Review Of The Year and Total Film Readers' Awards

All you need to know about 2006...

Pirates! Snakes! Bears! Terrorism! All the films you should have seen in 2006 – plus all the results of the Total Film Readers’ Awards...

Superman Returns
Total Film Readers' Awards: Best Movie and Breakout Star Of The Year - Brandon Routh

“This is very cool,” says Superman. Sorry: Brandon Routh. The soaraway winner of the vote for Breakout Star, Routh exceeded expectations as the redux Clark Kent, matching Reeves’ bumbling innocence and arguably out-muscling the original star in the epic action scenes... You clearly adored Bryan Singer’s re-forging of the Man Of Steel, powering Superman Returns to Best Movie, too. “It’s always cool to get awards from fans, from people who know what’s going on,” grins Routh. “And they’re film aficionados if they’re reading Total Film. We’re very flattered.”

Little Miss Sunshine
Summer faded and a new Sunshine rose, with Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ ensemble comedy serving a much-needed tonic in a year of terrorism, death and very serious superheroes. “The standing ovation at Sundance felt like a hallucination,” said Dayton as the hubby-wife music vid team successfully leapt, Gondry and Jonze-style, into features. The success, though, lay in the characters, with the six dysfunctional Hoovers – God bless Steve Carell – quickly seeming like your close, personal friends.
Best Bit: Olive nails it.

Marie Antoinette
What do the French know about films, anyway? After being booed at Cannes, Sofia Coppola’s stroppy teen mood-piece was always destined to be an audience-splitter (“Mesmerising!”/“Boring!”), but viewers who engrossed themselves in its floaty vacuity and accepted that it had little to do with history were rewarded by an artwork of rare beauty. Soundtracked with style (the Aphex Twin, in Versailles) and anchored by a life-best Kirsten Dunst, Marie Antoinette will eventually be seen as the coolest film of 2006.
Best Bit: Fed up with her stuffy, sexless marriage, Antoinette daydreams of brave, lusty, horny Count Fersen.

Hostel
Eli Roth promised “some sick shit” and he sure as shit delivered. A grisly, gristly follow-up to flesh-crawler Cabin Fever, Hostel hit on a great premise – US bratpackers pay for their country’s sins – and broke out the power tools to make sure it cut deep. It cleaned up at the box-office ($80m from a $4.8m budget) and shoved Narnia off the top spot in the DVD chart. Hostel II, naturally, flew into production and Roth, inevitably, promises “the goriest, sickest, bloodiest movie you’ll ever, ever see.” Again.
Best Bit: The title sequence: black screen, whistling, clanking, rivulets of blood...

Zidane:A 21st Century Portrait
A fitting finale to a glittering career. Twenty-five cameras, following Zinedine Zidane around a football pitch for 90 minutes sure wasn’t multiplex-friendly (“A conceptual art installation posing as a movie,” grumped Exorcist boy Mark Kermode). But in picking out every frown and bead of sweat, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s reverential vision of the greatest player of his generation transported viewers right into the action. Remember him for this. And a little bit for the sheer accuracy of that headbutt...
Best Bit: Zidane, not renowned for keeping his cool, receives his marching orders in injury time.

The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada
Lauded at Cannes 2005, Tommy Lee Jones’ beautiful, slow-burning and unexpectedly funny Western really did deserve some Oscar nods – whether for its elegant direction, Jones’ moody Pete (a gruff cowboy hopelessly devoted to the memory of his dead friend), or perhaps 21 Grams man Guillermo Arriaga’s fractured, time-jumping – but coherent – screenplay. A sensitive tale of racism and shattered lives, it was the Oater Of 2006 whatever the Academy records might say. Besides, Brokeback wasn’t even a proper Western...
Best Bit: Dead buddy rotting fast? Open up his gob and pour in the anti-freeze, of course...

