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Part 2 of CineScene's best of 2001

We rate our favorite films of the year
(and some not so favorite)
Contributors: Mark Ashley, Michael Buck, Melissa B. Cummings,
Don Larsson, Lovell Mahan-Moutaw, Mark Netter, Ed Owens, Pat Padua,
Nathaniel Rogers, Shari L. Rosenblum, and Sasha Stone.
Plus contributions from readers.

Shari L. Rosenblum
The rankings here are in part deliberate, and in part arbitrary. The films are so different in style and mood that I found it difficult to rank them against each other - feeling compelled to order and reorder them after every entry. But of the first one, first placed, I have had no doubt since I first viewed it.

1.  In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)


Set in 1962, in a Hong Kong no longer real, Wong Kar-Wai's meditation on love unbidden, inevitable, confined, and overwhelming, carries within it a sense of nostalgia and regret for the subtleties of eroticism revered and restrained, of rebellions that reverberate in shadows, and of quiet liberations that echo equally through narrow corridors and vast expanses. Always, and in all ways, breathtakingly beautiful, it is a cinematic masterpiece: textured, colored and profound.  Romantic, yet grounded. Compelling from within rather than manipulating from without. The pace is lingering but never lags, the movement is in mood, and the tone is poetic without pretension.  It is a film so carefully constructed that situation is matched to space, and character to circumstance, and yet it never feels anything less than smoothly and naturally sublime. The camera caresses, the streets and buildings move in the darkness and light, and each shift in weight of the characters conveys an idea or significance. The year's very best, without a doubt.

2. A.I: Artificial Intelligence
(Steven Spielberg).
 Spielberg's adaptation of Kubrick's ambition melds sentimental with sardonic in an intellectually complex fairy tale about the dark side of baby lust and the endless child's endless search for the good mother. Opposing men of flesh and blood (orga[nic]s) to their robotic reproductions (mecha[nic]s), the film dares to confront not only the pretense of human compassion for its own creations, but the very idea of human distinction. It dares to challenge even the religious and fantastical illusions that we make for ourselves. Though it lacks the conviction of some of its blackest implications, and tries to back down in a third act reminiscent of so many of the endings tacked on to Grimm's own to make them more benign, it never quite nullifies the horrors it awakes in us.  In the end, as throughout, it rises above even its own limitations in the story it tells and the messages it conveys.

3. For My Sister /aka Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)
Profoundly feminist, but without the self-congratulatory air of the tradition, Catherine Breillat's 2001 export betrays a sensibility that might well be missed under the shocks and shake-ups of her trademark style. The twists are not twists, prepared as they are from the beginning, the tensions build with perfect pacing, and the evident shocks are less shocking than the status quo. Told from the perspective of a barely pubescent fleshy 12-year-old at odds and in combination with her sexily over-anxious 15-year-old sister, Fat Girl is about anything but the essence or ideas combined in fatness and girl. The title translation in English is, in fact, an abomination. This is, rather, a tale of sisterhood whose pointed fingers do not lead where one might expect of the genre. For a while it does not hesitate to show men at their worst (absent, indifferent, manipulative, rapacious, or violent); yet it does not blame them for the lives of the women they touch.  At once tender and unforgiving, dramatic and exploitative, it holds women - mothers, daughters, and, most importantly, sisters - responsible for their actions and inactions, their choices and their fates. It takes risks and it pushes buttons, and it would be a mistake to overlook it, or dismiss it out of hand.
4. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
A film for the neglected child, the playful imp, and the romantic in everyone, Amélie wins us over with the exuberance of its whimsicality. Essentially the story of a young girl who creates her own fabulous destiny by believing in the magic of fable, Jeunet's film is a painterly creation of varied strokes and plays of light that communicates character dimension with particularized angles and quick-cut edits, all the while mocking the inadequacy of traditional Time-Life Paris-Match style biographical details. Set in a fantasy Paris, amid bright colors and clean light, among social fits and misfits mixed and matched, and surrounded by faces, lines and textures identifiable in multi facets, it is, at its most pure, an expansive quickened update of the Auguste Renoir re-creation (Luncheon of the Boating Party) that sits not quite static at its center. A painting cast and recast by a Glass Man voyeur, looking through the lens and seeing all, and seeing through, with one face in the background, but at the center - that of Amélie. An image to be captured so that it may be set free, in a fabulous love story that, like its heroine, you would swear had wings to fly.

5. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
With a street sign and a twisted tale of darkness and light reprised repeatedly in fugue-like rhythms, David Lynch traces down a celluloid boulevard of broken dreams and makes it concrete, blending over the false dividers between illusion and delusion, desire and regret. Criticized for its too-numerous touchpoints and lack of  coherence, Mulholland Drive is in fact an oneiric wonder, entirely of a piece - and amazingly linear in its conceptualizations, if not its representations. Mesmerizing, visceral, musically engaged and engaging - never more profoundly than at its a cappella center - it is an indictment of the Hollywood idea, directed with a wink at the audience (as with the opening scene at Winkies Diner) and a nod to the intertext (a blonde fantasy "Betty" straight out of Riverdale, matched by a dark and sultry Rita, whom - as the Gilda poster reminds us from the background - there never was a woman like). And if it reminds us constantly that what we see is not necessarily what we get, it nonetheless allows us the phantasmic comfort of believing that if we do not get what we see, the fault lies somewhere other than in ourselves.  
6. Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
A witty aggregation of everything cinematically recognizable as British - an upstairs downstairs, country house, bird-hunting party, financial rumblings, fumblings and ruin, infighting, shenanigans, mystery, murder and bumbling inspectors, invaded subtly by a film star cousin, a Jew from Hollywood, and the valet at his (and everyone else's) service - all perfectly quivering under stiff upper lips, and resonating with the foment of changes inevitable, Gosford Park is a politically charged social satire that pokes and digs under the most traditional of surfaces without ever tripping over its sophisticated good humor. Altman invites us to share in a conspiratorially knowing smile from the moment the credits role. The scrolling cast reads like an impossibly complete listing from the who's who of British stardom, rendering the who's who plot of the ensemble set-up a sardonic jeu de more-than-mots, in which, not surprisingly, the acting, like the writing and direction, is never less than divine.

7. The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
Taking alienation to its absurdist existential extremes, the Coen brothers' chrome-edged, silver-screened, black and white comedy of inaction turned on itself refashions noir with a tongue-in-cheek modernism. More than ever before, the Coens' stylized self-consciousness and its insider and aficionado references and allusions all seem perfectly integrated. Names, dreams, fantasies, and pulp fiction play a role as definitive as in any James M. Cain offering, but despite bathtub intimacies, homosexual overtures, and nubile obsessions, the noir sexual edge is dulled. As it should be. The dullness is fitting with the fallen arches and emotional deadpan of the antihero's persona; the genre's necessary tensions fulminate in other anticipations. Let the laconic drawling pace of this one not deceive; it belies an intellectually nimble fleetness of wit.
8. A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard)
The story of a mathematician whose genius overrides madness, a curmudgeon whose gifts outshine his sociopathy, most striking to me in Ron Howard's engagement of John Nash's life is the respect it has for mental illness. Rather than judge from afar with appropriate good intention, rather than demonstrate his bona fides in compassion, Howard shoots the tale from inside of Nash's mind - with the real world in parentheses that punctuate and clarify the rest. We therefore get to believeve - unsuspecting, like Nash himself - the delusions along with the realities, learning only later that some experiences we've trusted in are false. It is a flash of genuine insight conveyed from filmmaker to viewer when we find ourselves not only distrustful of each new experience we share with him, but regretful, oddly and indefensibly regretful, at having to let the delusions go. Nobel Prizes aside, the ability to fight the unreal that seems real, and to hang on to the difference that only part of your brain can conceive, is the real accomplishment. And the film does it just and moving honor.

