Remembering a Decade…2006

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

We’re changing the format a little bit for this installment of the series. This is not exactly a top five list or even the five films we deem most worthy of a 2006, “best of” list. Instead, it’s more like a primer on the films of 2006. A remembrance if you will. Here are five films that were mentioned by most of the writers here that most define 2006 or in some way stuck in our collective consciousness for one reason or another. Another reason for this change is simply because of how awesome 2006 was in film. Second probably only to 2007. So go back in time with RowThree in remembering 2006…

Before getting started, a few honorable mentions (besides the titles already mentioned above) that barely missed the cut, but on any other day could well have worked their way to #1:
Volver, Brick, Half Nelson, Little Children, Wind that Shakes the Barley, Miami Vice, Lives of Others

5) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
– This is one sensual movie. Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of the incredibly popular (at least in Europe) novel of the same name is visually sumptuous and creates a tingling sensation as you watch it. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (“one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages”) is a man with an incredibly fine tuned sense of smell who makes it his life’s quest to find the perfect scent – something that will tap into deep human emotions and potentially help him to reconnect to society. Grenouille has no actual body odour of his own and this seems to have created uneasiness in anyone he meets and has pushed him to the fringes of society. Until he is brought on as an apprentice perfumer, his tether to humanity is pretty thin. He becomes enormously successful in creating new perfumes, though, and becomes convinced that he can actually create that perfect scent – through whatever means necessary. Dustin Hoffman turns in an odd and overly large performance which doesn’t seem to fit with the film, but it doesn’t detract from the intoxicating nature of the experience. The last hour, for me, was simply riveting. - BOB
– - “Well, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, you will have the opportunity now to prove yourself. And your grandoise failure will also be a lesson in humility.”

4) The Fountain
The Fountain is one of those very few great austere ‘big idea’ science fiction features that tend to take about a decade or two to be fully appreciated (see also Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solyaris). Really, even compared to those three in parentheses, it is a deceptively simple story the point of which can be summed up in a few words: “Make the most of the time you have,” or “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Darren Aronofsky bathes the screen in twinkling honey-coloured cinematography, particularly in the most challenging chapter of the film involving a hairless Hugh Jackman floating through space in a glass bubble with a sentient tree towards the nebula known as the Mayan heaven. Jackman and his queen/lover/tree are played by Rachel Weisz (here like another version of heaven) the other two plot threads that are much more typical cinema fare, yet all tie together thematically. The first involves a conquistador mission to South America in search of the fountain of youth and a 20th century scientific quest to halt cellular aging (and it could be reasonably argued that the Jackman character from the present is eventually the man in the bubble floating through space in the future). The final culmination, set to the tune of a wonderfully powerful Clint Mansell score, is wondrous and somewhat head-scratching, in all the right ways. The film, as it turns out, is not for everyone, but considering the universal themes and basic message at its core, it should be. - KURT
– - “For every shadow, no matter how deep is threatened by morning light.”

3) Children of Men
Children of Men is a rather difficult film to evaluate. Although its ambitions are amongst the highest of any film of 2006, its massive scope and subtle delights of brilliance are much greater and far too numerous to absorb completely in one sitting. Many shots have layered meaning; so layered you will want to pause them in an effort to analyze them more effectively. The screenplay does little to spoon feed the audience yet captures the nuances of Clive Owen’s tremendous performance in which his character’s journey of self discovery and purpose; or finding hope and meaning in an otherwise dreary existence is truly moving and deeply affecting. A performance of exquisite depth and range. Some claim Children of Men is the Blade Runner of our generation. This is not a far-fetched claim, although not because they’re similar in message, substance, or even quality but because Children of Men is as important to the sci-fi genre now as Blade Runner was in 1982.
– - “As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”

2) United 93
– Barely a film, you would swear this is more like a fortuitous documentary; as if someone happened to have cameras in all of the major stations in play on that horrible day in 2001. The news footage of the day looks like a movie while the movie actually looks more like real life. The editing involved with this film to make that happen is simply jaw dropping and the use of non-actors (in fact some are the actual people responding that day) was a stroke of brilliance and probably what helped make the film so believable and heartfelt. One of the most emotional, compelling and well made films of the decade, United 93 is perfect. Perfect.
– - “Hi mom, it’s me… this really kind woman handed me the phone and told me to call you.”