Brick
Total Film Readers' Awards: Gem Of The Year

From: Rian Johnson
Sent: December 2006 21:58:04
To: totalfilm@futurenet.co.uk
Subject: Re: Total Film Award

Hi guys,

 I just want to say thanks to all the Total Film readers. I can’t think of anything cooler than getting this kind of compliment from fellow movie fans. Like all low-budget indies, when we made Brick we had no idea if it would even see the light of day, so seeing its UK release this year was a bit of a rush to say the least. As a filmmaker, the best part of it all has been talking to audiences, hearing from people who both love and hate the movie, seeing how it bounces off of different crowds, and watching it take on its own life. I’m preparing at the moment to jump into production on my second film, a big, fun conman movie called The Brothers Bloom, and if I don’t muck it up too badly, hopefully we’ll see you on the ballot again next year. Thanks!

Rian

Volver
If Penélope Cruz wins the Best Actress Oscar, she should kiss Pedro Almodóvar’s feet and volunteer to iron his socks for at least a month. Anything to repay the Spanish maestro for rescuing Penny from her car-crash Hollywood career. Cloned to Sophia Loren proportions, complete with buxom bottom padding, Cruz is ravishing, radiant and racy in Almodóvar’s earthy, joyful tale of mothers, daughters and lurid family secrets. And if she doesn’t win, it won’t be for lack of yearning by Almodóvar (“I pray every day that she will win!”).
Best Bit: The opening scene, when Cruz cleans her parents’ graves in a relentless windstorm, surrounded by chattering La Mancha widows.

Nacho Libre
Total Film Readers' Awards: Funniest Scene Satan’s Cavemen Fight, Jack Black

“It’s always gift time when Total Film is in the room!” zrooms Jack Black, bouncing like a Ritalin-deprived Weeble as we heft our gong in his general direction and his Tenacious D other half Kyle Gass snatches the camera to take snaps. “Thank you so much! This is for the fight? I loved doing that. That was a crazy scene. Those little guys were just nuts – but so much fun. This baby’s mountable... It’s going on the wall!”

The Black Dahlia
Too much to ask, perhaps, for Brian De Palma’s Ellroy adap to scale the giddy heights of LA Confidential. But his polished noir still oozed old-school style, a sizzling Scarlett Johansson and a vampish Hilary Swank making up for Josh Hartnett’s inert performance and a lurid third act that didn’t so much strain credibility as put it through a mincer. Tell us, though, Brian: what was the thinking behind that lesbian floor-show scene? “I thought, ‘Why not have a chorus line of these drop-dead beautiful girls making out with each other?’” Fair enough...
Best Bit: Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart’s bruising boxing bout.

An Inconvenient Truth
Hey, Earthlings. Still think this global warming malarkey is just the latest green fad, due to go the way of acid rain, rainforest eradication and the ozone hole? Well, Professor Al Gore cranks up the charm to deliver a spicy, insightful sermon on the hows and whys we’re screwing our planet up. Sound dull? It’s anything but. Nor is it scare-mongering – although it is scary. If you’re not thinking eco by the end, then maybe you are from another planet...
Best Bit: Up on the lectern, Gore uses animation, graphs and dry humour to calmly explain the science behind climate change. Chilling.

Good Night, And Good Luck
The back-breaking and beard-sprouting meant George met Oscar for Syriana, but his multi-hyphenate duties on this elegant ’50s parable were arguably more impressive. Dialling down his George-ness as producer Fred Friendly, he offered able support to David Strathairn, whose simmering righteous indignation as McCarthy-fighting newsman Edward R Murrow would have also triumphed on Academy night, if the voters ever recognised embodiment over impression.
Best Bit: “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” One of several contemporary pokes.

Right At Your Door
Fight Club production designer Chris Gorak’s debut feature was a lowest of the lo-fi, no-budget zeitgeist-surfer and, next to United 93, 2006’s most ghastly flex of terror-horror. The barely known cast lent a grim intimacy to Gorak’s stomach-flipping dilemma: following a dirty bomb detonation in downtown LA, a husband must keep his possibly contaminated wife out of their home. Clammy, claustrophobic, all too believable, and no prospect of Jack Bauer popping up with a quick, slick fix.
Best Bit: The hellish neck-cricker of an ending.

