2006 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Monday, January 16, 2017

2006 Leaman Awards

*Last Updated 7/24/2022

2006 Films Seen: 76
Number of Films with 'A' or 'A+': 4
Key Films Still to See: n/a

Brief Summary: To paraphrase Paul Giamatti's Miles in the 2004 film Sideways, "The 2006 film year was quaffable but far from transcendent." Aside from the two all-time great entries on my list that will have a place in my Film Bible for a long time, the year is a bit of an odd one. It's a down year for animated films, rife with disappointments (especially from the Oscar bait), a strong year for guilty pleasure type films being higher quality than usual, and some very enjoyable big budget fare. As you'll see, my awards are more spread out than usual, a pretty odd year indeed.
Not a "best of" list or a "favorite" list - but a list of the films and sequences (action, drama, comedy, & musical) that I think represent the best the year had to offer. So think of it as a strange mixture of favorite, best, and defining. Once you get to the top ten films, it definitely becomes more defined as a Top Ten list of the year. The number one film is my favorite of the year.

Honorable Mentions: Days of Glory, Hard Candy, Jackass: Number Two, Scary Movie 4

25. Running Scared (B)
24. World Trade Center (B)
23. The Pursuit of Happyness (B)
22. Glory Road (B)
21. Hollywoodland (B)
20. Rocky Balboa (B)
19. Inside Man (B)
18. Little Miss Sunshine (B)
17. Flushed Away (B)
16. Scoop (B)
15. Flags of Our Fathers / Letters from Iwo Jima (B)
14. The Queen (B+)
13. The Fountain (B+)
12. Fearless (B+)
11. The Protector (B+)

THE TOP TEN
10. The Proposition (B+)
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (B+)
8. Children of Men (B+)
7. Apocalypto (A-)
6. The Departed (A-)

5. Akeelah and the Bee (A-)


4. Casino Royale (A)


3. The Prestige (A)


2. The Descent (A+)


1. United 93 (A+)
Commentary: I saw United 93 early in the year and it emotionally impacted me more than any film since Passion of the Christ. It immediately became my working #1 for the year and it was never once close to challenged. United 93 is more than just learning about what happened behind the scenes on that fateful plane, it’s about depicting and honoring a group of people standing up and doing what’s right. The passengers don’t give heroic Hollywood speeches; they are plain and matter of fact, and its something they must do. The final fifteen minutes of the film are haunting and heartrending. Upon repeated viewings, I have come to feel that United 93 is a classic of our generation.


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Battle of Thermopylae: Opening Defense" -300
  • "Cleaning Out the Casino" -District B13
  • "Escape from Cannibal Island" -Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Commentary)
  • "Fight Leads to a Speed Boat Chase on the River" -The Protector (Commentary)
  • "Temple is On Fire: Three Stage Fight" -The Protector (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Breaking Bones & Slaying Giants" -The Protector (Commentary)
  • "Finale Fight including Selene, Michael, Marcus and the First Werewolf William" -Underworld: Evolution
  • "Finale: Last Stand on Alcatraz Island" -X-Men: The Last Stand (Commentary)
The Great:
  • "Chase Thru Construction Site/Embassy Shootout" -Casino Royale (Commentary)
  • "Miami Chase: Stopping a Bombing at the Airport" -Casino Royale (Commentary)
  • "Trashing the Restaurant: Master Huo vs. Maser Chin" -Fearless (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Huo vs. Four Fighters; Boxing, Spears, Fencing and Tanaka" -Fearless (Commentary)
  • "Taking the Beaches of Iwo Jima" -Flags of Our Fathers (Commentary)
  • "Vatican Valuables: Kidnapping Owen Davian" -Mission: Impossible 3 (Commentary)
  • "Island Mayhem: Fighting for the Chest and the Key" -Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Commentary)
  • "Warehouse: Skater/Biker Fight" -The Protector (Commentary)
The Best:
"One Take Stairway Fight Leads to Johnny" -The Protector (Commentary)
Commentary: An absolutely stacked year for action sequences and one where the #1 sequence could be exchanged with 3-4 others on any given day. This is the fight sequence that shows Tony Jaa is the real deal without any clever camera work needed. The first part of this sequence plays without edits for about 4 minutes as Jaa heads up a circular stairway taking out goons until he gets to the fight with the main villain responsible for taking his elephant, Johnny (which is a nice little extra fight on the top of this scene!). Although the camera moves very cinematically, the lack of edits or CGI is remarkable because Jaa is forced to do all his choreography in one-take, maintain his stamina and strength, and doesn't get the chance to immediately try it over and over (they filmed the one take a total of 7 or so times). The sequence features some stunts that would make Jackie Chan wince and the use of the splits that would make Jean-Claude Van Damme applaud (From 1:50 to about 1:55 in the video link Jaa has to get in place, 5 seconds basically!). There are other sequences that are slicker and better designed/edited to showcase moments, but that's the key here - they are edited. What makes this sequence so breathtaking is that it all plays out in real time. Jaa never came close to anything like it again. This is a stunt team, director, and all-time action star working hard to create something that will last forever.


FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • “City Square: Auction & Sacrificial Ceremony” -Apocalypto
  • “Jumping the Waterfall: I am Jaguar Paw” -Apocalypto
  • “Postwar Treatment of de Vries as a Nazi” -Black Book
  • “Juno Accidentally Kills Beth” -The Descent
  • “A Choice Not to Take his Father’s Revenge” -Edge of the Spear
  • “Holding Each Other in the bath” –The Fountain
  • “Hayley and Jeff Argue Before the Castration” -Hard Candy
  • “Choosing to Live or Die by Suicide” -Letters from Iwo Jima
  • “Stuck in the Ducts” -Poseidon
  • “Angier Does the Transport Trick and Takes his Bow Beneath the Stage” -The Prestige
  • “Mikey Burns is Flogged in Front of the Town” -The Proposition
  • “Chris and Son Play with the Time Machine” -The Pursuit of Happyness
  • “The Queen Reads the Letters Outside Buckingham Palace” -The Queen
  • “Takata Stares at the Mountains After his Loss” -Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
  • “Teresa Rescues Oleg and Shoots his Captors” -Running Scared
  • “Pulled from the Rubble by Everyone” -World Trade Center
  • “Xavier Pleads with Jean and Loses his Life” -X-Men: The Last Stand
The Great:

  • “The Community Spells the Final Word” -Akeelah and the Bee
  • "Escorting a Child through the Uprising” -Children of Men
  • “One-Take: Car Ride is Interrupted and Goes South” -Children of Men
  • “Chase in Time: Keeping Up with a Terrorist in the Past” -Deja Vu
  • “Finale: All Alone in Revenge” -The Descent
  • “Finale: Heroes? Soldier’s Swimming to End the Film” -Flags of Our Fathers
  • “Passengers Call Home” -United 93
The Best: "Passengers storm the cockpit” -United 93
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
Was not catalogued well, but will be updated in the future

The Very Good:
  • n/a
The Great:
  • "Riot Equipment Test" -Jackass: Number Two
The Best:
"Snake Ball Pit" -Jackass: Number Two
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Only One Major Musical Released This Year
The Very Good:
  • "Love You I Do" -Dreamgirls
The Great:
  • "Our Town" -Cars
The Best: 
"And I'm Telling You, I'm Not Going" -Dreamgirls
Commentary: n/a

BEST DIRECTOR
Nominees:
  • Martin Campbell Casino Royale
  • Paul Greengrass United 93
  • Niel Marshall The Descent
  • Christopher Nolan The Prestige
  • Gore Verbinski Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Commentary: The most assured and confident directing job of the year. The message, tone, look, and feel of the film all works towards one goal. The riskiest and gutsiest directing job of the year.


FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLE
Nominees:
  • The Departed
  • The Descent
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Prestige
  • The Proposition 
Commentary: An extremely hard category to choose, but The Departed is an actor’s feast. With so many roles to dig into, there are several quality characters and performances that shine. From DiCaprio’s Brandoesque role to Whalberg’s over the top cop, this is the best ensemble of the year.


FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Ben Affleck Hollywoodland
  • Christian Bale The Prestige
  • Steve Carell Little Miss Sunshine
  • Leonardo DiCaprio The Departed
  • Laurence Fishburne Akeelah and the Bee
  • Hugh Jackman The Fountain
  • Michael Sheen The Queen
  • Will Smith The Pursuit of Happyness
  • Patrick Wilson Hard Candy
  • Ray Winstone The Proposition
Commentary: I’ve seen Jackman do a number of different roles before I saw this one and while they have all been fantastic, none of them told me he was capable of putting in a performance like this. At times emotional, at times restrained, and at times completely silent, Jackman is devastating. It’s a complete shame that he wasn't considered for any major awards this year.


