Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE TEN GREATEST MOVIES OF 2006! Funny, observant witty thing that I write here, usually.

Sorry for the delay folks, but in posting regularly, as well as not getting to this "TEN GREATEST MOVIES of 2006!", soon enough; I know some of you have been waiting anxiously.Part of why I've been delaying a bit my Top Ten of 2006 post, in this ongoing series of going through each year of the naughts, is that, I personally have been struggling with this list a bit. At the time, '06 was regarded as a relatively weak year for film, and that's not necessarily right or wrong, in fact quite the contrary, their were quite a few really great films, but not a whole lot that we can, really, truly point out as special. This has made making this list, somewhat more difficult to me than normal. 2006, is a bit of a blur to me in general really, I must admit. I remember starting to take production classes around that time, finally, and those were interesting days, especially when I had to carry around a camera and tripod on buses from one city to another. Those were fun two-three hour blocks of my life.

The top of my list was pretty much set, but the bottom of the list, honestly, this really was tough, there were a lot of good films, I spend weeks really kinda debating about. You know, these things are tough sometimes, and frankly some of these titles, that don't make the list, people are gonna be surprise jump and move around and you think differently about films over time. Not that they were good, but suddenly they're bad, it's more like, you had your immediate reaction the first time you watch it, but then you saw it a third or fourth time, and it's still very, very good, it's just you're noticing and thinking other things now, and your tastes evolved, and your perception evolves. Sometimes, they don't and I was pretty much spot on with many of my earlier lists, from what I first thought my list would look like, and this 2006, list, probably, not even just the Top Ten, as I scanning down, my Top 20 on my personal really shifting wildly, and maybe that's just today. This whole list could be completely different if I did it tomorrow. It's weird, I wish a lot of the films were just slightly better so that they'd stand out more, and that said, and I'm a little disappointed at what missed the list. I think splitting some big hairs though, we got a good one. So, here we, 6 down, 4 to go, and before we begin, let's see lists for each year of the naughts that we've gone through so far.

1. Munich
2. Good Night, and Good Luck.
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Mysterious Skin
5. Sin City
6. The Upside of Anger
7. The New World
8. Crash
9. Saraband
10. Capote

1. Sideways
2. The Incredibles
3. Before Sunset
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. The Aviator
6. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
7. The Five Obstructions
8. A Home at the End of the World
9. Million Dollar Baby
10. Hotel Rwanda

1. Lost in Translation
2. City of God
3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
4. Love, Actually
5. Monster
6. The Fog of War
7. Dirty Pretty Things
8. The Twilight Samurai
9. The Barbarian Invasions
10. The Shape of Things

1. Adaptation.
2. Minority Report
3. 25th Hour
4. Spirited Away
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien
6. Bowling for Columbine
7. Frida
8. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
9. Lovely & Amazing
10. Far From Heaven

1. Mulholland Dr.
2. Dinner Rush
3. Waking Life
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. Gosford Park
6. Monsters, Inc.
7. Amelie
8. Audition
9. Ghost World
10. Memento

1. Almost Famous
2. Amores Perros
3. Traffic
4. Requiem for a Dream
5. Chocolat
6. Best in Show
7. Wonder Boys
8. High Fidelity
9. 6ixtynin9
10. Cast Away

Alright, that's where we've been, now let's get to the Top Ten Greatest Movies of 2006!



