2006 has been a year of fascination for me for some time due to a healthy amount of Cinematour photos taken this year. I remember that more than I remember most of these films. I don’t cover the middle 50 but I could play real or fake with half of them. This was a weirdly bland year. Here’s how.
The Bottom 25
#76. Stranger Than Fiction. Right off the bat we get one of the very best films of the year. Everything about this film from the script to the acting is top-tier. This one has developed a strong reputation over the years. Good.
#77. The Illusionist. The “other” of the two magician films along with The Prestige and by far the worse film. This movie angers me as a study of magic history because of a baffling use of CGI in several shots to reproduce tricks that were quite common on stage. Not like the rest of the film was that good. Boring and predictable.
#78. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Prequels are lazy excuses for sequels most of the time. This franchise hadn’t written itself into a corner. Still got this. No need.
#79. The Grudge 2. I like seeing the slow decay of American versions of Japanese horror films. We really milked this trend for a while and horror wasn’t fun for a while.
#80. Gridiron Gang. Dwayne Johnson spent a long time trying to figure out film. This was his “families like me but I’m not sure if I should be funny” stab. Didn’t work.
#81. Last Holiday. I haven’t seen this one but maybe that’s not ok. I like Queen Latifah. I’ll always wish Hollywood had any idea how to use her. I’m at peace that they have no idea. But she deserved better than she got. Might need to double back.
#82. Pan’s Labyrinth. Yes, it’s in the bottom 25. Of course it’s arguably the year’s best film. But let me suggest that for a Spanish language, R-rated fairy tale, this is pretty impressive. It got a solid release to the point I saw it in a nice stadium seating theater. This one did solidly. And seriously it’s hypnotically mazing.
#83. The Nativity Story. In 2006-2007, Hollywood broke its back trying to cash in on Faith Based films. This was their biggest shot and it didn’t work. In some clumsy whitewashing we got New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes and Guatemalan Oscar Isaac as our leads. Not good, Hollywood. Beyond Isaac being in this in his breakout, not a film of note.
#84. The Wild. How bad were things for Disney animation in the 2000s? They distributed several films from other animation houses. This won’t be one they bring out every few years.
#85. Man of the Year. Remember how this movie had such a great hook with the very zeitgeist idea of a comedian becoming president? Remember how that was NOT the plot? You don’t remember that because it was a Barry Levinson film made after 1991 that wasn’t Wag the Dog so nobody saw it.
#86. 16 Blocks. The final film to date from the legendary Richard Donner. I always feel sad when I see a film like this–mediocre and forgotten–as the swan song to someone like Donner who gave us two great Superman films.
#87. Accepted. I have no idea why I didn’t see this. I’m sure the buzz was weak but it was still my kind of film. I suppose Justin Long just strained my credibility far too hard as a high school senior. (It was SEVEN YEARS after Galaxy Quest.)
#88. The Sentinel. This kind of star driven but utterly nothing thriller was dead by the end of the decade. I’m not really sad. Michael Douglas as a Secret Service agent isn’t even a pitch. It’s a basic start.
#89. Children of Men. Another alltimer. Honestly why wasn’t this bigger? It’s a great hook with some incredible action scenes and it’s quite emotional. This wasn’t a glacial art piece. Universal kind of stumbled here on the release. Also that’s 2 of the fabled 3 amigos with Cuaron and Del Toro.
#90. Deck The Halls. Not letting go of Children of Men. How did it barely outgross a Matthew Broderick/Danny De Vito tacky comedy with an incest joke? This is staggeringly awful and yet just barely failed to outgross a truly important film.
#91. Take The Lead. Look, it wasn’t ever meant to be for Antonio Banderas in the US. He had hits but usually in ensembles or films where he wasn’t the lead. The guy was a great character actor but this kind of bland, inspirational pap wasn’t for him.
