http://chud.com/nextraimages/bestof06.jpgWhat a weird year. For the longest time it felt like the year wouldn’t have enough standout entries that I’d have to rely on them to fill the year but thankfully, things righted themselves rather quick and one of the more diverse years unfolded. It’s not an easy year for individual awards, but a very nice one for years. It’s also nice to have a few less snooty choices in here.

Devin was the main opinion behind the site in 2006, and though I piped in when I could, now’s my chance to finally share with you guys my picks for the best of the best. It’s not a very controversial list.

Or is it?

My Worst from 2006
My Worst from 2005
My Best from 2005

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick15.jpg15. Hostel (Devin’s Review) (Russ’s Review) (Buy the DVD)

The fact an Eli Roth is on my "Best Of" list scares me more than any horror film. I hated Cabin Fever. Hated it. I also hated seeing a guy who had one film under his belt lumped alongside (called Masters of Horror before Showtime ruined the term) the greats of the genre before truly earning it. After this, he’s getting there. What is considered ‘torture porn’ by many somehow has stuck to my ribs long after I saw it, and it’s one of the better DVD releases of the year because of it. Though I had more fun with Feast and Slither, this is the horror flick to make my list. So much for me not liking Eli Roth.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Mutilated lips gives a kiss on the wrist…

Performance to
Savor:
Eythor Gudjonsson. Pronounce that shit on your own time.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“A singular horror flick in a year filled with copycats!”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick14.jpg14. Rocky Balboa (CHUD Review)

I wanted to like this, I really did. How could I not? It’s a Rocky film, a rite of passage or at least a chance to see polished, shirtless men delivering flurries of hateful punches upon one another. Thankfully, Stallone’s return to the form is a return to form and a heated security blanket on a cold winter’s eve. It’s got enough flaws to fill Mickey’s coffin, but it still retains that magic. And Cuff and Link’s ancestors are in it. That goes a long way.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Nothing goes down smoother than vintage Balboa.

Performance to
Savor:
Stallone!

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“That old sonovabitch still has juice in him yet!”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick13.jpg13. Running Scared (CHUD Review) (DVD Review) (Buy the DVD)

Wayne Kramer already cut his teeth with The Cooler, but this was a revelation, a violent and profane romp through the looking glass and actual proof that Paul Walker could carry the shit out of a film if he wanted to. A really stylish and creative romp that doesn’t flinch from ultraviolence or ultrapubichair. This is a really unique film and one that deserves to be seen. It’s not really a guilty pleasure, either. It’s an actual pleasure. New Line came out of the gate strong with this, and then it all went to shit.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Impressive filmmaking. Great work by Paul Walker and Vera Farmiga. That child molesting scene.

Performance to
Savor:
Gulp… Paul Walker.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“A sleeper in the truest sense of the term. See this flick!”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick12.jpg12. Crank (CHUD Review) (Buy the DVD)

The most manic and fucking insane major release of the year, this little bastard is amazingly crafted entertainment, fueled by genius and powered by nitrous oxide and semen. Jason Statham spends an hour and a half being the baddest, baldest action hero looking for adrenalin you’ll ever see. Without rules, action films are capable of so much, and this is proof of it. Stay through the credits too.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
The most playful and inventive filmmaking in town. Jason Statham kicking all the ass he can muster. Video game undercurrents.

Performance to
Savor:
The Transporter.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“If you don’t enjoy this you belong in Amanda Plummer.”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick11.jpg11. The Good Shepherd (CHUD Review)

It’s paced like a snail’s Kama Sutra, but it works. Robert Deniro and Eric Roth’s detailed look at the birth of the CIA through trials and tribulations with the Soviets, Cubans, and our own double agents is a rewarding one and though Angelina Jolie is wasted as the neglected wife and Matt Damon doesn’t age as convincingly as one would hope, there’s a lot to love here. Very subdued work by Damon is complemented by a really nice turn by Oleg Stefan as his Russian adversary. A nice smart thriller in a year that needed one.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
A new facet to Matt Damon. Robert Richardson at the top of his game. Great supporting work from Deniro, Baldwin, and more.

Performance to
Savor:
Oleg Stefan.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“A rich and complex bit of American cinema. Now touch my nipples!”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick10.jpg10. The Illusionist (Buy the DVD)

In a year where it was The Prestige and "that other magic film", I was surprised that it was this one which resonated with me more. neither really hid their tricks and twists far up their sleeves and both featured very solid acting work but this film just felt more timeless and less gimmicky. It also featured fantastic work by Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti (under an unrecognizable voice) and very tactful filmmaking by Neil Burger, whose earlier Interview with the Assassin is another one I dig. A nice little flick.

Current Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Gorgeous photography. Great acting. A sense of period that’s uncommon.

Performance to
Savor:
Giamatti.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“Who needs twists when you have plain ol’ good acting?”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick9.jpg9. Casino Royale (CHUD Review)

It’s too long and features one set piece too many, but this is a James Bond film for the ages, a top fiver if not higher. Though Parkour has been done better in other films, Casino Royale hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until Daniel Craig has all but erased a few really shitty films and the huge wasted opportunities with great Bond men named Timothy and Pierce. A lovely effort that makes you wonder just how cool it can get in the future.

Current Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Sober storytelling and classic James Bond sense of feel. Daniel Craig IS Bond. A smaller and more realistic backdrop works in spades for a franchise that didn’t deserve the grace it got.

Performance to
Savor:
Craig.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
“Blunt instruments feel nice!”

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick8.jpg8. Thank You For Smoking (Buy the DVD)

This flick is great even with Cameron Bright’s alien visage in a major role. That’s impressive. Jason Reitman’s film is a bright and masterfully edited bit of satire and cynicism brewed with attitude and filled with really great acting work throughout. Something about seeing Robert Duvall, David Koechner, Robe Lowe, and J.K. Simmons surrounding an absolutely at the top of his game Aaron Eckhart warms the heart. And other places.

