20. The Notorious Bettie Page
Written and directed by the same pair who did American Psycho, here we have a biopic of the infamous S&M pinup girl. Most of the film is in black & white, switching over to color only when she goes to Florida, and for the 'archived' film footage. The campiness is off the charts, right in line with Bettie Page's real-life work.
I'm not into crossword puzzles, but this documentary was fun nonetheless. It delves into how the puzzlemasters create their work, follows the paths of several experts striving to win the national championship, and mixes in celebrity puzzle fiends, including Mike Mussina. Amazingly, this film might have the most heartbreaking ending of any movie of 2006.
18. Inside Man
Interesting caper by Spike Lee. Clive Owen takes hostages at a bank, Denzel Washington is the cop trying to get him out, and Jodie Foster hangs around not doing much of anything. I really liked the reveal of how the robbery went down. Clever stuff.
17. Mission: Impossible III
I admit it: I liked it. Surprisingly good film thanks to a great cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and the brilliant Simon Pegg. Gets the coveted Exceeded Expectations Award.
16. Akeelah and the Bee
Hey, back-to-back Laurence Fishburne films. Check out the bit role by Eddie Steeples (Crabman from "My Name Is Earl") as a gang leader.
1940s film noir set in the now. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a teenager trying to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend. Everyone talks like characters out of a Bogart film. My favorite line was, "I've got all five senses and I slept last night. That puts me six up on the lot of you."
14. Find Me Guilty
Vin Diesel has hair! Talk about odd. Diesel plays a gangster who defends himself during a massive mafia trial. This is a true story, and they used the actual court transcripts for the trial scenes. Peter Dinklage plays a fellow defense attorney, too.
13. Winter Passing
I adore Zooey Deschanel. Unfortunately, she plays a cocaine addict here, visiting her father (Ed Harris) for the first time in years. She's still cute. Will Ferrell plays a wannabe rocker who plays golf in a small bedroom with Harris. I want to try that.
12. Eight Below
Another true story, this one about eight huskies stuck in an Antarctic snowstorm. Paul Walker is the lovelorn scientist who goes nuts trying to save them. Very sad, as not all the dogs live. Disney couldn't've taken historical liberties with that?
Another in the "better than I expected" category. The ending is utterly ridiculous and not remotely plausible, but everything that came before it made me laugh. ("This is great, because I always wanted to get hepatitis.")
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Yes it was fun, but way too long. The story didn't really get going until about an hour in. Not nearly as good as the original, but still entertaining. I'm greatly looking forward to Geoffrey Rush joining Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp in the third film.
9. Clerks II
More Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back than Clerks, there wasn't nearly enough clever dialogue. Randal was always my favorite non-Jason Lee character from Kevin Smith's films. And Rosario Dawson is really hot.
8. Little Miss Sunshine
I haven't yet decided if the ending is brilliantly hilarious or horribly painful. Steve Carell is easily the breakout star of 2006.
7. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story
"The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" is an insanely long book about a guy trying to tell his life story, but who gets sidetracked so much, he never even gets up to his birth. ("But I'm getting ahead of myself; I've not yet been born.") The film, then, is about the making of a film based on a book that is unfilmable. Steve Coogan plays himself playing Tristram Shandy. Classic British humor here.
6. An Inconvenient Truth
The most important movie of the year. I immediately felt horrible for every energy-wasting activity ever. Learn more here: ClimateCrisis.net.
5. The Prestige
From the director of Memento, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are rival magicians both trying to master the Transporting Man trick. It opens with Bale being sentenced to death for killing Jackman, and ends with a seriously fucked-up resolution. Bonus points for featuring Scarlett Johansson.
4. V For Vendetta
Somehow I didn't know this was about the Guy Fawkes story going in. Tremendous movie. Everything about it was great, from the "Count of Monte Cristo"-style imprisonment to the Benny Hill parody with Stephen Fry. I don't own the special edition DVD yet, for some reason.
3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Funniest title of the year, and funniest movie of the year. It's pretty much one continuous 90-minute laugh.
2. The Departed
Has everyone seen this by now? Good. It majorly pissed me off that Leonardo DiCaprio was killed so anticlimactically by an irrelevant character. Who the hell was that guy? I think it was Matt Damon's partner, but I can't be sure. You don't have a character that minor kill your protagonist. Bah.
That's my only problem with the movie. Everything else about it was outstanding. I even enjoyed Scorcese tackling the "let's shoot as many people in the head as possible" challenge.
1. Stranger Than Fiction
The most original movie of the year. Even though the entire premise is that Will Ferrell can hear Emma Thompson's narration, it still takes you by surprise when he responds to it, which only makes things funnier. Dustin Hoffman was great as the lit professor. I'm cool with the ending, too. It works for me.