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Apparently 2006 was a better year than I remember. The trouble with spending so much time in the dark is that it becomes harder not simply to see the light but to revel in it. And the 10-best list is an act of judgment I've never been wild about. Why 10? And what, ultimately, is the difference between No. 3 and No. 9? I happen to like both a lot, for different reasons, in different ways. Like any 10-best list, mine tells a story of the year, and that story seems to be the death of well-made frivolity. With a few exceptions, the year's best movies were heavy numbers, whose political and social ideas outshone whatever levity they contained. Regardless of how many hours we've spent obsessing over celebrity babies, these are not frivolous times. John Cameron Mitchell's 'Shortbus' is a comedy that feels like a more sober undertaking. Something more than just a laugh is at stake, which, of course, is what makes the film audacious: It takes life seriously, but not itself. Sacha Baron Cohen didn't appear to take anything seriously either. But 'Borat' is not simply an anomaly. It's a miracle whose conceits could have gone wrong and stayed there. Other movies tried for timely satire this year -- Paul Weitz's 'American Dreamz' comes to mind -- and lost their nerve. Be it as a matter of realism or science fiction, 2006's best films, in their own ways, either pay tribute to humanity's persistence in a dark hour or bear witness to its vanishing -- in Brooklyn, Oregon, and Bucharest, and in a former French soldier's vision of occupied Paris and a Mexican's sense of a fascist-state London in 2027. The world is hurting. And if these movies don't ease the pain, they certainly give the hurt a voice.
 
Wesley Morris's top 10 best films of 2006

Apparently 2006 was a better year than I remember. The trouble with spending so much time in the dark is that it becomes harder not simply to see the light but to revel in it. And the 10-best list is an act of judgment I've never been wild about. Why 10? And what, ultimately, is the difference between No. 3 and No. 9? I happen to like both a lot, for different reasons, in different ways.

Like any 10-best list, mine tells a story of the year, and that story seems to be the death of well-made frivolity. With a few exceptions, the year's best movies were heavy numbers, whose political and social ideas outshone whatever levity they contained. Regardless of how many hours we've spent obsessing over celebrity babies, these are not frivolous times.

John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus" is a comedy that feels like a more sober undertaking. Something more than just a laugh is at stake, which, of course, is what makes the film audacious: It takes life seriously, but not itself. Sacha Baron Cohen didn't appear to take anything seriously either. But "Borat" is not simply an anomaly. It's a miracle whose conceits could have gone wrong and stayed there. Other movies tried for timely satire this year -- Paul Weitz's "American Dreamz" comes to mind -- and lost their nerve.

Be it as a matter of realism or science fiction, 2006's best films, in their own ways, either pay tribute to humanity's persistence in a dark hour or bear witness to its vanishing -- in Brooklyn, Oregon, and Bucharest, and in a former French soldier's vision of occupied Paris and a Mexican's sense of a fascist-state London in 2027. The world is hurting. And if these movies don't ease the pain, they certainly give the hurt a voice.

(Wesley Morris)
 
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