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The Best (and Worst) in Film

2006 Edition

This year's films have had a distinctly political slant. There have been biopics on historical figures: Idi Amin, Marie Antoinette, Willie Stark (aka Governor Huey Long of Louisiana), Queen Elizabeth II. There have been international incidents: Babel, The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale, Letters from Iwo Jima, Borat. We've experience the good with the bad, and the funny with the…not so funny. With the world in turmoil, is it any wonder that our cinema would reflect some of the same? Here are our critic's picks for the best and worst films and performances from this year.

Anhoni Patel

Best Films
1. Heart of the Game: One of the most compelling documentaries I've ever seen and one of the best sports films ever created. It's skillfully directed, interesting, and inspires without resorting to saccharine devices.
2. Thank You for Smoking
3. The Last King of Scotland
4. Little Children
5. Children of Men

Honorable Mention: Water, Marie Antoinette, All the King's Men

Worst Films
1. Date Movie: Do I have to even explain? An amalgamation of complete and utter crap culled from a series of B-movies.
2. Underworld: Evolution
3. The Lake House
4. The Da Vinci Code
5. The Fountain

Best Performances
1. Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland: This man will have been robbed if he does not win an Oscar. He plays an insane megalomaniac dictator and somehow makes him human.
2. Annette Bening, Running with Scissors
3. Sean Penn, All the King's Men
4. Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
5. Helen Mirren, The Queen

Honorable Mention: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat

Worst Performances
1. Keanu Reeves, The Lake House: I would bet money on the fact that this guy couldn't act to save his life. He's had his moments, but generally speaking he's as nuanced as a bag of rocks. His lack of talent shines in this waste of a movie.
2. Tony Curran, Underworld: Evolution
3. Jessica Simpson, Employee of the Month
4. Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code
5. The entire cast of Date Movie

Matt Forsman

Best Films
1. Casino Royale: This reboot of the Bond franchise blew audiences and critics away. A stellar screenplay, a rough around the edges Bond (Daniel Craig), and an absence of gadgets and quips round out a film that is more than just a great Bond film, it’s a great film period.
2. The Queen
3. The Descent
4. Borat
5. The Fountain

Honorable Mention: The Matador

Worst Films
1. Unaccompanied Minors: Ack! This was simply the most painful drivel vomited onto the silver screen this year. A crappy story, feebly constructed characters, and some of the most pathetic attempts at humor round out the frontrunner for the 2006 "Razzie" award. Simply put, this one’s craptastic.
2. Basic Instinct 2
3. The Grudge 2
4. Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties
5. Just My Luck

Dishonorable Mention: The Shaggy Dog

Best Performances
1. Helen Mirren, The Queen: Mirren was simply riveting in her turn as the Queen in the aptly titled, The Queen. An exceptional actor, Mirren deserves more than an Oscar nomination for her performance, she deserves the win.
2. Daniel Craig, Casino Royale
3. Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
4. Pierce Brosnan, The Matador
5. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

Honorable Mention: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Worst Performances
1. David Morissey, Basic Instinct 2: Sharon Stone runs a close second for her ridiculous performance in this soft core porn classic, but Morissey takes the cake with his pathetic, one note performance as Stone’s prey in this carnal cat and mouse garbage.
2. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct 2
3. Lewis Black, Unaccompanied Minors
4. Russell Crowe, A Good Year
5. Tim Allen, Shaggy Dog

Dishonorable Mention: Jon Heder, School For Scoundrels

Rossiter Drake

Best Films
1. The Science of Sleep: Writer-director Michel Gondry’s latest is a stunning, surreal work of the imagination. Revisiting themes he explored so artfully in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he presents a powerfully original meditation on the agony of unrequited love, with a visual flair that would make Tim Burton envious.
2. Letters From Iwo Jima
3. Deliver Us From Evil
4. After Innocence
5. V For Vendetta

Honorable Mention: Flags of Our Fathers, The Proposition

Worst Films
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: Sure, it’s an easy choice, but it’s the right choice. Remaking the Tobe Hooper classic was dubious enough. Following it up with this wildly ill-conceived prequel was unforgivable.
2. The Pink Panther
3. Little Man
4. The Black Dahlia
5. Unaccompanied Minors

