THAT'S A WRAP
We rate our
favorite films of 2000
(and some not so favorite).

Contributors: Mark Ashley, Don Larsson,
Lovell Mahan-Moutaw, Ed Owens, Devin Rambo,
Shari L. Rosenblum, and Sasha Stone.

Sasha Stone

1. You Can Count on Me
(Kenneth Lonergan).
Perhaps the best writing I've seen in a film in a long time. Writer/Director Ken Lonergan is bright enough to write characters who are complex and contradictory but never boring, never predictable. A real heartbreaker, this film. Great performances by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo and yet another underrated, marvy turn by Matthew Broderick as the sexually repressed boss - what a shame he never gets noticed for anything he does.

 

 

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee).
A swoon-a-thon from the first reel onward. It's hard to get swept away by any film these days. We've become so cynical. Beauty, it seems, has evaporated from most things, yet here we have something that is, even if familiar already to audiences in Hong Kong, like nothing we've ever seen. The film has turned every known critic into a babbler, particularly in their efforts to describe the performances: Chow Yun-Fat who put the 'S' in suave and would have put Dennis Hopper's character in Blue Velvet into a coma with how suave he is; Michelle Yeoh, whose soulful eyes chew more scenery than the heart-stopping wire-fu; and finally, the breathtaking (please forgive the adjective overplay) Zhang Ziyi, who is what most young girls dream of being and who ought to bring even the most secure of men limply to their knees in worship. Two words for this one: Aye, me.

And the rest of my Top Ten:
3. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
4. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
5. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears)
6. Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park)
7. Gladiator (Ridley Scott)
8. Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
9. La Otra Conquista (Salvador Carrasco)
10. Small Time Crooks (Woody Allen)

Films I haven't seen but suspect will be among my favorites of the year: Traffic, Requiem for a Dream, Shadow of the Vampire, State and Main, Chocolat, Yi Yi, The Wind Will Carry Us, George Washington.

The Worst:
Pay it Forward
The Grinch
Proof of Life
(they shouldn't have cut the sex scene)
The Contender
Films that had no right to be as good as they were:
Disney's the Kid (Jon Turteltaub)
Passion of Mind (Alain Berliner)


Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Ang Lee)
2. Fantasia 2000 (Disney)
3. Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh)
or Wonder Boys
4. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
or Erin Brockovich
5. Croupier (Mike Hodges)
6. Return to Me (Bonnie Hunt)
7. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
8. X-Men (Bryan Singer)
9. The Tao of Steve (Jenniphr Goodman)
10. Charlie's Angels (McG)
I'm not kidding - I thought it was adorable.


Ed Owens
Because there are just too many, I can't seem to finalize a Top Ten. I haven't seen (but eagerly anticipate) Requiem for a Dream, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Wonder Boys, or You Can Count On Me, among others.
Here are my Top Five, listed alphabetically:

American Psycho (Mary Harron)
Great performance by Christian Bale and sharp direction from Harron make the impossible not only possible, but worthwhile.
Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park)
This delightful and charming film continues the quality work of the creators of Wallace & Gromit.
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
Surprisingly moving, with scenes that are nothing short of sublimely beautiful.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
(Jim Jarmusch)
More quirkiness from Jarmusch continues to be fresh and engaging.
X-Men (Bryan Singer)
This beautifully adapted film was a long time coming... ...and worth the wait.

 

 

Pleasant Surprises (movies I thought would suck that were actually mildly entertaining): Gone in 60 Seconds (Dominic Sena)
Dracula 2000 (Patrick Lussier)

Unpleasant Surprises
(movies I expected to like that sucked):
Mission: Impossible 2, Nurse Betty
(I'm sure there were others, but I've since blocked the painful memories.)

Also rans:
Fantasia 2000 (Disney) - the film as a whole is hit or miss, but the Gershwin/ Hirschfield piece is truly inspired.
Final Destination (James Wong)
Magnolia (P.T. Anderson)
I loved Anderson's brilliant ode to dysfunction, but in all fairness it was officially released in 1999.
The Tao of Steve (Jenniphr Goodman)
Sharp writing made this the one more people should have seen
The Way of the Gun
(Christopher McQuarrie)
McQuarrie's violent crime film has a weak second act, but oh what an opening scene! Hey, I like this film more and more each time I see it.

