Critics value reality in '06


In the age of home entertainment, film critics' top 10 lists have a practical purpose. No longer are these repositories of missed opportunities. Instead they provide a guide to DVD rentals or purchases. Indeed, many films still are available in cinemas.

What is singular about these six lists by The Hollywood Reporter's critics is that, again, the range is exceedingly wide, and the lists lack the repetitions one might expect. No film made all six lists. One film, "United 93," made five. Paul Greengrass' account of the one airliner that failed to hit its target on Sept. 11, 2001, and what might have transpired aboard, based on the most reliable evidence available, undoubtedly was the toughest film to sit through in all of 2006. Yet few films ever have shaken audiences to their very core the way this uncomfortable brush with reality does.

Indeed, reality rules as many of films on these lists are based on history, both ancient and relatively recent. Stephen Frears' "The Queen," concerning the emotional dust-up between Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair over her staggering misreading of her subjects' reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, made four lists. Interestingly, it failed only to make the lists of critics who are British born.

Other brushes with reality include Clint Eastwood's two films dealing with the battle for Iwo Jima in 1945 (one or both made four lists), and even "Marie Antoinette," a more fictional film dealing with a real queen, made one list, despite its rude reception at May's Festival de Cannes.

A casual filmgoer might wonder at the inclusion of "Army of Shadows" on two lists. A check with IMDb will reveal this to be a film by the great French director Jean-Pierre Melville made in 1969. By one of those unfortunate quirks of distribution, though, the film -- a truly fascinating look at the French Resistance during World War II by men who belonged to this "army of shadows" -- only was released domestically in 2006. I think it significant that two critics found a 37-year-old film to be among this year's best.

The critics' lists follow:

Kirk Honeycutt:
1. Flags of Our Fathers
2. Letters From Iwo Jima
3. Happy Feet
4. United 93
5. The Queen
6. The Lives of Others
7. Children of Men
8. Volver
9. Pan's Labyrinth
10. Borat

Sheri Linden
1. The Death of Mr. Lazrescu
2. United 93
3. The Queen
4. Army of Shadows
5. Half Nelson
6. Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
7. La Moustache
8. Infamous
9. Duck Season
10. Marie Antoinette

Michael Rechtshaffen
1. United 93
2. The Queen
3. Babel
4. An Inconvenient Truth
5. Letters From Iwo Jima
6. Borat
7. Little Miss Sunshine
8. Who Killed the Electric Car?
9. The Departed
10. Dreamgirls

Richard James Havis
1. V for Vendetta
2. The Departed
3. Pan's Labyrinth
4. The Road to Guantanamo
5. Curse of the Golden Flower
6. Inland Empire
7. Army of Shadows
8. Iron Island
9. Lunacy
10. The Proposition

Ray Bennett
1. Babel
2. Children of Men
3. Pan's Labyrinth
4. Volver
5. Flags of Our Fathers
6. The History Boys
7. Little Miss Sunshine
8. United 93
9. Apocalypto
10. Dreamgirls

Frank Scheck
1. The Queen
2. Letters From Iwo Jima
3. The Departed
4. Babel
5. United 93
6. Little Children
7. Dreamgirls
8. Borat
9. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
10. An Inconvenient Truth