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Accelerated Evolution

Top Ten Films of 2006


Tull

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The year is almost over and I'm sure people here have at least seen enough movies throughout the year to have their own personal list of what their top ten movies have been. Some will probably have choices heavy on independent, art-house movies while some will have films that leans heavily on what they see as fun and exciting titles. No list will be wrong and it'll be interesting to see what people's taste in films will be once they've made their list.

Top Ten Movies of 2006

1. Pan's Labyrinth - Guillermo Del Toro's dark fantasy tale set in the waning end of the Spanish Civil War has to be one of the best film's of the year and, in my opinion, one of the best and most original film of the past five years. Del Toro's always been a favorite filmmaker of mine, but most only know him as the director of Blade 2 and Hellboy. They forget that he's done some of the darkest and most original takes on the vampire and ghost story genres with Cronos and The Devil's Backbone. With Pan's Labyrinth he goes back to his independent roots and crafts a film that defies being labeled as just being a fantasy or a horror. It has everything and he's been able to deftly combine differing themes together to make the definitive dark fantasy film since John Boorman's Excalibur.

2. The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky's third feature-film would be my top film of 2006 if not for Del Toro's. Instead I consider The Fountain less a number 2 and more of a 1A. But I cannot take that easy way out so I will just call this earnest and honest look at the themes of life and death, the meaning of man's quest for immortality and the role our inevitable mortality has shaping each individual. Aronofsky's film is so visually stunning that one forgets the story he's telling. I know some who hate this film and have called it the worst of the year, but that is their opinion and their reasoning have always been a cop-out. Where they see a jumbled and unresolved mess, I see a director who doesn't treat his audience as being stupid whose hands must be held throughout and everything explained to a satisfactory conclusion.

3. The Prestige - Christopher Nolan's film before he begins production on The Dark Knight could easily have been a throwaway project after the success of Batman Begins. Instead, The Prestige manages to be one of the best films of the year and one of the better mystery thrillers of the past decade. Once again Nolan does wonderful work in telling stories about the nature of obsession and how individuals could become so consummed by it that it affects everyone. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as the duelling magicians at turn-of-the-century London were great in their performances. Bale never seems to have a bad performance in him and Jackman shows that he's not just Wolverine. The story itself was complex, but not condescending to the audience and Nolan doesn't rely on red herrings and fake clues to create a twist in the end that wasn't hinted at earlier. A better and greater film in all aspects than the earlier duelling magician film, The Illusionist.

4. Children of Men - Alfonso Cuaron makes the list and at three for his wonderful and epic dystopian tale of a world on the edge of extinction. Children of Men does something which V for Vendetta was only average in pulling off and that's making me believe that the world I was seeing on the screen was a definite and plausible event. Except for the mention of the story's year, the film could be a mirror into our current time. Cuaron pulls out every trick in the book and direct's this film to an inch of its life. There wasn't a bad performance from any of the cast and it solidifies Clive Owen in my eyes as one of the best dramatic actors of this generation. This film almost never made my list since it hasn't been fully release in the US but advance screening tickets has solved that problem. This is how hard science-fiction movies should be made and Cuaron did a great job in pulling it off.

5. The Proposition - This little-seen Australian period piece marks one of the best Westerns I've seen in quite awhile. Despite it being set in late 1800's Outback, The Proposition brings to mind the dark, unglamorized look at the Old West. I've been a major fan of Western author Cormac McCarthy and his seminal work Blood Meridian. If any film mirrors that dark tale of the Old West it is this one. Guy Pearce was excellent as the torn Charlie Burns who must hunt down one of his outlaw brothers to save a younger one. This is a film that shows the battle between civilization and the primal instincts of an untamed nature as fought between the law and order of Ray Winstone's character and that of Danny Huston's elder Burns' brother. A wonderful and dark film all-around.