Most overrated:
Almost Famous - magical moments add up to mediocre movie.
The Contender - political soapbox ends up as one long, monotonous diatribe.
Erin Brockovich - narrative problems Julia Roberts could slide her cleavage through.
Gladiator --Rome was built in less time than it seemed to take to watch Ridley Scott's pretentious remake of Spartacus.
Traffic - stylish direction can't hide After School Special roots.

Worst Five (other than Battlefield Earth):
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
One positive: my two-year-old thought Bullwinkle was hysterical.
The Art of War
Coma-inducing action film with Mach-none pacing and incoherent plot...you'd have thought Wesley Snipes would have learned something after Passenger 57..or U.S. Marshals...or Murder at 1600...
Mission to Mars
This sci-fi snoozer felt like it was shot in real time.
Urban Legends: Final Cut
How can you screw up a slasher film? Get ready to take notes.
The Whole Nine Yards
Painfully unfunny...and I actually like Bruce Willis

A few random comments:
Best Dressed: Christian Bale in his sneakers from American Psycho.
Worst Mars Movie: Mission to Mars and Red Planet (tie).
Best ADD Test: Gladiator.
Best Movie I Should Have Seen Last Year: Magnolia.
Most Unnecessary Rerelease:
The Exorcist: the Version You've Never Seen.
Worst Retitling: The Exorcist: the Version You've Never Seen.
Most Gratuitous Ending: The Exorcist: the Version You've Never Seen.
Best Movie That I Saw But Nobody Else Did: The Tao of Steve
Best Opening Scene: The Man Dance from The Way of the Gun.
Most Profanity: The Man Dance from The Way of the Gun.
Best Bitch Slap: Ex-con Mike Tyson and recent re-con Robert Downey, Jr.
for Black and White
Best Excuse To Buy A DVD Player: Fight Club / The Decalogue (tie).


Mark Ashley

This is based on what I saw last year rather than what came out. (And of course American movies take their time getting to England.) The order is fairly arbitrary towards the end, and there may well have been some good films that have slipped my mind.

1. Fight Club (David Fincher)
Definitely the best. Films like this don't come along very often.
2. Three Kings (David O. Russell)
3. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze)
4. Election (Alexander Payne)
5. Gladiator (Ridley Scott)
6. Man on the Moon (Milos Forman)
7. Go (Doug Liman)
8. Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park)
9. Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh)
10. Mission: Impossible 2 (John Woo)

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus in Gladiator. Although Edward Norton is good in Fight Club, I found this one somehow more compelling.
Best Actress: Catherine Keener as Maxine in Being John Malkovich, but Connie Nielsen was excellent in Gladiator.
Best Director: David Fincher for Fight Club. I think Ridley Scott did some good stuff with Gladiator but he is really just cruising.
Best Music: Gladiator - but then, I am a big fan of Lisa Gerrard. The Dust Brothers' Fight Club score comes in a close second.
Best Cinematography: Difficult. Both Gladiator and Fight Club are good in this respect, but I think I'll go for the work of Newton Sigel in Three Kings.
Best Script: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Election - most of the others are helped along by the SFX and Cinematography.

Most Disappointing Film: An Ideal Husband - being a fan of the Wilde plays I found this to be dull and offensive - why would anyone want to change the plot of an Oscar Wilde play?
Worst Film: Titanic - I finally saw it this year and hated it with a passion. I wasn't so keen on Plunkett & Macleane either, but nothing could compete with the mind-numbing tedium I suffered at the hands of James "King of the World" Cameron.
The Anthony Hopkins/Michael Caine/Gene Hackman Award for being in every film under the sun goes to: Reese Witherspoon.
The Acting Against Type award goes to:
Cameron Diaz for Being John Malkovich.
The Shakespeare In Love Should Have Been Terrible But Was Pretty Good Award goes to: Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon - a good performance from one who is pure Virginia Ham.
Chicken Run gets the Taking The Piss Out of Mel Gibson Without Him Realising It award. Gibson himself receives the Tosser of the Year award for masterfully losing his Australian accent in an attempt to ingratiate himself with his fellow Americans.


Devin Rambo

The very best of the year (some of these are movies that may have been nominated for awards in 1999, but I didn't get to them until 2000), in the order I saw them:

Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Peirce)
Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh)
Magnolia (P.T. Anderson)
High Fidelity (Stephen Frears)
Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park)
Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
All About My Mother
(Pedro Almodovar)
Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry)
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
(Joel Coen)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Ang Lee)

I enjoyed the following films greatly although I didn't have that Ten Best list feeling about them:
Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh)
Gladiator
(Ridley Scott)
Fantasia 2000
(Disney)
X-Men
(Bryan Singer)
Meet the Parents
(Jay Roach)

Nice try, but no cigar:
Joe Gould's Secret
, Mission: Impossible 2, The Perfect Storm, Cast Away,
Finding Forrester
(which is actually Good Will Hunting meets Scent of a Woman).

