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2000: The Year in Film

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

That 2000 was so bad is twice as heartbreaking after 1999, which was such a great movie year. For some reason 1999 was rich with innovative, creative, interesting, funny, and heartbreaking films, and many of these made money. Apparently, it takes a full year for trends to hit with Hollywood, and they weren't aware that people wanted to see good movies in 2000. So they just made crap.

For some reason, much of that crap caught on. I'm astonished by how many people love the truly awful "Gladiator," with its one-note acting, sloppy direction, bad special effects, and ages-old story that has already been told time and again. It even made the National Board of Review's ten best list.

But I suppose I can't blame people. They wanted to go to the movies, and the good stuff just wasn't there. Sometimes it was, though, and people missed it. Abbas Kiarostami's "The Wind Will Carry Us" quietly popped up for a couple of weeks, and despite my loud praise, hardly anyone went. It seemed to baffle most local critics. Akira Kurosawa's final film, "Madadayo," on the shelf for seven years, also suddenly appeared for a week or two. It was a lovely, delicate, reflective film from a supreme artist of the cinema. Nobody went.

Being a film reviewer allows one to catch the good stuff that otherwise goes unnoticed. My ten best list this year is made up of those films, plus one or two that did in fact catch on, albeit with word of mouth and not big advertising. It's not a great list; perhaps none of them would have even cracked last year's ten best. But these were ten films that kept me going in a year of waste and stupidity. The wheat in the chaff.

The Top Ten

1. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Joel and Ethan Coen's masterly comedy of Homer's "The Odyssey" by way of Jean-Luc Godard, and filtered through Preston Sturges-an epic story about insignificant people in the middle of nowhere.

2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Forest Whitaker's silent samurai working for the mob was a vision of beauty and serenity in an otherwise violent and silly world ruled by pop culture; the key image being the man who builds a boat that will never sail on his rooftop.

3. The Wind Will Carry Us
The latest film by Abbas Kiarostami, the world's greatest living film director, is another masterpiece, the story of a filmmaker who intrudes on the life of a windy, hilly village and tries to make sense of life and death.

4. Beau Travail
Director Claire Denis brings us a vision of Africa enclosed by Melville's "Billy Budd." The great Denis Lavant plays the Claggart character who becomes unjustly jealous of the popular Gregoire Colin. Scenes of men performing routine exercising, working, and cleaning become the stuff of poetry.

5. High Fidelity
Nick Hornsby's book tapped into Generation X angst, and John Cusack and company perfectly translate it to a Chicago record store, where all longings, romantic and musical, are intelligently discussed, fussed over, and resolved. Stephen Frears directs.

6. Panic
First-time writer/director Henry Bromell brings a European art house sensibility to his story of a hitman (William H. Macy) who seeks counseling and falls for a mysterious young woman (Neve Campbell). It's a crime movie about sadness and hard choices instead of violence.

7. Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky ("Pi") emerges as a full-fledged auteur with this harrowing portrait of four junkies in New York City. Not one emotion is faked, not one detail is cheated. It puts you through the ringer, but you'll be glad you're alive.

8. Madadayo
The last film by the great Akira Kurosawa ("Seven Samurai" & "Ikiru") sat on the shelf for seven years before getting an unceremonious release. It's a quiet meditation on the end of a life well-spent-a professor adored by his students who enjoys the simple things.

9. Wonder Boys
A lovely, spunky comedy about writers and thinkers with a shaggy Michael Douglas as a professor on page 2600-something of his second novel. Director Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") and writer Steve Kloves ("The Fabulous Baker Boys") lay on the charm, and I've been smiling ever since.

10. Nurse Betty
Neil LaBute's wicked, wicked comedy about dreaming a dream so hard you don't want to wake up. It asks, are our dreams our own, or do they come from the media? Renee Zellweger turns in a great performance as the little lost girl who looks for her favorite soap opera star and instead finds the actor who plays him (Greg Kinnear). Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock round out the outstanding cast.

Runners Up

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (Errol Morris), Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier), Croupier (Mike Hodges), Mission: Impossible II (John Woo), Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood), Pola X (Leos Carax), Time Regained (Raul Ruiz), A Moment of Innocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf), Quills (Philip Kaufman)

Honorable Mention

American Psycho, Bamboozled, Best in Show, Billy Elliot, Cecil B. DeMented, Charlie's Angels, Chicken Run, Committed; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Cup, Dr. T & the Women, East Is East, The Emperor and the Assassin, The Emperor's New Groove, Erin Brockovich, Fantasia/2000, Getting to Know You, Girlfight, Godzilla 2000, Hamlet, Holy Smoke, Human Traffic, Judy Berlin, Kikujiro, Love's Labour's Lost, Magnolia, Malena, Me Myself I; Me, Myself & Irene; No One Writes to the Colonel, Not One Less, Nowhere to Hide, Return to Me, Same Old Song, Scary Movie, Shanghai Noon, Sicilia!, Small Time Crooks, State and Main, Suzhou River, The Terrorist, The Tigger Movie, A Time for Drunken Horses, Titus, Topsy-Turvy, Traffic, Unbreakable, Venus Beauty Institute, The Virgin Suicides, Voyages, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Winter Sleepers, The Woman Chaser, X-Men, You Can Count on Me

Screen Goddess

Catherine Deneuve, past 60 years of age, is still the screen's supreme goddess. She was seen in five films this year; Dancer in the Dark, East-West, Place Vendome, Pola X, and Time Regained. You go, girl.

