Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is the defining movie of the 2000s? PART 7: 2006

If you haven't been following, but would like to catch up now, here are the earlier parts...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Something tells me people aren't going to be happy with this part. Well, less happy than the usual unhappiness these posts generate. But I tried, people, I really tried. I even dropped my standards a bit and was open to letting in a few borderline movies.

But I have to say, this year was a terrible year for defining movies. And I think I came up with 2. 3 if I want to add what people will probably consider a "controversial" one. But I'll let you judge...

Remember, this is not a list of good/great/your personal favorite movies. This is a list to see if we can find what the definitive movie is of the decade. The criteria, as with most internet lists is subjective and vague in its definition. It has to be recognized by a majority of people (that means no art house films), and has to have a positive buzz. It has to be considered by the mainstream and have cultural significance.

Based on that, I have to say 2006 sucked nuts. For example, let's take a look at the Oscar nominated films:

The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Ok, taking nothing away from the quality of these films, do any of them strike you as a memorable film that people continue to bring up? The Departed felt like a pity Oscar given to Scorsese after his masterpieces kept getting beat out. No one wants to bring up Babel in conversation because the next phrase uttered will be, "I want to slit my wrists." Letters from Iwo Jima isn't even the best Eastwood film about World War II from this YEAR; The Queen is quaint but I doubt too many people are arguiing it defined a decade.

And that leads to Little Miss Sunshine. Aside from a genuinely funny dance number, the movie lived on the hype generated from the people who saw it early. What could have been a nice little cult favorite blew up way too much and couldn't live up to the expectations that were heaped upon it.

So where does that leave us? Looking for crumbs really. I came up with these 3 candidates for defining movies...

I know it has a longer title but I can't be bothered. This is the one movie from 2006 I feel is a legitimate candidate. A movie that blended a documentary style with a mad cap comedy, Borat scoffed at the conventions of PC comedy and gave us an original piece of art that also had a social commentary. Difficult to do, it caught like wildfire and created cliched catchphrases that people still use.

Casino Royale
Now we're getting a little reachy. Made for the times to "update" the Bond franchise and compete with the Bourne series, Casino Royale on the surface looks slick, but falls apart a little when held up to the traditional Bond movie formula. And yes, I get that they were trying to move away from that, but I don't know why they had to. The slick stunts and gritty realism they introduced could have lived civilly with meglomaniacal bad guys wanting to take over the world and seemingly indestructible henchmen. Regardless, Daniel Craig did a great job taking Bond in the direction they wanted to take him and the movie looked cool. And it got the press it so desperately wanted.

Children of Men
Children of Men seems to be one of those barometer movies; people use it to gauge one's opinion of film. An interesting movie that no only introduces themes and concepts few current movies do, it also is technically ridiculous in places. The car chase in particular is just crazy.

Still, I'm not sure I can consider it a candidate for a defining movie of this decade. While I think the content of the film speaks a lot to the current global political climate, unfortunately not enough people enjoyed it and so it's destined to become a cult movie in the future.

But I'm also not sure I can completely rule it out, so I'll leave it to everyone out there. If you have an opinion one way or the other about the movie Children of Men, let me know. I'll consider all opinions.

Unfortunately, whereas 2006 didn't have a lot of potential defining movies, it certainly had a plethora of other movies...

The Pink Panther
Some of my earlier memories were of watching Peter Sellers deliberately butcher a French accent and fight with his butler Kato. So the Pink Panther series has a special place in my heart. So call me a hypocrite for bashing Steve Martin's Pink Panther movie without seeing it, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The specialness of the Sellers' Panther movies was that everyone else played it fairly straight, allowing Sellers' Clouseau to be the highlight of the movie. Of the previews and commercials of the new Pink Panther didn't really give me the same vibe. In fact I'd suggest it was one sight gag after another, loosely tied together with a non coherent plot.

Speaking of non coherent plots...I mean, c'mon. It's obvious the director of Ultraviolet wasn't concerned with the plot, choosing to make an extended music video with a hot Milla Jovovich in a billion diffferent skin tight outfits kicking ass. Need to masturbate and this is on TNT? You're good to go. Want the movie to do anything else for you? Uh, good luck.

Warning: this CoM special contains some spoilers, so please, if you haven't seen the movie, don't watch it. And then go watch the movie. And then come back!

Superman Returns
2006 did have a finished Superman film, something that had been in the works for over 20 years. The story of this film finally making the big screen is a movie in and of itself, filled with weird Superman choices, A-list directors and a giant spider.

So when this movie came out, there was a certan level of anticpation usually held for things like presidential elections, the Olympics, and Terrance Malick releases. And people saw it and...


