by Collin Souter
The Marine: Best "Bad" Film of 2006
Yes, it’s time for another obscure, internet-based film critic to divulge his taste in hopes of generating some form of reaction. So, let’s get to the preliminaries. 2006 wasn’t too bad. Either that, or I’m just in a much better mood than I was last year. In any case, this year showcased many directors who found new and exciting ways to tell stories or explore genres (Paul Greengrass, Alfonso Cuaron, Sofia Coppola, Spike Lee, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, George Miller, Clint Eastwood, Rian Johnson, Stephen Frears, Martin Campbell), while other directors went back to their roots (Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith, Sylvester Stallone). I also remember laughing a lot this year, both at comedies and at M. Night Shyamalan. Finally, 2006 showcased an unusually high amount of quality music documentaries and concert films. In fact, I’ll start there.
Best Music Documentaries, Concert Films or Musicals(because it really was that good of a year):
1. Neil Young: Heart of Gold
2. Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man
3. Shut Up and Sing
4. The Devil and Daniel Johnston
5. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
8. The U.S. Vs. John Lennon
9. loudQUIETloud: The Story of the Pixies
10. American Hardcore
More random reflections…
Best/Funniest Gags: Seeing inside Azamat’s refrigerator in Borat. Chris Pontious popping out of the ground as the devil in jackass number two. The cougar in Talladega Nights. The revealing of the city in Idiocracy. The first time the horn breaks in Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Use of Music: Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” in both Borat and Crank
Best Lines of Dialogue / Favorite Lines of Dialogue or Dialogue Exchange:
From Borat to the gypsy regarding a Barbie doll: “Who is this woman that you shrunk?”
In Little Miss Sunshine, Olive’s answer to the Announcer when he asks, “Where’s your grandfather now?” The final exchange between the two kids at the very end of Jesus Camp.
Best Dramatic Pause: The moment before Olive does her performance in Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Fight: Borat vs. Azamat
Best Newcomer: Keke Palmer, Akeelah and the Bee
The “You Must Stop Making Movies” Award: Toby Keith (unless he’s being slammed by The Dixie Chicks)
Worst Decision by an Actor: Steve Martin, The Pink Panther
Worst Decision by an Actress: Julianne Moore, Freedomland and Trust the Man
Best Ensemble: The Departed
Best Brainless Movies: Crank, District B13, Running Scared
Worst "Smart" Films: Death of A President, DaVinci Code, The Good German, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints
Movies That Made Me The Hungriest: I Like Killing Flies, Marie Antionette
Most Underrated (Critically): American Dreamz, Harsh Times, The Science of Sleep
Guiltiest Pleasure: Running Scared
Biggest Surprises (could be from an actor, director or studio): Rocky Balboa, Casino Royale, Monster House, Akeelah and the Bee. Two Paul Walker movies in February and I liked them both: Running Scared and Eight Below
Biggest Disappointment: Tideland, Snakes On A Plane, Superman Returns
Best Action Scene: The single shot of Clive Owen running around dodging bullets in Children of Men
Most Romantic Scene: The bathtub scene in The Fountain
The "F. U." Award (Given to someone - director, actor, anyone - you'd like to get out of the movies permanently - based on a film released in 2006): Larry the Cable Guy
Worst Sequel: Madea’s Family Reunion
Worst Remake OR Movie based on a TV show: The Pink Panther
Best Cameo(s): Elvis Costello and Mos Def in Talladega Nights
Worst Cameo(s): Chicago’s own Walter Jacobson, Death of A President
Sexiest shot, moment or scene: Kirsten Dunst naked on the bed with the fan in Marie Antoinette
Best Actor: Christian Bale, Harsh Times
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen (as much as I hate to be predictable, it really was that good)
Best Supporting Actor: Sergi Lopez, Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Fountain
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men
Best Cinematography: Fateless and Children of Men
Favorite Song: Kazakhstan National Anthem, from Borat
Favorite Score: The Fountain
Favorite soundtrack: Marie Antoinette
Favorite Tearjerker Moment: The last 15 minutes of United 93
Best Movies That Did Not Receive A Proper Release: Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World, The Great Yokai War, Idiocracy, Feast
Favorite Bad movie: The Marine
Worst actor: Toby Keith, Broken Bridges
Worst actress: Lindsay Lohan, Just My Luck
Most overrated whatever (Picture, actor, director, etc.): Dreamgirls, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Children
Best Monologue: Amy Adams’ pep talk to Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights
Favorite Character: Reese Bobby, Ricky Bobby’s father (Gary Cole) in Talladega Nights
Most nail-biting moment: The entire middle section of Hard Candy
Most stomach-turning moment: The ingesting of horse semen in jackass number two
THE WORST OF THE YEAR… SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABORTIONS:
1. Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector So, what is he? A cable guy or a health inspector? Even the title reeks of stupidity and incompetence. Between this and Broken Bridges, Toby Keith fans has a damn good year.