Not even good enough to line the birdcage with:
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (although I wish I had thought of the title Film Threat gave it: Blair Witch 2: Wiccan Boogaloo).
How the Grinch Took My Eight Dollars and Left Me Annoyed as Hell

And finally, honorable mention for taking some big-ass risks even though it doesn't quite succeed: M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable.


Don Larsson

As always, there's a bunch of stuff that I would like to have seen but either missed or haven't caught up to, including such critical favorites as High Fidelity and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I usually try to avoid listing stuff that was technically released in the previous year (1999) but a couple of items snuck in here anyway. Thus, as usual, I can't list Ten Best, only Ten of the Better (in alphabetical order):

Almost Famous
(Cameron Crowe)
The best mainstream film I've seen so far from 2000. With good performances all around (Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson), it's that rarest of things- a film based in recent history that actually gives a sense of its time.

 

 

 

Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry).
A rarity - an upbeat, feel-good movie, about a boy striving for success in spite of the odds, that does not feel systematically contrived. Julie Walters will probably be underappreciated for giving one of the year's better performances.
Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park)
The best movie of the year in which Mel Gibson leads a struggle for freedom in a new and independent land. While it lacks the compactness of Nick Park's shorter Wallace & Gromit films, it still has loads of humor both broad and sly. There are extratextual nuances to savor, and the claymation itself is delightful to watch.
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
This is one of the year's test cases for audience taste: you either get it or you don't. The darkness falls here in several ways- Bjork's physical blindness, her mental blindness, the blindness of the culture around her - all in the context of those fantasies of a singing world that sustain us (but only so far). I was actually surprised by how much I was moved by this one.
Dr. T and the Women (Robert Altman)
Altman returns to form: episodic, ensemble work, somewhat misogynistic in tone but with a group of actresses at their best. Loopy, unpredictable humor, with a darkly cynical eye about wealth and southwestern lifestyles. Echoes of Brewster McCloud and the underrated A Wedding. Richard Gere is actually tolerable in this one!

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch)
Zen and the Art of Whacking People. Forrest Whitaker is the samurai gunman for a mafia boss, but he's in danger of becoming just another ronin. The film mixes gangsta culture, the tropes of mafia movies, and Eastern mysticism, with dashes of postmodern humor. I've admired some of Jarmusch's previous work, but this is the first film of his that actually seemed to have something like emotion.

 

Goya in Bordeaux (Carlos Saura)
Painting, passion and politics, woven through with memory and desire, as the Old Master reflects on the failures and torments of his life. One of the few artist biopics that comes close to understanding what torments and delights drive the artistic passion.
Hamlet (Michael Almereyda)
Speaking of the postmodern, this Hamlet of the age of global capitalism and digital knowledge goes beyond mere cleverness in setting the story as modern-day corporate struggle. As slick as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, but with much better acting!
Judy Berlin (Eric Mendelsohn)
This little-known, low-budget independent film takes the premise of a Twilight Zone episode and expands on it. What can move us to act on our dreams and desires in the face of all the disappointments they can bring? What do we do when those disappointments come? Prediction: Barbara Barrie's performance will be the Most Underrated of the year.
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola)
More desire and nostalgia, filtered through the perceptions of boys trying to understand the secret world of girls. The film's strength is that they never do understand.

Honorable mentions:
Croupier (Mike Hodges)
Gladiator (Ridley Scott)
Keeping the Faith (Edward Norton)
Love's Labour's Lost (Kenneth Branagh)
Quills (Philip Kaufman)
- mainly for Geoffrey Rush and Joaquin Phoenix, much less for the too-clever-for-its-own-good theatrical script.
Sunshine (Istvan Szabo)
X-Men (Bryan Singer)
- another underrated performance by Anna Paquin.

