Prada – A chick flick with bite. Humorous and sardonic. Dark yet fluffy. Perhaps the most quotable movie of the year along side Borat. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci do no wrong. That’s all.

6. United 93 – Heartwrenching. Moving. Painful. A movie that proves movies can be this powerful and this healing without having to resort to schmaltz (see World Trade Center).

7. Flags of Our Fathers – I’m hoping to catch the companion piece Letters to Iwo Jima soon but Flags is a definite stand-out. Iwo Jima will definitely be a knock-out just based on preliminary peeks. Because of the sheer magnitude of both films, it truly does feel like one big epic. Flags still feels incomplete and I know Iwo Jima will make it all come together.

8. The Break-Up – A romantic dramedy that actually feels real and truthful. Jennifer Aniston is underrated. She’s actually a really good actress in my opinion and finally a film comes along to truly showcase her talents.

9. The Good German – Soderbergh’s “either-you-love-it-or-hate-it” experiments fair well by me, even though this year Soderbergh’s really gone off on self-gratification. First Bubble (which was fascinating if uneven) and now this. I love the actors involved and I love the films its trying to emulate. Perhaps I’m too much of a film geek to appreciate it. It’s definitely one that many disagree with me (and have put on their worst lists, I know) but I loved it.

10. Babel – Great film even though it was all over the place. I loved the multiple storylines. Brad Pitt gives a pretty believable performance and it’s a much, much better film than Crash.

Cache, Hollywoodland, The Pursuit of Happyness, Little Miss Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking, Borat, Stranger Than Fiction, Monster House, Charlotte’s Web, Happy Feet, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, An Inconvenient Truth

THE WORST (and I admit I’ve seen them)
Poseidon, X3: X-Men United, Lady in the Water, Little Man, Lucky Number Slevin

THE BEST DVD RELEASES OF 2006 (that I saved my pennies for)
1. James Bond Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 – 4  – Worth the price tag my father and I got it for (it went on sale at CostCo for dirt cheap considering the asking price of other retailers). The best part about it is that it has all the bells and whistles of the original MGM DVD release but the sound and picture have been cleaned-up and restored. Glorious DTS sound and clear picture.

2. Miami Vice: Unrated – Michael Mann’s big-screen adaptation of his small-screen hit actually works better on the small screen. Perhaps it’s the new opening sequence that actually harkens back to the TV show. After seeing it on DVD you actually question why Mann cut out what he cut out in the first place. The unrated version made the film a wee better.

3. Cinema Paradiso: Collector’s Edition – How can a movie lover complain about the newly restored Italian classic? Not only does it have both versions of the movie (original and 2002 director’s cut) but it has Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable soundtrack on CD! And if that weren’t enough, they threw in Italian recipes inspired by the film. How fun is that?

4. Warner Bros. Controversial Classics Collection: Dog Day Afternoon/Network/All the President’s Men – Finally! Three of the best movies of the 70’s American cinema resurgence finally get the all-star DVD treatment. Love it.

5. Superman: Ultimate Collector’s Box – Warner did make a boo-boo on the technical side by releasing defective DVDs but they quickly fixed that problem. Finally, the Superman series gets a makeover on DVD and never looked and sounded this great. The best part though is the free movie poster collection offer of all the Superman films. What a combo!

6. The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition – A Disney Classic gets the platinum treatment making me miss the hand-drawn animation. Really well-deserved. The cool bonus feature is an inside look at the Little Mermaid Disneyland ride that never came to be.

7. Seven Samurai: Criterion Collection – Ah yes, a double-dip from the best DVD producers in the world. But it’s worth it. Finally the audio on the film has been cleaned-up (a gripe of mine) and it’s off the hook. Goes well with last year’s re-release of Magnificent Seven.

8. Grand Prix – This was a dream come true. Finally released on DVD. I remember watching this film during editing class and I’ve always wanted my own copy as a reference.

9. NBC’s The Office: Season 2 – Funnier and uncut. Loaded with extras (and a Quizno’s coupon for a free sandwich combo). I noticed that good TV shows find their voice on the second season.

10. Forbidden Planet: Collector’s Edition – There’s a box set version with a replica of Robby the Robot but the real feature is the movie itself, gloriously restored.

Well there you have it! I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!