I meant to run this piece about a month and change ago, when it was closer to the midpoint of the year. But you know what? I don’t mind running it now, because we’re a few weeks away from the beginning of the prestige season (let alone the release of The Prestige), and it’s all too possible that a couple of these films will fall off my Top list – not because they’re not good, but just because these lists get crowded. I’ve already seen about 200 films this year, and it would be easy to find 20 or so to put on a list.

Running Scared (Review)
What a movie. Propulsive, crazy and over the top, Running Scared is a film that has fun with itself, with its genre and with our expectations. It’s a movie that a lot of people don’t get or haven’t bothered with yet, but this is one of the movies on this list that will be a cult favorite in a couple of years. It’s the Fight Club of 2006.

Slither (Review)
James Gunn shows all the haters: You think because a guy writes Scooby Doo he can’t infest a town with brainslugs? Slither is one of the year’s most quotable film, and that’s not just because of the great lines that come out of Gunn’s computer, but also because of how great his cast is at delivering them. Too bad Slither cemented Nathan Fillion as the best actor in movies nobody sees. This is another film that will be better appreciated in five years.

Brick (No review for you!)
You know what? Fuck Rian Johnson. How does this guy make his first movie on a shoestring budget with a basically silly premise – Raymond Chandler in a modern Southern California high school – and end up with it being brilliant? I guess because he’s just that talented. The premise works completely, thanks to Johnson’s crackling script and the sheer muscularity of his cast’s talent. And for a movie that was made for pennies, Brick looks beautiful. Hey, kids, it’s the third film in our “underappreciated in 2006” trilogy – look for Brick to become a must-see film when Johnson’s next, Brothers Bloom, is just as great.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby own in the
“The funniest movie of the year!” Thus spake Devin Faraci of CHUD.com on the Talladega Nights ads that appeared in newspapers across the country. But I had this film on my list before the movie was even released, let alone the printing of those newspapers. The movie is just that good, and while Talladega Nights doesn’t match the manic absurdity of the previous Will Ferrell/Adam McKay film, Anchorman, it’s still endlessly hilarious in all the best dumb yet smart ways possible.

Down in the Valley (Review)
Edward Norton, please take your time. The guy spent a couple of years not working, and if that’s what it takes for him to create characters as stunning as his cowboy adrift in Los Angeles from Down in the Valley, the wait is worth it. But the movie, a mashup of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy, isn’t just dependant on Norton’s performance. It’s a strange and touching love story between a man, a girl, a boy and a myth. It’s a fantastic trip.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Review)
As I write this no one has picked up this movie yet, and I have to only say, ‘WTF?’ This one part mockumentary, one part slasher movie cocktail is like catnip for horror fans. Behind the Mask is a loving tweak at slasher conventions, not a ironically detached smugfest like Scream. You know the film is great because on the one hand it pokes fun at the conventions of the slasher film while on the other hand creating a masked killer who could easily take his own spot in the great pantheon.

V For Vendetta (Review)
I wonder if Alan Moore took his name off this one because he’s mad that it’s better than his original comic. The serialized V For Vendetta is a meandering but fascinating mess; the filmic version streamlines everything and makes the story of a repressive government ruling by fear of boogeymen so timely you’d think you’re watching CNN. V For Vendetta shows how to do adaptations right.

A Prairie Home Companion (No review for you!)
How funny is it that the Academy gave Robert Altman an honorary Oscar last year and then he goes and makes a movie that puts him in legitimate competition for Best Director this year? Prairie Home is a sweet, funny and ultimately truthful meditation on mortality. And more shocking than that, it proves that Lindsey Lohan’s a pretty decent actress after all. Hell, this film might have made my top ten if it was only made up of the wonderful musical performances sprinkled throughout.

United 93 (Not a review, but close enough!)
Thank God Paul Greengrass’ United 93 was the first 9/11 film released. Thank God that it was this movie – a tough, serious and realistic look at the doomed final hours of the plane that didn’t hit its target – that was our first cinematic look at that horrible day. While Oliver Stone gave us a maudlin Hollywood movie, Greengrass showed us a truth that goes beyond the facts (facts that we can never fully know) and lets us experience both the horror and the triumph of the passengers on that flight. CHUD knew Greengrass was one of the premiere filmmakers working today – now everybody else knows it too.

The Fountain (Review)
This film would top my best list in almost any year. This is only Darren Aronofsky’s third film, which means he only made two movies before making his masterpiece. Mind-blowing, heart-breaking, but not ass-numbing at only about an hour and a half, Aronofsky has made an epic that spans centuries, galaxies, and the mysteries of true love. If this film doesn’t get loved at the Oscars, especially Hugh Jackman’s brave and moving performance, the system is even more broken than we ever imagined.