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Dec 13, 2006

The top 9 films of the year (because it wasn't good enough for 10)

I can't even recall when the last GREAT film came out. Though many would disagree, in these eyes, it's probably Fight Club, which was released in 1999. Yes, there have been many "excellent" films that have come out since then, and many more "very good" ones, but few that belong on a level above all the rest.

2006 was no different. It was another year full of many bad, bad movies (some of which I saw - I'm looking at you, Lady in the Water, Mission: Impossible III, and The Last Kiss!) and many above average-good films (Babel, The Fountain, Thank You for Smoking). But nothing terribly groundbreaking, earth-shattering, or anything else that ends in -ing (save for perhaps bor-ing).

With that mountain of positivity in mind, my Top 9 films of 2006. (Note: The tastes of myself and Mrs. Fletch run the gamut from quasi-political documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth to popcorn flicks like X:Men - The Last Stand to dramas like the aformentioned Babel. Though we generally try to avoid bottom-feeder movies such as RV (full disclosure: I saw this on a trip to Washington. I was dragged into it, I swear.) or horror schlock such as Pulse, the fact is, we love going to the theater and are sometimes desperate for something to see. In other words - our tastes run the gamut of genres, and so does this list.)

9. The Departed
This was a good-to-great movie before they even started filming. Adapted from Infernal Affairs, a respected Hong Kong thriller from 2002? Check. Starring a murderer's row of A-list talent? Check. Directed by the American king of mob movies? Check.
Sleek, well-executed, well-paced, and well-acted, Departed delivered the goods. In the end, I was left feeling that it was missing "something," but I still can't put my finger on it.

8. A Scanner Darkly
Under normal circumstances, the rotoscoping method that they used to create the animation for A Scanner Darkly would get mind-numbingly annoying after a few minutes. For a 30-second commercial, it's great; for a 90-minute movie, you might think it would be torture, but I'd say that that is based more on the subject matter and tone than anything else. Suffice it to say that the subject matter and tone of this particular movie work in perfect symmetry with the film style. A terrific, if somewhat underdeveloped, story from Phillip K. Dick provides the style and Linklater's intellectual modus operandi provides the substance, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Woody Harrelson providing the bulk of the acting chops.


7. Little Miss Sunshine
Though not the most original setup in history (dysfunctional family takes road trip; wackiness ensues), music video veteran directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris manage to turn this "little indie comedy" into a legitimate Best Film contender. No small task there. A solid cast (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin), a DeVotchka-led sountrack and a crappy VW bus also contribute along the way.


6. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
The words "fresh" and "organic" are probably the best ways to describe this party of a movie directed by Michel Gondry. Chappelle wants to throw a party in Brooklyn, and he's pulling out no stops in doing so. Many of the top names in (indie) hip-hop come out in support, and despite obstacles being thrown left and right (pouring rain, anyone?), the result is sublime. You'll feel like you were at the concert, or at the least, you'll wish you were.

5. Borat
The funniest movie of the year, hands down, but probably the most biting as well. You could argue all day whether or not Sacha Baron Cohen wants to make fun of red or blue staters more, but one thing is clear - he's holding up a big mirror to America and saying "Look at yourself!" The results are depressing and hysterical all at the same time.

4. Stranger Than Fiction
It's a shame that this has been somewhat pushed aside by reviewers who have merely called it "Charlie Kauffman-lite." Though the meta-structure similarities cannot be denied, this belongs right up there with Kauffman's films and David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees as dramedy successes. Ferrell and Gyllenhaal give terrific performances, and the direction (and special effects) are subtle and winning.

3. The Science of Sleep
Though not the funniest, this was the "most fun" movie I saw this year. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a childlike man returning to Paris from Mexico to help out his mother and ends up falling for the woman that lives across the hall from him. A simple setup, but with Gondry's dreamlike direction anyway, the director and subject couldn't be better matched. The use of language is excellent as well, with about 50% English, 40% French and 10% Spanish.

2. The Illusionist
It's a shame there were "2 magic movies" this year (The Prestige being the other), because this one is worlds better. Despite a disappointingly low amount of screen time (considering his "lead" status), Edward Norton owns the screen whenever he is on it. Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell and Jessica Biel all assist, but the show belongs to Norton.

1. V for Vendetta
Who'da thunk it? An action movie is the most effectively political film of the year? A mixture of Fahrenheit 451, The Matrix and Fahrenheit 9/11, Vendetta tells the story of V, a freedom fighter who has had enough of the "current administration," to put it nicely. Taking place in Britain (approximately 10-15 years from now), though effectively about the current US political climate, Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea carry the film through to it's explosive finale.


4 people have chosen wisely: on "The top 9 films of the year (because it wasn't good enough for 10)"

the cheese said...

Look at Fletch, updating his blog every day! Good boy!

Fletch said...

Thanks for your readership, Cheese. We'll see how much I have to offer...

SedonaLowlife said...

Excellent selection of V for Vendetta (not to mention the wisdom in setting Fight Club in a class by itself).

Enjoying the blog.