2. Little Man Somebody actually paid millions of dollars of someone else’s money to produce this horrendous misfire, and then actually watched the dailies on a regular basis. Somebody actually lived with this movie for an entire year! Suddenly, my life doesn’t seem so pathetic or meaningless.
3. Madea’s Family Reunion Tyler Perry continues to be this generation’s Stepin Fetchit, Sleep ‘n Eat and Uncle Reemus with his embarrassing minstrel show. A well-meaning, but long-winded sermon late in the film about how African Americans have been slowly losing their dignity has never been more misplaced.
4. Just My Luck Since the release of Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan has successfully broken more promises than an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day. What a senseless waste. Never mind who she socializes with. Does this girl even know how to read anymore? And don’t give me that “Well, she was in the Robert Altman movie” argument. She starred in this film. She read the script and said ‘okay,’ probably because it required very little thought and coherence on her part. I hope the hangovers were worth it.
5. Lady In The Water Jesus Night Shyamalan’s fairy tale may be original, but that doesn’t make it less boring or tedious. His laughable attempt at sticking it to us film critics while making himself a Christ figure should be bookmarked as one of the most pathetic career moves in the history of cinema, scrunts, narfs or boogley-oogleys. Now go drown yourself.
6. Date Movie I hereby refuse to watch anymore comedies with the word ‘Movie’ in the title, even if they do star Alyson Hannigan.
7. You, Me and Dupree This is what happens when famous actors decide to coast along, cash the paycheck and not give a shit, so long as they’re new movie becomes the next Meet the Morons. Owen Wilson has become an innocuous cartoon of himself, Kate Hudson has proved she just wants to make a career out of being cute and Matt Dillon, fresh from his well-deserved Oscar nomination for Crash, should just flat-out know better.
8. Deck the Halls At this point in his career, Matthew Broderick should not be reminding us of his work in Out On A Limb, but it’s honestly hard to tell which film is worse. As for DeVito, if I had to promote this piece of reindeer shit on The View, I’d get hammered, too.
9. The Da Vinci Code “You don’t believe Dan Brown’s trifle of a novel is ridiculous? Here, we’ll act it out for you.” Ron Howard and company felt so compelled to stick to the sacred text that they ended up making people feel embarrassed that they liked the book to begin with. Tom Hanks has never been more embarrassingly miscast, and, no, I haven’t forgotten about Bonfire of the Vanities.
10. Death of A President Proof that if you’re going to make a fake documentary, it better be a comedy, or it’ll surely turn into one whether you want it to or not. It’s the cinematic equivalent to sitting with a stoner who won’t stop droning on about “(inhale) Man, the government is out to get us…like if the President were assassinated, they’d blame it on a Muslim without thinking twice about it, man…it’s all a big conspiracy…(exhale) fuck…” Its placement on this list has nothing to do with any tastelessness of the experiment. It’s simply a laughable film.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE MORNING-AFTER PILL: Freedomland, The Pink Panther, Stay Alive, John Tucker Must Die, Eragon, Bloodrayne, Ultraviolet, Take the Lead, Silent Hill, An American Haunting, When A Stranger Calls, Failure To Launch, Miami Vice, Trust the Man, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, Let’s Go To Prison, The Good German, Broken Bridges
PRE-MATURE BIRTHS: Awesome, I Fucking Shot That, The Break-Up, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Nacho Libre, Snakes on a Plane, The Wicker Man, The Black Dahlia, Tideland, Bobby, We Are Marshall, The Pursuit of Happyness, Stoned
SUCCESSFUL BIRTHS, BUT DIFFICULT UPBRINGINGS: Free Zone, Cars, Superman Returns, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, World Trade Center, The Illusionist, The Quiet, Fateless, The Marine, Dreamgirls, The Last King of Scotland, Little Children, Catch A Fire, Family Law, The King, American Hardcore, The Night Listener, Blood Diamond, loudQUIETloud: The Story of The Pixies, Breaking and Entering
GOOD EGGS: Bubble, Running Scared, Eight Below, The Hills Have Eyes, Thank You For Smoking, Coachella, Tsotsi, ATL, The Notorious Bettie Page, Look Both Ways, I Am A Sex Addict, Water, Mission: Impossible III, Keeping Up With the Steins, Poseidon, Game 6, The Devil Wears Prada, Wordplay, Clerks 2, Quincenera, Idlewild, Beerfest, jackass number two, Sherrybaby, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, The Woods, District B13, Hair High, The Prestige, Come Early Morning, Mutual Appreciation, Stick It, Stranger Than Fiction, Down in the Valley, I Like Killing Flies, Fast Food Nation, Keeping Mum, Factotum, The Dead Girl, Once In A Lifetime, Venus, Feast
