Joel Siegel's Best Movies of 2006

2006 was a good year at the movies. The box office was up $400 to $500 million. "Pinky rings for everybody!" they're shouting on Rodeo Drive.

Last year, the box office was down and Hollywood was worried. I have a theory that the box office was up this year because the movies were better. And in some films, the actors' performances were even better than the movies. That's where we'll start: with the runners-up, the oh-so-close films with stars who just might win Oscars even if the movies don't.

"The Pursuit of Happyness" gets a C for spelling and an A for acting. It could also get an Oscar for Will Smith.

"The Last King of Scotland" features a historic performance from Forest Whitaker.

"Little Children," if you must know, was No. 11 on my top 10. Kate Winslet deserves at least an Oscar nomination.

And from three of the best actors of all time: Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada," Judi Dench in "Notes on a Scandal" and Peter O'Toole in "Venus" all delivered performances worthy of Oscar nominations. O'Toole, who's been nominated seven times, has never won.

And now, my 10 best films for 2006, in no particular order:

"The Departed" could be the year's best. Director Marty Scorsese's never won an Oscar. Hey, academy … it's time!!!

I loved "Charlotte's Web." Some movie. Some pig. Some tears.

Talk about tears: "United 93." Shot documentary-style in real-time with unknown actors. It's a movie you probably won't want to see, but you'll never forget.

Another uncanny mix of real footage and great acting: "The Queen." When it opened, Helen Mirren was a shoe in for Best Actress. Is she still? Now, maybe … Beyonce?

"Dreamgirls" had a huge Christmas opening that makes it an Oscar front-runner and is now playing to standing ovations at a theater near you.

Will Oscar have the guts to nominate "Borat" for an award? Or Sasha Baron Cohen? No. But I would.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is more proof that Oscar needs a best ensemble acting category. This cast wouldn't miss that bus.

"Pan's Labyrinth" is a title that'll sell more dictionaries than tickets. While you're at it, look up "mesmerizing." It's one of three foreign language films on my 10 best. Think "Lord of the Rings" meets Picasso's "Guernica."

Also from Spain: "Volver." This year we may get another Cruz bouncing on Oprah's couch when Penelope is nominated for best actress.

"Letters from Iwo Jima" is the only contemporary film I've ever reviewed that I felt safe calling a masterpiece. It's not about the enemy, it's about humanity and Clint Eastwood proves you don't have to understand the language, to understand the heart.

And did I mention … "Dreamgirls"?

Yes, 2006 was a very good year at the movies and the first time I had three foreign language films make my 10 best. The world is getting smaller. And film is part of the reason.

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