It would mean nothing for me to tell you that 2006 was a lousy year for movies -- I've been saying that every year since about 1986. But even by my standards, this was a rather lackluster year, with an abundance of prestige projects that turned out to be flawed, like Flags of our Fathers, Little Children and The Departed. Most of the gems I came across in 2006 were also released very early in the year, so I've decided not to confine my list to those films eligible for Academy Award consideration. I personally think that after awarding last year's Oscar to Crash, the Academy members should have to go away to a retreat and re-think their lives for about five years or so before handing out awards again. But that's neither here nor there. My criteria is simplicity itself: if the film was released for a theatrical run during the calendar year 2006, it's eligible.

Much like last year's list, which I co-compiled with Cinematical's ex-chief Karina Longworth, my choices this year have very little in common with one another. I have no stated genre preferences, except a love for westerns and musicals, both of which don't get made that often these days. There is evidence in the list, however, of my lingering preference for visual poetry over verbal Jujitsu. I will always side with the cold, Calvinist aesthetics of someone in the tradition of Godard over a cast-of-thousands verbiage feast offered by someone like the late Robert Altman. Looking over my ten films, I see at least six that excited me chiefly for the director's ability to communicate through painstaking, gorgeous visuals. So, without further ado:

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