The Page Turner
No wonder this chilling tale of a spurned music student taking devastating revenge against the pianist who destroyed her dreams rang true: director Denis Dercourt is an accomplished classical musician who juggles filmmaking with his rewarding day job, teaching viola at the Conservatoire Nationale in Strasbourg. Boasting an eerily composed performance from Deborah François at its chilly heart, this Hitchcockian thriller is note-perfect throughout. Catch it before the inevitable Hollywood remake softens the edges.
Best Bit: The scene where François skewers a randy cellist’s foot with his own endpin.

Casino Royale
We never doubted him for a second. And while eyebrows remain raised over that overcooked title sequence, it was terrific to see Daniel Craig so bullishly confound his critics with a muscular, back-to-basics, blokeish Bond the like of which we haven’t seen since the golden days of Connery. Where next for the franchise, though? Word is Bond 22 will see Commander Craig on the trail of Le Chiffre’s mysterious employer...
Best Bit: The car crash. Performed by stunt man Adam Kirley, it broke the record for the most rolls in a single take (seven).

The Proposition
“Australia. What fresh hell is this?” An infernal mirage on the brink of a civilisation God forgot, this savage outback oater is one of the truest Westerns in years. With flies buzzing and blood baking against the parched, cruel beauty of the Oz landscape, Nick Cave’s brutal script is illuminated by poetic direction (John Hillcoat) and primal performances (Danny Huston, Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce). The forgotten kicker? It’s the year’s best Christmas movie.
Best Bit: Wrenching finale carnage as the blood brothers gatecrash Winstone and Emily Watson’s home. And you thought your Christmas dinners were awkward...

The New World
Terrence Malick’s camera floated through the Pocahontas myth in The New World, his fourth film in 33 years. Don’t expect narrative coherence; do expect poetry, the 63-year-old director transporting viewers to 17th century Virginia, a land of babbling brooks, swaying grass and hushed forests. “American history is transformed into a dream vision of savagery and grace,” cooed The Guardian. Indeed, Malick cast a spell so powerful that not even Colin Farrell’s accent could break it.
Best Bit: Q’Orianka Kilcher’s over-dressed Pocahontas windmilling through the gardens at the court of King James – fettered but free.

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Total Film Readers' Awards: Best Child Performance - Georgie Henley

“It’s so cool,” exclaims Georgie Henley, seemingly hypnotised by Total Film’s Dakota Fanning Award For Best Child Performance, for her role as Lucy in Chronicles Of Narnia. “It’s all shiny and gold.” Barely home from school for five minutes and mum has rushed Georgie to meet Total Film at a hotel in their hometown of Ilkley, West Yorkshire. “I never expected to win any awards,” she gasps. “I think it’s amazing the Total Film readers have actually voted for me.”

Little Children
We confidently predict Kate Winslet will score a fifth Oscar nomination for her mesmerising performance as adulterous housewife Sarah in Todd Field’s densely textured adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s suburbia-satirising novel. Still, Mrs Mendes was matched all the way by former child star Jackie Earle Harley, achieving 2006’s most unlikely comeback as hounded sex fiend Ronald. Who’d have thought the sassy teen from Breaking Away and The Bad News Bears movies had it in him?
Best Bit: The joyous lift from Jaws where Harley’s freaky paedo sparks a stampede at the local swimming pool.

M:i:III
Total Film Readers' Awards: Woman Of The Year - Michelle Monaghan

“This is my very first award!” beams Michelle Monaghan, sitting in her trailer on set of the Farrelly Brothers’ latest laffer, The Heartbreak Kid. “I was really flattered when I got the call and I’m reminding my husband now on a daily basis that I’m Woman Of The Year!” Following bit-parts in The Bourne Supremacy and Mr & Mrs Smith, Monaghan slid into 2006 on the back of the brilliant Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang before exploding into the mainstream consciousness with M:I:III. “I had such an amazing time. Tom is such a professional and he’s got so much energy; we had really emotional scenes and he was right there every step of the way. I was fairly nervous about giving him mouth to mouth, though.” Which raises a crucial question about an icon who has had a rollercoaster year in the public eye... does he floss? “He flosses! It wasn’t bad... I’d bring him back to life any day of the week.”