1) Pan’s Labyrinth
Pan’s Labyrinth is a cross-genre movie that gets it all right. It’s a war movie. It’s a fantasy. It’s a character-driven drama. And, in an unconventional way, it’s horror and not for the faint of heart; nor for those who’ve slaughtered the child within on the alter of harsh reality. Del Toro masterfully interweaves the real and surreal elements of the story, balancing them perfectly to create a flawless mix of real tension and magic. It speaks to the fears of our inner child wearing an adult shell and it speaks to our sense of horror at the world and life we’re surrounded with by painting a child’s demons and nightmares as vividly as Ofelia experienced them. Del Toro masterfully interweaves the real and the surreal elements of the story, balancing them perfectly to create a flawless mix of tension and magic. It’s said that at Cannes the film received a 22 minute ovation; it’s true that every second of that applause was completely earned and deserved as this is clearly Del Toro’s masterpiece. An odyssey that must be seen to be believed.
- – “A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world.”

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with our picks for 2007.

THE COMPLETE SERIES (so far):
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008

31 comments

  1. Just rewatched United 93 for the first time since the theater and it has lost none of its power. The special features on the dvd are hard to watch, the families of the victims talking about their losses.

    That Little Children is not on this list is a scandal. I would put it in the top five of the decade.

  2. Kurt Halfyard

    I'm in agreement with Rot on Little Children, and embarassed that I overlooked it (2006 in hindsight was a very good year).

    Children of Men may completely drop the ball in the final seconds of the film, but man it is an amazing piece of filmmaking.

    Wanted to through some love out there to The King and The Clown and Lady Vengeance, as 2006 was a bit of a resurgance for South Korean film…

    Two smart and reasonably successfull blockbuster-art films: The Prestige & Miami Vice.

  3. What? Little Children an HONOURABLE MENTION? :P

    Children of Men is far and above my #1, but Little Children is definitely #2.

    My other favourites: Sherrybaby, Stranger Than Fiction, After the Wedding …

    … and yeah, I'll say it … I friggin' love The Devil Wears Prada. Sue me.

  4. Other 2006 movies for discussion: The Departed, Road to Guantanamo, The Prestige, Jesus Camp, Babel, Rescue Dawn, Casino Royale, Rocky Balboa, Wordplay, Inconvenient Truth, Little Miss Sunshine, Monster House, V for Vendetta, Clerks 2, Borat, Inside Man, Slither, The Descent, Shut Up And Sing, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen, Venus, Notes on A Scandal, The Illusionist, Apocalypto, Happy Feet

  5. My 2006 list then was kind of different. it would now look like this:

    1. Pan's Labyrinth

    2. Children of Men

    3. Little Children

    4. The Prestige

    5. Rescue Dawn

    6. The Queen

    7. Apocalypto

    8. The Departed

    9. United 93

    10. Perfume

    • Here are my picks. We did this a while ago and even though I really and I mean really liked Little Children I stand by my top 5. I really should have had it as an honourable mention. Its a much better movie than District B13.

      Pan's Labyrinth
      Brick
      Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
      Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
      Exiled
      HM: The Proposition, District B13

  6. The Proposition is an 05 film… but I guess in a number of places it never made it out until 06.

  7. Rusty James

    I lived in Chicago at the time and it came out there in 2006. Did it play in Toronto in 2005?

  8. Rusty James

    And where did Rescue Dawn play in 2006? I thought that was a wide release.

  9. I've never really understood peoples problems with the ending of Children of Men. In retrospect that films greatest flaw is it's lack of any particularly strong characters which hurts it on repeat viewings for me. Still easily one of the best films of the year.

    I just saw Little Children for the first time. It's certaintly got a good pedigree but I just didn't like it.

    There's an interesting dialogue in the film about Madam Butterfly (of course it's really about the film itself). One character doesn't "get it" and says the main character is just a slut. Eventually the book club concludes that to understand a tragedy you must be able to relate and empathize with the main characters fatal flaw. That pretty accurately explains my apathy toward the film. I don't care about these people's affair. They're not even in love, they're just lonely and neglected so they act out hoping for attention. How pathetic.

