I had been asked what my pick of 2006 was shortly after I finished the 12 Months of Movies feature for 2006. It’s a feature that I probably won’t do at the end of 2007 because I will hopefully have made a proper portfolio this year, although I can’t write reviews for every little thing I see.
What I likely will do is this feature: The Arbitrary Awards! Highlights of the year, picked for categories you’re unlikely to see at any other sham awards ceremony this side of the MTV Whatever awards! (In the UK, the Arbitrary Awards have been nicknamed the “I Want That Ones”).
Keep in mind that this is not a top ten list. It is a collection of movies that I liked and would rank among the best of the year, although not always for the most honorable reasons. The best thing is that some categories actually have multiple candidates (where multiple means “two”).
Best Dystopian Future
V for Vendetta
Closing out Children of Men by a hair, V for Vendetta expertly presented a future that was controlled by a shared unconsciousness in front of the television. Blowing up the parliaments of our totalitarian regimes won’t seem like a bad idea come the purge but, of course, we’ll probably all be purged before that could ever be allowed.
It’s interesting to note that, in both of the dystopian films that I saw in 2006, England is the only country that “prevails”, if you can call it that. They’re the most civil, even if that civility is governed by fists
Best Use of Excessive Profanity
Lots of people think that profanity is too coarse and vulgar, a substitute for actual good scripting. The Aristocrats will never pass as the peak of the documentary form, but it will always be hilarious enough to reduce me to tears. Sarah Silverman proved herself a genius with this movie. Jesus is indeed magic.
Best Stretch of Historical Plausibility for the sake of a Good Story
I still think that the central secret of the film is almost outside of the realms of suspension of disbelief. Inside Man is also notable for being one of two films this year that begins with its “ending” only to reach that point naturally and reveal “hey, there’s still like half an hour left! Get back in the car!”
Best Movie to Restore Faith in Humanity
The World’s Fastest Indian
Normally a film based entirely on good will would get on my nerves, but everyone in The World’s Fastest Indian was so saintly that I couldn’t help but love them. Everyone, audience included, rallied around Anthony Hopkins’ Burt Munro. The only problem with this niceness is that it was nearly impossible to translate into a halfway decent trailer.
Perhaps the best thing about The World’s Fastest Indian was that I thought its conclusion was foregone but I was intrigued by every action taken by Burt and then shocked to find that it did not end as I had expected. The inability of this film to conform to every genre standard is definitely admirable.
Best Movie Featuring People Confused for Cowboys
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada & Brokeback Mountain
Much as I loved Brokeback Mountain, Three Burials was … well, actually, I’m tempted to make this a tie. They both had their own heavy emotional impact and … the category that they’re winning is entirely arbitrary, making their joint win exactly in the spirit of the Arbitrary Awards!
Best Empire Strikes Back
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
At last I know how people felt at the end of The Empire Strikes Back! The fury generated amongst some audience members was great. Less great was that I had to explain the concept of Davy Jones’ heart to several of my friends.
Best Genre Appropriation
The transplant of detective noir and a haunting score to a high school where no one ever attends class and Shaft is the principal was a genius move. Invincible students who don’t sleep for a week prove that Sam Spade truly was the T-1000 of his day. If only I were a total loner back in the day, I too could have exposed drug rings and crimes against education standards in our school system.
Most Culturally Significant Film Ever
In one thousand years, when all reference to our era has been obscured by the coming of alien overlords intent on harvesting our organs as decorations for their equivalent of Christmas, D.O.A. will be the only text left. One of the slave labourers will discover it in a pyramid that he is supposed to be cleaning for the aliens, and he will take it back to his holding quarters, where he will share it with his comrades.
For their insubordination, the holders of the Holy Text will be immediately and brutally executed. Out of curiosity, the overlords will examine the contents of the disc. Aware that they have clearly destroyed a once great race, the overlords will leave Earth for good.
From the ashes will rise a new humanity, devoted to the dual arts of beach volleyball and fightin’.
Evolution takes time, but this stage will be so totally worth it. That is plainly why D.O.A. is the best movie ever.
Best donning of stretchy pants and singing at the party
I have a feeling that, after D.O.A. has revitalised humanity after the purges one thousand years from now, the new religion will be administered by men wearing lucha libre outfits.
Best Family Story
So many movies this year, Little Miss Sunshine, Wah-Wah, Volver and even Babel chief among them, could win this award. Of all of the arbitrary awards, it seems almost … not quite arbitrary. Technically C.R.A.Z.Y. was released in Canada in 2005, but its story of an outsider and the grudging bonds that he forms with his family and David Bowie is well worthwhile.
Best Remake of Infernal Affairs
So the last shot was a little bit … unnecessary. The remainder of this movie was great on all counts, particularly on the part of Mark Wahlberg. The best thing about The Departed was that it had the same story as Infernal Affairs but felt entirely different. While Hong Kong had on offer a tight story its characterisation was only sparse. The Departed, by contrast, managed to turn the three female roles of the original into one and created a somewhat more emotional film.
V for Vendetta & Catch a Fire
The best kinds of explosions are the kind that you can cheer for. After all, a revolution without explosions is a revolution not worth having.
It’s a movie precisely like a magic trick: you’ve got an idea of what the outcome will be, but you have no idea how it will get there. I loved the billions of changes of allegiance, and I loved the cast.
Unlike magic, you can tell at the end precisely how it was done and you don’t feel like you’ve lost any spirit of wonder out of the deal.
All The Time In The World Award
Some people say that James Bond shouldn’t be human; that he should be a sleekly designed, smarmy, arrogant, killing machine. These people aren’t entirely right, and Daniel Craig brings to Bond precisely the sort of mixed carelessness and vulnerability that the character so richly deserved. One can never salute this feat of cinematic engineering enough.
Best Multilingual Non-Linear Ensemble Movie
Now that is arbitrary.
Look out for the 2007 Arbitrary Awards at the end of the year (or the start of the next)! The first candidate for the “Reddest Menace” award has already been chosen in Happy Feet! Directors, get makin’!