9. The Fellowship of the Ring
(Peter Jackson)
Jackson's adaptation of the work that obsesses masses of Tolkien acolytes effectively creates seamless worlds of character and circumstance that engage even the non-believer. A tale of archetypes and heroic quests, it manages to convey a depth of humanity and multi-dimensions in a cast of dramatic personae that could easily have played as stock troupers: elves, hobbits, dwarves, wizards and men who traverse mythical traditions, confront fantastic obstacles and interact with a sense of fellowship both powerful and poignant. It is a tale of ultimate masculinity never compromised by its storybook underpinnings. The look of the film is in itself fantastical, the colors lush, the settings magical, and the illustrations of evil both dark and intimidating. The subtext - the suggestiveness of sword and ring and the soul's temptations that build as text but linger below the surface - seems to await discovery, resolution, and victory beyond, and makes the mouth water at the thought of what's to come.
10. Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon Maguire)
Neither as profound nor as far-reaching as some other entries on this list, what raises this lightest of films to the merits of ten best is its full-frontal honesty about what isn't profound or far-reaching in any of us: self-doubt, self-obsession, and the longing for the ideal lover who will take it all away. Updating Pride and Prejudice, the film is unabashedly female, if not traditionally feminine: Bridget Jones is the single, over thirty everywoman torn between feminist obligations and little-girl wishes. The tongue set in cheek here clearly understands that any Cinderella wish-fulfillment requires that a self-deprecating mirror be countered and completed with a handsome and patient Prince, poised to embrace us with unconditional love, whether he arrive on a white horse or in a reindeer sweater. The inner voice of the inner desire, recorded in diary and on film, and finally answered by the age's Mr. Darcy. With this, the most essential of fairy tale and Jane Austen promises come true - this last film named may well be the greatest fantasy, and unlikeliest celluloid dream, to appear on this list. But then it's also the most effective of antidotes to negative thoughts such as these . . .

Pat Padua
Let me be brief.
The first movie I saw in '01 was Dude, Where's My Car? - the last was Shallow Hal, playing in a second run theatre on a screen right next to Fat Girl, all three of which rate honorable mention.
Six movies that knocked me out last year:
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
In the Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
Kandukondein Kandukondein (Rajiv Menon)
A Bollywood adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, starring Aishwarya Rai: when she sings her desires into your eyes, your heart stops.
Eureka (Shinji Aoyama)
Joy Ride (John Dahl)
Taut, thrilling candy.

Mark Netter
Here's my round-up of the ten most engaging movie experiences from 2001. Can anyone actually even say "Best" with a straight face anymore? Even "Favorite" is tough. A few are 2000 holdovers I didn't see until 2001. Included with each is a Hollywood term I recently learned, the "take away scene", i.e. the one that sticks with you and reminds you that is really was a good movie. All contents certified as highly subjective.
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
The most fun to discover and talk about afterwards. Take away scene: Betty's audition.
2.
Band of Brothers (various directors)
Simply staggering - and right on time (first episode broadcast 9/9). Take away scene: Artillery hell in Bastogne. (No, not a theatrical release, but there you go.)
3. Yi Yi (Edward Yang)
Just like life itself. Take away scene: The reversal at the hotel.
4. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
Haunting, disturbing, gorgeous. Take away scene: Maggie Cheung's confrontation with her husband...not.
5. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
The greening of the comic book movie. Take away scene: Thora and Steve take a drive.
6. Brother (Takeshi Kitano)
Oh so cool, and (if you let yourself in on Kitano's joke) funny. Take away scene: Even though he doesn't speak English, he understands a racial slur.
7. Under the Sand (François Ozon)
Moody, ambiguous, and Charlotte Rampling's career highlight to date. Take away scene: Making love - in control, but maybe not all there.
8. George Washington
(David Gordon Green)
Although made on a microbudget, it's a first major work. The next Terrence Malick, and hopefully more prolific. Take away scene: Back to the bathroom to find a survivor, just a big tearful kid.
9. The Fellowship of the Ring
(Peter Jackson)
Overcomes cuteness with profoundly successful literary adaptation, flawless casting, epic vistas. Pick for Best Picture Oscar. Take away scene: The Mines of Moria.
10. The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
Be thankful for the Coens. Take away scene: Jon Polito gets out of line.