In some ways, it's easy to overlook "An Inconvenient Truth" as a film more of it's time, than one that's relevant now, and until a couple years ago for me when I saw New York City and the New Jersey coastline flooding with running water from whatever the hurricane it was that destroyed them in 2012, right before the Election. I don't remember the names now, but all I could think about watching the subways turning into rivers was that that warning from Al Gore about the site of where the World Trade Center was gonna be rebuilt, was now, suddenly a reality. I wish I was more surprised, and while we've done a lot of what Al Gore recommended, but, his ten-year deadline, and while I have hope, I also go back and think about "An Inconvenient Truth" and think, perhaps.... Advertised as the most frightening film of all-time, and the winner of two Oscars including Best Documentary, Davis Guggenheim's film, doesn't just showcase Al Gore, who was then, simply the man who should've (and did) win the Presidency and we also see how, that effected him, and while in some ways he probably could've gone back into politics, but instead, he went more inward, and maybe how partially he changed his career towards global warming, and he really did it from a back-to-basics strategy. The film is really a slightly-more glorified version of his elaborate Powerpoint presentation, that he keeps on his laptop, and toured the country multiple times over. It was, as advertised at the time, frightening to hear and oftentimes, see the horrific realities of global warming, and really dive into the scientific findings, and those shocking visuals of how drastically the world, has literally changed over the years. Antarctica and the North Pole are melting as we speak, another prediction he made correct, and in some ways, this set off, way too many eco-documentaries that have come since, most of which are of course, good, but a sometimes the overload is numbing, but overall, "An Inconvenient Truth" remains it's title, that continues to bit us in the ass, just when we think we've forgotten about it, something always reminds us, sooner or later, "Oh yeah, we ain't doing enough to stop global warming." Just wish we'd think back on the film, you before this year's so-called "natural" disaster strikes.


One of the more unique and abrasively confrontational films of 2006, was "Hard Candy", the debut feature film from David Slade, who's since directed the horror "30 Days of Night" and one the "Twilight" movies; he's worked extensively in television lately, and if you first noticed Ellen Page's amazing acting ability in "Juno", then you probably missed this film. She was 17 at the time, playing three years younger, plays Hayley, who seems precocious and spunky, but is meeting Jeff (Patrick Wilson) a much older man, who she met on a Facebook chat room, and is clearly a predator, although Hayley also seems, somewhat more willing than we would probably prefer, but soon, this movie takes a drastic turn, and suddenly "Hard Candy" lives up to it's title and becomes very hard to swallow. The movie becomes a two-person play almost, as Hayley kidnaps, Jeff, and keeps him captive interrogating him for not only being a pedophile, but also for having seduced a friend of hers who wound up dead. This movie is a bit fantasy, but the aggressive manner in which the film and filmmakers take is really what stands out and is daunting, and the film doesn't let you even bother with the leaps of logic it takes, and it's a film that dives into serious questions, and really makes us question and think through it's characters and their motives, and just how far either of them can or should go, as well as just how true are Hayley's claims about Jeff, and are her actions really worth it. What really sets "Hard Candy" apart is it style, the intimacy and aggressiveness of the film, this is the movie that we insist we consider it, and that we are unable to keep our eyes off it, and that's quite a harrowing feat, that's essentially a two-person show. He uses handheld cam well, he uses sound in a way that's unusual and it works, there is nothing in that remotely unsure of itself, or tame. This is one of those, either you liked it or you hated it, but you're gonna remember it, and that the sign of both a great film, and great filmmaking.


Maggie Gyllenhaal had two of the greatest lead performances of the decade, one with her work in the Steven Shainberg in the romantic-comedy, "Secretary", the other, might actually be a little less well-known, Laurie Collyer's debut film "Sherrybaby". She's plays a heroin addict, who's just released from prison. She's not your typical heroin addict, although in many ways, she is. She's a mother who's kid is being taken care of by her relatives, and while she's actually a relatively upbeat personality, she is a bit of a flake. She believes that she could be good with children, and somehow manages to coarse her a job as an assistant for a pre-school. She's right, but she's got problems. She's damaged most of her contacts, especially with most of her family, and every time there is a light, real or imagined at the end of the tunnel, those doors seems to get shut, either because of what she's done in the past, or what she does now, getting the a wrong and inappropriate reaction. Her parole officer, very-well played by Giancarlo Esposito, is her biggest ally, but also her toughest and most brutal unflinching brush with reality. Only her brother Bobby (Brad William Henke) seems the only other person in her corner. She's eccentric, flaky, and exceptionally fragile, and her struggles to stay sober, not only parallels her inability to find her place in the world, but also her inability to really confront the past that led to her addiction to begin with. It's a portrayal I've thought back on over and over again, and Gyllenhaal, really is probably the most underrated actress out there, and maybe of the decade. Tall yet lanky, she seems to be able to play quirky as well as she can sophisticated, and 2006, might have been her greatest year. On top of "Sherrybaby," she was in "Stranger Than Fiction", "Monster House", "World Trade Center" and "Paris Je T'Aime", anyone of those films, easily could've made this list, and when really go through the wide range and different character she's brave enough to attack and capable of playing, it's amazing she hasn't gotten more credit, but this is the one film that still really sticks with me. It's a complete performance, and really uses all of her ability to create a character that, really is trying, is in many ways, stuck in rose-colored glasses, innocent and absent-minded point-of-view on life, that she continues to strive for, but also continues to fail at. Failing herself, failing others, failing those who she loved and those she wants love from. It's one of those films that needs a spectacular performance from a spectacular actress to actually work, and amazingly it does. It's a simple story, told simply, and that's all it needs to be to really grab you. There's been a lot of great portrayal of addicts on film, and this is one of that doesn't get the credit it should.


