AFI AWARDS 2006 – American Film Institute

AFI Awards

Honoring a year of excellence.




…is a powerful reminder of the poetry of film. Alejandro Iñárritu’s non-linear storytelling style is both epic and intimate, and imagines our global interconnectivity as catalyzed by a single bullet. Raw performances from an extraordinary cast drive this haunting and, at times, harrowing tale about our inability to communicate despite advances in technology. The film is also an unblinking look at the price this has on our children, and ultimately asks the question, “Will we hear each other, before it’s too late?” Read the AFI Catalog entry


…clocks more laughs than any film in 2006, and it does so with a social commentary that asks us to pause between guffaws and examine the world around us. Sacha Baron Cohen’s immersive performance as Borat detonates an international conversation about what is funny and what is too far. The joy of the film is that no ivory tower is too tall for Borat. He targets Christians and Jews, feminists and frat boys, and all the while offering a global catharsis; for if we can laugh together, we can live together. To Borat, AFI say “High five!” Read the AFI Catalog entry


…is the haute couture of Hollywood filmmaking. Lovingly fashioned with style, romance and a fully realized script by Aline Brosh McKenna, it’s a film about choices and the time in one’s life when the world sparkles with opportunity. David Frankel’s film is both elegant and entertaining, and a wonderful reminder to moviemakers that a film with female protagonists can appeal to men and women alike. Meryl Streep’s tour de force performance adds Miranda Priestly to the many iconic characters that America’s greatest actress has created for the pantheon of film. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a musical masterwork that dazzles and delights in every frame. The film shines a spotlight on the talents of Bill Condon, who expands and enriches a legendary stage production while invoking the spirit of Broadway’s Michael Bennett. The result is an explosion of passion and power, an anthem to the outsider and a celebration of friendship that hits every note. Jennifer Hudson’s triumphant debut is one for the ages, and the film’s brilliant creative ensemble — a dream team of talent — deserves a standing ovation as the credits roll. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a small cinematic miracle – a film of such honesty that it challenges the boundaries of narrative film and cinéma vérité. Ryan Fleck-s directorial debut is an absorbing tale of demons and dreams, and the film compels us to consider role models in the real world, and who we look up to in the unlikeliest of friendships. Ryan Gosling’s inspired performance proves once and again that he is a force among the actors of his generation, and Shareeka Epps’ brilliant debut stands tall among the best of the year. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a one-of-a-kind motion picture experience. George Miller continues to paint outside the lines of traditional filmmaking, and his genius expands upon the animated art form to illuminate a world where penguins embrace dance and differences to survive and thrive. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, as the environment, religion and the chasm between generations enrich this sweet and subtle tale — one that is fun and funny, brilliant and beautiful, groundbreaking and global in its message. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a classic heist film that vaults above genre under the direction of one of American film’s truest voices, Spike Lee. This smart and shrewd crime thriller is layered with a complicated social portrait of the United States, where everybody is out for himself. This enriches the complexity of motives, and an all-star cast makes the most of this intricate game of cat and mouse, each with an eye on stealing the show. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a masterpiece of American film. Clint Eastwood continues to set the standard — telling stories of uncommon sensitivity on a canvas so grand and glorious that his place in America’s cultural legacy seems to have no bounds. LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is a complex examination of duty to one’s country — the enemy’s country. By presenting the Japanese perspective, the film projects point of view through a prism, reminding us of our common humanity and inspiring us to rise above the past and look forward to a brighter, better future. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a ray of hope for American film. This comedy gem exemplifies the best of the independent film movement, one that tells its story outside the mainstream but enjoys a massive and enthusiastic public response. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have assembled the comedic acting ensemble of the year, and together they tell the story of the Hoovers, the most dysfunctional family on wheels. In the tradition of classics like YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, through our laughter — and horror — we see ourselves. Read the AFI Catalog entry


… is a landmark American film — one that takes on a defining moment in modern time and creates a living memorial with equal parts art and realism. Paul Greengrass exemplifies the power of a story well told as the film confounds expectation at every turn. It is a nightmare that heals. It is an ending we know, yet our hearts race with hope. Ultimately, UNITED 93 is a meditation on honor and courage — and what you see in yourself when you look into the eyes of the person sitting next to you on a flight to tomorrow. Read the AFI Catalog entry



clocks into its fifth season firing on all cylinders — demanding that audiences fasten their seatbelts and hang on for the most thrilling ride in television. From season to season — and from second to second — 24’s strong, cinematic narrative is enriched by a vast and varied acting ensemble that in 2006 was gloriously enhanced by the show’s President and First Lady — Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart. Explosive and emotional, 24 is a show that sets hearts racing as it defines heroism in modern day.