Not Too Shabby (admired at the very least):
Before Night Falls
(Julian Schnabel)
Definitely art, often a movie.
Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Thank God for well-crafted noir puzzle films. Shrek
(Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson)
Seeing some of it a second time, I realized I had forgotten how much of the humor was for the adults.
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
For all the key performances, all played by true adults.

Guilty Pleasure of the Year:
The Fast and the Furious
(Rob Cohen)
Saw it on an IMAX screen! Finally a Hollywood car picture with real, not CGI overloaded, stunts. And for finally making Vin Diesel a star.

Revival of the Year:
Two-Lane Blacktop
(Monte Hellman,1971)
Cowboy existentialism masquerading as gearhead car film. All texture, silences, engine sounds, and a widescreen vision of an America already gone.

Redo of the Year:
Apocalypse Now Redux
(Francis Ford Coppola)
The last thinking epic. More is better, sure, even as it shows how tautly well-edited the original '79 release was, revealing it as a late noir masterpiece.

Filmmaking is among the toughest artistic endeavors, and just to get a film made is an achievement - especially one with any personal vision at all, so I won't list all the disappointments or the flicks I felt were overrated. But if I had to choose a few hours I wish I had back, their name would be Hannibal.

Michael Buck

1. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Picking this year's #1 film was very easy. Much has been made of the fresh direction and innovative style of Memento. Some claim that the story, if told without the clever backwards narrative device, is rather ordinary. I disagree. The story also leaves a lasting wallop, reminding us that memory isn't as straightforward a tool as we offhandedly pretend it to be. The film's protagonist is fond of pointing out that he uses facts, not memories, to solve his particular dilemma. The film's resolution reminds us, though, that what we forget (sometimes willfully) colors our view of the facts, and allows us to do things we otherwise couldn't face. The notion of lying to ourselves on either a personal or societal level to justify an outcome we want is always great food for reflection, but has particular resonance in times of crisis.
2. In the Bedroom (Todd Field)
If Todd Field isn't channelling Ingmar Bergman into the 21st century, and if Tom Wilkinson isn't a complete ringer for Gunnar Björnstrand, then I'm a Wild Strawberry. Thank goodness there's still at least a little room for angst at the cineplex. This film captures perfectly both the shrinking from life and the unstoppable quiet rage that personal tragedy can bring, and both lead performances are superb.
3. The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
The first part of the trilogy met all my expectations, and gave me much more. What could have been a memory-cheapening trite CGI show turned out to be a perfectly executed faithful retelling of the source material. To be sure, some bits had to be removed due to length, but the overall tone was perfect, the actors hit the right notes, and the CGI effects were magically in tune with the tone of the story whenever used.

4. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
(Steven Spielberg)
The long-awaited Spielbrick film about the potential interaction between future humans and their attempts at creation disappointed some by attempting to marry the two very disparate points of view of its creators. In particular, the final segment of the film seemed to some to be a typical Spielberg happy ending, out of place with the tone of the rest of the film. I view the end as more akin to a coda to a lengthy musical work, taking the film's core to its logical human-free conclusion. Haley Joel Osment gives an even better performance here than he did in The Sixth Sense. Ironically, he'll get fewer accolades for it during awards season, as prepubescents need not apply for leading actor awards. I do have to criticize Spielberg's direction for allowing many in the audience to mistake the advanced mechas for extra-terrestrials, throwing an unnecessary curveball into an ending already bound to be controversial.
5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(John Cameron Mitchell)
This year's entry in the popular queer cinema category is a film version of a phenomenal play that ran in New York in the late nineties, about a drag performer whose sex change operation was botched (thus the Angry Inch), and is keeping a flippant upper lip while searching for his other half. Take the musical spirit of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the fashion sense of The Adventures of Priscilla, and just a dash of the lighter side of Liquid Sky's humor, and you come up with this year's real reinvigoration of the movie musical. The great spirit of fun is complemented by a genuinely moving story of acceptance of self, and a ying-yang sensibility of love.

6. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
A rare gem in my least favorite genre, romantic comedy, Amélie opens brilliantly with a brisk comic pace as it sets up its heroine, and flags only ever so slightly after the main plot opens up. Exuberant from start to finish, with several delightful visual and editing surprises when the film needs a lift to keep it on track towards its predestined finale, Amélie is as refreshing as Chocolat was saccharine, and as engaging as Moulin Rouge was stultifying.
7. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
Lynch disturbingly revisits the world of dreams, while simultaneously poking the movie business in the eye with a big stick. While still not straightforward narrative, Mulholland Drive ends up making more sense than either Lost Highway or Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, whle covering similar emotional ground. Two great lead performances from Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are perfectly complemented by the surprising and inspired choice of Ann Miller in a supporting role. Whether you can successfully work out all of Mulholland Drive's clues to discover the meaning of the story is ultimately less important than the experiential ride.
8. Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
A disjointed series of fascinating philosophical conversations, diatribes, and ramblings on life's meaning is loosely tied together into the notion of lucid dreaming. The entire film was computer animated after being shot live. Many of the scenes seem to be visually swimming on the screen, adding to the dreamy philosophical atmosphere. The various parts don't necessarily add up to a fully satisfying whole, but the experiment works reasonably well, and if philosophy is your bag at all, you'll find the individual segments riveting.

9. Keep the River on Your Right
(David & Laurie Shapiro)
A superb documentary following the travels of a gentle old gay New York artist (Tobias Schneebaum), as he revisits the Peruvian and New Guinea backlands where as a younger man, he joined in cannibalism, and documented the surprising acceptance of gay relationships in seemingly uncivilized tribal cultures. The camera lingers on Schneebaum as he experiences both the dread of revisiting the jungle in which the cannibalism episode obviously disturbed him deeply, and the joy of surprise as he meets an old lover that he never expected to see again. Above all, the documentary is valuable for its portrait of how an apparently gentle and sweet man remembers the most extreme times of his life, both happy and otherwise.

10. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
A dark comedy wherein cynics and loners attempt to fill each other's gaps, and may or may not be better off for the effort. Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi are terrific as the two misfits. The plot makes a misstep late in the film as the relationship between Enid and Seymour ceases to make complete sense, and the ending may have been too open-ended for its own good, but there is a lot of wry fun to be had along the way. Illeanna Douglas is a complete hoot as a pretentious art teacher.

Honorable mentions:
The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
The Coen brothers strike again, this time with a moody noir thriller that still manages to surprise at the odd moment with the uncomfortable comedy for which they're famous.
The Deep End (David Siegel)
Tilda Swinton carries this story of how far a mother will go to protect her child.

The Good:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - This faithful adaptation strikes the right notes, but just misses top honors for lack of inspiration, and a few clunky Chris Columbus treacle moments towards the end.
Shrek - Despite the irony of it unintentionally making fun of itself, Shrek is a lot of fun, and has many laugh-out-loud moments.
The Others - Nicole Kidman is Grace Kelly incarnate in this keeps-you-guessing spookfest. Monsters, Inc. - Delightful Pixar confection, perhaps not as suited to adults as their previous Toy Story entries, but still a fun 90 minutes. Best of all, though, is the hilarious opening short For the Birds.
Novocaine - Steve Martin and (especially) Laura Dern lead in a wry thriller that may be slightly too coy for itw own good. Helena Bonham Carter nearly reprises her role from Fight Club. Ocean's Eleven - Helps wash away the memory of the boozy Rat Pack vehicle.
The Royal Tenenbaums - An improvement on the overrated Rushmore, but runs out of gas about an hour in.
Bridget Jones's Diary - Another romantic comedy that doesn't incude nausea. Two in one year! How annoying, though, that the most oft-heard comment about the film is how "heavy" Renee Zellweger is.

