CineScene's best of 2001
Top Ten - ten you say? I think not. There aren't ten...at least not that I've seen. But I'll give you my top eight.
| 1. Amélie
I'm big into fairy tales (see #4) and never tire of them, especially if they are told well. This little French gem wins the year. It brought laughter to my lips, tears to my eyes and hope to my heart.
2. The Fellowship of the Ring
|3. Snatch (Guy
Funny, fast-paced and wild with a great soundtrack and a well-told, interesting story.
4. A Knight's Tale (Brian Helgeland)
See #1. Making the old new again with rock and roll and a budding heartthrob. The story isn't original but somehow seems fresh, watchable and re-watchable.
5. The Royal Tenenbaums
Dysfunction made funny and touching and in the end everyone gets what they deserve. Wacky, strange and utterly charming.
|6. Bridget Jones's
Would that every everygirl had a Mark Darcy to run toward, through the snow, in her ridiculous underwear. Oh boy, I sure hope the good boys kiss like that.
7. Ocean's Eleven (Steven Soderbergh)
Slick, sharp and gorgeous fun at the movies.
8. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Finally, a movie where you not only have to pay attention, but you want to - and when you do, you like what you see.
When I started looking at my favorite films of the year, I realized that trying to rank them was going to be an extremely difficult task. There were many that I liked equally, but for entirely different reasons. I struggled through to the ranking you see here, which, of course, will have changed by the time you read this. And I still haven't seen many that I wanted to, including Monster's Ball, In the Mood for Love, and others.
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
3. The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
|5. The Man Who Wasn't
Billy Bob Thornton's wonderfully understated performance, Roger Deakins' gorgeous black and white cinematography, and Tony Shalhoub's gloriously over-the-top support make this one well worth seeing...and that's before you get to the Coen Brothers' writing and direction.
6. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(John Cameron Mitchell)
Despite a disjointed finale, Mitchell's virtuoso turn as writer/director/star of this tale of the glam-rock antics of a botched transsexual has an energy and exuberance that sticks with you long after it's over.
|7. The Pledge (Sean
Jack Nicholson's finest performance in years, directed with pitch perfect precision by Penn.
8. With a Friend Like Harry...
This darkly comic thriller boasts a likable cast and even-handed direction. Comparisons to Hitchcock aren't entirely without merit.
9. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
A playful and intriguing film, with Guy Pearce's solid performance as a man with no short term memory anchoring some otherwise tenuous developments.
10. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
Although Anderson's latest quirky dramedy suffers from some tonal problems that keep it from being as good as it could have been, it's a marvelous bit of work just the same - visually and aurally stunning.
Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Iñárritu's bloody meditation on love and dogs intrigues while it flirts dangerously with cliché. Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett)
An exceptional genre film about two sisters, one of whom transforms into a werewolf.
A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard)
A masterful performance by Russell Crowe and unusual restraint by Howard (at least up until the final half hour) save this from falling headlong into maudlin sentimentality.
Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan)
A dark satire on reality TV that was too quickly eclipsed by the real thing. Still worth checking out.
Shrek : Not as clever as it thinks it is, and ultimately suffers from the same problems it tries so desperately to criticize.
Black Hawk Down : Gives us just enough character development to make us aware that it desperately needed more.
Moulin Rouge: Flash and dazzle direction may cause seizure without masking gaping flaws in maudlin narrative.
Ocean's Eleven : The cast and crew obviously had a good time making it, which fails to explain why I didn't have one watching it. Steven Soderbergh takes the style over substance trend he started last year to the extreme.
Training Day : Boom! Switching sides doesn't equal showing range. Denzel Washington's performance is more of the same, only...(gasp)...as a bad guy.
Vanilla Sky : aka When Good Directors Go Bad. Cameron Crowe
seems painfully (or is that blissfully) ignorant directing Cruise's vanity
project. Do yourself a favor and rent the original - Amenábar's
Open Your Eyes.
And, finally, the worst:
TEN OF THE BETTER: 2001 (in alphabetical order):
Some Honorable Mentions:
Simple Competence Award
Noteworthy Performances in Films I Haven't Already Mentioned:
Hardest-Working Person in Movies:
The Don't Get Around Much Any More Award: To the guy in back of me at
the theater, who, when the trailers started with an on-screen car ad,
said, "Uh, they have commercials at movies now?"
Unfortunately, any attempt at a Top 10 is imperfect because of the films I haven't managed to see. Thus, for example, my list doesn't have The Fellowship of the Ring (which I'm sure I'll enjoy). But here is a list of the best films I've seen this year.
1. Monster's Ball (Marc Forster)
2. No Man's Land (Danis Tanovic)
|4. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann)
Here is a film that may end up being the film of the Millennium, though many have not yet realized its greatness. It's a vibrant, wild dream - and the work of Baz Luhrmann, an artist who stuck proudly to his vision, no matter how weird. Nicole Kidman and the rest of the cast know no bounds when it comes to the director's requests, and that makes for desperately fabulous work.