    I can't fault any of the acting. And of course Jackie Earl is the best (and his scenes with Jane Adams are my favorite) but what does he have but do with the rest of the movie? I don't know, seems kinda tacked on to me.

    I love both Miami Vice and Prestige (I have more problems with Prestige's ending than Children of Men's). For once I'm in complete agreement with Kurt.

    Two additions I'd want to make are A Scanner Darkly, which addmittedly may be for PK Dick fans only (no more so than MV is for Mann fans only. Or INLAND EMPIRE is for Lynch fans only) and one of my favorite docs of the decade The Devil & Daniel Johnston.

  10. @rusty, "Madam Butterfly (of course it’s really about the film itself…"

    Actually, it is Madame Bovary. A fairly big difference, but you are right, and I think that is actually 'the worst' scene in Little Children, because it sledgehammers its point home. I thought the 'jaws' culture-of-fear with the paedophile was really well done, and of course this film was Jackie Earle Haley's rebirth as a serious adult actor and not just a DTV character actor….which is nice.

    As to not caring, that is kinda the point, the film is a SATIRE more than a Melodrama…..in my opinion anyway, hence the dry narration…

  11. @ Madame Bovary

    Yeah, I knew it was one of those MB books.

    I don't really see what the movie is satirizing. I only see it as a melodrama. It's irrelevent to my point though. Regardless of the genre, you buy the film when you buy the characters. I just didn't think their dilema was interesting. [shrugs]I don't know, have an affair or don't [/shrugs].

    But I will defend the book club scene for a second. I don't agree it's heavy handed because it's not spelling out THE POINT of the movie (I guess we disagree on what that point is). It's more like a soliloquy addressed to my part of the audience; the people bored and and indifferent to the whole thing. And as such it's actually pretty astute. It makes sense that you wouldn't like it as much because it's not really addressed to your part of the audience.

  12. And now I'll throw down for a a full on flame war: I would add Science of Sleep to the list. I think it's one of the best films of the decade.

  13. I think the biggest problem with Children of Men was it's lack of consistency in tone. You want these war scenes to feel realistic, and you do so much to convince your audience that these characters are actually in dire straits, but then you have them cracking jokes in the middle of it?

    United 93 was great. The wind that shakes the barley was amazing. Babel was my favorite of that year, but I haven't even seen it since.

    Lives of Others was fucking crap though. Sappy bullshit.

  14. I'm pretty happy with this list. Happier than I was with the 2005 list, anyway!

    Children of Men for me – I don't know. I couldn't really point to anything wrong with it when I watched it – the detail was amazing, set design, art direction, cinematography, mise-en-scene, everything was technically flawless. But I didn't connect with it, and I'm not sure why. Maybe enough time has passed now that I could rewatch it and love it the way I wanted to the first time.

    So much love for both Pan's Labyrinth and The Fountain. Pretty sure INLAND EMPIRE was on my original list, too. And Brick I know was. I actually listened to a podcast the other day with a bunch of Pan's Labyrinth haters on it, and I was aghast – there are people who hate Pan's Labyrinth? How?! Ah, well.

  15. @ You want these war scenes to feel realistic, and you do so much to convince your audience that these characters are actually in dire straits, but then you have them cracking jokes in the middle of it?

    People make jokes sometimes Henrik. I watched it recently and I'm not sure what you're refering to. The scene in the car and the scene in the war zone are both flawless.

    What podcast was it Jandy?

  16. Rusty, it's a relatively new podcast for Flickchart (posts on blog.flickchart.com). The hosts use Flickchart matchups as a jumping off point for film discussions – they're a little on the fanboy side for me, but they still bring up some interesting stuff. I need to see if I can guest on there at some point – they need a female perspective sometimes!

    EDIT: Just to be fair, it was a couple of the guys who didn't care for Pan's that much – they wouldn't necessarily claim to be haters, but even the thought that there are haters surprised me. And they chose the other film (don't remember what, but it didn't deserve it) over Pan's in the end.

  17. I consider Lady Vengeance a 2005 film – otherwise it would've topped my list. Easily.

    I still haven't seen Little Children (shut up – it's not for lack of wanting to…), but I'm even more curious now after seeing the reactions. As Kurt has said before, it also has a helluva trailer.