For those who didn't embrace "Crash" as a multiple-narrative allegorical, those critical people really had issues with "Babel", the third in the trilogy of films from the Director and Writer team of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo Arriaga, after "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams", three films that told a multiple-narrative story told non-chronologically based around multiple points of view of a single event that connects all the characters, and in this film, the connection literally travel around the world, and the connections are often a missed-connection caused both my misunderstanding, and a mis-translation. That's really what strikes me most about "Babel", that it really is nothing more than being about, well, metaphorically the story of Babel, about a world where people don't understand each other, 'cause sometimes they don't speak the language, or they don't make clear enough just how important things are to each other, or really truly express their true emotions to each other, and how when they actually do, try to communicate, unfortunately those they're trying to communicate with don't hear them, or don't understand. Or simply, they just can't communicate at all. "Babel" begins with two kids in Africa, they do something really stupid, and it leads to tragic consequences, nobody involved could seen coming, and half the time, the people involved couldn't even tell or possibly even realized they were involved. In Africa, a couple from California, on vacation, and struggling in their marriage are suddenly in a life and death situation, when one of them is hurt. The injury and the inability to find proper medical quickly, changes their plans, and then their nanny's plan to attend a family gathering in Mexico change, and she makes multiple decisions that lead to her putting two kids and her life and in danger. Meanwhile in Japan, during all this confusion, we also see a deaf Japanese teenage girl, who puts herself in numerous potentially dangerous positions. I'm amazed that some really don't see the power in "Babel", and how these conflicts come about, and just how random the connections in the world is, and also just how amazing we're simultaneously also really just can't connect to each other. Of course, that's the title, and that's part of why I appreciate it. Despite the complicated narrative structure, "Babel"'s core message, if you can call it that, is much more simpler than that, and that's both ballsy, and far more poetic than it ever gets credit for. We're in a time of globalization is worldwide, and yet we're farther apart from each other than ever, and "Babel"'s goal to show and it does it well, in much the same way "Apocalypse Now"'s simple goal is to tell us that War is Hell.


