2006’s Best: Movies, Music and TV
By Brett McCracken
December 29, 2006
My top film of the year is United 93, not because it is such a well-made testament to both Sept. 11th and America (which it is), but because it captures humanity so well, specifically man’s existential task of living in the face of mortality. Many of the other films in my top 10 feature protagonists—whether Marie Antoinette or Sophie Scholl—who embody these themes of imminent demise and what one does with brief blips of influence in this life. Cinema like this transcends entertainment and brings the viewer into a keener understanding of what it means to live and die in this uncertain, complex, frequently beautiful world.
- United 93
- Marie Antoinette
- The Departed
- The Queen
- Half Nelson
- The Proposition
- Old Joy
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
Honorable Mention: Don’t Come Knocking, Sweet Land, 49 Up, Children of Men, The Fountain, Apocalypto, Letters From Iwo Jima, INLAND EMPIRE, Borat, Volver, A Prairie Home Companion, Brick, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple, Bubble, The Good Shepherd, Three Times, Pan's Labyrinth
Cat Power’s breakthrough album, The Greatest, may not be as groundbreaking as some other releases this year, but it is one of the most consistent and quietly profound—and I’ve come back to it repeatedly in the 10 months since its release. Chan Marshall (the woman behind the Cat) opens the album with seven words (Once I wanted to be The Greatest …) that perfectly capture the quietly lamenting, bittersweet emotion of jaded strength amidst lost dreams. I’ve never been a huge Cat Power fan before, but this album—as with my second pick, Ron Sexsmith’s Time Being—is totally unpretentious, unembellished and uninterested in anything but creating meaningful music from the soul.
- Cat Power, The Greatest
- Ron Sexsmith, Time Being
- Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
- Sufjan Stevens, The Avalanche
- Joanna Newsom, Ys
- Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
- Josh Ritter, The Animal Years
- Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country
- Half-handed Cloud, Halos and Lassos
- The Dears, Gang of Losers
Honorable Mention: Danielson, Ships, Copeland, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, Justin Timberlake, Futuresex/Lovesounds, Mute Math, Mute Math, Bob Dylan, Modern Times, Band of Horses, Everything All the Time, Cold War Kids, Robbers and Cowards, Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You, Clipse, Hell Hath no Fury, Derek Webb, Mockingbird, Jars of Clay, Good Monsters.
I chose not to simply highlight 10 television shows for this list, but rather 10 television instances (episodes, appearances, interviews), probably because there are not 10 shows I currently watch on a regular basis. Nevertheless, my No. 1 has to go to the show Friday Night Lights, because each and every episode of this NBC series is top-notch and strikes me as some of the best acting, production, writing and passion on television. It is also honest and simple in ways that Grey’s Anatomy or Lost (both good shows) are not.
- Friday Night Lights
- Arrested Development finale (February 10)
- The month of March on CBS
- Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock
- Britney Spears interview with Matt Lauer on Dateline (June 13)
- Season 2 finale on Lost (May 24)
- Amy Poehler’s Nancy Grace on SNL
- Luciano Pavarotti on the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony (February 10)
- HBO’s Tsunami: The Aftermath (miniseries)
- Natalie Portman’s angry “digital short” rap on SNL (March 4)
Honorable Mention: Studio 60’ s “Christian” themes, Project Runway, The Office, Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s “digital short” on SNL (December 16), Mel Gibson’s interview with Diane Sawyer (October 12), Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke (HBO documentary), Elizabeth I (HBO miniseries)
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