The Best and Worst of 2006

I sat down the other day to compile my 'best of' list for the newly minted Dublin Film Critics Circle (more about that in a few weeks) and found myself surprised at how many really excellent films I saw in 2006.

There are about 250 movies released in Irish cinemas every year. Its interesting, to me at least, that I can confidently mark 10% or so of them as being well worth watching and well-nigh essential if you consider yourself conversant with the modern cinema. Just as interesting, about 10% of that annual slate are unmitigated rubbish, leaving the majority of films in the mediocre category - that may have proved popular, like Superman Returns, Casino Royale, The Queen or World Trade Centre, but are flawed for a variety of reasons. I really enjoyed watching Superman and gave it a glowing review at the time, but the film passed from memory too quickly and my opinions on it have changed very slightly. My opinions have hardened on Casino Royale, but to a much greater extent. WTC was too bland to consider re-considering.

But the point is this. 25 movies of a standard as good as any year in the recent history of the medium is a decent rate of return for the regular cinemagoer. There are at least another 25 that won't leave you feeling disappointed, exactly. If you picked the shit 25 (to which I could add another 25 if I was feeling particularly bilious) well that's just tough.

The Departed was, for me, the most consistently entertaining and exciting film I saw this year. I am a Scorsese fan (as opposed to fanatic) but was electrified by the angular story, the gritty performances and the blank, dark tone. It's the only film this year that I went out to watch again in the cinema. So thats tops, but the remainder of the must-see list are presented in no particular order.

Best Films of 2006

The Departed

United 93 - for a sense of horror that didn't fade for days

Pan’s Labyrinth - awesome visuals and brilliant writing and performances

Little Children

Little Miss Sunshine

The New World - utterly transfixing, made me aware of changes in my breathing.

The Squid & The Whale

The Wind That Shakes The Barley - after The Departed, the film most people talked with me about this year


An Inconvenient Truth

The Three Burials of Melquiandes Estrada

Borat: Cultural Learnings…- the funniest comedy

Red Road - the ending was disappointing, but what went before was excellent

The Host

Flags of our Fathers - angry, brilliantly realised war film

Romanzo Criminale

Marie Antoinette

Crank - best action film, consistently surprising

Children of Men - most dropped jaw moments

Good Night, and Good Luck

Stranger Than Fiction

One title jumps out unchallenged when selecting the worst film of the year, Martin Lawrence's unrequested reprisal of his obscene 'family' clown, the monstrous insult Big Momma's House 2. I hate that unfunny prick and his sub-normal caricature of entertainment. The remainder of the 'worst of' list should be considered, like finding a head on a stick during a jungle stroll, a warning not to proceed.

Worst Films of 2006

Big Momma's House 2


The Holiday - yikes

The Tiger’s Tale - the right things, said in the wrongest possible way

Step Up

Big Nothing

Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny

A Good Year - Crowe at his most crass

All The King’s Men

The Da Vinci Code - overhyped, overlong and under-entertaining

The Lady In The Water - humourless, odd, rambling junk

Life & Lyrics

Beerfest - not a single funny moment

Stay Alive

Just My Luck - mental poison

Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift

When A Stranger Calls



Rent - distilled from the tears of unicorns

Aeon Flux

D.O.A. - beat 'em off made from a beat 'em up

The Lake House - sloppy and soppy

Rather than leave you with the thoughts of Keanu slobbering over Sandra like a stoned bloodhound eating a packet of Opal Fruits, the best film book I read this year was Patrick McGilligan's A Life In Darkness & Light (even if it was published in 2003) and the best song I heard was Mississippi Fred McDowell's [wiki] 61 Highway, which is of far earlier vintage.

Man, I have to think about contemporising in 2007.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting lists indeed...

I disagree pretty strongly with many of your choices (The Departed, most notably) but I loved reading the run-down nonetheless.

Pacze Moj said...

I like your list!

First off, I'm glad to see someone else who really liked Crank. It was quite brilliant, in its own little ways. The "subtitles that existed in the film world" moment was something else!

And I think you sum up Children of Men incredibly well, too: it didn't quite work as a film, to my tastes, but, damn, if there weren't some fine moments.

By the way, have you seen (and, if you have, what do you think of) Michael Mann's Miami Vice? I tend to dislike both television and Michael Mann, but my mind is wrestling with the idea of putting Vice near the top of my 2006 list. To steal a phrase from another critic, it just oozees an existential malaise.

PS: A Life in Darkness and Light is also one of the film books I red in the past year or so. Being more familiar with Hitchcock's American films than his British ones, it was fascinating to read all about his early career.

Gary Flood said...

Hi John

Completely agree er: Pan's Labyrinth. Long time since I say through an entire moviw with my mouth open! I reckon you should've found room for Eragon on your "worst" lisr - but perhaps you were spared that particluar occasion of pain. All the best for '07.