- The Lives of Others
- Letters From Iwo Jima
- Deliver Us From Evil
- Golden Door
- The Last King Of Scotland
- Red Road
- United 93
- The Wind That Shakes The Barley
The overall critical consensus of the two leading categories in 2006 is pretty much spot-on, and the Academy agreed in bestowing the trophies to two actors doing crack jobs of playing real-life leaders. Among the males, the standout was Forest Whitaker burning the screen up with his intensity as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland, one of the year’s most exciting films. Whitaker’s overzealous style of acting is perfectly suited to the role (even if a casual look at Barbet Schroeder’s documentary on the man reveals him to not be quite as ridiculously expressive), and for once his manic energy is perfectly suited to a project.
The Queen isn’t the exploitative biography of England’s modern-day monarch that you would expect, but a probing, affecting work about the conflict between duty and desire that affects the monarch when she is called upon to respond to Princess Diana’s death in a manner she considers unconventional (not to mention undignified). The scene where Helen MIrren receives a bouquet of flowers from a little girl is enormously moving.
Old man sympathy motivated the Academy’s choice of Alan Arkin for his admittedly hilarious performance in Little Miss Sunshine, but it was a shameful oversight for the truly awesome work done by Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls. As a James Brown-esque crooner who suffers the ups and downs of the music business before fading into obscurity, Murphy lights up the screen with his astounding musical prowess and then breaks hearts with his downward spiral into destruction. The man is so amazing that he was getting standing ovations from the crew on set.
You show up to a movie like The Devil Wears Prada to see Meryl Streep at the top of her game, and she does not disappoint. Her Miranda Priestley is a fascinating examination of the intimidating boss who, thanks to a film made by people who love her, is also impressive and admirable even at her scariest. Making her world convincing is a different story, however, and that’s where the brilliance of Emily Blunt comes in to play. Her position as first assistant is the reason why Anne Hathaway learns that what they do at their magazine is actually very important to the people in their world, while the timing Blunt serves over and over again in just about every scene steals it with comedic ease. I don’t know how anyone else who can make me laugh that much with lines like “hideous skirt convention”.
Making a World War II film about the battle of Iwo Jima (the first major film project on the subject since the forties) is one thing, but making two? While Flags Of Our Fathers, which covers the American side of the battle, is a solid war film, Clint Eastwood‘s follow-up, Letters From Iwo Jima, filmed entirely in Japanese, is a soul-stirring masterpiece that reaches levels of magnificence rarely seen in the genre, and in his oeuvre as well.