    I really like Wordplay as well. It doesn't do too much new as far as the basic form of documentaries, but it found a fun, interesting topic with smart, engaging characters and a storyline that actually has you on the edge of your seat at times (who knew a crossword tournament could do that?).

    Radiant City was a pretty great Canadian docu-drama-mentary about suburban sprawl. Haven't seen Cars mentioned yet – I know it's not top tier Pixar, but I still really enjoyed it.

    I'd echo Ashley on After The Wedding as well. Terrific performances from everyone, but Mads Mikkelsen really shines.

    And Kurt – I still don't buy your argument about Miami Vice, BUT I actually found it on DVD for $4 so I picked it up and will give it another try. I'm skeptical but hopeful that I'll pick up something new and different on a second viewing.

    Others I consider as solid 2006 films: Offside, Retribution, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, A Prairie Home Companion, Aachi and Ssipak, I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK, Still Life, City Of Violence, Reincarnation, This Is England, Reprise, The Great Happiness Space.

    And The Pervert's Guide To Cinema is a fun ride through some of the greatest films of all time with philosopher Slavoj Zizek as the conductor. Some people will hate his different takes on Hitchcock and others, but I found it a lot of fun to view these films through Zizek's perspective.

  18. "I’m not sure what you’re refering to."

    I present, an exchange commonly referred to as "the worst":

    "How is she?"

    "Annoyed."

    This mom sure does keep her composure.

  19. The Departed… Good Night and Good Luck… The Squid and the Whale.

  20. As Rowthree did not exist when Little Children came out my Twitch review on the film, maybe this will provide some insight, Rusty:

    http://twitchfilm.net/reviews/2006/09/tiff-report

    and for fun, my top 10 of 2006 written in January 2007:

    http://twitchfilm.net/news/2007/01/what-to-do-on-

  21. Your review reminded me that I would include Manderlay on my list. Possibly Von Triers best film. Though once again I disagree that the movie is a critic of America.

    Lars' America trilogy is clearly a satirical spin on Catholic doctrine.

    DOGville

    MANderlay

    WaSINton

    The crucifix symbolizes man's seperation from god. So the image of the crucifix is woven into the titles across the series.

    If I had to prove in a court of law that the Ameria Trilogy is about catholocism I'm positive I could.

  22. Kurt Halfyard

    Or is it about canine love/sex?

    DOGville

    MANderLAY

    WaSHINgton

    I'm just pulling your chain Rusty, I'm a big fan of Manderlay, he seems to find the cinema/minimalism balance better in that one then Dogville, even if the characters don't stand out as much as they did in the first one.

  23. Rusty James

    I disagree. Issah De Bakole is huge in that movie. And I prefer Bryce Dallas Howell to Nicholl Portman.

    Also, did no one notice that I said Science of Sleep is one of the best films of the decade? C'mon everyone. Get all riled up.

  24. Rusty James

    RE: your review. "mild obsession" is an oxy moron.

  25. Kurt Halfyard

    Heh, it's also a detached figure of speech. ;)

  26. Rusty James

    @ Heh, it’s also a detached figure of speech

    well that's no good. you should reattach it.

  27. Hmmm, I can't get riled up at Science Of Sleep. I like it. A great deal actually. But it doesn't stir my passions…I do have to say that a second viewing was much better than the first, so maybe it'll grow even more on me in the future. Some great scenes in there though.

    Once someone calls Slumdog best of the decade, THEN I'll get riled up. B-)

  28. Well Bob, I'm glad you like it. It is a misunderstood film.

  29. Science of Sleep funny enough (timely comment) had the same gradual boredom effect on me WTWTA did, except SoS never hit the same highs. Over the last couple years I've really been skeptical of Gondry's capabilities without someone like Kaufman there to work with.

  30. Gondry gets a lifetime pass from me simply due to his incredible music videos. I know, I know, a 4 minute short film set to music is vastly different than a long form narrative. But they're REALLY good short films.

    That's funny though Goon – I don't think I was ever bored by SoS. It didn't quite work for me first time around, but there was enough to keep me engaged (even if the characters were frustrating). Second time around, I think I got the characters a bit more, so it was stronger. I also didn't have the heavy expectations of ESotSM weighing on me.

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