- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

In 2006, “Superman” returned, Bond bounced back, and even Rocky proved he had some fight left in him. The year also gave rise to this eclectic “best of” list, where racist boors like Borat rub elbows with pedophile priests and cigarette salesmen. Here’s a toast to 10 films which made me glad to spend so much time in dark places.

1. United 93 — It’s hard to imagine another film capturing the shock and dismay of September 11 better than this. It’s more than a tribute to the heroes of that flight. It’s an exquisite movie, albeit one some may never be ready to watch.

2. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos — Dreadful title. Terrific documentary. Even soccer haters will cheer the sport’s rise and fall during the 1970s. Cosmos standout Giorgio Chinaglia emerged as one of the year’s best film characters.

3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan — Our blinkered U.S. tour guide gave us the biggest laughs this year. Therapy won’t be enough to chase “Borat’s” wrestling sequence out of our minds, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

4. Dreamgirls — Big, brassy and often brilliant, this gorgeous musical is the best hope for the genre’s turnaround. A star is reborn with Eddie Murphy’s mercurial singer, and “American Idol” castoff Jennifer Hudson shows how faulty that show’s voting process must be.

5. The Descent — Budding horror auteur Neil Marshall gave us the best chills of the year. The film’s all-woman troupe battles beasties below the earth while Mr. Marshall engages us with creepy effects and masterful use of shadows.

6. Deliver Us From Evil —This documentary details a horror that’s impossible to forget. Fallen Father Oliver O’Grady reflects on a lifetime of pedophilia with chilling detachment while director Amy Berg indicts the Church for letting him run roughshod over the law.

7. Pan’s Labyrinth — Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy feels like a children’s tale but offers some very mature frights. The eyeless creature that confronts our heroine during the dinner sequence is the kind of original monster we see all too infrequently.

8. Casino Royale — Craig, Daniel Craig proved he isn’t like every other James Bond. He’s better, and so is this richly entertaining feature. “Royale” downplays the gadgetry, gives Bond some great lines and gooses our adrenaline with a spectacular foot chase.

9. Thank You for Smoking — First time writer-director Jason Reitman can’t be this polished this soon, right? His “Smoking” offers brilliant comic acting and a piercing script based on Christopher Buckley’s novel. Cheeky performances abound, but let’s single out Rob Lowe for rising above preconceptions.

10. Letters From Iwo Jima — The better of director Clint Eastwood’s impressive “war is hell” two-pack. It’s as gritty as “Flags of Our Fathers” but lacks that film’s narrative gimmicks. But why did Clint ignore the horrors of the Japanese war machine?

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