One of the most brilliant-yet-simple screenplays of the last decade, came from a new New Wave in U.S. Independent films often referred to as Mumblecore, and that was the debut film from The Duplass Brothers, their brilliant road trip film, almost anti-rom-com, "The Puffy Chair". I happened to be lucky enough to see this film, at the now-defunct CineVegas Film Festival, shortly after it had debuted at Sundance, and it was the best film I saw at the festival by far. The seemingly simple story involves a couple, John and Emily (Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, a real life husband and wife) who are at that point in a relationship where they're trying to figure out whether or not they should get married. The last journey to determine this, is a road trip where John decides to buy a gigantic ugly purple puffy chair, a perfect symbol of domesticity if there ever was one, on Craigslist, and has orchestrated a road trip to pick it up and deliver it to his father for his birthday. Things get somewhat complicated when his brother Rhett (Rhett Williams) decides to suddenly come along. The hijinks that develop in the film I don't even want to get into 'cause not only are they incredibly funny but the way the characters react, is really smart. Not only observant from a naturalistic point of view, but from a screenwriting point of view,- this is a film should be taught in screenwriting classes, 'cause they get that the more conflict you have in a movie, the better and stronger it is. Sometimes, it's subtle and inward, and that's appropriate for certain films, but most of the time, not just knowing to keep adding conflict, but how to add it, in ways that make sense, and really give power to the film at almost every major scene, at every crucial point, they know how to bring up conflict in brilliant and unforced ways, that really not only create richer characters, but a richer story than the movie ever even needs to have, and it's just so enjoyable to see thought put into something like this. "The Puffy Chair" is such a delight and pleasure, and it really shows that the simplest stories, can have so much more depth, in ways that other films just don't. It's seems funny and simple, but this film gets to the real core of these really specific and difficult parts of relationship that others don't. They don't just generalize; they really get specific in this, in many of the Duplass's film since, and Katie Aselton's a great director too, with her film "The Freebie", which was another kind of film that really found specificity where others would go for the generic, and that's what really standout, not just among the Mumblecore group, just in general as well.


I haven't mentioned the '06 Oscars much so far, but since there was a general ambiguity feeling towards most of that year's nominees, it was a bit of a strange one that year. There wasn't a clear Best Picture favorite going in, and there were more than a few upsets that year in major categories, too. Animated Film was an upset, Supporting Actor was an upset, Best Song and Best Score were both considered upsets most, and probably the biggest upset was in Foreign Language Film, and just so I get this out of my way, as great as it is, and I'm sure you're thinking about it, but "Pan's Labyrinth" did not make this list; I know I'm going to get a little shit for that, it was in my second my Top 20, as an achievement, but the film that beat it for Best Foreign Language Film, is actually the one I really remember. That film is "The Lives of Others", the first feature-length film from German Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and the film takes place in 1984 East Germany, and really the film tells two parallel stories, one of Gerd Weisler (Ulrihe Muhe) who's a Captain in the Stasi. He teaches interrogation techniques to bust those who question or are just anti-government in general. His job is to spy on a popular playwright who's read in the West and his mistress, Georg Dreyman (Sebastien Koch) and Christa-Maria Seiland (Martina Gedeck). Like Gerd, we also get to look at their life. They are against the Stasi regime, but that's not a main focus for them most of the time, and as he listens in on them, and becomes fascinating by their more exciting, more fulfilling lives, full or art, music, excitement, love,.... The movie comes down to crucial choices and decisions made late in the film, after the Stasi turn Christa-Maria, and she becomes and informant. (This is actually what happened to Ulrihe Muhe in real life, and he didn't find out she was an informant 'til after his wife died.)  The film, takes it's time, and that can be a little trying, but so few film are really worth it, and this is definitely one of them. The ending of the movie makes me cry every time, and more than that, while there's a lot of history of Germany not being the greatest place to be during certain moments of history, the paranoia and the stringent nature of the Communist regime and the lives people lived during that, is really frightening in of itself, and we really get that sense of what it was like to live in that time period, in that place. This movie, doesn't work if we don't believe the realities of that world, and why get a really inside look at both extremes of that world, and it scares us to think how everybody else in middle, the world must've been like. This is the film that I watch every time it's on, and you find yourself soaking into more and more on each viewing, a really, truly great film.