What?

George Clooney appeared in both the atrocious The Perfect Storm and the amazing O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Likewise Forest Whitaker was in both Battlefield Earth and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samuari. And celebrated scribe Kenneth Lonergan's name appeared on both The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and You Can Count on Me.

Documentaries

  • Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.
  • 42 Up
  • The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
  • Sound and Fury
  • One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich
  • The Filth and the Fury
  • American Pimp
  • My Best Fiend

    DVD Releases

  • The Decalogue (Facets)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
  • Anatomy of a Murder (Columbia)
  • The Bank Dick / W.C. Fields: 6 Short Films (Criterion Collection)
  • The Big Sleep (Warner Brothers)
  • The Blue Gardenia (Kino)
  • Carnival of Souls (Criterion Collection)
  • Evil Dead II / Army of Darkness (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
  • Gimme Shelter (Criterion Collection)
  • Good Morning (Criterion Collection)
  • Repo Man (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
  • Shaft (1971)
  • Sisters (Criterion Collection)
  • Two-Lane Blacktop (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
  • Whity (Fantoma Films)
  • A Woman of Paris / A King in New York

    Revivals

  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, Luis Bunuel)
  • Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
  • Breathless (1959, Jean-Luc Godard)
  • The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)
  • Furbelows (Falbalas) (1945, Jacques Becker)
  • House of Wax (1953, Andre de Toth)
  • It Happened Here (1965, Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo)
  • Les Bonnes Femmes (1960, Claude Chabrol)
  • Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)
  • Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin)
  • Trouble in Paradise (1932, Ernst Lubitsch)

    The Worst Movies of 2000

    I stopped counting after I saw 20 of the most godawful horrors I've ever seen. Bad movies in 2000 did not just mean worst of the year. Many of these were among the worst ever made. Ed Wood's name came up a lot. We're talking really bad. I tried to rank them in order of hate, but I found I hate them all equally.

  • American Virgin / Live Virgin
  • Battlefield Earth
  • Dude, Where's My Car?
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Eye of the Beholder
  • Gladiator
  • Gone in 60 Seconds
  • Hollow Man
  • Isn't She Great
  • The Last September
  • Lies
  • Loser
  • Mission to Mars
  • The Next Best Thing
  • Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Titan A.E.
  • Treasure Island
  • Trixie
  • The Weekend
  • Whatever It Takes
  • Where the Heart Is

    Guilty Pleasures

  • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
  • Mifune
  • Miss Congeniality
  • The Ninth Gate
  • Playing Mona Lisa
  • Reindeer Games
  • Woman on Top

    Looking Forward to Next Year

  • Yi Yi (A One and a Two...)
  • George Washington
  • Shadow of the Vampire
  • Taboo
  • In the Mood for Love
  • Brother

    Some Other Worthy Opinions...

    ROB BLACKWELDER, Spliced Online 1. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) 2. Panic (Henry Bromell) 3. Girlfight (Karyn Kusama) 4. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears) 5. Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky) 6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) 7. Dancer In The Dark (Lars von Trier) 8. Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (Jim Jarmusch) 9. East-West (Regis Wargnier)
    Tom Block, culturevulture.net 1. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) 2. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier) 3. Quills (Philip Kaufman) 4. Not One Less (Zhang Yimou) 5. Human Resources (Laurent Cantet) 6. The Woman Chaser (Robinson Devor) 7. Cast Away (Robert Zemekis) 8. Winter Sleepers (Tom Tykwer) 9. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige) 10. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh)
    CAHIERS DU CINEMA 1. Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin) 2. La Captive (Chantal Akerman) 3. Man on the Moon (Milos Forman) 4. Mission to Mars (Brian De Palma) 5. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai) 6. M/other (Nobuhiro Suwa) 7. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola) 8. Yi Yi (Edward Yang) 9. Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood) 10. Les Savates du Bon Dieu (Jean-Claude Brisseau)

    Roger Ebert

    1. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
    2. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
    3. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Longergan)
    4. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh)
    5. George Washington (David Gordon Green)
    6. The Cell (Tarsem Singh)
    7. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears)
    8. Pollock (Ed Harris)
    9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
    10. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)

