THE BEST MOVIES, NOT OF THIS YEAR, BUT OF TEN YEARS AGO, BECAUSE I'VE HAD MORE TIME TO WATCH THOSE: When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 2006, it technically gave its Best Picture award to Martin Scorsese's The Departed—"technically" because this was basically a consolation prize for all the far better Scorsese movies that didn't get Best Picture Oscars. The Departed isn't bad, mind you; you'll find it on my runner-up list. But it isn't in my top 10, let alone my top spot:
1. Deadwood 3
Written by David Milch, Ted Mann, Regina Corrado, Alix Lambert, Kem Nunn, Nick Towne, Zack Whedon, W. Earl Brown, and Bernadette McNamara
Directed by Mark Tinker, Dan Attias, Gregg Fienberg, Ed Bianchi, Dan Minahan, Tim Hunter, and Adam Davidson
"Wants me to tell him something pretty."
2. Pan's Labyrinth
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro
A child's-eye view of fascism and other horrors.
3. Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby, from a novel by P.D. James
Like Pan's Labyrinth, it's a fantasy film set in a police state. In this one, though, there are no children.
4. The Wire 4
Written by Ed Burns, David Simon, David Mills, Richard Price, Deniis Lehane, Eric Overmyer, Bill Zorzi, Kia Corthron, and George Pelecanos
Directed by Joe Chappelle, Christine Moore, Seith Mann, Jim McKay, David Platt, Dan Attias, Anthony Hemingway, Agnieszka Holland, Alex Zakrzewski, Ernest Dickerson, and Brad Anderson
This was the year the show "tackled education," and I know that sounds dreary, especially now that the cultural gatekeepers have discovered The Wire and decreed it "important." Don't be put off. This is engrossing, human-scale storytelling; it has lessons but it isn't didactic.
5. Everything Will Be OK
Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt
"Bill dropped his keys on the counter and stood there staring at them, suddenly thinking about all the times he'd thrown his keys there before and how many days of his life were wasted repeating the same tasks and rituals in his apartment over and over again. But then he wondered if, realistically, this was his life, and the unusual part was his time spent doing other things."
6. The Lives of Others
Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
How totalitarianism ruptures human relationships.
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Daytime soaps will earn critical respect the moment someone has the sense to make Almodóvar a showrunner.
8. Meditation • Light
Directed by Theo Eshetu
Five windows on Ethiopia.
9. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Written by Satoko Okudera, from a novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui
A starter time-travel mindfuck-movie for the young film fan in your life.
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Condon, from a play by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen
This thinly disguised Motown story could have played like a biopic-by-numbers, one of those movies where only the music offers relief from a formulaic script. Instead there's something delirious about it.
11. Time (Kim Ki-duk)
12. Veronica Mars 2 (Rob Thomas)
13. Bug (William Friedkin)
14. Tell No One (Guillaume Canet)
15. Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster)
16. Inland Empire (David Lynch)
17. The Host (Bong Joon-ho)
18. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
19. A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater)
20. Tekkonkinkreet (Michael Arias)
Of the films of 2006 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Hoshi o Katta Hi, Looking for a Home, and Mizugumo Monmon—three shorts made by Hayao Miyazaki and only viewable, as far as I know, at the Studio Ghibli museum in Tokyo.