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Top Ten Movies of 2006

Last year about this time I posted my personal list of the top ten movies of 2005. I did admit that I had only seen thirteen movies, so that my choices of what to put in the top ten were rather limited.

This year, as it so happens, I actually only managed to see exactly ten movies. Does that mean that I can't post a top ten list? Of course I can!

[Warning: There might be minor spoilers in the discussion. If you want to be safe, just read the titles, which are in boldface.]



10. X-Men: The Last Stand
I had enjoyed the first two X-Men movies quite a lot. I was never a regular reader of the comic book, although I was familiar with the characters and watched the original cartoon series. But this film, while good in some ways, packed far too much plot and inconsistency into the story. And making the "Dark Phoenix" saga into a B-plot just didn't work.

9. The Lake House
This was a charming film, with a neat time travel twist to it, but in the end it felt kind of slight. Good chick flick or date movie, though.

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest
One of the problems with successful movies is that they breed sequels. Now, sequels work if the creators can devise a new story that takes the characters further along their journey (e.g. Toy Story 2) but more often, the sequels feel forced. I loved the first PotC movie; this one felt like they were trying to replicate what had already been done, and done well. It also went on far too long. However, the cliffhanger ending has ensured that I'll be around for the third film; I'm just unlikely to want to own them on DVD, though we own the first.

7. An Inconvenient Truth
I really had no intention to see this film because, frankly, I already knew everything that was in it. However, a friend pointed out to me that people would want my opinion on this film, so I made a point of seeing it. Al Gore does an excellent job of explaining what is probably the biggest crisis affecting the entire planet today. If you're not familiar with what global warming is doing to the Earth, go see this film today and take action tomorrow.

6. Superman Returns
As many of you know, this was the film I was most eagerly anticipating all year. And, in fact, I saw it twice in the theatre, the only film this year for which I did so. And while I loved it, and would see it again...it wasn't the best film of the year. I'm hoping that it does lay the groundwork for an even better Superman film next time around.

5. Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrell is not an actor I seek out, but his understated performance in this film was one of the best I've seen all year. Since I'm a writer of fiction, the conceit behind the film appealed to me, and I found myself laughing throughout. The best part of the film, however, was Maggie Gyllenhall's charming performance as the love-interest-former-law-student-turned-baker.

4. Casino Royale
I have seen every James Bond film except for Dr. No. Although I am one of those whose first exposure to Bond was through the films, I've always preferred it if the character's portrayal hewed closely to the book version. My two other favorite Bond films are From Russia With Love and The Living Daylights, because in those films Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton play Bond the way he was meant to be played. We can now add Daniel Craig to the list. I can't wait to see what they do with him next.

3. Thank You for Smoking
I seemed to have been one of the few people in my life who knew that this film was based upon a novel by Christopher Buckley. The novel is an excellent piece of satire, and Aaron Eckhardt is the only actor in Hollywood who could make the protagonist, Nick Naylor, as sympathetic on film as he was in the book. The movie's plot veers off from the book's about two-thirds of the way through, but in a way that makes the movie work well.

2. Wordplay
Any movie that features saxikath exclaiming "I have four!" belongs in my top five.

1. The Prestige
Without a doubt, the best movie of the year. Christopher Nolan, the director who brought us Memento, Insomnia, and Batman Begins, is a master of misdirection. My advice to everyone -- if Christopher Nolan is directing a film, avoid learning anything else about it, and go see it opening weekend. Unless you're lisafeld, you'll be glad you did.


And that's it for now. Thoughts?

Comments

I met Christopher Buckley, got his signature, read the book, but I still haven't seen the movie.

#3, huh? I guess I'll have to see it now.

-Wesley
You have an autographed copy of the book? I'm a tad envious.

The movie version was quite good, and I do hope it sends people to go read the book.
Yes, I met him at the National Book Festival in DC. I didn't know about the movie until I had finished reading the book. I think it was already out by then, too.

The only movie I've actually seen on that list was Pirates of the Carribbean 2. I couldn't pay attention because my mind kept skipping back to The Monkees (you know, Davy Jones).

