A Final Review of 2006

Well, I’ve finally rounded out my 2006 movie viewing. Since it is the first day of the second half of 2007, I can now officially review 2006. Ah, home theater.

I list my ratings at IMDB, which are out of ten points. I’m marked a few as provisional as I almost never give 9’s or 10’s on an initial viewing. I need time to grok a great movie. Anything marked with an asterix may be up-rated in the future.

Here are the critics’ top choices, along with my commentary. Metacritic’s best-rated movies includes obscure films and rel-releases, so I’m going with their list of movies receiving the most #1 rankings and awards, which is closer to the apparently defunct criticstop10.net.

  • United 93. I wrote about this earlier. Absolutely devastating without ever feeling exploitive. The scene of the passengers calling their loved ones is one of the most heart-rending I’ve ever seen. This would also be my choice for the best movie of the year. My IMDB rating: 9*.
  • The Departed. Over-rated, like most Scorcese movies. It was good, but it wasn’t a classic. It was also amazingly violent and depressing, with the only significant female character being a possession. My IMDB rating: 8
  • Pan’s Labyrinth. I blogged on this before. It’s definitely not for kids — the movie is frightening and violent. But it is also beautiful, tragic, uplifting and touching — and the most imaginative film of the year. It’s closing image can bring tears. My IMDB rating: 8*. I might raise it to 9 once I buy and watch the DVD again.
  • Letters from Iwo Jima. Very good, but also over-rated, mostly from the novelty of being an American-made move sympathetic to the Japanese. My IMDB rating: 8
  • Children of Men. Another great film that was downbeat but with a lining of hope. The scene in which they carry the baby past the warring soldiers was incredible. As usual, Cuaron’s camarework is unmatched. My IMDB rating: 8*
  • Babel. Good, if a bit over-rated. I’m losing interest in hyperlink movies these days. My IMDB rating: 7*
  • The Queen. The movie is OK. What makes the film is Hellen Mirren’s outstanding performance. Critics have a tendency to over-rate movies because of great acting performances. My IMDB rating: 7.
  • Flag of Our Fathers. What the hell is this doing here? Is it because of Iraq? I found this film unfocused with no clear indication of what really happened at the Battle of Iwo Jima. It bounces around in perspective so much it makes no lasting impression. My IMDB rating: 7
  • Borat. I’ve blogged on this, too. It’s funny but not ha-ha funny. Probably the most over-rated movie of the year. IMDB rating: 6.
  • Looking at IMDB and restricting the list to movies with more than 25k votes, we see the top ten with viewers were The Departed, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Prestige, Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine, Casino Royale, Blood Diamond, Apocalypto, Stranger than Fiction, United 93. I enjoyed little Little Miss Sunshine, have not seen Blood Diamond, Apocalypto or Stranger than Fiction. I’m not terribly interested in latest ultra-violence from the modern Sam Peckinpah, but I will see the other two.

    Expanding the list to films with 10k or more votes brings in The Lives of Others, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Children and The last King of Scotland. I have not seen any of these, but will see three of them shortly.

    The surprises on the viewers’ list are The Prestige, a movie that got strangely little love from the critics, possibly because it overlapped The Illiusionist, and Casino Royale, which the critics liked as well. But you can’t put a Bond film on your top ten list and still get ballots from the AFI. I enjoyed both films.

    As for the other films from the critics list, Borat was ranked 13th and Babel 15th. Cue critic scrailing about the uneducated provincial public.

    All in all, 2006 was better than 2005. This wasn’t terribly hard since 2005 was one of the worst years in modern movie history. Of the top movies of 2005, I have one on DVD and even that one (King Kong) I wasn’t too sure about. With 2006’s movies, I’ll get at least two and probably four on DVD.