5. The Deep End (David Siegel)
Suture was a bizarre, underrated exercise in arsty fartsy cinema, but Siegel and co-producer Scott McGehee hit it on the head with this film, starring the wonderful Tilda Swinton as a tightly wound mom trying to cover up the crime she thinks her son has committed. The film is as perfectly contained as the water in the story that is always threatening to spill out. It is a film about symbolism and imagery as much as anything else.
6. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
However it began, as a TV pilot or whatever, and never mind that it is thematically a rehash of Lost Highway, Lynch's last film, and forget that it's meant to be the beginning of a long story that goes nowhere - this is a great film. Even if accidentally so. With the supernova powerhouse Naomi Watts in the lead, how could it fail? But it also succeeds because it is a celebration of the numerous talents of Lynch, who, despite it all, has his own unique vision. Hollywood is a desperate, sad and haunting place - this film sums it all up in all of its glorious absurdity.
And the runners-up:
7. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg)
8. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
9. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
10. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
RUNNERS UP to the TOP 10:
THE TOP TEN:
| 10. No
Man's Land (Danis Tanovic)
This acclaimed Bosnian film is a startling visceral comedy about the lunacy of war.
9. The Royal Tenenbaums
A film that flirts with greatness and becomes all the more touching by missing the mark. There is one great scene after another in Anderson's fairy tale about a family of failed geniuses. There’s a beautiful team spirit shown by its bevy of fine performers.
8. In the Bedroom (Todd Field)
Field's studied debut may not be the masterwork some have claimed it to be, but it's a damn good film nonetheless. Its most remarkable feature is honest deceptiveness. You think it's a love story. Bang. It's not. You think it’s a portrait of grief...no, wait, it's a thriller. Bang. It's not. It's not that the film is lying, but that we are so accustomed to certain plot trajectories that it's difficult to see the film's harrowing turns coming, or to immediately understand how thoroughly it undermines traditional film notions of revenge or catharsis. Bonus points to the cast for illuminating the emptying effects of grief, and the rage of the broken.
7. Together (Lukas Moodysson)
The sweetest film of the year is also one of the smartest. Moodyson throws a broken family into a 70s commune and the resulting emotional, personal, romantic, and idealistic collisions that ensue expose, illuminate, and energize all involved. “Feel good” is a term often used to describe manipulative simple-minded happy endings and Hollywood style sugarcoating. This Swedish comedy has (thankfully) none of those attributes and actually feels good.
|And now,the six films
that lifted me highest...the “greats” of the year
6. Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
No movie this year approaches it in terms of its nimbleness and fluidity in mixing character, theme and wit. Wildly entertaining, and a return to form for Robert Altman.
5. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
This, the undisputed critical darling of 2001 (although In the Bedroom came close) was the year's most familiar complete stranger. We've seen all the Lynchian motifs, images, and characters before. But this time, the one-of-a-kind auteur fashioned something new and revelatory out of the used parts. This grand picture has tremendous “give” in it allowing for multiple correct intrepetations and thereby prompting the most fascinating critical discussions of the year. But all that aside, the truly smart way to watch Lynch's mindfuck is to just let go and give in to its undeniable and nonsensical pull. From the frenetic overexposed jitterbug opening sequence to the final silencing moment, its undeniably gripping. Just dive into the blue box.
4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(John Cameron Mitchell)
An enormously resonant and energized tale of a “slip of a girly boy” from East Berlin who becomes an “internationally ignored song stylist.” A triple threat triumph from writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell.
3. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
Wong has outdone himself. This year's greatest foreign film (by far) has the year's best cinematography and weaves a hypnotic spell/meditation on memory, emotional stasis, and romantic yearning. The luminous coupling of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung astonishes. They're nearly as erotic as Mulholland Drive's "Nancy Drew" lovers - yet without a sex scene - and nearly as glamorous as Moulin Rouge's doomed bohemians - without as many costume changes. In the end they're more emotionally affecting than either of those sensational couplings. The film is glorious. Unmissable.
2. The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
1. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann)
In no particular order:
Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon Maguire)
Snatch (Guy Ritchie).
THE WORST: Mission To Mars. A very promising cast wasted by a bad story, a dull script, and too much time showing us nothing we haven't already seen before.
I saw so few movies this year that my year-end list is, sadly, quite abbreviated. In fact, it is only a Top 3. But these are the only three movies that I saw that were truly worth my time and money, so much so that I saw them each at least twice. I had a difficult time deciding which would be my #1 and #2 films because they are so different, and so good in very different ways, and it isn't really fair to pit them against each other. So #1 and #2 are a virtual tie, but, in the long run, I think my #1 film will remain the stronger of the two.
1. The Fellowship of the Ring
Movie That I Enjoyed More Than I Expected I Would:
Movie That Didn't Suck as Bad as I Expected It Would:
Movie That Shouldn't Have Sucked as Much as It Did:
The Travel Channel Award for the movies that made me want to visit their locations: The Score (Montreal) and The Fellowship of the Ring (New Zealand)
The Anti-Travel Channel Award for the movie that made me never want
to visit its location:
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