The Flick Chicks

01-21-07 Best Films of 2006

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Judy Thorburn

"My Choices for the Best Films of 2006"

Las Vegas Tribune -
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The Women Film Critics Circle -
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It’s that time again where I list my choices for the best movies of the past year. While the majority of the flicks I saw were not very memorable (in fact, many were downright dreadful) there were some that made such a lasting impression for being superb, if not a great piece of cinema. Please note while there are several flicks getting Oscar buzz, if they didn’t make it onto a Las Vegas screen (my home base) before the year was up, you won’t see it on my list. Case in point is the beautifully crafted, gorgeously filmed Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger in another Oscar worthy performance as Beatrix Potter, the famous author/illustrator of such best selling children’s books as Peter Rabbit. I highly recommend everyone see this film when it comes out later this month. It is simply a wonderful and enchanting movie experience. Unfortunately, there was no possible way for me to see every single movie that was released in 2006. But, from the more than 200 features I sat through last year, these were my favorites:

1) United 93 – Filmmaker Paul Greengrass deserves recognition for this achievement. He delivers an extraordinarily well done, completely realistic reenactment of the events that took place in the air and on the ground during the terrorist hijacking of the plane that crashed on a field in Pennsylvania killing all of its brave passengers who tried to fight back on that fateful day of 9/11. Although the tragedy left an emotional scar on most Americans, this heart wrenching, harrowing drama is never exploitive nor manipulative, and serves as a testament to the heroic passengers and a celebration of the human spirit.

2) The Departed – This has got to be the year that Martin Scorcese once and for all walks away with the coveted Oscar for best director that, in the past, has somehow eluded him. He’s back doing what he does best, in a return to the mean streets delivering a brutal, but powerful gangster crime drama with an impeccable cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio (in his best work yet that is sure to garner him an Oscar nomination) and Matt Damon as undercover moles on the opposite ends of the law. The always-memorable Jack Nicholson is in fine form as the Irish mob boss the police are trying to take down. This film is the one to beat come Oscar time!

3 Babel – A deadly gunshot by an irresponsible teen on one side of the world sends waves of repercussions felt by what seems to be unconnected families in four distant countries. While stories begin to interlock the common thread appears to be the breakdown or lack of communication in an increasingly intolerant world. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett head the impressive ensemble cast in this emotionally explosive drama.

4) Notes On A Scandal – Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett go head to head in this provocative psychological thriller. Yet, I have to say Dench stands out as my choice for Best Actress of 2006 for her flawless, eerie portrayal of an elderly, plain looking English teacher (Dench) who is obsessed with a younger, pretty art teacher (Blanchett) and uses her scandalous secret to weave a devious web of control, manipulation and betrayal under the guise of friend and confidant.

5) Thank You For Smoking – Aaron Eckhardt is fabulous as a lobbyist and spin doctor for the tobacco industry who is so effective at twisting the truth to meet his objective that he has you almost believing smoking is good for your health. As the best satire since Wag the Dog, TUFS is wickedly funny in its political incorrectness and attempts to make a point about personal responsibility that for some is more difficult to swallow than cigarette ads.

6) Cars – Pixar Animation Studios ups the ante once again with another fabulously entertaining and visually dazzling 3D computer animated film that features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy among others as cars with distinct human personalities and characteristics. Everything about it is effective: a touching story, wonderful and funny characters and a lesson about what is really important in life. I loved it!

7) A tie - The Illusionist and The Prestige – Both are magical in more ways than one and I refuse to pick one over the other. Of course, both movies revolve around the art of magic, but other than that each tells a very different story. The Illusionist starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel is basically a love story, while The Prestige is about hate, jealousy, betrayal, and revenge between two rival magicians, excellently portrayed by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Both movies have well-written scripts and a twist (or in the case of The Prestige, many twists and turns) that will take you by surprise and leave you spellbound, just like a well performed magic trick is supposed to do!

8) Lucky Number Slevin – I love a slick crime thriller with delicious twists and turns in the vein of The Usual Suspects. In a case of mistaken identity, Josh Hartnett stars as a guy caught up in the middle of a war between two crime bosses played by Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley. That’s all I will divulge. Suffice to say, this is one clever and entertaining ride that kept me guessing right up to the very end when I got hit with a surprise I never saw coming. Only in ‘reel’ life, can you enjoy the outcome of being had and this flick comes through in perfect fashion.

9) Charlotte’s Web – Who knew that I, terrified of spiders, could ever feel anything, let alone care for one of those creepy little beasts. As voiced with genuine compassion and sincerity by Julia Roberts, I have to admit I did, as well as being drawn into this entire incredibly charming screen adaptation of E.B. White’s classic children’s novel that tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a sweet, joyful pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte (Roberts) who share their living quarters with an assortment of farm animals such as geese, cows, sheep, a horse, a rat and a couple of crows. Dakota Fanning may lead the human cast, but the real stars of the film are those talkative (thanks to those CGI wizards), amusing creatures voiced by a star studded cast that includes Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer and a hilarious Steve Buscemi. The live action and blend of animation is seamless, and the important message about loyalty, love, friendship and sacrifice is something that the entire family should share.

10) Finally, I simply can’t decide on my final pick to round out my list of the top 10. There were several other films that I found thought provoking, emotionally moving, inspiring, or just plain escapist fun. My advice is to check each one out on video if they have already left the big screen. So, to be fair, I listed the following in alphabetical order, not by preference.

Blood Diamond
Lady In The Water
Mission Impossible 3
The Pursuit of Happyness
The Queen
V For Vendetta
World Trade Center

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