The Average:
A Beautiful Mind - This biopic does fun things with John Nash's ability to see patterns and solutions, but the accurate portrayal of schizophrenia is very movie-of-the-week. Jennifer Connelly is excellent, though, as Nash's wife.
Gosford Park - Well crafted and acted, but ultimately an icy period piece. Didn't Upstairs, Downstairs pretty much cover this ground aready? Maggie Smith's moments are the best parts of the film.
K-PAX - An enjoyably ambiguous piece musing on whether or not Kevin Spacey is really human.

The Bad:
Planet of the Apes - The ending was stupefying, and Marky Mark was sleepwalking, but the biggest disappointment for me is that this is the first truly uninspired Tim Burton film.
Moulin Rouge - If not for the sake of Tom Green, this epileptic fit masquerading as a film would get my vote for worst of the year.
Freddy Got Fingered - Just the fact that there is a Tom Green, and that the things he does are somehow funny to a reasonably sized portion of the populace, weighs this film down to the bottom of the barrel.

LISTING THE NIGHT AWAY
Contributions from our readers

kc mcauley
My favorites of the year, in alphabetical order:

America’s Sweethearts (Joe Roth)
I’ll always watch John Cusack, and even Ms. Roberts couldn’t keep me from this one.
Bandits (Barry Levinson)
A fun film with lots of local scenery. Cate Blanchett is always worth a look.
Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon McGuire)
Loved it. Have watched it several times. My new feel-good romance movie.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
(Chris Columbus)
A promising start to a wonderful series.
Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic)
The movie is fluff, but Reese Witherspoon is really fun to watch here.
Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Guy Pearce is my number one choice for Best Actor. I hope this film is not forgotten by the Academy. It was smart, well written, good direction, and with great performances.
The Mummy Returns (Stephen Sommers)
What do you expect – great drama??
The Others (Alejandro Amenábar)
A good classic ghost story, plus the lovely Nicole Kidman.
Riding in Cars with Boys
(Penny Marshall)
Drew Barymore turns in a fine performance. I wish she were more consistent in her choices.
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
Ben Kingsley should not be missed - ever - and especially not here.
Shrek (Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson)
I haven’t had this much fun in ages.
Wit (Mike Nichols)
Emma Thompson shows us once again why she should be working more. Where are the good roles for women?!

Dishonorable mentions - movies I either stopped watching or wished I hadn’t wasted my time on:
15 Minutes
Don’t Say A Word - I won't say a thing.
A Knight’s Tale - eh - it didn't rock me. Moulin Rouge - Loved the Roxanne Tango sequence. Wish the rest of the film had matched it.
Swordfish
The Tailor of Panama - Geoffrey Rush let me down - again.
The Gift - Cate Blanchett again. But not much else here worth seeing.
The Mexican

Myron Santos
There are 9 2/3 movies on my list. They're listed alphabetically, but it just so happens that the best one is last.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
(Steven Spielberg)
The first two thirds of it.
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Bully (Larry Clark)
Chunhyang (Im Kwon-Taek)
Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)
George Washington (David Gordon Green) The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
Time and Tide (Tsui Hark)
Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami)

Sandy
1. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
2. The Fellowship of the Ring
(Peter Jackson)
3. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
4. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
5. Kandahar (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
6. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
7. Ocean's Eleven (Steven Soderbergh)
8. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
(Steven Spielberg)
9. Shrek (Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson)
10. Monster's, Inc.
(Pete Doctor, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich)

Jeff Miles
Seven films for my list (alphabetical):
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Chris Columbus)
The Fellowship of the Ring
(Peter Jackson)
K-Pax
(Iain Softley)
Life As A House (Irwin Winkler)
The Mexican (Gore Verbinski)
Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann)
Shrek (Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson)

Here's a couple I'd have to leave off my list:
Pearl Harbor
Tomb Raider

Derek

1. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
2. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(John Cameron Mitchell)
3. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
4. The Others (Alejandro Amenábar)
5. In the Bedroom (Todd Field)
6. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
7. Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe)
8. The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
9. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
10. The Fellowship of the Ring
(Peter Jackson)

Roxy

Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Guy Pearce can't remember much of anything, and this highly original plot that starts at the end and lurches back to the beginning will have you wondering what's going on as well. Relax and enjoy the performances.