-Wesley
I'd love to get your thoughts on Eragon...

I failed to see the Prestige, although every effort was made. After a two and a half hour discussion, my family finally agreed to see it the saturday after thanksgiving. We got to the theater, my mother freaked out and stormed off, and I realized there was no way I could enjoy the movie while feeling incredibly guilty about spoiling my mother's evening. (In fact, it was my father's fault, but I didn't find out till later.) So I sat outside and read Anne Rice. Not how I'd hoped the evening would turn out.

Did you see Happy Feet? If not, make sure you see that one too. Tap-dancing CGI penguins voiced by Robin Williams that make you ashamed of your humanity are about all you can ask for in a movie.
I have not read Eragon, nor do I plan to see it. Most of what I've heard implies that kids like it, but adults (and especially adult writers) don't. As it is, though, I don't have an opinion on it, since I haven't seen it.

I haven't seen Happy Feet either, although it is a film I have an interest in seeing.
I've seen Eragon twice now. I really enjoy it, despite the fact that it's cheesy and non-sensical in many places. It's very architypal, which unfortunately comes across as stereotypical. But because it taps into all the old tropes, it feels comfortable and familier and happy. It's not high art at all (though some of the CGI is pretty nifty) but it's like your favorite pair of jeans from the back of your closet. Can't wear them out and show them off, but on a lazy sunday morning, they're the only thing you want to put on.

Plus, you can have fun mocking it. :-)
I hate to be in such violent disagreement with you, almost all across the board (and on Pluto, too) but...

I really HATED Pirates (a terribly overdone flick), found little to redeem XMen (other than it wasn't quite so bad as Pirates), vastly preferred The Illusionist to The Prestige (which I really, really wanted to like but found very unpleasant), and thought Superman was too wildly illogical to like.

I do agree with you on Thank-you for Smoking (I adore a really strong satire) and Stranger Than Fiction (when Will Ferrell has the right director and material, he's not a bad actor). My favorite movie was probably Little Miss Sunshine. I also rather admired Hollywoodland.

I haven't seen any of the end-of-year flicks as Pittsburgh gets many movies late. On the other hand, I hate violent movies and many of the late year releases are quite violent. We will go see Children of Men as soon as we can, and maybe Pan's Labyrinth despite the more violent aspects of both.

This was probably the worst year for movies in many years. Almost nothing compelled me to go, and when I went I was usually disappointed.
"Violent" disagreement? It's only violent if you start following me around with weapons! (Or make a point of being obnoxious about your opinions. I have many friends who disagree with me about Pluto, but only one or two who were rude about it. Most of my friends who disagree are satisfied merely to let me know that they disagree, and then leave me to enjoy my folly.)

Remember that my "top ten" list is based on the only ten movies I saw this year. So everything I saw had to go on it. That said, I obviously did like Superman Returns more than you did, and The Illusionist has been recommended to me. But being the Nolan fan that I am, I wanted to see The Prestige first.

Did you like the first Pirates at all? I'm assuming you did, because otherwise you wouldn't have gone to the second.
Well, I won't be obnoxious about it... ;->

I liked the first Pirates movie quite a bit. The second one did nothing but scream "BIG VIDEO GAME."
I will note that I hope I am not coming off as obnoxious, either, just enthusiastic.
Only saw four of the films on your list:
X-Men 3, which I found much darker (visually) than I would have liked. I didn't feel it was as good as the first two films.

Pirates, which I thought was too long. If they had shortened the race on the waterwheel, it would have been good and the scenes on the cannibal island were more than an homage to Raiders, they seemed more like identity.

Superman Returns was enjoyable, and I liked the way they worked in aspects of the original film (from Brando to referring to Lois's comments), but can't we see a villain other than Lex Luther? And I never liked the cinematic version of the Fortress. Where's the big gold door?

Of the four on your list I saw, my favorite also was Wordplay. We rented it on DVD, which meant I could print out the five puzzles they included.