#92. Babel. Forget Accepted. This is the real “why didn’t I see this?” film of the year. Like to the point I’m tempted to seek it out since I love everyone involved. This did mark the rather brutal end to the collaboration between Alejandro Innaritu (3 for 3!) and Gulliermo Arriaga.
#93. Snakes on a Plane. Squee. I love this movie. It’s nothing more than a goofy time and it’s so great for it. I’ve expounded so many words on it. I won’t waste any more but to say it’s a comfort food movie for me.
#94. She’s the Man. An Amanda Bynes vehicle. :logs off. Goes to a window. Looks out. Feels very sad for the things he’s heard were done to her. Feels pain for her mental illness. Feels no desire to be snarky. Feels tremendous rage towards those that hurt her.:
#95. Flags of Our Fathers. What happened? This is a Clint Eastwood war movie and not one in one of his slumps. His last film was the Oscar winning smash Million Dollar Baby. This is a weird flop. That said, the Japanese language companion Letters From Iwo Jima is so much better.
#96. United 93. Is this the very best attempt at telling a true story onscreen ever? I think so. Not the best film but the closest a film got to putting us there. This was Hollywood’s first attempt at capturing 9/11 and it really should’ve been the final word.
#97. Employee of the Month. Dane Cook. Dax Shepard. Jessica Simpson. If they’d startled skunks in the theaters while a goat screaming played at deafening volume I wouldn’t have felt less interest in going.
#98. Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. Crazy fact: This thing made 4 times what it made domestically overseas. So this didn’t do enough to go to a third film, and fine, but an unexpectedly big performer.
#99. The Ant Bully. This was predicted to be a big hit. It really wasn’t.
#100. Crank. Funny how this wasn’t a big hit but had a massive impact anyway. Even got a sequel. I’d wager more of you know this film than a lot of the top 25.
The top 25
#25. Charlotte’s Web. Does anybody remember this was a thing? We got a live action Charlotte’s Web remake. Nobody remembers it. We just know the animated film. Remakes. Don’t. Matter.
#24. The Santa Clause 3: Escape Clause. Another movie that I’m floored by. It wasn’t discussed at all. Nobody I know with kids saw it. But it did better than Saw III. This is a testament to cultural memory and to how isolated you can be even when immersed in culture.
#23. Open Season. One I do remember. DreamWorks ruined animation for a long time. This wanted to be Shrek in the Woods. It outgrossed the witty and urbane Flushed Away. Seriously sad.
#22. Inside Man. Yay! Spike Lee and Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster and Clive Owen making a heist movie. How could I not love this thing? Add in a killer opening song cowritten by A.R Rahman and this is a killer afternoon. Lee’s most mainstream film but still one he can be proud of.
#21. Failure to Launch. Matthew McConaughey has correctly expressed pride in how hard these films are to make. He’s right. This is still a bad movie. A lot of talented people wasted time on this.
#20. Scary Movie 4. Anna Faris is one of our most natural comediennes currently working. The roles she’s gotten do not reflect that. This is mostly a War of the Worlds parody. I look forward to talking about that in two weeks.
#19. Dreamgirls. Remember how this was the odds on favorite for Best Picture right up until the moment it failed to score a nomination? Not one I saw. Not one I cared about. Bill Condon makes pretty but hollow films.
#18. The Break-Up. I hate this movie so much. This is why I think Vince Vaughn is not a lead. It’s why I think Jennifer Aniston was never better than on Friends because it shows she can only play Rachel. This film wants to be a serious relationship drama but hasn’t the nerve to actually say anything. Movies like this anger me.
#17. The Devil Wears Prada. Again, not for me. I don’t care about fashion. I wasn’t the audience, didn’t go, and that’s just fine.
#16. Borat. OK I’ll level with y’all, I’m really wrestling with this one. On one hand, this is one of the great comedies of all time. On the other, the more that I examine this film, the more it feels like the joke relies on “reality” that really isn’t there. This whole film is built on intensely staged setups that are vicious examples of punching down. It’s hysterical but probably not aging well.