A Beautiful Mind
(Ron Howard)
And a beautiful performance by Russell Crowe, in this biopic that explores the disintegration into schizophrenia, and the subsequent recovery, of Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash, Jr.
The Man Who Wasn't There (Joel Coen)
Billy Bob Thornton doesn't play this part; he is this part. The Coen brothers seve up classic noir with sensational cinematography, a quirky plot and great performances by all, especially Thornton, James Gandolfini and Michael Badalucco.
Shrek (Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson)
Animation with a difference - this one has a fabulous, funny and adult script that skewers every fairy tale you've ever heard.
Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon Maguire)
Renée Zellweger shines in this smart adaptation of the bestseller.
The Devil's Backbone (Guillermo del Toro) The direction is masterful in this ghost story set in an isolated school for orphans during the Spanish Civil War.
The Deep End (David Siegel)
Tilda Swinton in a career-making role as a mother who goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her son. Swinton's mostly interior performance is a wonder to behold.
Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott)
The Battle of Mogadishu gets as honest treatment as Scott could provide. This combat film aims to show what battle is like, and does so. Non-stop action from the beginning of the operation to the end of the film will leave you wrung out but impressed.
Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
A delightful Agatha Christie style weekend, set at an English hunting party. The crème de la crème of British actors are here (Maggie Smith, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam; the list goes on) as the festivities end in murder.

Thea
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
Zwigoff does a great job of translating this comic book to the screen. Not surprising, considering his work on Crumb. The performances are all excellent (although after seeing Scarlett Johansson in The Man Who Wasn’t There I realized she wasn’t really acting in this film, it just happened to be perfect for her limited range.) But Thora Birch was wonderful. Then there’s Steve Buscemi. He’s so great in this, the ultimate loser who is anything but.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(John Cameron Mitchell)
: Perhaps not a great film, but I loved the music and the energy. And Mitchell is amazing. He’s attractive, funny and can belt out a tune. I thought the film meandered a bit toward the end, but overall a fun movie experience.
The Man Who Wasn't There
(Joel Coen)
One of the best looking films of the year, with solid performances. Billy Bob Thornton is sufficiently subdued; Tony Shalhoub is sufficiently sleazy.
In the Bedroom (Todd Field)
At this point, in terms of pure power, I’d say this was the best film of the year. Phenomenal performances by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. This is one of only two films (the other being The Fellowship of the Ring with its "I made a promise" scene) that has genuinely made me cry this year. I’m thinking that could be one of the symptoms of post-9/11 syndrome - movies rarely have the power to move me to tears these days. Plus, in most films nowadays it all feels so "manufactured." In the Bedroom is slow (something I’ve heard some complain about), but it gets under your skin and in my case, moved me in a way that few recent films have.
Memento (Christopher Nolan)
A huge adrenaline rush of a movie on first viewing - I felt my mind working and that felt good. Not quite as effective (at least to me) on repeat viewings, but still one of the best, most original films this year. Guy Pearce has the perfect amount of confidence mixed with cluelessness. I never really appreciated his acting until this year. Seeing him in this and then looking back on has varied performances in LA Confidential and Priscilla. Of the men from Oz, I think he’s been a bit underrated (at least by me)…but not any more.

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch) More than a waking dream, this film is a waking nightmare. Great performances.Weird, very weird. I'm not exactly sure what happens (I have my theories) but I sort of like that.
Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic)
My Swingers for this year. Meaning, a film I can watch again and again, that will ALWAYS put me in a good mood. It is silly, it isn't great art, but it is, as Elle Woods would say, "funner" then any other film this year.
A.I: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg)
Frustratingly close to being a GREAT film; simply a very good one.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
Perhaps a tad too clever for its own good. But still, an excellent film with a wonderful performance by Gene Hackman (and the rest of the cast ain't bad either). This film has made me even more confused over which Wilson brother I prefer. Owen is just so good at playing those characters who have something missing...or, maybe he's just stoned??? I don't know, but I like him.
The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
What can I say that hasn't been said already? Loved it...