FAVORITE FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
  • Rebecca Hall The Prestige
  • Diane Lane: Hollywoodland
  • Scarlett Johansson Scoop
  • Frances McDormand Friends with Money
  • Helen Mirren The Queen
  • Ellen Page Hard Candy
  • Keke Palmer Akeelah and the Bee
  • Meryl Streep The Devil Wears Prada 
  • Rachel Wiesz The Fountain
Commentary: It may seem like just going with the consensus here (she won most every major 2006 award), Helen Mirren just plain turned in the best female performance of the year. Mirren finds the perfect mix of subtlety and nuance, without ever dulling or becoming uninterested. Her scene with Blair to close the film is quiet but electric. 


FAVORITE SCREENPLAYS
(original or adapted)
Nominees:
  • Akeelah and the Bee
  • Casino Royale
  • Children of Men
  • The Departed
  • Hollywoodland
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
  • The Prestige
  • The Proposition
  • The Queen
Commentary: The Prestige was one of the most fun times I had at the movies in all of 2006. The tale of two dueling 19th century magicians obsessed with one-upping each other was rather simple on a plot level, but it’s in the deeper themes of obsession and revenge that the screenplay really takes off. For a screenplay to really work for me, its got to be engaging and enjoyable first in its story then it should be involving and provoking in its message and themes. The Prestige is able to accomplish both. Perhaps my favorite Christopher Nolan screenplay outside of The Dark Knight.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees:
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Wordplay
Commentary: A very weak category this year as I only saw two documentaries even worth nominating. I'm not all-in on the global warming train, but I did find the documentary informative (though stretched at parts) and worth a view.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees:
  • Cars
  • Flushed Away
  • Monster House
  • Over the Hedge
  • A Scanner Darkly
Commentary: It was a strange year for of pleasant but not great animated films. Pixar had such a strong run of films before this that Cars being just okay was quite a shock. Flushed Away was my favorite from the above crop. I found it to be the best overall, including humor and story. Sadly though, none of the above will be something I wish to view again.
BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees:
  • Akeelah and the Bee
  • The Departed
  • The Prestige
  • Running Scared
  • United 93 
Commentary: The award can go to either The Prestige or United 93 - they are both excellent. The editing work in The Prestige though not only is essential given the mystery of the story, but it is also an important part of relaying the theme of misdirection and sleight of hand. Ultimately, the editing job here IS the misdirection the filmmaker gives to the audience. The characters in the film are not the only ones being fooled and I like that the editing is in on the meta joke.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees:
  • Children of Men
  • The Departed
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • The Prestige
  • United 93 
Commentary: United 93 and Children of Men both deserve this award and if I had it in me to award ties, then it would be. United 93’s handheld camera put me “there” in the plane. It wasn’t intrusive, but observant and immediate. Children of Men’s camera was part of the environment, following the characters through several long takes not looking away. Ultimately, the boldness and audacity of Children of Men’s composition, lighting, and movement wins out here.


BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees:
  • Apocalypto
  • Children of Men
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • The Prestige
  • Silent Hill
Commentary: The art direction, costume design, and makeup are so fundamental to Apocalypto working as well as it does. It's an absolute immersion into a foreign and ancient world. 


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees:
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • Poseidon
  • Superman Returns
  • X-Men: The Last Stand 
Commentary: There was absolutely no contest in this category; Pirates won the award hands down. No film had the daunting task that this one did, and no film pulled off its effects with as much ease and smoothness. Davy Jones is a complete and photorealistic character that rivals anything found in the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars series.
 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees:
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The Fountain
  • Lady in the Water
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • United 93 
Commentary: n/a


BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Apocalypto
  • Children of Men
  • The Descent
  • The Prestige
  • United 93 
Commentary: When awarding this category I always close my eyes and think of the soundscapes of the film and its major sequences. When thinking of Children of Men I was struck by the suddenness and immediacy that many of its action scenes took on, and its sound design was integral to that. From gunfire, the revving of motorcycles, to tank bursts, the sound design is exemplary.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Apocalypto
  • Dreamgirls
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • The Prestige 
Commentary: The art direction, costume design, and makeup are so fundamental to Apocalypto working as well as it does. It's an absolute immersion into a foreign and ancient world. 


BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Apocalypto
  • The Descent
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • The Proposition
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
Commentary: One of the things that make Apocalypto the movie that it is, is the ability to completely immerse you in ancient and foreign world. A large part of the immersion owes itself to the amazing make-up work done. From piercings, to markings, to tattoos, to the gore, the level of realism and exoticism is extraordinaire.
BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees:
  • Jackass: Number Two
  • The Protector
  • Running Scared
  • Saw III 
  • Scary Movie 4
Commentary: n/a

MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees:
  • Casino Royale
  • Children of Men
  • The Fountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • Scoop
Commentary: After Die Another Day struggled and took a lot of critical flack,  I was glad they didn’t bring back the team responsible for it. I felt they had gone too far back into the campy Bond direction. The production team decided to then hire a relatively unknown blonde for the role of Bond and went with the director of Goldeneye. I was skeptical. Much to my surprise (hence the title of the award), Casino Royale ended up becoming one of the best entries into the Action/Spy genre and my personal favorite Bond film. Great action, great drama, and a great re-boot for the entire franchise. What really took me by surprise was the “epic” feeling of the film, as I was expecting a simple “installment” or episode. 


MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM
Nominees:
  • The Good Shepherd
  • A Good Year
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • Superman Returns
Commentary: Many films were able to make a run at this category this year, but only one truly could be the winner (loser really). I don’t know why, but as a college student I got myself so excited for each new Will Ferrell film and when I saw the trailer for this one with a Charlie Kauffman like premise, and director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) at the helm - I was especially excited. The film ended up being poorly paced, packed with characters I cared little about, and littered with “false” turning points. In short, I really disliked a movie I wanted love.


MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Apocalypto
  • The Descent
  • Posiedon
  • Scoop
  • X-Men 3: United
Commentary: n/a


MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Babel
  • Borat!
  • Dreamgirls
  • Happy Feet
Commentary: Much like “Most Disappointing”, this category had a laundry list of possibilities, but Borat! stood out as the most overrated film of 2006. The movie is being hailed as original (Jackass, Andy Kaufman, and plenty of others have done the same), and also as a insightful social commentary (maybe more a commentary on those who hail it as important). I have heard some publications and pundits claim it’s possibly the funniest movie of all-time; I would have to disagree. There is a much subjectivity in comedy, and this subject get it.


WORST FILM
Nominees:
  • Borat!
  • Clerks II
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning 
  • V for Vendetta
  • Who Killed the Electric Car?
Commentary: For the longest time Texas Chainsaw Massacre occupied this spot on the list, for its insult of a plot, not to mention its lack of creativity and purpose when it came to its “gore” scenes. That all changed when I watched perhaps the most repulsive movie I’ve seen since Freddy Got Fingered. I enjoyed the first Clerks and thought it had a lot of strong points to it, but Clerks II flat out stinks. Although much of the film is derivative of the first, this one feels gratuitous, extraneous, and creatively challenged. Randal Graves, who was annoying in the first film but redeemable, is practically a villain in this film if he wasn’t supposed to be the quirky best friend. A few things stand out to me most in this film. The terribly offensive and uninspired creation of the Elias character, which is the most uptight, sheltered, Christian geek boy you’ve ever seen. Of course, the end of the movie would have his “repressed nature” coming out as he curses Jesus. The donkey scene, which is perhaps the most disgusting scene on screen in years, made all the more offensive since it’s played for laughs and expects to be accepted. Finally, the ending is a cop-out and a betrayal of any advancement or redemption the film seemed like it was headed towards. This is a first-rate example of a film Kyle hates. (Also, this is one of only a handful pf films to receive a 'D-' ever.


BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Nominees:
  • Clint Eastwood: Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima 
  • Scarlett Johannsson: The Black Dahlia, The Prestige, Scoop
Commentary: n/a


ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Eddie Murphy Dreamgirls
  • Hugo Weaving V for Vendetta 
Commentary: n/a

THE END!

"You keep reading and you're gonna miss your flight"

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