2006 Ten Best Movies

prariehome2Looking back through the haze of memory at the films of 2006, one finds…all right, 2006 just happened, it seems like an eye-blink ago, I have little perspective on it. But I should explain that my #1 choice was at the top of my list from the moment it opened in May of that year, not a sentimental pick because its director died later in the season and the movie suddenly felt like even more of a valedictory message than it already did. A Prairie Home Companion is just as much a communal Robert Altman movie as Nashville or Short Cuts, except that it’s wiser and more generous than those movies. It looks like Altman’s version of utopia, in fact, or as close as this rough imperfect existence gets.

“The death of an old man is not a tragedy,” says a character in A Prairie Home Companion, as though commenting on the amazingly controlled view of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, a spellbinding look at the journey of an elderly patient through endless stages of a very long night in health care. And death is the main character in United 93, which – against all the odds – turned out to be a lucid, gut-wrenching look at September 11, 2001, all the more so for its avoidance of conventional A-B-C- storytelling and easy melodrama.

The ten best of 2006:

1. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman)

2. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu)

3. United 93 (Paul Greengrass)

4. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck)

5. Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood)

6. Dans Paris (Christophe Honore)

7. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach)

8. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)

9. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)

10. The Puffy Chair (Jay Duplass)

Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima also came out that year, but Flags is the more original and radical film. In the runners-up, I like the chances taken in different ways by David Lynch’s Inland Empire, Rian Johnson’s Brick, and Jia Zhang-ke’s Still Life. The second-funniest movie of the year (kudos to Borat) was Craig Chester’s totally unexpected gay farce, Adam & Steve; the year also brought the best Bond movie in ages, Casino Royale, and the giddy run of Children of Men. Underrated: Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, a very interesting exercise in nearly abstract film style, and the much-derided use of narration in Little Children, which I thought was just exactly right, and sort of the point.

2 Responses

  1. Robert, I wonder what you think of The Prestige.

    As for Flags of our Fathers I just think it is way too heavy handed and at times unbearable to sit through. There’s sequence where strawberry is poured on some ice cream in the shape of Iwo Jima. First and foremost, images like these aren’t needed in the first place when your point is already made. And then Eastwood lets the camera stay on the image for a while. That is when you almost feel like raising you arms up and ask somebody to the roll the movie a bit faster.

    • I am not a huge fan of The Prestige, although enough people I respect think highly enough of it for me to want to see it again. Somehow I don’t think that would change my mind, but I’m not sure why. Flags I thought was a really radical sort of movie, unusual in lots of different ways–the counterpoint to the image you cite is the fact that when Eastwood gets to the actual flag-raisiting itself, he practically throws it away, the icon (in photographic or culinary form) already having overshadowed reality. I think it’s a better film than Letters from Iwo Jima, which is soft and nearly P.C. by comparison.

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