Of all the things it could have been, a touching movie that was seemingly directed by Death Cab for Cutie, was not at the top of the list for most fans.

Snakes on a Plane
So much potential; so much failure.

On the surface, the experiment of going directly to the internet for input and suggestions is a great idea and probably a peek at the future. I mean, what is the internet if not a huge test audience? The problem, as I see it, is "tapping" into the internet seemed to be the gimmick, and instead of taking some of the comments to heart to create a great spoof and parody on action/thriller/monster movies, the producers took a few token suggestions, threw them in, and hoped.

The movie was bad. Not in a good bad way either, which is obviously what they were going for. Unfortunately, they couldn't find the line and made it too inconsistent. The ingredients were there, the recipe may have even been there, but the chef wasn't. And that's too bad, because they had a chance to do something special. What we got was a big budget disaster movie of the week.

The Fountain
Oh boy. Give a crazy director complete control to film his own vision and you get something like The Fountain. I hate to bring up the word pretentious when critiquing an artist, because we all have a vision and who am I to suggest something like that, but still...To suggest you are unlocking the keys to life's meaning? Yeah, I gotta plead pretentious.

Anyway, here are the candidates from 2006:

Casino Royale
Children of Men?

Up next: 2007.


joel said...

Yeah, when you put it like that I can see how crap that year was for films. I don't think you need to even consider any of these movies. Just pretend it didn't happen and move on?

The Man Behind The Curtain said...

So I agree with Borat and Casino Royale, but I'm not so sure I would call Children of Men (which is easily one of the best sci-fi movies ever). But what about Pan's Labyrinth? It catapulted Guillermo Del Toro into the Hollywood spotlight, and has spawned many horror-fantasy imitators.

Anonymous said...

Let see... this is again a pretty bad selection....

- The Departed is good movie but indeed not that great. Point for you

- I don't agree with what you said about Babel, Letters of Iwo Jima, Little miss sunshine and The fountain. There are all very good movies...

- I liked Casino Royal but the defining movie of the decade ? no way...

- Children of men definitely deserves to be on the list. no discussion allowed

- Where the f**k is El laberinto del fauno (Pan's labyrinth) ?!? should be on your list... Why do you never mention foreign movies ?!?

Finally, I would have add United 93 and the Prestige on the list.

I also want to add that I think it's pretty stupid to say that 2006 of any other year was a bad year for the movies. Every year, 1000 of movies are produced all other the world. Every year, you can find at least 10 movies which are great. You just have to look for them.

Anonymous said...

I forgot... You are right about Borat. A very good movie. Another point for you !

Goose said...


Pan's Labyrinth is a great film, but I certainly wouldn't suggest it being a "defining" movie.

With the loose criteria I've set up, I've suggested that to be a defining movie, it has to not only leave it's mark culturally (and that can be both negative and positive) but it also must be recognized by different social groups (i.e. "nerds," "the mainstream," "the casual moviegoer," etc. Yes, these labels are arbitrary and not binding, but they also can be used to define the spectrum of people who enjoy movies; at least for this little exercise.

As for foreign movies - as I live in the US, and as the US is probably (i don't have statistics to back me up) the #1 producer and consumer of film, that has to factor into what the defining movie will most likely be. I'm not suggesting it couldn't be a foreign film; I'm suggesting there has been no foreign film that has met the criteria I have set up.

Again, to reiterate. I am not trying to rank movies based on how good or bad they are. And every movie list is subjective.

Jetspete said...

First of all, your constant failure to include any animated films in your discussion reeks of a bias, so much so that i am having trouble taking this list seriously (otherwise it is a fun serious of posts).

I looked at the list of the top 100 box office movies for this year. I think you have accumulated a good selection. The movies with the most re-watchability are The Departed and Casino Royale. However, perhaps the most "rewatchable" movie of 2006 had three huge stars, an A-List director and was well received by the public. I'm speaking of Inside Man. Now, Foster, Lee and Washington all did their best work in other decades but the movie is remarkably well acted and well written.

You could also make a care for The Devil Wears Prada, but since i'm straight i will not. The presence of Adrian Grenier all but ruins that films chances.

Goose said...


I am angry at myself for missing animation films; it's not on purpose, it's actually because I'm an idiot. I had both Finding Nemo and The Incredibles on shortlists, and then simply forgot to include them.

However, at the end of this series, I will be going back and looking through all the commenters' suggestions and including some of those on the list. As I have been asking for people to point these out.

As for Inside Man - I enjoy that movie a lot, and agree with your points. However, at the end of the day, it's just a thriller (albeit well made with huge stars) that doesn't do much other than entertain for 2 hours.

Sivendran said...

Where parts 8 & 9 already?