In 2006, some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and some on their way to super-stardom, made some truly awesome films. Some of these you are sure to hear more about as Oscar season rolls around. Some you may not. But all the films on this list are definite must sees.
So, before 2006 comes to a close and you start singing “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in 2007, there are six awesome films that that you have to make sure you see.
Akeelah and the Bee
Director: Doug Atchison
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer, and Angela Bassett
The Story: Akeelah (Palmer) can spell. I mean she is really a good speller. But living in and attending her South Central Los Angeles, her ability is a handicap. In a day and time where ignorance is lauded and intelligence is scorned, it is easy to understand why Akeelah would shy away from attention. But you can not be afraid of your own gifts, and Dr. Joshua Larabee (Fishburne), a college English professor on leave, helps Akeelah realize this. With his help, Akeelah makes it to the National Spelling Bee despite her mother, Tanya’s (Bassett) early disapproval. But with her mother on board and the support of her entire community, Akeelah learns that she is “powerful beyond measure.”
Why you should see it:Akeelah and the Bee is definitely a feel good movie. The story and plot have the potential for after-school special territory, but it never goes there. Palmer gives an outstanding performance as Akeelah, proving that she will have a lasting career in Hollywood. Fishburne and Bassett are reunited again on-screen and although the have few scenes together, the ones they do share are poignant. In the end, it does not matter whether Akeelah wins or loses; the movie is not about that. It’s about living up to one’s potential and the goodness of human nature.
The Devil Wears Prada
Director: David Frankel
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Stanley Tucci
The Story: Andy Sachs (Hathaway), a Midwest to New York transplant, and recent college graduate hits the pavement in search of the perfect job as a journalist. Instead she winds up the second assistant to diva fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestly (Streep). Andy is determined to succeed at the job, even though she is totally wrong for it. But her determination impresses Miranda, slightly. But soon Andy learns the perks and privileges of the glamorous world of fashion come at a price.
Why you should see it: Streep is marvelous as the Anna Wintour-esque editor of the fictional Runway magazine. She delivers some of the most amazing lines and perhaps the most chilling “That’s all” in film history. Stanley Tucci is also great as Nigel, Andy’s first friend at the magazine. My favorite line in the entire movie, “I’m one stomach flu away from my goal weight” as delivered by Miranda’s first assistant Emily (played by Emily Blunt) basically sums up the image and weight obsessed world of fashion. But Prada digs a little deeper. Based on Laura Weisberger’s best selling novel, Prada, is more than clothes and shoes (although they are absolutely fabulous). When you get down to it, Prada is about being true to yourself. Sometimes you have to let go of some things, some people, so that you can hold on to you.
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Jaime Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles, and Eddie Murphy
The Story: Three friends from Chicago, Effie White (Hudson), Deena Jones (Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Broadway star Anika Noni Rose), join together to form The Dreamettes. The group travels to New York for a chance at stardom at the Apollo. Although they don’t win, the grab the attention of ambition talent manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Foxx) Taylor quickly transforms the group from unknown background singers to superstars. But the ladies soon learn that stardom comes at a price and the friendship is the first thing to go.
Why you should see it: This film has been generating Oscar-buzz since at 20-minute preview received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Eddie Murphy momentarily abandons his comedic roots to play frustrated James “Thunder” Early. Both Murphy and Hudson are on the short list names floating around for Supporting Actor and Actress nods. The movie, which is adapted from the 1981 stage play, touts a talented ensemble cast and is sure to rival the other recent musical adaptations released. The music alone is worth the $10 ticket price. Hudson’s rendition of “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” is outstanding. Dreamgirls is sure to go down in history as THE movie of 2006.
Running With Scissors
Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Alec Baldwin, and Joseph Cross
Story: Young Augusten Burroughs (Cross) is caught in the midst of a messy divorce between his alcoholic father (Baldwin) and wannabe writer mother (Bening). He is eventually sent to live with his mother’s therapist, Dr. Finch (Cox) and his bizarre family while his unstable mother attempts to “find” herself. While in the Dr.’s house, Augusten must come to grips with his mother’s eccentricities, his sexual identity in addition to the normal growing pains.
Why you should see it: Nobody on earth plays crazy like Annette Bening. In a performance that is sure to garner yet another Oscar nod, Bening is a scene stealer. She makes you empathize with Deirdre, despite her numerous flaws. The supporting cast is also great. Gwyneth Paltrow is chilling as the bible-thumping daughter of Dr. Finch. And Gabrielle Union also shines in the small part of Dorothy, Deirdre’s heroine-addicted-afro wearing girlfriend. The wacky and sometimes unbelievable series of wacky events keep the movie interesting. It’s amazing that the real-life Burroughs managed to survive with the slightest bit of sanity.
Director: Sanaa Hamri
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, and Blair Underwood
The Story: Kenya McQueen (Lathan) is a professional, African-American woman looking for her IBM (Ideal Black Man). Then, she unexpectedly finds herself falling for her white gardener Brian (Baker). The two polar opposites, but something draws them together. Everyone has an opinion on the relationship: her mother (Alfre Woodard), her friends and even her brother (Donald Faison) who plays matchmaker and set her up with Mark (Underwood). Kenya is totally confused and torn between what looks right and what feels right.
Why you should see it: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Aesthetically, the movie is beautiful. I think Sanaa Hamri’s music video background added a little something extra to the film. But the real reason that you should see the film (besides the history-making factor–the first film written, produced, directed by and staring black women), it is told from a perspective that is rarely given in Hollywood films…the professional African-American woman. Sanaa is convincing as Kenya and you feel the struggle and internal debate between heart and head. And although the scenes between Kenya and her girlfriends Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Suzette (Golden Brooks) and Nedra (Taraji P. Henson) are few, they are enjoyable. Overall, the story is told well, is not preachy, and is entertaining.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen
The Story: Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a NASCAR legend and a fan-favorite. Along with childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr. (Reilly) the two dominate the races with their one, two punch power play. Then things start to fall apart. First, a crash on the track and a slight mental break, threaten Ricky Bobby’s career. Then enters the gay French Formula One driver Jean Girard, who is determined to claim Ricky Bobby’s number one position. To triumph again, Ricky Bobby must face his past and reclaim his spot at the top.
Why you should see it: Hands down, this is the funniest movie of 2006. Will Ferrell shines and John C. Reilly is hands-down one of the best actors in Hollywood. The two of them together is pure movie magic. Talladega Nights is part satire, part parody, but totally hilarious. The cast of characters (which include Ricky Bobby’s “hot wife” and sons Walker and Texas Ranger) funny without being caricatures. His mother, played by Jane Lynch, has some of the best scenes. The racing sequences are believable and exciting. You don’t have to be a NASCAR-buff to understand this movie. Funny is funny. And Talladega Nights definitely is.