EVEN BETTER EGGS: Friends With Money, V For Vendetta, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, American Dreamz, Brick, L’Enfant, Hard Candy, Akeelah and the Bee, Art School Confidential, An Inconvenient Truth, The Lake House, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Lady Vengeance, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, The Ant Bully, The Descent, Crank, Idiocracy, Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World, A Scanner Darkly, The Puffy Chair, Deliver Us From Evil, Marie Antoinette, Edmond, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Casino Royale, The Proposition, Harsh Times, The Road to Guantanimo, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Babel, Notes On A Scandal, Apocalypto, The Heart of the Game, Charlotte’s Web, Rocky Balboa, Volver, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
FINALLY, THE BEST HOPE FOR OUR FUTURE… (from Best to Bestest)
20. Flannel Pajamas Maybe because it closely parallels my own experiences with relationships that Jeff Lipsky’s understated drama worked so well for me, but I honestly don’t think it’s that simple. Anyone who has ever been through a long-term relationship, only to watch it wither and die will have plenty to think about afterwards. Lipsky’s insightful and multi-layered screenplay does everything right that the shallow and superficial The Break-Up did wrong. It shows us real people going through real situations and the results are truly heartbreaking, not to mention uncomfortably realistic.
19. Inside Man Not only did Spike Lee make the defining artistic statement on post-9/11 angst with 25th Hour, and not only did he make the definitive documentary on Hurricane Katrina with When the Levees Broke, but he also made the best damn heist film of the decade. Period. It takes a lot for me to say that considering how sick I am of the genre, but there you go. The twists work like magic, the performances keep you guessing and Spike Lee’s social statements remain intact without being overbearing or bombastic. No wonder it’s the biggest commercial hit of his career.
18. Shut Up and Sing Consider how many concert and music films we’ve had this year along with how many documentaries we’ve had on the War in Iraq and freedom of speech. Now, consider the fact that Barbara Koppel’s hugely entertaining film manages to accomplish just about everything these other films did in just over 90 minutes. It also summarizes how the Dixie Chicks value the situation in which they find themselves and how they work it out as a band, but also as a family. It’s as much about real people as it is about celebrities.
17. The Great Yokai War If Pan’s Labyrinth had been a comedy, it might have turned out like this. Takashi Miike’s insanely imaginative and absurd fantasy adventure never found the audience it deserved. A real shame, considering that the movie works much better when watched with an enthusiastic crowd (as I did at the 2005 Chicago International Film Festival) than it does when watching it at home on DVD. Nevertheless, I had a blast. Its grab-bag of movie references range from the films I grew up with (NeverEnding Story, Gremlins, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Star Wars trilogy, Explorers, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Terminator) to contemporary quest and sorcery films (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) while ultimately shaping itself as a live- action Miyazaki film. Maybe you had to be there.
16. The Queen Stephen Frears’ drama about the aftermath in the Royal Family following the death of Princess Diana becomes a subtle comedy of manners as Roger Waters’ depiction of “quiet desperation” as “the English way” takes center stage. Helen Mirren’s performance hasn’t been sweeping all the awards circles just because 2006 didn’t showcase enough memorable performances. It has been winning because it’s a deeply felt and perfectly nuanced portrayal of a monarch who hasn’t yet learned how to embrace sincere sadness and heartbreak as the mood of the nation. Peter Morgan’s screenplay hits all the right notes, forcing us to sympathize with the Royals for simply being out of touch. Who knew we could end up caring so much?
15. The Science of Sleep Seeing this at Sundance after sitting through ten different versions of Sherrybaby may be why I had such an enthusiastic response to it. A second screening nine months later didn’t quite hold up as well, but Michel Gondry’s delightful and schizophrenic romantic tragedy remains one of 2006’s most original films. It’s one of the many intellectual romance movies of the year (along with The Fountain, Venus, The Lake House and I Am A Sex Addict) as Gael Garcia Bernal’s character becomes a comic-tragic portrait of what happens when your subconscious becomes your only means to an essence.
