The image above is from Children of Men -- and it's appropriate, as there were many films this year that went off in my head like bomb blasts, random and surprising and powerful. if desperate times call for desperate measures, then our time calls for powerful art -- films that can cut through cant and dogma and tradition and the way things have been to shock, provoke and entertain us. Here, in no particular order after #1, are my picks for the best films of 2006:

1) Children of Men

"
This is how Children of Men breaks your heart: By showing you a world where the presence of a child is so important that it can end battles because that child must not be hurt. And you imagine if every war were like that -- in Iraq, in Chechnya, in Dafur, in our own communities -- and you weep because you know that they are not. Wandering the ruined halls of an abandoned school, Miriam observes that it's " ...Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices. ..." We have the sound of children's voices, but do we truly hear them right here and now? Children of Men is full of bravura bravery and technical mastery, but what makes it moving is a rare combinations -- an understanding of the life-or-death stakes of modern existence, and an unflinching refusal to look away from the equally terrifying possibilities of our damnation or our deliverance."

(From the full review.)

2) The Queen

"
Well, The Queen made me do something I don't do a lot. It made me cry at the movies. And with one scene. It's near the end of the film, it features Helen Mirren, and it's a glowing, hard-won moment when a human being, knowing they have done wrong, is offered a brief, casual gesture of sympathy at a time they need it most. ... Some of the dialog is a bit too on-the-nosey, and Michael Sheen's Tony Blair feels a little broad in some moments, but the film still left me wishing that an American filmmaker would look at the more recent past with The Queen's fearlessness and humanity."

(From The Editor's Desk, Nov. 6: Hail, The Queen.)