How time flies. It seems like only a year ago we were drafting our Best-of lists for 2005. I had high hopes for the year to come, envisioning groundbreaking work from visionaries like the Wayans brothers, the Duff sisters and Larry the Cable Guy. Instead this year belonged to a master craftsman named Marty and a fresh-faced filmmaker called Fleck. Of the 150-plus movies I saw this year, here are my cream of the crop:

Shut Up and Sing10. Shut Up & Sing
Funny how many folks still harbor such resentment for the Dixie Chicks, even as the lame (duck) prez they dissed has seen his approval ratings plummet to freezing point. Well, not funny, sad actually. Barbara Kopple's intriguing, unexpectedly candid doc takes us on their incredible journey as they stave off career suicide, forge a tighter sisterhood and become symbols of a nation deeply divided.

Casino Royale9. Casino Royale
Has an actor ever been more vindicated in the history of Hollywood than Daniel Craig? Haters were everywhere upon news of his casting as the sixth 007. I think I even heard a crazy homeless man mumbling that Craig was "too prissy." And then there's the whole blond controversy. Sorry my friends, but ass-kicking is colorblind. And Craig ass-kicked his way into iconic stature as the Bond franchise officially became reinstated.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party8. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
He could do anything and make us laugh: read the phonebook, yawn, walk away from $50 million. Maybe not that last part. This vastly entertaining doc alternates between the comic's brilliant non-act and treasured hip-hop-soul acts and was the perfect antidote for those of us in 'Chappelle's Show' withdrawal.

Borat7. Borat
Those of us who've long kneeled at the altar of Ali G now have to share him with the mass market. Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius posing as a moron, and the way he goes about exposing absurdities (mostly of the bias variety) could make a helluva thesis. I wasn't surprised to hear early buzz that 'Borat' could be the funniest movie EVER. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's classic. Now let's all take a second to laugh at the racist, sexist frat boys who might never get a job or date again in their lives.

Brick6. Brick
It's a celluloid mash-up of sorts: 1940s film noir meets contemporary California high school. And it never should've worked. That it's brilliantly executed (despite the fact that the lightning-quick dialogue full of slang writer-director Rian Johnson conceived for the story can be hard to follow) is cause to celebrate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most exciting actors of his generation (rent 'Mysterious Skin' now) and does wonders channeling Bogie as a teen detective on the prowl.

Why We Fight5. Why We Fight
Eugene Jarecki's sensational documentary about the U.S. war machine gets more relevant by the day. Instead of falling into the trap of telling you this is a film every American must see (d'oh!), I'll just wonder aloud why it couldn't have made a tenth of what 'Fahrenheit 9/11' grossed.

Dreamgirls4. Dreamgirls
How good's the music? There shouldn't be that much clapping in a movie theater. How good's the acting? Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce and Eddie Murphy ALL upstage Oscar winner Jamie Foxx. How much did I not really care about musicals until this one came along? That one's just rhetorical.

Leonard DiCaprio in The Departed3. The Departed
This is the first film ever to make my head throb with pain, yet still leave me craving seconds. Martin Scorsese's forays into more historical fare ('Gangs of New York,''The Aviator') were honorable, but dude is just in his element with mob movies. His remake of the enjoyable 'Infernal Affairs' is one of the most complete thrillers to release in a decade. If he doesn't finally win an Oscar for Best Director this year, let's all go on a hunger strike until he does.

Pan's Labyrinth2. Pan's Labyrinth
Oh Guillermo Del Toro ... I love your movie even more than I love saying your name. (Hope it doesn't freak you out that I love saying your name.) It's hard to compare this dark fantasy tale about a girl who invents an alternate, mythical universe (or does she?) to escape the brutality of war around her to anything I've ever seen. It's innovative, awe-inspiring and powerful.

Half Nelson1. Half Nelson
Crackheads tend to get a bad rap. Ryan Gosling plays the first one I ever rooted hard for as an inner-city history teacher trying to inspire his kids while he just can't say "No." Ryan Fleck's directorial debut is a startling achievement, a penetrating, engrossing, outstanding film. And that's putting it lightly.

Honorable Mentions
The Road to Guantanamo
United 93
The Science of Sleep
A Scanner Darkly
The Ground Truth
Little Miss Sunshine
Little Children
The Descent

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categories Features, Cinematical