    DAVID FEAR, SF Bay Guardian / culturevulture.net 1. Beau Travial (Claire Denis) 2. State and Main (David Mamet) 3. Trans () 4. Judy Berlin (Eric Mendelsohn) 5. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) 6. The Way of the Gun (Christopher McQuarrie) 7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) 8. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola) 9. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears) 10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen)
    J. HOBERMAN 1. Fragments * Jerusalem (Ron Havilio) 2. Time Regained (Raul Ruiz) 3. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 4. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) 5. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 6. Taboo (Nagisa Oshima) 7. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige) 8. Suzhou River (Lou Ye) 9. Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano) 10. The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (Djibril Diop Mambety)
    MICK LA SALLE, San Francisco Chronicle 1. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan) 2. Malena (Giuseppe Tornatore) 3. Urbania (John Shear) 4. An Affair of Love (Frédéric Fonteyne) 5. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe) 6. Waking the Dead (Keith Gordon) 7. Sunshine (Istvan Szabo) 8. Nurse Betty (Neil LaBute) 9. Mr. Death (Errol Morris) 10. It Happened Here (1965, Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo)
    Arthur Lazere, culturevulture.net 1. L'Humanite (Bruno Dumont) 2. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 3. Girl on the Bridge (Patrice Leconte) 4. Quills (Philip Kaufman) 5. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears) 6. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 7. Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry) 8. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier) 9. State and Main (David Mamet) 10. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
    JOE LEYDON, San Francisco Examiner Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe) Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh) Girl on the Bridge (Patrice Leconte) High Fidelity (Stephen Frears) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) The Patriot (Roland Emmerich) Spring Forward (Tom Gilroy) Thirteen Days (Roger Donaldson) Traffic (Steven Soderbergh) Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
    PHILIP LOPATE 1. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 2. Platform (Jia Zhang Ke) 3. L'Humanite (Bruno Dumont) 4. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai) 5. Taboo (Nagisa Oshima) 6. Yi Yi (A One and a Two...) (Edward Yang) 7. Voyages (Emmanuel Finkiel) 8. A Time For Drunken Horses (Bahman Ghobadi) 9. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe) 10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) (tie) You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan)
    WESLEY MORRIS, San Francisco Chronicle 1. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier) 2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) 3. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola) 4. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe) 5. George Washington (David Gordon Green) 6. The Woman Chaser (Robinson Devor) 7. Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta) 8. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) 9. Chicken Run (Peter Lord & Nick Park) 10. Charlie's Angels (McG)
    CONTRA COSTA TIMES, Mary F. Pols 1. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh) 2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) 3. Quills (Philip Kaufman) 4. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan) 5. Nurse Betty (Neil LaBute) 6. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky) 7. Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis) 8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) 9. All the Pretty Horses (Billy Bob Thornton) 10. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears)
    JONATHAN ROSENBAUM, Chicago Reader 1. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) 2. Rosetta (Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne) 3. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 4. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch) 5. The River (Tsai Ming-liang) 6. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 7. Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine (Bahman Farmanara) (tie) The Child and the Soldier (Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi) 8. Khroustaliov, My Car! (Alexei Guerman) 9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) 10. Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano)
    ANDREW SARRIS 1. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan) 2. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson) 3. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 4. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh) 5. Croupier (Mike Hodges) 6. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky) 7. Nurse Betty (Neil LaBute) 8. Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh) 9. Dr. T and the Women (Robert Altman) 10. State and Main (David Mamet)

    Runners Up (Foreign Films): Yi Yi, La Buche, Solas; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Butterfly, Suzhou River, Not One Less, It All Starts Today, Chunhyang, Madadayo


    PAUL SCHRADER Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe) Bamboozled (Spike Lee) Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel) Best in Show (Christopher Guest) Chunhyang (Im Kwon-taek) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee) In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky) Yi Yi (Edward Yang)
    SUSAN SONTAG, ArtForum 1. Yi Yi (Edward Yang) 2. Faithless (Liv Ullmann) 3. L'Humanité (Bruno Dumont) 4. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 5. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami) 6. Hamlet (Michael Almereyda) 7. The Circle (Jafar Pahani) 8. La Captive (Chantal Akerman) 9. Travelers (Bahram Beizai) 10. Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)
    CHUCK STEPHENS 1. Taboo (Gohatto) (Nagisa Oshima) 2. Fah Talai Jone (Wisit Sasantieng) 3. Face (Junji Sakamoto) 4. Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul) 5. Pola X (Leos Carax) 6. Not Forgotten (Makoto Shinozaki) 7. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch) * Beau Travail (Claire Denis) * In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai) * Lies (Jang Sun-woo) * Jigoku (1960, Nobuo Nakagawa)
    AMY TAUBIN, Village Voice 1. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) 2. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies) 3. Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay) 4. Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang) 5. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson) 6. Love and Basketball (Gina Prince-Bythewood) 7. Human Resources (Laurent Cantet) 8. Madadayo (Akira Kurosawa) 9. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch) 10. Bamboozled (Spike Lee)
    JOHN WATERS 1. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier) 2. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen) 3. L'Humanite (Bruno Dumont) 4. American Psycho (Mary Harron) 5. The Idiots (Lars von Trier) 6. Water Drops on Burning Rocks (Francois Ozon) 7. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola) 8. Criminal Lovers (Francois Ozon) 9. Pink Narcissus (1971, James Bidgood) 10. Eva (1962, Joseph Losey)
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