Help us support the longevity of our historic audio archive--housing over 10,000 hours of rare, experimental, and cutting-edge, radio programming.

DONATE

Follow us on:

LISTEN

Donate to Clocktower today.

DONATE

Top 10 Movies of 2006



01 The Queen - Easily the Movie of the Year. This modestly budgeted, unexpectedly emotional study of Queen Elizabeth II in the week following the death of Princess Diana has superb, often caustic writing from Peter Morgan, insightful direction via the always reliable Stephen Frears and two outstanding performances in Helen Mirren's second Queen Elizabeth of the year - following her Emmy-winning HBO study of the first Elizabeth - and Michael Sheen's Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is here presented at the peak of his popularity. What begins as a comedy of manners quickly becomes one of the year's most moving considerations of personal responsibility and power politics. Morgan also scripted the ingenious The Last King of Scotland, another study of a historical figure starring Forest Whitaker as Ugandan president and military dictator Idi Amin Dada.



02 Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima - I'm grouping Clint Eastwood's double whammy as one since they are two sides of the sad siege known as the battle of Iwo Jima. Flags looks at the battle and then the Stateside troubles of three of the men who raised a flag on Mount Suribachi, in a movie that questions not patriotism but how the government will subvert truth for patriotism. Letters, as I've mentioned previously, is amazing not only in its contemplation of imminent death by the Japanese soldiers but also in its sympathetic portrait of the ostensible enemy.



03 The Lives of Others - Germany's sleeper hit, this look at the dreaded East German secret spy agency the Stasi gives shivers as it looks at what life was like in the 1980s police state-Communist Dictatorship when glasnost was not even an idea. Frightening and moving and romantic, it's a one-of-a-kind movie that works on every level. An amazing debut from writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. That's a name to remember.



04 Little Miss Sunshine - Another American indie that seemingly came out of nowhere with two filmmakers making a splendid debut, the husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, in a darkly comic road movie scripted by Michael Arndt who is making his screenwriting debut as well. The first-rate ensemble includes Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear as the couple, Abigail Breslin as their tubby would be child pageant star, Alan Arkin as the heroin-snorting, porn-obsessed grandpa, Steve Carrell as Collette's suicidal gay brother and Paul Dano as the son who has stopped talking.



05 Happy Feet - Easily the most ambitious movie of the year, George Miller's CGI-animated penguin tale has the classic Biblical overtones of his Mad Max series and a wonderful use of music for its environmental message. And what a cast: Hugh Jackman channeling Elvis as the daddy penguin, Nicole Kidman doing a breathy Marilyn as mommy penguin, Elijah Wood as Mumble, who doesn't sing but tap dances, and Brittany Murphy as his love interest. There is also Robin Williams in two roles. All this and a new Prince song.



06 Babel - I dreaded another exercise in depression from Mexico's Alejandro González Iñárritu, who directs, and Guillermo Arriaga, who writes. After Amores Perros, which I liked, and 21 Grams, which I hated, I didn't think they needed to go back to the same well for a third time. Well, they surprised me with this multi-continent, multi-language look at individual isolation and communion. Filmed in Tokyo, Mexico, southern California and Morocco, Iñárritu compels our attention with a puzzle whose pieces only gradually come together.



07 Shut Up & Sing - Barbara Kopple and Cynthia Peck's look at what happened to the Dixie Chicks after they bashed George W. Bush turned out to be a rousing study in showbiz reinvention, heartland hypocrisy and the times we live in. While An Inconvenient Truth is undoubtedly the more socially and politically important documentary, I don't think we'll see a more entertaining or emotionally engaging one than this.



08 The Departed - Not as great perhaps as Goodfellas, but a mighty entertaining gangsterland saga nonetheless, via veteran Martin Scorsese, who adapted a Hong Kong trilogy and reset it among Irish Boston cops and criminals. What a pip of a cast, each of whom could not be better: Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga.



09 Dreamgirls - Bill Condon's masterful transition of the Broadway hit to the screen makes a star of Jennifer Hudson and shows what strength there is in old-fashioned backstage backstabbing and reconciliation.



10 The Painted Veil - I was totally unprepared for this third version of Somerset Maugham's tale of infidelity and redemption for a British couple in 1920 cholera-stricken China. I was totally unprepared for how vital this fiction could be, especially since it remains one of Greta Garbo's lesser vehicles. But Edward Norton and Naomi Watts are just sensationally right and moving as the two twits who grow up and find some meaning in their lives. Director John Curran, who worked with Watts on We Don't Live Here Anymore, should definitely take a bow.


(30 minutes).
 

RELATED PROGRAMS

Beyond the Subtitles

RADIO SERIES

Stephen Schaefer hosts candid conversations with actors, filmmakers, producers and movie people near and far. Schaefer has over three decades of writing and talking about movies behind him. He is the author of the Hollywood spoof The Autobiography of Marla Del Marr as told to Stephen Schaefer  and is currently a film critic and entertainment writer for The Boston Herald; and a contributor to USA Today and Entertainment Weekly.
more