Severance
While Hostel shuddered at the dark shadows of urban Eastern Europe, Severance took a team of office workers down to the woods, where they did indeed get a big surprise. On paper, the comedy/horror mesh looked like a mush. On-screen, Creep director Chris Smith nailed a sort of sub-Tarantino snigger/gag reflex – filtered through a rich red splatter lens. Also – Danny Dyer, innit?
Best Bit: The unexpected results of a rocket-launcher attack.

Down In The Valley
This bold, genre-blending drama marked Edward Norton’s first substantive role since 2002’s 25th Hour – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. He’s Harlan, a skewed suburban cowboy who appeals to San Fernando teen Evan Rachel Wood, despite her father’s aggressive disapproval. With echoes of everything from Hud to Taxi Driver, yet an atmosphere uniquely its own, David Jacobson’s beautiful picture didn’t find a wide audience, but deserves a devoted cult following on DVD.
Best Bit: The existential bathtub tryst (“Do you speak with your true voice?”).

Red Road
If it wasn’t for that Superman Returns fella, the breakthrough turn of the year would surely have gone to Kate Dickie’s fearless take on a revenge-blinded CCTV camera operator in Andrea Arnold’s tense, Glasgow-set thriller. It’s a frighteningly intense, daring turn, in a steely drama. We’re not sure how this Dogme-style yarn will dovetail with the other two films planned with the same characters and actors, but if they’re half as gripping as this one, next year will be a cracker.
Best Bit: Without giving anything away, the bit where Tony Curran gets off a bus set the Total Film chins quivering.

A Cock And Bull Story
There’s a scene towards the end of Michael Winterbottom’s playful adap of Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century doorstopper Tristram Shandy when the film we’re watching turns out to be a film-within-a-film that’s being watched by its cast in a London screening room. Confused? Not half as much as Total Film was, seated as we were in the same mini-cinema featured in the movie. That’s one reason why we adored this glorious mix of knockabout comedy, industry satire and literary experiment. The other is Rob Brydon, scarily good as Steve Coogan’s personal nemesis.
Best Bit: Coogan being lowered, head-first, into a giant womb.

Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
Jagshemash! Okay, so the Kazakhstan government didn’t take the joke – and took out a four-page ad in the New York Times announcing their sense of humour bypass – but Sacha Baron Cohen’s provocative mockumentary is one reason why 2006 was a great year for comedy. Borat is to arse-winking social embarrassment what Jackass is to gonzo stunts, Cohen braving violence (he was recently pummelled in New York) and outrage as he pisses off rednecks, homeboys and Pamela Anderson’s bodyguards.
Best Bit: The rodeo speech (“We support your war of terror!”).

The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Swiping the Palme d’Or from under the expectantly cupped hands of Babel and Volver, Ken Loach’s period drama about the IRA’s guerilla war against the British in the early ’20s is impassioned, lovingly shot and, despite what Loach would(n’t) say in public, a barely disguised critique of the Iraq conflict. It’s also a resolutely human film, empowered by Cillian Murphy’s sensitive performance as the scholar-turned-fighter who learns there are no heroes, only victims.
Best Bit: The tear-stained executions carried out by the Irish on their own men.

Pan’s Labyrinth
Total Film Readers' Awards: Scariest Scene - The Pale Man Banquet, Guillermo del Toro

“Thanks, man. This is fucking great.” Guillermo del Toro cleaves his award for Scariest Scene to his not inconsiderable bosom. His pleasure is made all the more pronounced by the fact that the PMB scene wasn’t even shortlisted for your consideration, our rationale being that Pan’s wouldn’t be out in time to garner votes. Duh! All it needed was nine days in your local fleapit, the ballots winging in with a startling urgency. “This is my most personal film, and the Pale Man is its best sequence,” says del Toro. “To me, he represents the Catholic Church devouring children. Now that’s scary. Thanks, readers of Total Film. You motherfuckers rule.”