6. Hard Candy - David Slade and Brian Nelson's film about a suspected pedophile having the table turned on him by a prospective little girl could've turned out into a typical exploitation film whose sole purpose was to either disturb or tittilate depending on the viewer. Instead, the film turns out to be another film that continues the small renaissance of the revenge-driven films of the late 70's and early 80's. What makes the film one of my top ten has to be the performance of one Ellen Page. Only 16 herself when the film was made, she pulls off a performance that would've been difficult to do for an actor twice her age. She dominates the screen from the first few minutes up until the end. This is her story and she's able to pull off being an innocent, naive young lolita and then quickly becoming the wolf in sheep's clothing. Without her this film would be farther down the list and not even make the top 10. I highly recommend this film for her acting job alone.

7. V for Vendetta - What can I say other than "it's about damn time" that someone was able to take an Alan Moore graphic novel and adapt it to the screen without ruining it. I know that Moore disassociated himself from the film, and I understand why, but it still doesn't ruin the fact that V for Vendetta has to be one of the best films of the year if not one of the most subversive. It's message is quite timely despite the story itself originally a stab against the Thatcher administration during the height of the Cold War when nuclear annihilation was a major possibility. Taking that base story, the Wachoski Brothers and James McTeigue were able to tell it as a mirror to the war on terrorism age we now live in. The character of V was brought to eerie life by the mannerisms and voice of Hugo Weaving and that alone merits this film a place in my top 10. What other film could say that their hero could be seen either as a freedom fighter or as terrorist and both labels would be seen as being correct.

8. Letters from Iwo Jima - The companion film to Eastwood's earlier Flags of Our Fathers, this film tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima but from the Japanese soldier's perspective. Where the earlier film dealt more with the nature of heroism and how it could change as propaganda and hero-worship weighs on the survivors, Letters from Iwo Jima gives an intimate glimpse into the mindset of the opposing force who typically have been demonized as unnamed and soulless zealots whose death before dishonor code of conduct seems alien to those in the West. Some have called this film as revisionist storytelling in showing the Japanese in a more sympathetic light, but I disagree. The film neither glosses over the brutality the Japanese soldiers committed during the war or makes them into monsters. It shows that no matter which side one was on both had mothers, wives and family waiting back at home and that war made both sides more similar than we'd care to admit. Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi continues to impress me and it seems old age has made Eastwood an even better director than before.

9. Running Scared - One of the most over-the-top films of the year and it surprised me to no end to realize that Paul Walker could indeed act. Wayne Kramer's follow-up to The Cooler was one great, psychedelic ride through an urban and modern Grimm's fairy tale complete with monsters of all kinds. Rife with innovative use of camera angles and use of color and shadows to set a mood, Kramer's film goes for the jugular and never let's go like the pitbull that he is. The violence was graphic and so was the one instance of sex in the film, but it just made the film cool to watch. There's a pulp fiction quality to the movie and Kramer doesn't get too artsy in his execution. He pretty much steps on the gas and never let's up with each successive sequence in the film helping keep the adrenaline level on a higher plane with the audience told to either accept and hold on for dear life or get out. Most I've recommended the film to chose the former, held on for dear life and felt those G's.

10. Superman Returns - Pretty much does what the title say. It brought Superman back to icon status in the realm of film. It brought back memories of why the Richard Donner Superman films were well-loved as they were. I was very leery of this reimagining and so-called official sequel to the Donner films. Superman has always been the harder superhero character to adapt to film. The man wears tights and in red and blue colors no less. Bryan Singer I'll never forgive for leaving the X-Men franchise, but I'll give him his proper respect for giving his all in bringing the true Superman back. No evil-causing kryptonite and no Richard Pryor in sight, Superman Returns shows that the Last Son of Krypton is still relevant as a character and for the first time ever on film or tv, he is shown for just exactly what he is: a god amongst mortals. That scene with the continent is awe-inspiring and just made the comic-book geek in me scream in delight.

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My sweet list which is in no particular order (well I guess it's kind of in order of release date, but that's about it):

V For Vendetta

Slither

Pirates 2

Clerks II

Little Miss Sunshine

The Illusionist

Snakes On A Plane

Jet Li's Fearless

The Prestige

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

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you guys are all crazy, an inconvenient truth had it all: murder, mystery, mayhem, and most of all, al gore talking. It's not quite for the popcorn crowd, yet not quite for the highbrow intellectuals.

But it didn't have Star Wars references or Jay and Silent Bob! :mad:

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