The Best of 2006: Theatrical

(As seen in yesterday’s Metro, for those of you in meatspace.)

A top ten list, by definition, excludes a whole bunch of other worthy contenders. So feel free to seek out “Brothers of the Head”, “Friends with Money”, “Old Joy”, “Superman Returns”, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” and “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”, all of which came awfully close to making the final cut.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Sacha Baron Cohen takes his merrily ignorant reporter – and his hidden cameras – across America for a convulsively funny, and disturbingly revealing look at that country’s insular culture. Friends are made, and lessons are sort of learned; it’s “E.T.” with naked wrestling and a bear.


Rian Johnson gives 1940s film noir a new context with his ingenious murder mystery, which takes place in a contemporary California high school. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fine choice for the cranky shamus, and Nora Zehetner – recently seen as the manipulative Eden on “Heroes” – makes one hell of a femme fatale.


The Austrian director Michael Haneke delivers his doctoral thesis on guilt and paranoia with this harrowing study of a French TV personality (Daniel Auteuil) who starts receiving mysterious surveillance videotapes. For creepy, ambiguous intensity, there was nothing else like it … though that’s probably a good thing.

Children of Men

Alfonso Cuaron shakes off the shackles of the “Harry Potter” franchise with this astonishingly realized action-thriller set in a desolate, infertile future; not only is the movie’s fictional England utterly convincing, but Clive Owen’s subtle performance gives it a furious emotional kick.

The Departed

Martin Scorsese stops trying to win awards and gets back to making movies with a pulse. With top-flight performances and breakneck plotting, this is the best thing he’s done since ”
“GoodFellas” … and, ironically, might be the picture that gets him that Oscar after all. (Here’s hoping the Academy notices how good Martin Sheen is, too.)

Kings and Queen

Arnaud Desplechin’s astonishing film spends two and a half hours watching two Parisians struggle with their personal baggage. As gripping as any thriller, with incredible performances from Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Almaric. Naturally, it went unreleased in Canada for two years. Don’t wait that long to pick up the DVD.

Lady Vengeance

For the final installment of his vengeance trilogy – in which wronged characters exact horrible revenge upon the people they hold responsible for their suffering – Korean virtuoso Park Chan-wook delivers a study in icy justice that dares you to turn away from the screen, even as Lee Yeong-ae’s performance keeps you glued to it.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro’s magnificent fairy tale for grown-ups follows a young girl who flees from the Spanish Civil War into a supernatural underworld that may or may not be entirely in her head. Enchanting and disturbing in equal parts, this is the film del Toro has been working towards his entire career. See it on a big screen.

A Prairie Home Companion

The last film of the iconoclastic director Robert Altman is, somewhat fittingly, a quietly moving meditation on death – as experienced by the cast and crew of a live radio show on the night of their final broadcast. And the scene between Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen is a master class in acting.

Stranger Than Fiction

Will Ferrell makes his mark as a dramatic actor as an ordinary man who starts hearing the story of his own life, as written and read by Emma Thompson; even more impressive is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who couldn’t be ordinary if she tried, as the baker for whom Ferrell falls. Extra points for dragging Wreckless Eric out of the dustbin.

6 thoughts on “The Best of 2006: Theatrical”

  1. Any idea when Pan’s Labyrinth is gonna be released in Montreal? only has it coming out in Toronto so far. :

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