Munich
The morality of murder, the righteousness of revenge: Munich grappled with big themes, the shadow of the Twin Towers cast over more than just the final scene. The is set in the aftermath of the 1972 Olympics, when Mossad hit-squads targeted Palestinian fixers responsible for the hostage-taking atrocity. Spielberg’s liberal hand-wringing drew critical vitriol, yet his dissection of the politics of payback chills to the core (“If this movie bothers you,” he says, “frightens you, upsets you, maybe it’s not a good idea to ignore that”).
Best Bit: The searing hotel bomb blast that turns bricks and mortar to rubble. You half expect tinnitus.

A Scanner Darkly
Pulsing anime and rampant paranoia: the best Philip K Dick adaptation ever made nails the druggy parallax view of his whacked out sci-fi perfectly. Linklater balances visuals with intellect, while coaxing drug-fugged performances from his rotoscoped cast (somewhere, in an alternative reality, Robert Downey Jr will be picking up an animated Oscar). Extra kudos for the probing political thrust that squints through the looking-glass at the US of Obey (“The paranoid future is now,” claims Linklater).
Best Bit: Barris (Downey Jr) demonstrating how to knock up a batch of charlie from household chemicals.

Miami Vice
Dark, moody and full of scowls: this Vice ain’t nice. Michael Mann ditches the ’80s pastels for gritty rough-and-tumble. The unreconstructed, pumped-up machismo almost trips over its own dick, Foxx and Farrell acting with nothing more than glares and frowns. But the Heat helmer goes all-out for authenticity, drafting DEA agents as advisors, filming in Third World ghetto locations the police refused to enter and hiring dodgy gang members as private security. It’s a Mann’s world...
Best Bit: The trailer trash shoot out. Bang, bang, a bullet in the medulla... You’re deader than dead.

King Kong
Total Film Readers' Awards: Best Movie Death, Best Movie Animal and Jaw-Dropping Action Scene King Kong

Total Film nabs Andy Serkis fresh off the back of his most glamorous gig so far: turning on the Oxford St Christmas lights. “I had a great time making The Prestige and everything, but for my kids, the Christmas lights is the most impressive thing I’ve ever done. What have I won, then?” he queries. We stump up the gongs, one at a time... Best Action Scene... “Oh, yeah. The chest-beater. I nailed that one.” Best Animal... “Ha ha. Cheers. Would have been hard to top him, I suppose.” Best Death... “Oh, Christ. I did my best. That was so sad...” We leave Serkis juggling the awards. Three more for his ever-expanding trophy cabinet!

The Prestige
Now you see it... Christopher Nolan’s slippery illusion dazzled audiences with an all-star cast (Bale, Caine, Jackman, Johansson, er... David Bowie) while performing cinematic sleight of hand. “The fun in watching a magic trick is wanting to know but not quite being able to penetrate the secret,” says the master of misdirection, who made us believe in magic, before revealing all as a fantastic con. Magic as metaphor for movies? Or just a plain and simple trick? Now you don’t...
Best Bit: The crushed canary – which playfully reveals the twist without you realising. Only now you do. Or do you?

Cars
For some, this year’s other NASCAR movie was the one that put the brakes on Pixar’s winning streak. Sure, it doesn’t fire on as many cylinders as a Toy Story, but Cars is still a joyride. “In one vein, I have Disney blood, and in the other there’s motor oil,” says John Lasseter, who packed his comeback with the personal touches so many of 2006’s toons lacked, from the Route 66 nostalgia to the name Lightning McQueen – a tribute not to actor Steve but to late Pixar animator Glenn.
Best Bit: The speed and sheen of the opening photo-finish race: a dazzler down to the last screen-cramming detail.