Some others I enjoyed quite a bit:
Monsters, Inc. (Pete Doctor, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich): Pixar can do no wrong.
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer): Ben Kingsley is on fire.
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet): Maybe a bit too precious, but Audrey Tautou is adorable and if she can manage English, she will be a MAJOR star in the U.S.
The Anniversary Party (Alan Cumming & Jennifer Jason Leigh): Bitter, with the greatest scene in Phoebe Cates' career.
Heartbreakers (David Mirkin) Really, it was pretty fun. Ray Liotta was hilarious.

Martijn ter Haar
1. Requiem For A Dream
(Darren Aronofsky)
What begins as a fairly standard anti-drug film soon turns into full fledged psycho-horror. And it is always about chasing those dreams, never just about drugs. A brilliant and heart-wrenching performance by Ellen Burstyn.
2. Harry, Un Ami Qui Vous Veut Du Bien
(Dominik Moll)
Also about lost dreams. Worrier Michel is about to sink into a midlife crisis when he meets high school classmate Harry, who reminds him of his youthful dreams and tries to help him realize them, even if real people get in their way. Great black comedy about that fine line between useful pragmatism and losing your dreams. Another great performance here by Sergi Lopez as Harry.
3. Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
"Quentin Tarantino with soul." And I actually liked the middle part. It is about not being able to choose who you love. So the wife stays with her abusive husband, the editor with his narcissistic damaged trophy wife and she can't let go of her annoying dog and will have to live on with photos of herself. So to label it as a clichéd comedy about the impotence of the bourgeoisie is, in my humble opinion, wrong.

4.
Chopper (Andrew Dominik)
A character study of Mark "Chopper" Read, just your average guy who loves beer and women, isn't too bright but has a lightning fast and razor sharp tongue, and sometimes completely loses it. Chopper is the ultimate version of the guy who punches you in the face because you were looking at his girlfriend. Eric Bana plays him brilliantly as a man who is constantly bewildered by his own actions and then spins them to make his behaviour seem plausible (especially to himself).
5. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
Think about it and it all works out. Think about it harder and it is all wrong. Still a well acted thriller with lots of atmosphere.
6. Songs From The Second Floor
(Roy Andersson)
Actually a pretty crappy film. It is a collection of loosely related sketches about the state of society. Often too heavy on symbolism and full of experimental art film clichés. But when a sketch works you will remember it for the rest of your life. The scene where people with too much luggage try to check in for their flights is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.
7. Quills (Philip Kaufman)
This, on the other hand, is an extremely well-made film. Well acted, looks beautiful, the plot is tight, moves on at a swift pace and is fairly intelligent. OK, it is nothing you haven't seen before (Can I have a sexually impotent potentate? Can I have sexually liberated working classes? Can I have an institution filled with colourful characters?) but that actually helps to give Quills its old-fashioned quality feel.

8. State And Main (David Mamet)
I'm a sucker for anything Mamet. And it makes fun of the "writer whose great script is ruined by Hollywood" idea. That's enough for me.
9. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
The interaction between the actors is great, but the whole caper is just so-so.
10. Met Grote Blijdschap
(Lodewijk Crijns)
Doesn't work very well as a thriller, because the title gives away what is hidden in the basement. But, like Sexy Beast, the strength lies in the dialogue and the interaction between the performers.

Out of competition - seen at the Rotterdam film festival, but never released in the Netherlands: Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku)
A black comedy mixes Survivor with a high school film and starts where Paul Verhoeven stopped with Starship Troopers and Robocop. The Guardian had this to say about it: "It's a futuristic nightmare; it's a satirical vision of Japan's fear and horror of its recalcitrant, disorderly younger generation; it's a pulp-sploitation shocker with guns, knives, blood and kinky school uniforms." Sounds a lot better than Harry Potter, doesn't it?

CineScene, 2002
For Chris Dashiell's year-end wrap-up, click here.