14. Little Miss Sunshine Not the most profound film of the year, but certainly one of the most satisfying. A road comedy with a dysfunctional family might be easy pickings for first-time indie writers/directors, but writer Michael Arndt and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris know exactly how to make the most of every scene without making you think you’re being had. Booking the film with an ensemble cast might look like over-compensation, but it’s hard to imagine anybody else inhabiting these roles. In other words, relax and enjoy yourself. It’s okay to love a movie simply because it’s fun.
13. Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man A great poet and songwriter gets the documentary he deserves. Lian Lunson ably combined a tribute concert and interviews with Cohen and ended up providing a worthy and complete account of why this man should remain relevant not only to singer-songwriters, but to writers the world over. At a time when poetry often takes a backseat to catchiness and short attention span theater, this celebratory and intimate documentary comes just in time.
12. Letters From Iwo Jima / Flags Of Our Fathers I will contend that Flags of Our Fathers remains the weaker of these two movies and had it been released on its own without a follow-up, I would not have put it on the list. But seeing as how I first saw it when back-to-back with Letters, it’s almost impossible for me to think of them as two separate films. Clint Eastwood’s double-sided tale of what happened at Iwo Jima and after remains a startling examination of heroism and patriotism and what those virtues mean on both sides of the war. The flawed Flags benefits greatly from the existence of Letters, forming a more complete epic film. Where Flags told the story of how heroes get made regardless of the truth, Letters examines how heroism gets mistaken for blind patriotism and vice versa. If possible, I highly recommend watching both films back to back.
11. The Departed It’s nothing Scorsese hasn’t done before, but damn it’s great to see him do it again. Scorsese gets the most out of his all-star cast, who get to chew on a spectacular, whip-smart screenplay. It’s hard to tell who’s having the most fun here. Could it be Nicholson, who has made a living with roles such as this? Could it be Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, who get the funniest lines? Could it be Matt Damon, who plays such a great, untrustworthy “rat”? Could it be DiCaprio, who brilliantly conveys the fears, uncertainties and paranoia associated with going deep undercover? Or could it be Scorsese who gets to play out his sagas on the gritty city streets where he seems most comfortable, while also waiting a full 19 minutes before telling us the name of the film?
10. Neil Young: Heart of Gold In a year rich with great concert films, music documentaries and the occasional good musical (hey, I liked Idlewild), nothing matched Jonathan Demme’s treatment of Neil Young’s soulful, moving trip through time as he examines a life fully lived, but nowhere near finished. Ellen Kuras’ gorgeous cinematography combined with Andy Keir’s minimal editing help make this more emotional and involving concert film and—along with Demme’s Stop Making Sense—could serve as a template for how to perfectly construct a concert film. The Beastie Boys’ headache-inducing Awesome, I F***ing Shot That, on the other hand, would serve as a perfect example of how not to make one. Before anybody here screams “fanboy bias,” I should point out that prior to seeing this film, I didn’t own a single Neil Young album.
9. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan No, I will not come to my senses. Over-hype, backlash, overrated, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. No other movie made me laugh out loud for such a sustained period of time the way Borat did. I consider 2006 to be a great year for comedies, but Borat towered over all of them simply by mixing elements of satire, slapstick, verbal comedy, road movies, buddy comedies, documentary, mockumentary, Andy Kaufman and Tom Green pranksterism, jackass, Monty Python, South Park, The Yes Men and nude wrestling. It did so seamlessly and in a perfectly tight 82 minutes. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character might have been oversaturated in the media at the time of its release, but I’ll be more than happy to go back and revisit this little piece of genius for years to come. I fully stand by my hyperbole-based, overblown 5-star review.
8. Happy Feet A movie that just makes me, well, incredibly happy. George Miller returns after an 8-year absence with a stunning, weird and altogether wondrous film that put a huge grin on my face for its entire 108 minutes. Miller continues to write dialogue that sounds almost too literate for a kids film (refreshingly so) while also pushing the boundaries of special effects and, in this case, animation. In a year jam-packed with animated films, this one truly kept my eyes on the screen. Its rather odd combination of pop songs, dance numbers, positive messages about being your true self and environmental allegory may have been too much to try to cram into one movie, but it worked for me and I appreciate the effort in making a smarter, more sophisticated animated film than the kind we’re used to seeing where all the animals do is talk funny. The underwater ballet to the tune of The Beach Boys’ “Do It Again” remains one of the single great joys of moviegoing this year.