The Departed
The wheel turns full circle: Hong Kong cinema ripped off Scorsese’s gangster flicks for years. Now it’s his turn. Relocating Infernal Affairs to Boston, Marty ditches the melodrama and homes in on DiCaprio and Damon’s good cop/bad cop crack-up as integrity and identity are lost to schizo paranoia. The real nutter is Joker Jack, who blurs the line between Oscar-destined acting and boundary-blurring criminal insanity (he pulled a handgun on DiCaprio on-set to keep the whippersnapper on his toes).
Best Bit: A deserted warehouse building, a main character facing the enemy and an almighty audience jolt... Brrrr.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Total Film Readers' Awards: Man Of The Year - Johnny Depp, Best Villain - Bill Nighy

Johnny Depp is somewhere in England with Tim Burton, a singing coach and your award for Man Of The Year. He’s probably in Hertfordshire, in a trailer the size of the Sudan. Wherever he is, we can’t find him. “I’m so sorry,” says his rep. “Sorry.” Still, at least he’s got it, eh? And while Depp prepares for Sweeney Todd, his nemesis from Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dean Man’s Chest is on the other side of the pond making his Broadway debut. Yes, Davy Jones – the slimy, tentacle-faced beastie who earned your ballots for his dastardly deeds in Bruckheimer’s juggernaut – is currently starring in a play written by David Hare, directed by Sam Mendes, and it’s opening night. “It’s been one of the most satisfying and thrilling things in my career, to have been part of the process that created Davy Jones,” says a transatlantic Bill Nighy, minus the character’s distinctive Scottish brogue. “So thanks very much...”

Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
After a dodgy run in other people’s films, Will Ferrell needed Talladega Nights. The lunkheaded but superbly satirical sports movie won out with blistering improv comedy from Ferrell and a great supporting cast led by John C Reilly. “I’ve seen the movie about five times now,” says Reilly. “I went to all the test screenings, because I knew there was so much material that we could have made three movies with the stuff that we shot.” Enjoy the DVD.
Best Bit: The cougar.

The Queen
Stephen Frears delivered an interesting peek behind notoriously-closed Royal doors at the time of 1997’s Diana death-hysteria. But while Helen Mirren’s the one picking up Oscar buzz, Michael Sheen deserves praise for his startling turn as Tony Blair. Watching him work, you’ll be gagging for him to star in a meaty dramatisation of the downfall of the PM. And you may get your wish – Frears and co are considering it. “They’d have to wait a few years for me to get older,” laughs Sheen. “Because Tony’s looking a bit ravaged these days...”
Best Bit: Cherie’s giggly post-first meeting dismissal of HRH.

Crank
It’s Speed... in Jason Statham’s body. The premise was genius, no question. And, in all honesty, this really is the most ludicrous film you’re ever likely to watch. But this B-flick ram-raid is still the maddest movie of the year, with human-bullet Statham maxing out on violence, energy drinks, drugs and public sex to keep his adrenaline high and cheat death long enough to exact brutal revenge. Dream marketing for Red Bull.
Best Bit: Bare arse flapping out of his medical gown, Statham legs it across Los Angeles sporting a short fuse and a tent-pole boner.

Clerks II
Kevin Smith didn’t just get his credibility back with his follow-up to 1994’s cult classic – he grew up in a way that suited him and broke away from the schmaltzy shallows of Jersey Girl. The dialogue’s as snappy and filthy as ever and, despite being almost exclusively set in one location, it looks better than anything he’s done before. Oh, and apparently Jason Mewes was fond of doing the Buffalo Bill “mangina” dance long before The Silence Of The Lambs.
Best Bit: Pillow pants.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Brett Ratner may not totally replace the beating heart of the X-franchise that was Bryan Singer, but he brings his own feeling of renewed urgency to what is, after all, a trilogy’s third act. Hugh Jackman shamelessly nicks the show with swipes of his adamantium claw, and there’s stellar work from Ellen Paige as Kitty Pryde, giving the movie its own emotional core. And if you thought Anna Paquin’s Rogue being cured was a duff choice, Ratner offers an alternate on the DVD.
Best Bit: Magneto takes the bridge. Literally.

Hidden
Not since David Lynch’s Lost Highway has video-delivery caused such a kerfuffle, on-screen and off. Michael Haneke’s ethical thriller transcended its art-house origins to become a full-blooded crossover classic. As Daniel Auteuil’s TV presenter receives mystery tapes, a dread-infused tale of personal and public guilt unfolds with minimalist, audience-piercing precision. “I’m shaking up the confidence the viewer has in what he’s seeing,” says Haneke. Look closely...
Best Bit: Quickly, horribly, a key character cuts himself out of the guilt-loop. Assume crash position...

