2006 might be the year best remembered for Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code” as Ron Howard and leading man Tom Hanks brought the novel to the big screen. The film performed fantastically well at the box office but critics were largely muted about an over-blown movie that didn’t capture the book’s sense of mystery and adventure. Tom Hanks, one of my favourite actors, phones in a lifeless performance too.
Other major films of the year include Daniel Craig’s first foray into the world of James Bond with “Casino Royale” while Bryan Singer abandoned X-Men for “Superman Returns”. Interestingly, but not exactly surprising, none of the top 10 money-makers in America make it to our Top 10 Films of 2006.
10. Borat (Larry Charles, USA)
Sacha Baron Cohen made the decision to take his most controversial character on a tour of America on a bid to stir as many feathers as he possibly could. The film could have been a disaster. Fortunately it isn’t. It’s wildly funny and makes some interesting, if unoriginal, cultural points. I say interesting because it is the way Cohen coaxes racism out of people unknowingly. It all culminates in the brilliant kidnap of Borat’s love Pamela Anderson in front of a shocked crowd made up predominantly of Anderson’s fans.
9. This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, UK/USA)
Whatever your views on depictions of violence, sex, drug use, nudity, and language in film, “This Films Is Not Yet Rated” will enlighten most viewers on the secret society of people who decide what rating a film should receive in America. It’s interesting stuff and it is excellently put together by director Kirby Dick.
8. Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, France/USA/Mexico)
“Babel” surprised me simply because I didn’t know what to expect. Frequently throughout the early part of the film you’re still none the wiser. It’s ensemble cast and multi-layered/plotted story is enough to throw the most discerning viewer but it all comes together in what is a composed, well structured film. The film is the final part of director Inarritu’s Death Trilogy which also includes “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams”.
7. Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Foster, USA)
Another self-conscious movie – if used completely differently from our choice at number 6 “A Cock and Bull Story” – “Stranger Than Fiction” tells the tale of a neurotic mild-mannered auditor who begins hearing the omniscient voice of a woman narrating the events of his life. When the narrator tells him that he doesn’t realise he’s set in motion events that will lead to his death, he ends up seeing literary expert Jules Hibert played by Dustin Hoffman who instructs him to find out if this story is a comedy or a tragedy. It is unique and refreshing and what sets it apart is Will Ferrell who relinquishes the outlandishness that has made him famous for fidgety disquiet.
6. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, USA)
“The Departed” isn’t Martin Scorsese’s best film. It isn’t his best character study, it doesn’t feature the best script he’s had to use, it doesn’t feature the best performance he’s coaxed out of an actor. What is it though is pure entertainment. For this, “The Departed” is Scorsese’s most accessible, most purely entertaining movie he has ever done. Read my review here.
5. A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, UK)
Said to be an un-filmable novel (and probably rightly so), approaching the movie adaptation of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy you’d be forgiven in wondering just how the hell director Michael Winterbottom pulled it off. Well, he didn’t, exactly. It isn’t that the film doesn’t look at both the ‘life’ and the ‘opinions’ of Laurence Sterne’s titular character, it’s more that it rolls it all up into a bite size bundle of non-linear narration, film-within-a-film-within-a-film invention, and wry satirical asides, the sum of which celebrate the originality, humour and post-modern techniques of the original literature. So how do you adapt a selection of books that cannot be cinematised – you don’t. You use the books as inspiration for a film that is as unique, as weird, and as funny for a 21st century audience as the books were to 18th century readers. Read my full review HERE.
4. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton/Valeris Faris, USA)
Some have called this the live-action version of “The Simpsons” – it isn’t really but it does give you a good indication of the film’s sense of humour as well as its depiction of a large, dysfunctional family having to come to terms with spending time together.
Read our review here
3. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, Japan/UK/USA)
Alfonso Cuaron’s bleak look into Britain’s future is a frightening depiction of one possible outcome. Read my full review HERE
2. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, USA/UK)
Any other year and Christopher Nolan would have the best film of the last 12 months award from us. However, the brilliant “The Prestige” deserves to be on anyone’s top 10 of 2006. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman deliver top performances as magicians who will go to any length to better the other’s tricks – regardless of how dangerous they may be to carry out. Look out for a great cameo from David Bowie. Nolan should also get plaudits for the wonderful set design and location filming.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, Spain/Mexico/USA)
Guillermo Del Toro’s magical fantasy about the adventures of a young girl set against the backdrop of post-civil war Spain beats the Hollywood competition for Best Film of 2006. It’s perhaps fitting that director Del Toro who has made some excellent english-language Hollywood films should return to Spain to make arguably his best film. It’s more impressive that he writes and directs the film. What makes it so good is the authentic human story at the heart of it. Del Toro creates a dark, beautifully realised dreamland around the brutality of the real world, taking the viewer into an otherworldly kingdom that is unique and inspired. Read my full review HERE.
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