Lake House, which I didn't see (my aversion to Keanu Reeves is almost as strong as my aversion to Andie McDowell), was being filmed a half block away from the Nebulas in Chicago in 2005. Joe and Gay Haldeman saw Sandra Bullock when they were walking back to the hotel from lunch one day.
I'm hoping they do find another, new villain for the next Superman film. Singer proved he could channel Donner; now it's time for something a little more original.
I've just seen a film that has been hidden away somewhat, probably down to some legal arguments and the Fox men in suits with their usual behaviour on set.

Idiocracy. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

It's great scifi in that it is well made, pretty well scripted and an excellent commentary on contemporary america in its guise of 500 years later. Lowering education, dumbing down of scoiety, commercialism destroying the environment. Catch it on dvd as I somehow don't think it will reach the big screen due to the issues above.
It sounds similar to "The Marching Morons" by Cyril Kornbluth...
Actually, it did reach the big screen back in the summer. For about 5 days in maybe 3 cities. Done by the folk who did Office Space, there was some press coverage over how this movie was being buried with pretty much zero promotion, but had the potential to be a cult hit ala Office Space on DVD.

And yes, the similarity to Marching Morons has been noted. (not by myself other than on reading its plot, as I've not seen it yet).
At first glance the film does have some basic similarities, but the world our hero comes into isn't so far changed from the present. There is no dictator in place, no higher IQ elite, no ruling tier as such.

Simplifying things this way, anyone with any intelligence will spot so many issues clothed in a scifi future that are current issues exaggerated.

It is very close in practise to how Shakespeare kept his head on his shoulders in his ponderings of his own societies (normally specifically the royal court) wrongs by placing the setting in a foreign country everyone loves to hate, except here it is an american film set in an american future.

I also saw something (that you will understand once you see the film) about the problems the future america has with its crops, whose answer leads to an initial destruction of the american economy (what is left of it) that is mirrored in the american reliance on petroleum and refusal to take the popular option (Kyoto agreement)
I really wanted to see The Fountain, but it didn't even stay in Waltham for a week, and we weren't willing to go to a mall movie theater in the middle of Christmas shopping season. I'm sure it'll be on cable and/or DVD soon. It won't be the same as seeing it on the movie screen, but it'll do.
The reviews of The Fountain were so mixed that it's a wonder it even made it to Waltham.
I can't remember how many movies I saw this year. I loved Superman Returns because it was just so much fun! Who doesn't want to be a superhero!

But on considering it carefully, I think I'd have to agree that The Prestige was definitely the best movie that I saw this year. It was because of that movie that I went out an bought the book, The Secret Life of Houdini. And I may be in the minority here, but I also thought that Rocky Balboa was a good movie, and of the Rocky movies, only the first two movies were better.
I ought to track down that Houdini book, in my copious free time. :-) (Still on vacation, having trouble keeping up with LJ.)

I've heard that Rocky Balboa is a perfectly good, satisfying film. I never saw the other Rocky movies, though, so I'm unlikely to see that one.

And on an unrelated note, this link may interest you:
I ought to track down that Houdini book

It is currently 34% off on Amazon.

Thanks for the link! Who knew I'd draw the attention of the guy that wrote the lead story for the premier issue of the magazine!
Man, hate one movie and they never forgive you for it! ;P

I think it says a lot about this year's movies that the first few things on your list were just passable or mildly enjoyable. Hopefully next year will be a bumper crop!
In case I hadn't mentioned, Christopher Buckley has been one of my favorite authors since Brian Walker introduced him to me during my freshman year at CSW. I own all his books. Just here to represent.

Happy New Year!
Actually, it was Brian Walker who introduced me to Buckley's works as well. So we both have Brian to thank for it!
I've got to toss in a disagreement on you comment in the Casino Royale mention. I haven't seen Casino Royale, so I withhold judgement on Daniel Craig's portrayal, but I've seen every Bond film, and read every Bond novel (including the Flemings, Colonel Sun, all the Gardiners and all the Bensons). The only movie Bond who depicted him as he is in the books was Timothy Dalton. He's not conventionally handsome. He's not witty or comical. He's what James Bond was meant to be.
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