L’Enfant (The Child)
Who was the child in the Dardenne brothers’ 2005 Cannes-winner? It could be a baby, but it could also be the ne’er-do-well who sells his girlfriend’s offspring on the Belgian black market... Either way, this sharp morality tale took social realism to the level of sly thriller and metaphor for consumerism’s infantilising impulse. Redemption-themed subtexts suggest spiritual asides, but warts-and-all humanity was the point. “We never wanted to express any thesis, Christian or otherwise,” said brother Luc. “It’s simply a human story.”
Best Bit: A scooter-chase through Belgian backstreets, with life, death and eternal redemption at stake.

Keane
Made in 32 days for less than $1m, Lodge Kerrigan’s intense lost-child feature was no Flightplan. Damian Lewis plays William Keane, a man on the brink of insanity. He might be delusional. The missing daughter he obsesses over might not exist. But the facts matter less than the subtlety, compassion, sensitivity and empathy with which Lewis and Kerrigan wire you into Keane’s raw pain. “I didn’t want to do the greatest hits of mental tics,” said Lewis. He didn’t.
Best Bit: Keane’s impassioned karaoke take on the Four Tops’ ‘Can’t Help Myself’. The lyrics sting anew (“I get all choked up inside...”).

The Squid And The Whale
The Life Aquatic writer Noah Baumbach explored another family at sea in this ’80s-set, semi-autobiographical divorce dram-edy. The pitch? As Laura Linney says, “No one is completely innocent and no one is completely guilty.” Baumbach even-handedly probes the impact of Linney and faded professor Jeff Daniels’ bust-up on their sons, who find solace in Pink Floyd and onanism. Rejecting broad yucks and fishy sentiment, Squid majored in an honest haul of wry, wincing empathy.
Best Bit: Jesse Eisenberg eulogises Kafka to his girlfriend, embodying parent-parroting teen pretension. “It’s very Kafkaesque,” he says, sagely.

United 93
Total Film Readers' Awards: - Best Director Paul Greengrass

“Thank you very much. This is a very great honour,” says Paul Greengrass, clutching his award for Best Director for United 93. “Respect to Total Film!” We’re on the set of The Bourne Ultimatum at Pinewood and there’s much hilarity as Greengrass poses for pictures, first for us, then for the camera-phones of crew members. “It was an exhilarating experience,” says Greengrass, of making his astonishing 9/11 movie. “And I don’t mean that in a callous way at all, what I mean is it was just very, very inspiring to gather with that group of people and address a big issue. It made you proud to be in the film business.

“When I was doing 93 I could feel the, ‘Oh dear, you’re not getting into 9/11, are you?’” continues the softly spoken director. “It’s weird, cos this [The Bourne Ultimatum] is the reverse. Every day you’re out on the street and people say, ‘What are you doing?’ And you say, ‘The Bourne Ultimatum.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh fantastic, can’t wait to see it!’ It’s a different kind of a pressure then. Like, you’ve got to not disappoint them.”

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
Busting the lid on the most ingenious, appalling corporate crime in history, Enron turned muck-raking documentary into pulp thriller. It’s a twisting conspiracy story in which Enron honchos Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling book billions of imaginary profits – then exit the building before it collapses on now-penniless investors and employees. The bastards.
Best Bit: The payback. Since the film unspooled, Kenny boy and Skilling were both convicted. Lay dropped dead in July. Skilling won’t see daylight for 20 years.

Grizzly Man
The most grimly hilarious true-life murder film ever, Werner Herzog’s rummage through the bear-lovin’ psyche of psycho wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell was the year’s darkest doc. Herzog’s strident narration is pure, pitiless insight: nailing how Treadwell was as conflicted and endangered as the Alaskan bears which eventually ripped both him and his girlfriend to shreds.
Best Bit: Herzog’s dignified/megalomaniac refusal to share the recorded sounds of Treadwell’s fatal bear-mauling.

What were your Top 10 films of 2006? What do you think of our choices? Visit the Forum and get typing...