Best Newcomer: Hugh Jackman, in X-Men.
Best Male Supporting Role: Robert Downey, Jr. in Wonder Boys.
Most Overrated Film (so far): Pay It Forward.
Best Failed Experiment: Time Code (Mike Figgis).
Biggest Disappointment (so far): The Cradle Will Rock.
Worst Performance: Angus MacFadyen as Orson Welles in The Cradle Will Rock. Hardest Working Woman in Show Business: Helen Hunt

And (drum roll, please!):
The annual Pebble and the Penguin Worst Film of the Year Award:
Second Runner Down - Woman on Top
First Runner Down - (If the winner should mercifully disappear from the face of the earth, this film will be heaped with all the disdain and calumny available) -
What Lies Beneath.
And the Winner (?) of The Pebble and the Penguin Award (Fanfare of raspberries, please!) - Autumn in New York! Just when you thought it was safe to watch a Richard Gere movie, this strange melange of a film brings back that peculiar feeling. Narcissism, incest and necrophilia lurk beneath a glossy, arsty-fartsy, downtown surface that even manages to avoid using food as an easy sensual delight. Winona Ryder (SPOILER!!!, as if you cared) can't die fast enough.


Shari L. Rosenblum

In the year 2000, there were few films that made me remember why it is I love the movies so much. Few films that made me laugh, or think or feel anything at all, beyond the simple mindlessness of escapedom. And this is all the more reason that those few films deserve mention. These were the top ten of the Y2K films that helped to keep my love for film alive:

1. Hamlet (Michael Almereyda)
An intellectually invigorating experience - an innovative interpretation that shows nothing but respect for the original text. A modern energy with a grasp of substance that defies the pretention of marble-mouthed maniacism. A fidelity to word and meaning without self-important kowtowing to the tradition. It lifted me, moved me, excited me, inspired me.

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Ang Lee)
A balletic treasure. A choreography of the familiar and the standard that bends and folds, swoops and flies with the wonder that lies beneath the cliches. Not the feminist tract that some have purported it to be, limited as it is in Ang Lee's vision, but more profound in its broader sweep - more poignant for the lightness of its steps.

 

 

 

3. An Affair of Love
(Frederic Fonteyne)
A love story for the millennial consciousness. Romance and intimacy explored without exploitation or judgment.An adult analysis of what makes the heart stop and go . . .what makes risksof the ordinary . . . and what makes us pull away when every muscle within us aches to give in. A film whose action plays out not in the imagination, but in the shadows of the anima/animus . . . and lingers long afterwards.

4. American Psycho (Mary Harron)
Cutting and smart. Straight and sharp. Evilly uproarious. A delectable send-up of the insecurities and insanities that drive the mortal man sold on success. A filtered-down version of a book condemned by far more people than had ever leafed its pages - brilliantly centered on its subject and snubbing its naysayers with the same sarcastic sneer. It dares you to giggle when you think you should gasp.
5. X-Men (Bryan Singer)
A quickened comic-book tale that couldn't be more adultly humane or more timely, with just the right measure of serious substance and a well-appreciated cap on its own campiness. It delivers what it promises, with more insight than many of the more presumably heartfelt and directed tales we're told.
6. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
An odd compendium of filmic tradition and rebellion. Compelling and off-putting in equal measure. Cinematically self-conscious, politically superficial, and emotionally trite in good part, it has, in its conclusion, one among time's most profoundly moving and haunting of cinematic moments.
7. Kadosh (Amos Gitai)
A sober look at what it's like to feel like a woman in a world that places that feeling outside of its consciousness. What it feels like to love a man when that love is at once demanded and disdained by the larger society. A perspective on the conflict between partnership and reproduction. It is a quiet drama that raises in its audience a choking anger. A perfect co-feature with last year's Leila - compassion, compromise, surrender, and uncontainable sadness.
8. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch)
Knows more than it broadcasts -- like its lead character. It is understated and incisive, philosophically astute, intelligent and sardonic. Most of all, it does what films are supposed to do. It makes connections for its audience -- without patting itself on the back.
9. Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry)
Honored mostly for its familiar little-engine-that-could sensibility, the film is mostly to be appreciated for avoiding the saccharine taste of the standard chase for the dream and victory over the elements. For all its cliches (the mother whose memory guides, the maternal substitute that pushes for the best, the father who comes around, the friend whose own secret makes him perfect conspirator), it is a refreshing look through sociopolitically conscious eyes at the leaps of faith it takes to get a single step ahead.
10. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
A film about the 70s that respects and celebrates the 70s for what it felt like at the time. That doesn't have the need to lecture about the dangers in sex, drugs and rock and roll in some post-conscious post-90s attitude. That remembers the cherished illusion of innocence in bacchanalia. One's youth the way one's supposed to hold on to it -- with rose-colored glasses and a fondness beyond words.

 

 

CineScene, 2001
For Chris Dashiell's wrap-up of 2000, click here.