#15. The Departed. 2006’s Best Picture winner. This is a film that I like a lot, think is fascinating in its construction, and from a vantage point of 10 years am baffled to remember won Best Picture. It’s a great popcorn movie but coming from a director other than perpetual Oscar snub victim Martin Scorsese (who lost that here), it ain’t an award winner.
#14. Mission Impossible III. The movie that underwhelmed to the point the series had to at least start to soft reboot for the much later 4th film. Then when 4,5, and apparently 6 turned out to be quite good, it got a reevaluation. I haven’t seen these but the MI fanbase seems chill and even the ones they dislike, they’re nice on.
#13. Click. Adam Sandler is a business but he’s good at it. Look I haven’t seen one of his films (aside from Funny People) since 2004. I’ll say what I usually say. I like the guy. I respect him. I hate these movies.
#12. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Why was I so mean to Will Ferrell’s later comedies in this vein? They’re not as good as this. I love every last line of this genius comedy. It’s such a strange, well crafted film. It helps there’s an utter murderer’s row of talent in it from Sacha Baron Cohen and John C. Reilly to Amy Adams making a just pre-huge break turn. I just adore this film.
#11. Over the Hedge. I don’t adore this. DreamWorks, y’all took a nicely snarky, witty comic strip and sanded off every last edge it had. WHY. This is okay removed from its source but so not worthy of Verne and R.J.
#10. The Pursuit of Happyness. A good movie that could’ve been great if it had been honest. This breaks its back making the hero a hero. He wasn’t by his own admission and that would’ve made for something fascinating. As is, a sweet family film but nothing more.
#9. Casino Royale. James Bond supposedly went Bourne here. Nope. This is Bond going Ian Fleming. Getting back to the original novel paid off with one hell of a film. This James Bond is the first where the codename theory falters. He’s a very real person. The theory most of Die Another Day was a hallucination and this is a direct sequel ALMOST works though.
#8. Ice Age: The Meltdown. The start of this franchise running too long. Once things melt, that’s that. Once the continents drift, that’s really that. Once the dinosaurs–OK this is a weird series.
#7. Happy Feet. A legitimately very cool animated film from George Miller. This and the sequel were how he stayed sharp for Fury Road. It’s wild this is true. I’m glad he did, both for that happening and this just being awesome.
#6. Superman Returns. I really like this movie. It’s a fun, exciting third film that with the Richard Donner cut of Superman II forms a fun what if trilogy. However why the hell did WB executives ever think a hypothetical sequel to a series that wasn’t really that big with the current generation was the way to go? Attack Man of Steel all you want but at least that was an idea.
#5. The Da Vinci Code. My theory as to why this book was popular: a response to the agonizing popularity of Left Behind. This was as well written a book as those. No way was I seeing how Akiva Goldsman would execute this onscreen.
#4. X-Men: The Last Stand. For years I defended this one as a fun film that at least delivered the mayhem I wanted. Then I rewatched it. All it gives you is a great finale. As a story, it’s all over the place. It has no idea what it’s saying thematically. It sure as hell has no desire to adapt Dark Phoenix though it was handed it. It’s even kind of ugly with very flat cinematography. Useless this is.
#3. Cars. I really have a lot of warmth for this sweet film. I even like the sequel. Not a great film but so gentle and pleasant to be in. Maybe it’s my innate affection for small towns that makes me love this film. Whatever. I’m glad I’m weak for it.
#2. Night at the Museum. We made this a three film franchise. WHY? Ben Stiller has made some fine films including the brilliant The Cable Guy and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but this is his hack age. It’s not a time to be proud of. This is 2006 in film defined: too mediocre to feel anything but bafflement at.
#1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Happily the biggest film was a solid one. I noted last time that I like the sequels a lot. Why? Because of the reasons people don’t. I love how unwieldy they are. These are big movies that give you a lot to enjoy. Huge fan. Of the first 3.
Next time, Batman Begins his image rehabilitation, stars come out in force, and the original Star Wars era ends in 2005.