The year in movies, 2006: In my theater, there is problem
Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but 2006 was a really, really bad year for movies. At the beginning of the year, we would throw around the “Jarhead” expression “Welcome to the Suck” to describe the movies we were being subjected to (“Annapolis,” “Grandma’s Boy,” that kind of thing). What we didn’t realize was that we’d be in the Suck all year long. Seriously, name three of the five movies that are locks to receive a nomination for Best Picture. You can’t do it, can you? Well, don’t feel so bad. I can’t either, and I’ve seen nearly everything. There are a bunch of movies from 2006 that will become cult classics, but 20 of these movies will be lucky to be remembered five years from now. Ugh.
This is not to say that there was nothing worth checking out at the multiplexes this year, just that the movies that were worth checking out disappeared alarmingly fast. Attention, Hollywood: don’t give the green light to so many movies. Did the world really need “Zoom,” “Flyboys,” “Freedomland” or “Tristan and Isolde” to hit the big screen? Come on, guys, look at the millions the “American Pie” movies have made by going straight to DVD. Know a DVD-only release when you see one.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox, for the moment. Here are my 10 favorite movies from this year. This probably won’t earn me any cool points with my critic brethren, but they’re all on drugs anyway.
1. Brick (Focus)
God help the Academy if this does not get a nom for Best Screenplay. Sure, it was hard to keep up with the rapid-fire ‘40s noir slang, but damn, was it fun to try. And you have to love the pluck of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Brendan, who refused to give up on a fight even when he was getting his ass handed to him.
2. Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
It’s tough to decide what the funniest thing about this movie is: the teenager who’s taken a vow of silence (clearly written by a parent with wishful thinking), the heroin-shooting septuagenarian, the motivational speaker that’s a loser in disguise, or the suicidal gay poet scholar. Maybe the funniest part is that they’re all in the same movie.
3. The Prestige (Warner Bros.)
Easily my favorite of the dueling-magician movies (though to be honest, I didn’t see “Scoop”). Christopher Nolan is not just one of the best directors of his generation, but one of the best directors with the best taste (I love David Fincher, but he did make “Panic Room”). Man, I can’t wait for the “The Dark Knight.”
4. Thank You for Smoking (Fox Searchlight)
“Hi, I’m the casting director. Tell me about the lead.” “Well, he’s a really smooth-talking, manipulative lobbyist for the tobacco indust…” “Aaron Eckhart.”
5. Stranger than Fiction (Columbia)
All movies should have the kind of conviction this movie has, and still give the audience the ending they’re begging for. Box office pundits will write the movie off as a failure. People will write those pundits off as fools a generation from now.
6. Over the Hedge (DreamWorks)
No movie exceeded my expectations greater than this one. Ask Bill Clark at Fromthebalcony.com, he’ll tell you that we were both totally dreading the screening for this. Then we saw it; afterwards, we proceeded to drag our significant others to the theater that weekend to see it again. We really like the cookie.
7. American Dreamz (Universal)
This movie was crushed at the box office, and for the life of me, I do not know why. Maybe people thought that you had to like “American Idol” to like the movie. I assure you, I had an “AI” lover to my left and an “AI” hater to my right when I saw this. They both laughed equally hard.
8. Dreamgirls (DreamWorks)
Everything I was hoping “Rent” would be, and then some. But then again, “Rent” didn’t have Eddie Murphy singing, “Jimmy got, Jimmy got, Jimmy got soul!”
9. Monster House (Columbia)
Scariest, kid’s movie, ever.
10. An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount)
News flash: Al Gore actually does have a personality. I think I actually would have liked the movie more if they had shown nothing but the slide show.
What, no love for Scorsese? I haven’t seen “The Departed” yet. And “Letters from Iwo Jima” was not screened in time.
I Was a Middle-Aged Teenager:
Movies I loved that were targeted at people half my age
1. Snakes on a Plane (New Line)
I said for months that New Line was complacent in their marketing of this movie; they assumed the online community would do their job for them and there would be no need for trailers and TV ads. Man, I hate being right sometimes, especially when talking about a movie that was bar none the best time I’ve ever had in a movie theater.
2. Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (New Line)
Once again, New Line makes a perfectly good movie but totally screws the pooch in promoting it. Why the hell is this movie coming out before Thanksgiving, where it has to compete against “Deck the Halls” and “The Santa Clause 3”? Put the movie out in February, and it makes $30 million, easy.
3. Jackass: Number Two (Paramount)
If you see a used Barbie dream house for sale anywhere in the southern California area, do not buy it. You don’t even want to know where it’s been.
4. Final Destination 3 (New Line)
At last, a New Line movie that makes its money back. This was the first movie of the franchise I had seen at the time, and I laughed from start to finish. That’s a good thing, by the way.
5. Beerfest (Warner Bros.)
What they did with Landfill’s character flips a giant, glorious middle finger to the rules of storytelling.
6. Clerks II (Weinstein Co.)
Someone brought a six-year-old girl to the screening I attended. Sure, there’s no violence or nudity, but you just know that afterwards, she asked her parents, “What’s ass to mouth?”
7. The Descent (Lionsgate)
Freaky, deaky. And apparently the UK version is even bleaker.
8. Slither (Universal)
Harrison Ford + Bruce Campbell = Nathan Fillion. And you have to love any movie with a character named Grant Grant.
9. Feast (Weinstein Co.)
New rule for horror movies: heroes are just as disposable as victims.
10. John Tucker Must Die (20th Century Fox)
I must confess that I probably wouldn’t have liked this movie half as much had Arielle Kebbel not starred in it. I totally heart that girl.
Worst Movies of the Year
1. Hostel (Lionsgate)
Number One with an Achilles heel-slicing bullet. Vile, soulless, despicable and not only that, it looks awful. All movies, even horror movies, need a moral compass. “Saw,” for example, has a moral center, however deranged. “Hostel,” meanwhile, is pure evil. Crass, boring, poorly made evil.
2. The Black Dahlia (Universal)
Hey, watch me do a tracking shot. Wasn’t that cool? Now I’m going to do a split-screen. Neat, huh? And doesn’t Hilary Swank totally look like Mia Kirshner? No, no, and HELL no.
3. When a Stranger Calls (Screen Gems)
No cliché will be left behind. “Okay, we have a house with motion sensor-controlled lights. Quick, get the cat!”
4. Home of the Brave (MGM)
With any luck, this will toll the bell on the acting career of Curtis “Fiddy Cent” Jackson. Easily the most unintentionally funny drama of the year.
5. The Pink Panther (Sony)
Clive Owen is in this movie for 30 seconds, and he steals the show.
6. You, Me and Dupree (Universal)
There are limits to what Owen Wilson’s charm can overcome. Matt Dillon’s range as an actor, for one.
7. Running with Scissors (Sony)
Congratulations, Al Stewart, your song “Year of the Cat” is prominently featured in the movie’s biggest scene. Unfortunately, no one will hear it, because the movie sucks balls.
8. The Covenant (Screen Gems)
Renny Harlin was once called the Finnish Steven Spielberg. If he makes one more movie like this, he’s going to be directing porn flicks before too long.
9. Employee of the Month (Lionsgate)
Heh heh, Jessica Simpson has really big…ears. Good lord.
10. Fast Food Nation (Fox Searchlight)
Several of my critic buddies went to McDonald’s after seeing this. We take sermonizing poorly.
Most Overrated: Borat (20th Century Fox)
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a funny movie. But it’s not that funny. Sacha Baron Cohen took some perfectly good, trusting people (along with a group of misogynist drunks) and went out of his way to make fools out of them. Some of them deserved it. Most of them didn’t.
Will be adored by millions…10 years from now: The Fountain (Warner Bros.)
Stanley Kubrick is surely smiling down on Darren Aronofsky, if only because everyone here on Earth thinks Aronofsky is nuts.