When I start putting one of these lists together, I first check which movies I’ve given high scores to during the years to get a general selection of likely candidates. Then I pick my favorites. No attempt is made to add variety to the list just for the sake of variety. I simply try to determine which ten films I liked the most from that year.
This 2006 list is very heavy on comedy. I count five clear-cut comedies and three more where humor plays a substantial part. That 2006 was a great year for this genre of film isn’t something I have reflected upon before, but there it is. It’s no secret that I’m very fond of films that make me laugh and smile, so one of these years were bound to pop up sooner or later in this series. The way things look at the moment, the eventual 2005 list will feature an unusually high amount of films of a different genre. Again, not a concious decision.
This doesn’t mean that 2006 was a weak year for more serious film. Plenty of great stuff from a variety of genres was released upon the world. The multitude of comedies on here is not due to a lack of competition. It’s just that I happen to love these funny movies so much.
As usual, this is 2006 as listed on IMDB. Also note that this is a list of my favorite films of the year, and nothing more.
10 – LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (Paul McGuigan)
“You mean this isn’t the first time a crime lord asked you to kill the gay son of a rival gangster to pay off a debt that belongs to a friend whose place you’re staying in as a result of losing your job, your apartment, and finding your girlfriend in bed with another guy?”
A smart crime thriller in which a young man (Josh Hartnett) finds himself caught in a war between two crime lords due to a case of mistaken identity. The main draws here are the funny dialogue that has its own unique rhythm to it, and the contrived but delightful plot. And Lucy Liu, whose role as hyperactive neighbor Lindsey surprisingly steals the show despite her being in the presence of some of the all-time greats in Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Bruce WIllis and others.
9 – TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY (Adam McKay)
“Hakuna matata, bitches!”
Sitting down to watch a Will Ferrell comedy is a bit of a gamble, as he has about as many misses as hits on his resume. This one is hilarious though, as his standard idiotic man-child character meets the world of NASCAR. A lot of credit needs to go to the supporting cast, especially John C. Reilly as his held-back team mate and Sacha Baron Cohen as the stereotypically French antagonist. Holds up surprisingly well on a rewatch, too.
8 – THE HOST (GWOEMUL, Joon-ho Bong)
“The Han River is very broad, Mr. Kim. Let’s try to be broad-minded about this.”
The most impressive thing about Korean monster movie The Host is how well it brings together its different genre components. There are action scenes as good as anything Hollywood brings out, funny comedy bits and some really tense horror-ish parts. And still the story of a family trying to save the youngest daughter from a big amphibian-like creature feels like a collective whole, and a very satisfying one at that. Stand-out part: the adrenaline-pumping scene where the moster wreaks havoc by the river.
7 – BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (Larry Charles)
“Gypsy! Give me your tears! If you will not give them to me, I will take them from you!”
Few comedies can make me both laugh and cringe in equal meeasures quite like this one does. The fact that most of the film is real certainly helps. As Sacha Baron Cohen dons the guise of a clueless Kazakhstani journalist on a journey to investigate America, the main focus of the movie are issues of racial prejudice. While the Borat character himself might be a bumbling antisemite, it’s the things his unsuspecting American interviewees spit forth that really make you worry about the state of things.
6 – STRANGER THAN FICTION (Marc Forster)
“I don’t need a nicotine patch, Penny. I smoke cigarettes.”
This film is often mentioned with regard to Will Ferrell tackling a more toned-down and serious kind of comedy than his usual fare. Which is a bit unjust, because while he does a competent job, there’s plenty more to like about Stranger Than Fiction. Such as its novel premise of a man who starts hearing a voice narrating his life. Or the wonderful dialogue. Or the great supporting turns by Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Or the neat overlays showing how numbers-minded protagonist Harold Cricket views his life. All in all, it’s a film that even people who don’t like Ferrell much ought to give a shot.
5 – CASHBACK (Sean Ellis)
“Being Swedish, the walk from the bathroom to her room didn’t need to be a modest one.”
This one I mentioned in my post on overlooked films of the 2000s. Based on an Oscar-nominated short film of the same name, Cashback is about an art student (Sean Biggerstaff) who suffers from insomnia after a bad break-up with his ex, so he takes a nightshift job at a supermarket and realizes that he can freeze time. There’s certainly plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to be had, but there’s also room for a lot of contemplation on time, love, boredom and beauty. Highly enjoyable film.
4 – UNITED 93 (Paul Greengrass)
“Open the cockpit and nobody will be hurt.”
Paul Greengrass‘ mostly fact-based, sometimes speculative reenactment of the events of 9/11 is as powerful as it is chilling. There’s a distinct sense of imbalance at work: the viewer knows just what is going on, whereas the people on screen are drowning in uncertainty and lack of information. As the magnitude of what has happened slowly dawns on them, I’m reminded of just what it was like on that day over ten years ago. But what really makes United 93 great is its frank nature and respectfulness.
3 – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)
“Everyone, just pretend to be normal.”
Dramedies populated by quirky characters are a dime a dozen. What makes Little Miss Sunshine better than most is that the characters have real believable emotions and aren’t solely defined by their quirks. Essentially a road trip film with a dysfunctional family onboard, Little Miss Sunshine is truly delightful, occassionally dark but always funny. The kind of movie that has made my interest immediately perk up whenever I see one of its cast members listed for other films. MVPs: Paul Dano and Steve Carell.
2 – CRANK (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
“Fuck no, you’re not better. You’re in such shit shape it’s stunning. I can’t belive your heart’s still beating. Shit should be in a fucking medical journal.”
Crank is loud and dumb, has paper-thin characters and features plot elements so ridiculous that the term “suspension of disbelief” might well have been invented specifically for them. It’s also very possibly my favorite action film of all time. Pure distilled mayhem from the word go, so reluctant to pause for a breath that it has to cram exposition into a high-speed car chase through a mall, simply because there’s nowhere else to put it. Jason Statham‘s charisma and screen presence has never been utilized better, and this film more than anything else has cemented him in my mind as the greatest action star of the millenium. And let’s not undervalue Jose Pablo Cantillo, perfect as the annoying asshole antagonist who you just want to see get thwarted again and again and again.
1 – ONCE (John Carney)
“You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It’s time that you won.”
I often forget that this film is a musical. The songs are integrated so well in the film’s story (music is a big plot element and both lead characters play instruments) that they become a natural part of it, rather than springing up as breaks from the narrative. No, Once is not primarily a musical in my mind. It’s a love story between a street musician and a flower seller (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová), who meet by chance on the streets of Dublin and form a bond through their love for music. And it feels real, both in how it looks and sounds and in the situations, complications and emotions it presents. How often do you come across a film like this?