Current Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Great supporting work around an amazing central performance. Great comic timing and editing. Amazing opening credits.

Performance to
Savor:
Eckhart is on fire. Shame thsi didn’t come out in the fall. There’s a Best Actor nom for this boy that’ll go undelivered.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"Grab a mint julep and enjoy a great little movie!"

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick7.jpg7. Miami Vice (CHUD Review) (Order the DVD)

How could Miami Vice ever be an interesting concept as a film? When Michael Mann’s in charge, baby. This is an uncompromising and superbly odd summer action movie, one that has no interest in catering to stereotypes and convention. Good for him and good for us, for this is one of the most surprising big budget films I’ve seen in a long time. I liked it so much I could feel me coming in the air tonight.

Current Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Michael Mann, the man.

Performance to
Savor:
Colin Farrell.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"A sucky show becomes a wonderful film!"

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick6.jpg6. United 93 (CHUD Review) (Order the DVD) (DVD Review)

I cannot believe I not only saw, but liked both September 11th themed films this year. This one is astonishing both in its fairness in every direction and its ability to never once milk the plentiful opportunities is has to preach, coast on our memories, or get too patriotic just for the sake of it. Paul Greengrass has already established that he’s without peer these days at finding the marrow of political issues and getting right to it. This is a work of grace.

Current Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Peerless storytelling. One of the most dramatic moments in world history.

Performance to
Savor:
Real-life participant Ben Sliney.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"Too soon? Just soon enough, apparently."

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick5.jpg5. Borat (CHUD Review)

It’s sp easy to get swept up in the backlash, but I have no doubt in my mind that this film is one of the all-time classic comedies in the grand scheme. This is Spinal Tap, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Trading Places, Animal Crackers, whatever your hallowed halls are filled with. 2006 was a very good year for comedy with Beerfest, Thank You For Smoking, Jackass II, and Talladega Nights. This is the golden cherry on top. Sacha Baron Cohen is a virtuoso and there’s no doubt in my mind about it. This is a funny and wicked little film and one that will outlive the hate bombs thrown at it for its overexposure and watercooler mimickry.

Current Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Fearless comic brilliance.

Performance to
Savor:
Duh.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"What the hell just happened to me?"

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick4.jpg4. Children of Men (CHUD Review)

Alfonso Cuaron is better than you and me put together and I’m pretty proud of you and I, so that’s saying something. The kind of gear shifting and output this guy manages is awe inspiring. This film is really cool but that’s the last reason this is so special as every nuance is filled with smaller nuance and this thing somehow manages to visit oft-visited territory and make it its own. The action scenes are like the sweetest video game you’ve ever placed, having been placed in the action but they give way to amazing little soft and introspective moments that make the violence hit home. A really special film, a companion piece to the best Dystopian films and stories ever made and if you don’t worship Clive Owen yet, here’s the firecracker.

Current Rating: 9.2 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Amazingly confident filmmaking. Amazing work by Clive Owen. True Science Fiction theory and logic. Balls, lots of ‘em.

Performance to
Savor:
Clive.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"A mind fuck, or at least a mind blowjob!"

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick3.jpg3. The Fountain (CHUD Review) (Order the Graphic Novel)

I still can’t believe this film exists. It’s as if someone allowed Darren Aronofsky to go back to the late 60’s and create an art film masquerading as mainstream entertainment. That the mainstream didn’t give this much of a chance is proof of the mainstream’s failures as a demographic. This is an amazing emotional and spritual journey that doesn’t pander to its audience and doesn’t have the gall to try to create a mystique in a long running time. Seriously, this year marks the true arrival of the three legendary filmmakers of the next twenty years. Darren’s one of them.

Current Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Darren Aronofsky unloading full-on brilliance and unrestrained romanticism.

Performance to
Savor:
Hugh Jackman ain’t boring no more.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"A classic science fiction film."

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick2.jpg2. The Departed (CHUD Review) (Order the DVD)

This is the most entertaining movie of the year. One of my favorite scripts, especially adapted ones, in a very long time. It’s funny as hell, rich and layered with stuff that resonates with each viewing, and loaded with explosive violence that recalls Scorsese’s best work. This is his most fun movie, but it’s also one of his best. Infernal Affairs is fine, but this is legendary.

Current Rating: 9.7 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
An ensemble that is the definition of an ensemble. How the heck did this many leading men share a screen without a moment of distraction? Thelma Schoonmaker is a Goddess.

Performance to
Savor:
Leo. Matt. Jack. Alec. Martin. Mark. And on and on…

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"Films like this come around only 5 or 6 times a lifetime!"

http://chud.com/nextraimages/06nickflick1.jpg1. Pan’s Labyrinth (My Review, Devin’s Review)

This film is alive. Every frame pulses with imagination and magic, and anyone who still doesn’t get the genius of Guillermo del Toro needs to just see this to understand what kind of insane and slightly fucked toolbox the man is working with. It’s no coincidence that folks like Spielberg, Soderbergh, Darabont, and many more like them geek out over his work. It’s that fucking good.

Current Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Contributing
Factors:
Guillermo del Toro firing on all cylinders.

Performance to
Savor:
Captain Vidal, baby.

P.R. CHUD.com
Pull-Quote:
"The most imaginative, original, and inspiring film in a decade."

Honorable mentions: Hard Candy. Dreamgirls. Dead Man’s Shoes. The Amateurs. Monster House. Slither. Brick. A Scanner Darkly. The Prestige. World Trade Center. Babel.

Wish I could have seen: Little Children. Behind the Mask.

Discuss this column here.