Monday, January 01, 2007

Michael Smith's Favorite Films of 2006 / The Tulsa World

Before we get to the 10 best films of 2006, consider these five as alternates. Excellent films all, they deserve more than honorable mention.

Flags of Our Fathers
An intelligent look at the meaning of heroism, Clint Eastwood's film is a handsome, heartfelt story of a battle that changed World War II. The director's companion piece, "Letters From Iwo Jima" -- the battle told from the Japanese perspective -- that was originally scheduled for 2007 release has been bumped up due to the flagging box office for "Fathers," and it's already won a couple of critics' groups Best Picture awards. That film hasn't been released in Tulsa, but "Flags of our Fathers" stands on its own.

For Your Consideration
There's hardly a ritual more deserving of bashing than that of Academy Awards hype in a world of rampant Internet prognosticators and publicity machines run amok. Christopher Guest ("Best in Show") and his band of merry men and women (Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard are sensational) hilariously skewer everything from out-of-touch producers to vacuous infotainment shows.

Thank You For Smoking
Drawn from a best-selling novel by Christopher Buckley and written and directed for the screen by precocious freshman filmmaker Jason Reitman, "Smoking" is that rare satire that dares to be politically incorrect, piercingly insightful and caustically funny throughout. In a media-saturated Age of Spin, hustling lobbyists are the reigning princes of darkness, and Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is a star, the glib national spokesman for the tobacco industry and a man who takes great pride in the fact that his job "requires a moral flexibility that goes beyond most people."

Pixar animators hit the highway -- historic Route 66, to be specific -- in this antic cartoon comedy about a hot-shot racing car marooned in sleepy little Radiator Springs and forced to slow down, reconsider his fast-track life and stop to smell the gas fumes. Tulsa writer and Route 66 guru Michael Wallis provides the voice of the sheriff and served as Pixar's guide along the Mother Road.

Stranger Than Fiction
This wonderfully high-concept head trip about changing one's life path is the kind of film that keeps percolating in your own noggin, conjuring up all manner of possibilities. Will Ferrell shows a new depth and humanity as an IRS auditor sleepwalking through life until a voice in his head wakes him up to a world of possibilities.

At times comic, touching and full of Big Questions with unusual answers, director Marc Forster and debut film scripter Zach Helm have fun toying with one man's existence. This meta-mad conundrum asks audiences to take a leap of faith for its clever love story -- Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfect as a sexy baker -- and you shouldn't think twice.


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