I can see how some might have trouble trying to figure out exactly where "The Departed" fits in the Scorsese canon. It's only film of his to win Best Picture and won Scorsese his only Oscar so far, and it's a curious choice. He himself, mentioned that he thought he was only making an average old-time gangster movie, reminiscent of "Angels with Dirty Faces", and something of that nature, not a film he intended to finally win his Oscar on. And that might be the secret to why it actually is so great. A remake of Andy Lau's Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs", this film really is just Scorsese making, an average Scorsese and that's really what special about it. It's Scorsese, strangely just having fun, and without all the epic scope and nature of his other films. Even his other gangsters movies, were about a look into a world, or a time and a place, or a journey into the mind of some very complicated characters, and those are all great movies, but as Tarantino once talked about how he wanted "Pulp Fiction," to be the kind of movie you get comfortable enough with that you can vacuum and do your dishes while leaving it on in the other room, and come back to it, and, stop what you're doing to listen to your favorite parts for a second and then go back to work, that's what Scorsese achieved with "The Departed". Taking place in Boston, and based on real-life mobster Whitey Bulger, renamed Frank Costello in the film, and portrayed with a particular viciousness by Jack Nicholson, the movie is an actually more of an espionage thriller, with gangsters and police replacing the CIA and KGB. One mobster starts hiding out as a police officer, while one cop goes undercover to infiltrate the mob, in this very complicated game of cat-and-mouse, with the cops and the gangsters, between the two undercover agents, as well as the friction with each unit, as both of them struggle to find the mole they both suspect is within their grasp.  I haven't compared it yet to the original version (Although strangely I have seen "Infernal Affairs II") but I'm pretty certain that both films are a vision of their director, way more than they are really about the subject matter. "The Departed" remains as entertaining as it was originally, and still a lot of fun. Before anything else, sometimes it really is just, which films keep you entertained. This is one movie you can watch over and over again, and never get bored with it. "The Departed" is Scorsese doing a Scorsese movie, and that's all it wants to be and that's all it is.

3. UNITED 93

How ironic that right after the film I'd probably most want to see over and over again on the list, comes the movie, that I probably haven't revisited since I first saw it, and will probably be the very last film on this list that I'd ever watch a 2nd time. It's Paul Greengrass's "United 93", which combines real life people, and unknown and unrecognizable actors, to thoroughly recreate the emotions of 9/11, and show the events as they happen, at that moment. It isn't a cautionary tale, it's essentially nothing more than a play-by-play of the events, as they happen, and as we, especially Americans remember them as they happened. We were watching on TV, but here we get an inside look at the air traffic control towers as the first flight suddenly loses communication and starts going on a path that nobody can foresee, nor afterwards believe, to the military command room, that's struggling first, just to get things ready for any possible decisions that might need to be made, and are desperately waiting for confirmation, but unable to get ahold of the President for confirmation to National Air Traffic Control where Ben Slimey, playing himself, inevitably makes a crucial choice to land all the planes over the country, one that's a helluva lot tougher to be made than it first seems, and then inevitably, to the outstanding final sequence at the end, where passengers on the doomed titled flight, make a desperate and daring last stand against the terrorists who've already killed the pilots and some of the flight attendants. Greengrass is now mostly well-known for his action films, and his handheld-camera quick editing techniques, but he first used them for "Bloody Sunday" recreating a devastating '72 massacre or Irish Civil Rights protesters by the British. Here, it's almost because we have such a documentation of the events, which at the time, (And for many of us now) are still basically stuck in our recent memory, that it achieved a real visceral quality, that frankly- I'm gonna be very interested to hear, what somebody thought of this film, who wasn't alive or around on 9/11, and really see their reaction to it, 'cause it might be cliche for certain historical films, especially recent history, like a sporting event film perhaps, to say that it brings you back to when it actually happened, but, we're talking a completely different level of context when we say that about "United 93", and I don't know how well this will hold up for that audience, but we'll see, but, this is as close as I think it's remotely possible than anybody could've gotten to recreating and detailing that day, without falling into documentary. The great film that's just gonna be impossible for people to watch, and there's very few movies where that's not a backhanded compliment, and for this film, that's probably the highest of honor that can be said about "United 93".


