The Best Movies of 2006
January 5, 2007
I seriously considered listing 2006 as one of the most uninteresting and dull years at the cineplexes in recent memory. In a year when the four top-grossing movies this summer earned something like a combined total of $1.3 billion, there weren't too many movies that seemed to have artistically deserved this box office plunder. Admittedly, most movies released any given year aren't destined to be classics by any stretch of the imagination, but 2006 seemed to have more that its fare share of "unclassics." I’ll admit that movies like Superman Returns and Mission Impossible III were fun "ride movies," but did these enjoyable movies live up to the marketing hype? Will anyone remember them a few years from now? And what was our national obsession with Pirates of the Caribbean?
Some quality did show through the din of dreck, however.
The best movie of 2006 was Steven Spielberg's Munich. Released at the beginning of the year, Munich presents a question without any easy answers; can terrorism stop terrorism? In Munich, Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy) plays Avner, an Israeli Mossad agent tasked with hunting down and killing the masterminds behind the attack on the 1972 Olympic games. What begins as an exercise in retribution becomes something darker. Munich shows that both good and bad actions can change the world, though not always in the way intended. Spielberg updates the spy movie with Munich much in the same way he updated the war movie with Saving Private Ryan by bringing an uncompromising dark realism to the genera.
With an excellent story as well as a jarring and breathtaking final scene, Munich is a movie that probes and prods without giving up too many easy answers.
The rest, in alphabetical order…
Hard Candy: It took me a while to finally see Hard Candy. I missed the initial theatrical release (to my loss) even through much of the word-of-mouth coming out on the movie was positive. When I finally saw the movie last fall on DVD, it was a grueling and gut-wrenching experience, but in a good "grueling" and "gut-wrenching" way. Somehow, Hard Candy turns an Internet predator preying on young girls into a victim the audience is reeling for by the end of the movie.
Miami Vice: There haven’t been too many other people I've talked with who loved, or even liked, the theatrical version of Miami Vice, which makes me a bit confused? I see Miami Vice as one of the best movies of the year while others can barely make it through a single screening.
I believe that Miami Vice works on a few different levels, showing the flashy glitz of 21st century drug smuggling on one hand while pointing out that if there is a war going on overseas with zealot-insurgents, there is also a war going on in the streets of America against an insurgent drug trade.
Interestingly enough, the version of Miami Vice released on DVD is a bit different than the one released theatrically, with no sign that the theatrical version will EVER be available outside of theaters.
The Proposition: The entire theme of The Proposition can be summed up by one line delivered by the character Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), "Australia. What fresh hell is this?" In The Proposition, it's the late 1800s and the English have landed in Australia and are attempting to "civilize" the continent. By "civilize" I mean slaughtering the natives and carving out little pieces of England in the dry, parched outback. Stanley quickly learns that forcing his definition of civilization onto a people who live by another code can be an unwinnable task.
World Trade Center: Another movie that was mostly ignored at the box office was Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. I've believe that most people stayed away from this movie because of the sensitive subject matter and Stone's reputation for "bending" facts to serve his conclusions in movies he directs. Regardless, World Trade Center not a movie about the causes of 9|11 but the initial after effects, where the best in humanity came together to rescue those trapped by the worst in humanity.
The almost great list includes The Departed and Flags of Our Fathers.