10. The Descent (Neil Marshall) – Horror films normally don’t garner critically attention much less praise, but The Descent was the exception. Marshall follows cult hit Dog Soldiers with an equally impressive voyage into the depths of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. The film is elevated beyond the genre’s usual pitfalls by an engrossing storyline, masterful direction and superb performances from its all female cast.
9. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan) / The Illusionist (Neil Burger) – A magical double header. The Prestige had magic play second off a bitter rivalry between two former friends (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman). Nolan beautifully recreates a landscape when magicians command more than a few seconds of our time. With a twisting plotline and the undisputable chemistry between Nolan and Bale, The Prestige mesmerizes audiences. Edward Norton was absolutely spectacular as the lovelorn magician in The Illusionist. What can be said about a movie in which even Jessica Beil delivers a stellar performance but bravo.
8. United 93 (Peter Greengrass) – The best tribute to a day in American history that will never be forgotten. While its counterpart, Oliver Stone’s dreadful World Trade Center, may have attracted more attention, United 93 is clearly the better of the two. With unknowns and a eye for detail, United 93 is how we should remember the events of that day. Not the deaths but the courage that has come to symbolize the event.
7. Inland Empire (David Lynch) – Unable to find a studio to release his latest project, Lynch released the film himself. Lynch films are never big blockbusters because their designed for the artful crowd and the thinking moviegoer. Inland Empire is no exception while the film itself is not as immediately engrossing as his previous efforts (Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet) it still forces the viewer to pay attention to small details in order to unravel the film’s puzzle. Kudos for Lynch on such an achievement. Laura Dern is at her career best and it’s a shame that she will likely fail to be acknowledged.
6. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris) – An incredibly funny yet moving dark comedy with a stellar ensemble cast. Original screenplays don’t get much better than this. This film has something for everyone from laughs to a few good tear jerking moments. Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carrell shine in this independent gem but its Alan Arkin, playing a foul-mouthed grandfather, who steals the show and our hearts.
5. Shut Up & Sing (Barbara Kopple) – Even more revelant now. This documentary chronicled the Dixie Chicks fall from grace in the world of country music. Rather than just dwell on a single event the documentary humanize these celebrity and gives viewers a peak into the aftermath. Its funny, witty and packs an emotional punch. While most people told them to shut up and sing, most of the usual whitebread interviews with locals from the Carolinas and Texas were completely mindnumbing because one) they made no sense and two) it really gets you to wonder about the education is those parts of the country. All in all, Shut Up & Sing was one of the most cohesive documentaries released all year.
4. Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre) – If there was one movie that was carried by performances it would be Notes on a Scandal. Patrick Marber (Closer) did create a script that is true to its source material, but the subject matter is one we have seen played out in the news constantly. It’s Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett who are utterly riveting in this film. Both seasoned actresses at performing above award caliber. The movie is vastly entertaining with a basis of a teacher having an affair with one of her students. Watch for this movie on award night.
3. The Painted Veil (John Curran) – Third time is a charm apparently as Curran revisit well traveled material and infuses with a breath of fresh air. Naomi Watts sizzles as Kitty Fane, an adulterous woman. Watts manages to make a flawed character such as Kitty likeable and with such ease. Norton delivers another well-crafted performance as the husband out to make his wife suffer for his indiscrisions. Both Norton (The Illusionist) and Watts (Inland Empire) share a distinct honor for having two films in the top 10. Curran, who made the cut in 2004 with We Don’t Live Here Anymore, has an amazing talented in capturing the flaws apparent in all people and making seem insignificant to the whole picture.
2. The Departed (Martin Scorsese) – The best Scorsese film in more than a decade. Finally, this legendary director has gotten back in stride after releasing two very dull pieces of cinema (Gangs of New York and The Aviator). The Departed is infact a remake of a Chinese film but Scorsese does very well at Americanize it. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play very well off one another. But, the cake has to go Jack Nicholson who is just a treat to watch on the screen. Welcome back, Marty.
1. Little Children (Todd Field) – Engrossing. Its 130 minute runtime just isn’t enough. Little Children is such a unique look at suburbia and the politics of our own lives. Field does an incredible job at realizing the material with assistance from Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson. Winslet is in top form as she carries the movie along never once breaking character. Little Children is a monumental achievement for everyone involved and easily the best film this year.
Kate Winslet, Little Children
- Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil
- Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
- Laura Dern, Inland Empire
- Helen Mirren, The Queen
Edward Norton, The Painted Veil
- Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
- Patrick Wilson, Little Children & Hard Candy
- Leonardo DiCapirio, The Departed
- Peter O’Toole, Venus
Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
- Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
- Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
- Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
- Jennifer Aniston, Friends With Money
Best Supporting Actor
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
- Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
- Michael Sheen, The Queen
- Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
- Steve Carrell, Little Miss Sunshine
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
- John Curran, The Painted Veil
- Todd Field, Little Children
- Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
- Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine
V for Vendetta, Thank You for Smoking, Half Nelson, The Queen, Borat, Babel, Casino Royale, Letters From Iwo Jima, Dreamgirls, Blood Diamond, The Last King of Scotland and A Scanner Darkly.
Could be Contenders:
Volver, Children of Men, The Good German, The Good Shepherd and The History Boys.