Before he did "Gravity" Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" was a startling sci-fi achievement, both in technical precision, and as a great intense thriller. The film takes place in a very near future, where for some reason, humans have suddenly lost the ability to procreate, and the youngest person alive, an 18-year-old man has just died. It's a world of despair and terror in London, that's as complex in it's creation as the futuristic L.A. in "Blade Runner", but in a completely different way. Clive Owen plays Theo, who got coffee, right before the coffee shop he was at, exploded. He's frightened at the world around him, an England that's become closed-off from the outer world, remaining the only stable government in existence, despite a civil war between the governing forces and rebels who support immigration rights, and both of those sides seem like the most competent of the bunch strikingly enough as everybody else seems caught between them and running rabid with fear or acceptance of their limited circumstances. In the rebel group is Theo ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who contacts Theo to help some mysterious job to get a young girl, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitay) to safety, a job that is far more complicated than it is. We never get any real explanations for why the world has turned to this, and that's a good thing, 'cause there wouldn't be any believable and explainable ones. The world is as it is, and we have to accept it right away, or else nothing makes sense. What's really amazing is just how tight and intense this- really, a long chase film actually is, and the directing is amazing. The infamous car sequence, done in one take, over seven minutes without a cut that involves no less than a runaway flaming car used as a weapon as well as a firefight leading to death, maybe the most amazing part of that shot, is the special effect of Moore and Owen from the backseat to the front seat, tossing a hard-boiled egg from their mouths to each other. That scene alone, deserves putting the film on the list, but for finding a way to really be as bare a story as it needs to be,- in hindsight it's very similar to "Gravity", where basically they're astronauts, and then they're stuck in space is all the necessary backstory we get and from there the confidence and precision of the filmmaking just elevates material, and in some way, how he does it with this film, is even more impressive. As a certain point, you stop asking "How come...?", and instead, you just taken for the entire ride, and by the end, you're amazed at how well you got swept up in the journey. And that's the key- his best films, "Y Tu Mama Tambien", "Children of Men", and "Gravity", they're road movies, and he knows the most important rule about road movies, it's not why you're on the journey, it's the journey itself, and "Children of Men", is just an amazing journey, And he did it, in a dystopian sci-fi world!


David Lynch only made two films in the decade but he made them count, and he's the only director to rank #1 on two of these lists, and while I haven't finalize the other years yet, I'm pretty certain it's safe to say that only Spielberg with "Munich" and "Minority Report" even came close. "Mulholland Dr." is of course the more well-known, and highly-regarded film, and I actually put it on my Top 100 of All-Time list, not too long ago, but, maybe that was reluctance on me, to not be bold enough to actually write down "INLAND EMPIRE", 'cause I actually do think most days that this is his best film. Lynch is of course a surrealist, and what better world to examine through a surrealist lens, than cinema, and he does that here. This is probably his version of "8 1/2", and I'm only saying that because that's probably the easiest way to describe the film. After traditional strange openings from Lynch, including a sitcom-like stage where people are dressed in rabbit costumes (For you younger readers, to understand that, ask your parents/grandparents what "rabbit ears" on a TV are.) and other fairly typical Lynchian motifs, we soon arrive at apparently a major film being made, and Laura Dern, is the star, but soon the world of the movie begins to takeover her character, as well as the world of filmmaking in general, from the onstage acting to the getting into the character, to the way cinema blurs the line between fiction and reality to eventually, how the film on screen, or on TV effects and becomes incorporated into the audience who watches it. In it's own weird way it's a celebration of all of cinema, and the way he dives into that is an incredible journey. It's three hours long, it's maybe his longest film, but it's an incredible mosaic of ideas and images on their own, and when it all finally comes to together...- So many really kinda consider Lynch in this real stuffy or pretentious artistic filmmaker, for the lack of a better term, but here is a movie, where he's really embracing cinema and embracing the filmmaker of all kinds in general. Yeah, it's a puzzle, it's not three-act structure, you have to interpret, you have to be an active viewer, and with films by people like David Lynch, and especially one like "INLAND EMPIRE", the reason you watch these films is to get rewarded, for the experience, and that's ultimately what Lynch's goal is, and that's ultimately what any filmmaker's goal is. One of the first major filmmakers to begin shooting on digital, and on a Sony PD-150, "INLAND EMPIRE", and yes, Lynch insists that the film's title always capitalized, is one of his most experimental, and one of his absolutely very best films, and the number 1 movie from 2006! And not only that, one of the best movies, about movies of all-time as well.

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