Dishonorable Mention: Friends With Money, Big Momma’s House 2

Best Performances
1. Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland: Forest Whitaker’s performance as Idi Amin may not earn him an Oscar, but it should. With fury in his eyes and a manic spring to his step, Whitaker projects an air of diabolical menace not soon forgotten.
2. Helen Mirren, The Queen
3. Kate Winslet, Little Children
4. Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
5. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal

Honorable Mention: Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland; Penelope Cruz, Volver

Worst Performances
1. Scarlett Johansson, Black Dahlia: She’s hot. She’s sexy. And she’s uncharacteristically inept as a femme fatale in Brian De Palma’s latest misfire.
2. Jessica Simpson, Employee of the Month
3. Steve Martin, The Pink Panther
4. Dane Cook, Employee of the Month
5. Adam Sandler, Click

Dishonorable Mention: Josh Hartnett, Black Dahlia; Aaron Eckhart, Black Dahlia

Mel Valentin

Best Films
1. Pan’s Labyrinth: Guillermo del Toro’s loose trilogy about childhood, the loss of innocence, and very real human monsters concludes triumphantly with this dark fantasy set a half-decade after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Del Toro’s penchant for the realistic depiction of violence is in full force, but the violence is never gratuitous, and with a touchingly sympathetic heroine and an ending that’s as unpredictable as it is inevitable, del Toro proves himself an auteur of the first rank.
2. Half Nelson
3. Brick
4. Letters From Iwo Jima
5. Children of Men

Honorable Mention: The Prestige, The Matador, The Proposition, Down in the Valley, Tristram Shandy

Worst Films
1. Basic Instinct 2: A so-bad-its-good, unintentionally hilarious guilty pleasure? Absolutely, but Basic Instinct 2 is also a film no one wanted, with the exception of Sharon Stone desperate to reignite her flagging career and the producers who inexplicably decided to finance this campy, crass sequel. It belongs in a category all its own.
2. The Wicker Man
3. The Promise
4. The Pink Panther
5. Lady in the Water

Dishonorable Mention: La Mujer De Mi Hermano, The Covenant, Failure to Launch, Imagine Me & You, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Best Performances
1. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson: Gosling’s raw, uncompromising performance as a flawed high school teacher/girl’s basketball coach elevated an already sharp, unconventional script.
2. Edward Norton, Down in the Valley/The Painted Veil
3. Pierce Brosnan, The Matador
4. Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil
5. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Honorable Mention: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed; Christian Bale, The Prestige; Cate Blanchett, Babel/The Good German; Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine

Worst Performances
1. Nicholas Cage, The Wicker Man: At his best, Cage can give an Oscar-worthy performance or two. Heck, he’s even won an Oscar (for Leaving Las Vegas). At his worst, and he’s at his worst in this movie. He bludgeons moviegoers with red-faced, over-the-top histrionics that would have gotten a failing grade in a beginning acting class.
2. Matthew McConaughey, Failure to Launch/We Are Marshall
3. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct 2
4. James Franco, Annapolis
5. Bryce Dallas Howard, Lady in the Water

Dishonorable Mention: David Morrissey, Basic Instinct; Paul Giamatti, Lady in the Water; Kate Beahan, The Wicker Man; Barbara Mori, La Mujer De Mi Hermano


Stefan Gruenwedel

Best Films
1. An Inconvenient Truth: It tells a vitally important story in a riveting way.
2. Shortbus
3. The Queen
4. Letters from Iwo Jima
5. Kinky Boots

Worst Films
1. Strangers with Candy
2. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
3. A Scanner Darkly
4. Scoop
5. [I purposefully skipped the really bad ones this year

Best Performances
1. Helen Mirren, The Queen; Shadowboxer; Prime Suspect: The Final Act: she's perfect in nearly everything she touches -- and she wowed me in three very different roles this year.
2. Charlotte Rampling, Heading South (Vers le sud)
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kinky Boots
4. Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth
5. Sook-Yin Lee, Shortbus

Worst Performances
1. Amy Sedaris, Strangers with Candy
2. Stephen Colbert, Strangers with Candy
3. Keanu Reeves, A Scanner Darkly
4. Albert Brooks, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
5. Scarlett Johansson, Scoop