shines bright among the stars of television’s sci-fi classics. The show is a profound parable for our times, and in the grand tradition of science fiction, the farther it rockets into outer space, the deeper it probes the inner workings of our humanity. In 2006, the show dramatically changed course from its initial premise — a true act of creative courage — and its continuing ability to fuse gripping drama and thoughtful allegory heralds BATTLESTAR GALACTICA as one of the triumphs of television.


is a killer show about a serial killer. Wildly audacious and original, the show is an incisive new take on several television staples — the medical mystery, vigilante justice and even romantic comedy — mashed together in the bloody grip of a self-doubting sociopath. Both creepy and compelling, DEXTER is the most morally complex show on television, and with that distinction, a true catalyst for a discussion of ethics around the living room.


shines bright among the crown jewels of television long form. The film is a majestic reminder of the art form’s ability to capture a time so rich in detail that it transports its audience to a world they would have never known. ELIZABETH I is high IQ entertainment at its most engaging, and Helen Mirren’s towering performance will have audiences genuflecting for generations.


is a celebration of America — its hopes and dreams, its heart and its heartland. Rare is the show that presents family and faith in such an authentic way — rich with emotion and illuminated by the pulse-quickening thrill of football. Peter Berg’s small town tale is one with community at its core, but universal in scope — the struggle of winning and losing, the drive to reach for more and the challenge of seeing a future beyond the glare of Friday night’s lights.


is a force for good in American television. Tim Kring’s ambitious comic book drama not only entertains with super-human abilities, but it speaks to an audience that yearns for hope in a world where cynicism abounds. The show marks an evolution in the serialized drama; its separate story lines do not immediately connect, but they share a message for the global community — within each of us is a stronger, better self with special abilities beyond what we can even imagine.


is an outrageous ode to the obvious and the oblivious. Each week, this clever comedy celebrates the trivial pursuits of colleagues we all know and love — the deluded, the ignorant, and the trapped, but talented. Steve Carell continues to define himself as a leading man of laughs, here a player within the funniest creative ensemble on television. Together, they make THE OFFICE a place you want to spend your nights.


holds a mirror up to American society, then smashes it and demands audiences take another look. Sweet and simple on the surface, the show remains the most subversive comedy on television as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to slaughter sacred cows into the show’s 10th season. SOUTH PARK’s achievement is more than just pushing boundaries; it’s an insightful comment on America, told with equal parts philosophy and flatulence.


is a landmark in American television. Its heart filled with hope, the show is unmatched in its ideal and its execution. The term “degree of difficulty” was redefined by THE WEST WING years ago, but in 2006, it reached even further — including a live presidential debate that reminded audiences of the power of substantive discussion in the highest offices of our land. Hail to the show’s chiefs, Aaron Sorkin and John Wells, and their extraordinary creative ensemble, who gave the world seven remarkable seasons of THE WEST WING along with a graceful and memorable bow.


is the great American novel produced for television. Rich in detail and engrossing in depth of character, the show is a moving document about the failure of American social institutions — from the family to schools to the justice system and beyond. David Simon and his talented writing team have created a window on our world — one complicated by motives, illuminated by nuance, and ultimately, heartbreaking in its humanity. THE WIRE is a show that you do not simplywatch; it’s one you live.



Clint Eastwood released two major motion pictures in 2006. This is a significant achievement alone, but that FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA tell the story of the same battle in World War II while presenting the points of view of the opposing sides marks a moment of significance for post 9/11 cinema.

The films not only complement one another, but they resonate together to create one of the great motion picture experiences of the new century.

Eastwood and his team of collaborators — including producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, writer Paul Haggis, cinematographer Tom Stern, editor Joel Cox, production designer Henry Bumstead and casting director Phyllis Huffman — provide an epic reminder that the American viewpoint is not the only human perspective.


In 2006, it was the documentary that best illustrated the power of film and television to bring us together as a global audience-and, with hope, to affect change.