7. Pan’s Labyrinth Tideland done right. Gulliermo Del Toro’s odyssey through WWII and a child’s active imagination (or is it?) proved to be a bit of a challenge in storytelling at first. For a while, as the story shifts between a lonely little girl’s journey through a surreal underworld and the real world as her mother marries a brutal commander, the film comes off as being all over the map and somewhat directionless. But then everything pays off and we realize that these two stories can come together in ways you’d never expect. The special effects look seamless and the real horror comes through in the behavior of the human characters and not in the fawns or the giant frogs. That’s where the real magic lies in Pan’s Labyrinth, that the human drama can be so compelling, you don’t have to be a fantasy/sci-fi fan to know what’s really going on.
6. 49 Up In 2004, I finally saw the first six films in Michael Apted’s Up series and found them to be some of the most enriching viewing experiences I’ve ever had in watching a documentary. For reasons I cannot fully explain, seeing the most current installment in the actual time of its release may have had a more lasting impact. Apted follows up with most of the participants, many of whom have reached a period of calm and acceptance in their lives, yet one woman stands out from the rest. At one point, she confronts Apted by simply stating (in so many words) “I don’t like the way you’ve edited my life…but I guess there’s nothing I can do about that.” It’s an uncomfortable moment to watch, but it sums up perfectly what this essential series of films reiterates time and time again: Life is not a movie.
5. The Fountain Upon first viewing, Darron Aronofsky’s multi-layered love story feels like a jigsaw puzzle one has to put together in an effort to keep up. Yet, it’s so damn simple. The descriptors had it wrong the entire time. The movie doesn’t span thousands of years. It simply spans one’s own imagination. Aronofsky has crafted a challenging and thoughtful romantic odyssey that is simply a meditation on the fear of emptiness one feels when they have to say goodbye and let go. One look at Rachel Weitz’s enlightened, childlike wonder at the worlds most beautiful and confounding ironies and you can see why it would be hard to just let her die. One of the best, most poetic love stories I have ever seen.
4. Monster House What a wonderful surprise this turned out to be. Destined to be a Halloween classic in my household, this unexpectedly smart, witty and beautiful piece of work seemed poised to be just another innocuous computer animated bit of summertime fluff. It turned out to be dark, subversive, incredibly funny and wholly unpredictable. The writers and director came out of nowhere and since the characters are mostly humans, the animators as well as the cast deserve great praise for rendering natural and perfectly nuanced human “performances.” It’s easy to see why Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis wanted to be involved with this project. I’m guessing it reminded them of the kinds of films and TV shows they worked on back in the ‘80s. The enthusiasm is infectious and of all the movies on my Top 10, it’ll probably be the one I’ll watch the most in the coming years just for sheer enjoyment. It should also be noted that Steve Buscemi gave the best vocal performance of the year. Now, why didn’t you parents take your kids to see it?
3. Jesus Camp Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s haunting and daring documentary examined Evangelical Summer Camps for kids to become the next Billy Graham. What’s astonishing about the film is how both sides seemed to have embraced the film. Devout Christians look at it as a respectable depiction of their values and methods while the non-converted have deemed it a startling wake-up call to the culture war around us. Both sides have merit. Ewing and Grady’s film leave the viewer with plenty to debate (unlike An Inconvenient Truth, which does all the thinking for you), while engraving in your mind some of the most haunting images and most memorable characters to be seen on screen all year. Once you start watching this film, I defy you to walk away from it.
2. United 93 What Paul Greengrass has done here is nothing short of extraordinary. With the same stylistic approach that worked so well with Bloody Sunday, with impeccable storytelling skills, flawless editing, a fearless vision and a willingness to attempt the unthinkable, he has taken the events of 9/11 and put us back in the moment and put to rest any fears we might have had concerning Hollywood and its take on the subject. On first viewing, I questioned whether or not the intense emotional experience had more to do with the vivid re-enactment of the day or the fact that it happened to be the first outing that directly dealt with the events of 9/11. The second viewing on DVD many months later confirmed it. Whether watched on the big screen or an a small one, either today or decades from now, United 93’s impact will surely endure and not just because of the subject matter.
1. Children of Men Beating out United 93 by a hair. Both films earn equal praise, but I’ll probably be watching this one more often in the future. Having already seen it four times, I can honestly say it gets richer and more vibrant with each viewing. Alfonso Cuaron has crafted a stunning futuristic vision that puts the viewer in the middle of the action by employing a documentary style that perfectly compliments the allegories at work here. It leaps off the screen and conveys a director’s true passion for the medium. The single-take shots have already earned legendary status and will likely be imitated years from now. But there’s also heart, depth and genuine emotion that equals all the techie bravura, making it the most complete and satisfying film of the year. It’s what great filmmaking is all about.
Until next year… Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi…
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2048
originally posted: 01/08/07 19:37:45
last updated: 01/09/07 14:46:47