Top Ten

Chris Dashiell
Alexander Ellerman
Chris Knipp
Shari L. Rosenblum
Howard Schumann

Top (and Bottom) Movies of 2006 
by Alexander Ellerman

The Hidden Blade (Yôji Yamada) : A hauntingly beautiful meditation on honor, duty, and love, this film made me feel like I was witnessing something very special. I loved it, loved it, loved it.

United 93 (Paul Greengrass) : The most terrifying movie of 2006, this picture eschews cheap melodrama in favor of a (relatively) clear-eyed portrayal of events as they unfolded on that day. Paul Greengrass took the time to make United 93 technically accurate as well as heart-wrenching, giving the film value as a record as much as acinematic experience.

Borat (Larry Charles): The biggest, most pleasant surprise of 2006, Borat combines sharp satire with broad humor and serves it with a disarming smile. I laughed, I thought, I laughed some more, I thought some more. Wow.

Running Scared (Wayne Kramer): Another surprise. Running Scared is pulp film done right: fast, twisting, creative, and with a sense of the joy of filmmaking. Running Scared is violent, gentle, and scary; sometimes all at the same time. I watched it, then watched it again with the commentary track. What a treat.

A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman): This film reflects the sardonic gentleness of its namesake radio program, combining humor and pathos in a moving and affirming package. It serves as a fitting bookend to the career of the great Robert Altman.

Slither (James Gunn): What a fun movie! Slither combines hilarious dialogue with scary monsters, leaving audiences shaking with laughter one moment and jumping with fright the next. Nathan Fillion, an actor still looking for his breakthrough role, anchors a cast doing great comic work and creating a terrific time at the movies. I don't know how well this will do in the home market, but I loved seeing it in the theater.

And now for the worst...

Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay): I have friends from the South who think this is the funniest movie ever, but I just don't get it. I sat, stone-faced, through this entire 'comedy,' wondering what possessed people to make this piece of junk. It's condescending, stupid, boorish, and just plain not funny. Not only does Talladega Nights fail, it fails spectacularly. What a wreck.

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer): A story in which the protagonist remains unchanged is not a story. It's a vignette. Superman Returns gives us a two-hour long vignette trying to trick us into thinking it's more through visual wizardry. The Spider-Man series taught that character comes first. Superman Returns skipped that class.

Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris): This film made me feel sad and depressed. OK, so did The Bicycle Thief, but LMS lacked the technical virtuosity of that classic. This film garnered critical acclaim in 2006, but I guess I missed the bus.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom): I respect this film's attempt to do something unique in its adaptation of an unadaptable novel. Unfortunately, it failed. Tristram Shandy felt so clearly like an experiment that I couldn't lose myself in it, and a film that holds its viewers at arm's distance does not make for a good time at the movies.

Bubble (Steven Soderbergh): This slice-of-life drama tried to create art out of dull people doing uninteresting things. While there are art forms that can surely accomplish this, film is not among them. Ebert called Bubbler a classic, a masterpiece. I guess I missed the bus on this one, too.

Poseidon (Wolfgang Peterson): Poseidon struck me as a movie for people who never go to movies. or those of us who do see the occasional film, it felt calculated and hackneyed, with obvious themes and an easily predictable mortality roster. I think of some of the movies on my Bottom Six as honorable misfires: at least their creators tried to stretch. Poseidon's aggressive mediocrity seems doesn't even let it take credit for trying. Additionally, Poseidon felt painful. In a movie about one bad thing happening after another, it was hard to feel anything other than dread. Boredom and dread: not a recipe for a good time at the movies.

©2007 Alexander Ellerman

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