40 Things I Loved at the Movies in 2006

While it hasn't been the best year, overall, for film, there was plenty to love at the movies in 2006. While I finalize all my best-of lists, here are some of the things I'll remember most about the year in movies:

The naked wrestling scene in Borat [my review]: what, ahem, cojones Sacha Baron Cohen and Ken Davitian have, to be so willing to appear so authentically vulnerable onscreen, in a way few male actors are ever asked to be.

Terry Gilliam's subversive sense of adventure with Tideland: he dared to make a horror movie that is genuinely, deep-down, disconcertingly horrific, one that challenged us to question our own conception of "the horror movie."

The newly joyful face on the fight against global warming and human destruction of our environment that is Happy Feet. [my review]

The newly serious attempt to raise consciousness about the looming catastrophic changes to our world that is An Inconvenient Truth. [my review]

Paul Dano's silent performance in Little Miss Sunshine [my review]: rarely since the advent of talkies has so much expression appeared onscreen without benefit of dialogue.

The poignant moment of history that Joyeux Noel [my review] revealed ... and how human hypocrisy and bitterness can so easily trump the powers of peace and friendship.

The infectious goofiness of Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny [my review]: if the sheer pleasure of playing air guitar along with your favorite album could be represented on film, this would be it.

The Illusionist [my review], and its literally awe-inspiring use of magic; I don't think I gasped more out of simple delight at any other movie this year.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns [my review]: c'mon, he was hilarious and scary at the same time.

Accepted [my review]: Mark Twain would have pointed to this one as the perfect illustration of not letting schooling interfere with education.

Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in The Queen: we all expected Helen Mirren to be fantastic, but he came out of nowhere to impress the hell out of us.

V's "V" speech in V for Vendetta [my review]: verily, the verisimilitude of V's vocal vexation is vicious and visceral.

The neo-noir of Brick: of course high school has always been a hotbed of sex, intrigue, and impenetrable slang, and this flick gets it.

Going round and round in the big wheel in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest [my review]: I can't wait for the Disneyland ride that replicates that!

The hard justice of Hard Candy [my review]: ouch.

That someone finally made toilet humor work in Flushed Away [my review].

The big dockside gun battle in Miami Vice [my review]: how on Earth did Michael Mann make us feel like we'd never seen people shooting at one another in a movie before?

The end-credits outtakes in Talladega Nights [my review]: if you don't like Big Red, then fuck you.

James Bond donning a tuxedo jacket for the first time in Casino Royale [my review]: it's like the first time we see that big "S" on Superman's chest, or the first time Batman flaps his cape; it gives ya chills.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in Kinky Boots [my review]: damn, I wish I looked that good in a miniskirt.

The long, uncut battle sequence at the end of Children of Men, one of the most gripping and awe-inspiring scenes of the year.

The whimsy of The Science of Sleep [my review] -- rarely has such visual joie de vivre been so deep-down affecting.

Jet Li's graceful exit from the martial-arts action genre with Fearless [my review], perhaps the best kung-fu movie ever, and one with something genuine and important to say as well.

The romantic reunion of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House; their exceptional onscreen chemistry proves that the magic of their pairing in Speed wasn't a fluke.

Mark Wahlberg's utterly captivating everyguy charm in Invincible [my review] ... and his hilariously deadpan snark in The Departed [my review].

How damn much fun it was to see Snakes on a Plane [my review] with a crowd of geeks totally stoked from months of Internet buzz.

The mesmerizing spell cast by The Fountain: visually, aurally, psychologically, romantically.

Sofia Coppola's punk-teen take on Marie Antoinette ... and the pair of anachronistic Converse hightops she snuck into the trying-on-cool-clothes montage.

Adam Beach's raw pain in Flags of Our Fathers [my review], especially the scene in which he despairs of being labeled a hero.

Roving Mars [my review] in IMAX: Man, do I wanna see the Red Planet in person, and this got me damn close.

That Ben Affleck actually turned out to be completely perfectly cast as original Superman George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

Having the bejesus scared out of me by Jesus Camp [my review].

The toe-tapping musical stylings of the Prairie Home Companion [my review] gang.

The palpable paranoia of The Good Shepherd and A Scanner Darkly [my review].

Fast Food Nation [my review], and its wonderfully old-fashioned joy in muckraking.

The cinematic playfulness of The Good German, and its unabashed love of old movies.

South African accents! Leonardo DiCaprio and Tim Robbins pulled them off beautifully in, respectively, Blood Diamond [my review] and Catch a Fire [my review].

Open Season [my review], and how it's the only movie in which I've actually enjoyed a performance by Ashton Kutcher (as the voice of the deer).

The totally unjustifiable fun of The Omen [my review], a note-for-note remake that shouldn't work, but does.

The triumph of the nerds that Wordplay [my review] represents -- since when is everyone in love with crossword puzzles?

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MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com