In theatres, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH premiered in the United States and began a journey around the world, raising the level of debate about global warming. Directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring former Vice President Al Gore, this documentary presents the argument that we can no longer afford to look at the effects of greenhouse gasses as a political issue, but we must see it as a moral one.

Also of note is IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS, a film by director James Longley, who documented the experience of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in war-torn Iraq.

In television, WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE sets the standard for documentaries that fuse epic scope and human detail. Spike Lee’s masterwork about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans revitalized the debate about what it is to be abandoned by your government. BAGHDAD ER and COMBAT HOSPITAL also stand out among the year’s best documentaries, exhibiting a texture and depth that is necessary to understand their complex issues.


Though audience participation continues to have an enormous impact on television, with cultural hits like DANCING WITH THE STARS and AMERICAN IDOL reliant on interactivity, the true cultural phenomenon for 2006 is the dawn of a new era of participatory television — via the personal computer.

The explosive growth and domination of YouTube as the pre-eminent site for uploading, viewing and sharing video clips on the World Wide Web signifies the awakening of an age when the audience is both producer and distributor.

The impact of self-produced media is currently most profound as it relates to documenting events of the day that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Cell phones and video cameras capture police brutality, racial slurs and other events that are then “broadcast” around the world. Most notably for 2006, George Allen, a front-runner in the Virginia Senate race, referred to a man of Indian descent as “macaca” and the footage was first seen around the world on YouTube. It was one of several issues that Allen’s campaign struggled to control, and he lost the race.


2006 marked a year when network and cable news became far less significant in the echo chamber of the Internet, and the fusion of journalism and comedy continued to impact the political scene.

The flashpoint for this moment took place when Stephen Colbert, star of THE COLBERT REPORT on Comedy Central, was the featured speaker at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Colbert’s routine, performed in character as his faux-politically conservative news anchor, roasted President George W. Bush and his administration’s policies as the President sat a few feet away, and the entire room appeared uncomfortable.

Colbert’s performance aired on C-SPAN, but became an Internet sensation, providing a defining shift in the way the 2006 midterm elections were perceived and discussed by a younger generation.


2006 marks the end of production of the VHS cassette-and with its passing, the term “Be Kind, Rewind” is erased from the American lexicon.

Released to the consumer market in 1976 by JVC, the VHS format transformed the way the world watched the movies and, because of its popularity, changed the way movies were made and marketed.

2006 is also a watershed year in the way motion pictures are distributed to consumers. Theatrical experiments continue — Steven Soderbergh’s BUBBLE became the first motion picture released in theatres the same day it was available on HDTV and four days later on DVD. And Morgan Freeman’s ClickStar, a joint venture between Intel and Freeman’s Revelations production company, released 10 ITEMS OR LESS, the first feature film to premiere in theatres and then become available via broadband within two weeks of its national release.

The legal market for digital downloading became a reality in 2006 as full-length feature films are now available via cellular phones, Internet sites and through special DVD agreements with retail stores. The field continues to be lead by iTunes, which offers hundreds of television episodes and select movie titles.

Though the economic viability of these models is uncertain, their collective direction marks a moment when a global audience enjoys unprecedented access to the movies.


2006 marked a moment when what didn’t air on television was as compelling as what did.

When FOX announced that it was to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson, who would hypothetically detail how he would have killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, the decisive outcry from the audience, affiliates and advertisers caused FOX to cancel the broadcast.

The cancellation showed that a moral standard still exists for television, albeit a limit that had to be pushed to an extreme to be of note. That it was self-regulated, however, and not legislated by the government, is cause to celebrate


The pendulum of America’s dialogue on free speech swung back in 2006 as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and several of their affiliates filed a challenge to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that cited several incidents of “indecent” language.

This represented a rare galvanizing moment for the television community, which sees the FCC’s rulings, penalties and fines as vague and inconsistent and has asked the agency to provide a clear definition of its terms of indecency.

ROBERT ALTMAN — 1925–2006

ROBERT ALTMAN — 1925–2006 Robert Altman passed away in 2006 at the age of 81. In a career that spanned over 50 years, Altman was a true maverick of American film. His body of work — both in film and television — reflects an exceptional diversity in genre, but always with his indelible signature. From overlapping dialogue to the epic ensemble pieces filled with actors who revered him, Altman’s style continues to inspire artists and audiences alike. AFI will ensure that his films will live forever — M*A*S*H, NASHVILLE, McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, THE PLAYER, GOSFORD PARK and many more.