Best of the Year: 2000
Sorry this list took quite awhile to get online. I have been working on other parts of the site and was trying to catch up on some of the films from the past year. It's been quite difficult coming up with a top ten list for the year 2000. A few of the best movies I saw this past year were "Three Kings", "Fight Club" and "The Green Mile", unfortunately all of these films were leftovers from the amazing film year that was 1999. After one of the best years of film in a decade, I figured we'd have a little bit of a letdown this year, but was flabbergasted by the lack of quality in 2000. There were some good movies, but no GREAT films. Most of my Best of list from 2000 would be lucky to break the top 20 list of 1999. Sure we continue to get amazing special effects, but when you don't have a story, these effects soon fad away. As I began writing my reviews of each film, I realized how many problems I brought up for each film. Hmmm, not a good sign. I believe, with a few exceptions, the films from this past year will fade away like the closing credits.
One of the problems with the year 2000 was the lack of the heavy hitting directors. The year saw no Speilberg, Scoresse, Burton, (the list goes on). There were also no surprise first time (o.k. maybe one) directors like last years; Spike Jonze, Sam Mendes and M. Night Shyamalan (yes, Shyamalan did release "Unbreakable", but it didn't have the same impact as his first "The Sixth Sense"). Only a few good directors released films this year (Ridley Scott, Ang Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Cameron Crowe) and surprise, surprise, these are the films that appear on the "best of" list.
As with every yearly list, I have not seen every movie made. If you have something that you feel is a must for the "Best of 2000" list, please e-mail it to me and I'll check it out. Believe me, this is a very weak year for film and I'm not too happy with this list right now, a few of these films don't really deserve to be here. So this list may change.
Finally, I didn't want to make a number 1 to 10 list, like this is the best of them all. So the list appears in alphabetical order. But these are all films that I think you will enjoy if you haven't already! So without further ado...
Almost Famous: I'm starting off the list with a really good film that nobody saw. Every critic and the few people I know that caught this film in the theater loved it. In fact, I haven't heard anything bad said about this film. I just don't understand why it didn't do any business. The story is semi-autobiographical from the life of director Cameron Crowe, when he started working as a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine in his teens. The movie tells of the adventures that the young reporter has while following a fictious band named Stillwater. Along for the ride are a few female groupies led by Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson. Hudson is the young daughter of Goldie Hawn and just shines upon the screen. She deserves an Oscar nomination. The film is also a nostalgic ride for anyone growing up in the 70's with arena rock. So many thirtysomethings complain how music, movie and TV market to teenyboppers, but when a great movie (or TV show like "Freaks and Geeks") which is marketed specifically for us comes out and we don't support it then I guess I begin to understand why the advertisers just suck the money out of the fad lead teenagers. Please find and rent this film when it comes out on video.
Best in Show: One of the funniest films of the year, in a year that had very few comedies. I'm starting to really appreciate a good comedy because it seems that Hollywood is having a harder time making them. Christopher Guest brought together his normal zany group of character actors to create another film in the style of "Waiting for Guffman". This group is becoming a modern day Monty Python. This time around the company tackles the area of show dogs and their owners. The film looks at 6 couples and their attempts to win the international dog competition. If you are or know any pet owners, some of the obsessive behavior may be familiar.
Chicken Run: This was the last film to make my list and I must admit there were a couple other films in this slot but kept getting bumped. "You Can Count On Me" came and went. It had great acting and an interesting story, but could have easily been a TV movie of the week (a very good one, don't get me wrong). The last movie to get bumped was "Castaway". Again, this film shows some amazing acting by Tom Hanks, but it just has a few too many problems to appear on the list. In their place appears a claymation film that is as perfect as a film can be. The story revolves around a chicken farm that is falling on hard times and the human owner decide to turn the farm into a chicken pot pie factory. In the tradition of the great WWII prison camp escape films, the chickens must find their way to freedom before they are killed. The story is wonderfully written, with humor, drama and frights. The claymation might be the best ever filmed with all aspects of the art production (sets, lighting and character development) thought out with a masterfully skill. If only "live action" films would pay this much attention. In the tradtion of the "Toy Story" films, this is a movie everyone can enjoy.
Chocolat: I wanted to really love this movie and did for the first three fourth of it. It has a magical fairy-tale like quality. The quaint, small town with a European feel, that's kind of closed off from the rest of the world. The town is run by a man who's following in the footsteps of keeping a moral community going. He's not mean, just uptight. On one windy night, a woman arrives and opens up a chocolate store in the middle of town, during Lent no less. The chocolates she makes seem to have a magical quality to them that can help an individual with problems in their lives; mainly in the areas of love and sex. The movie is a bit too reminiscent of "Like Water For Chocolate", but never reaches that films quality, although it could have. Without giving away too much of the plot, there is a fire about a third of the way through the film that completely changes the feel of the movie. It suddenly goes from a magical tale to a human drama. The mythical lead character becomes as one of the townspeople and I believe it was a sellout. It could have been great, but now it's just a film that Miramax is pushing to get some Oscars that it doesn't deserve.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Ever year, I've been able to pick the best movie of the year, by the time I walked out of the theater on my first viewing. It has that WOW effect on you and you think about it for days. This year, I never had that happen, but if I had to pick a top movie of the year this may be it. This film contains the best action sequences and some of the best romance I saw this year. How often do you hear both of those qualities combined in the same film. I was able to watch this on the IMAX screen, which was great, because the cinematography is wonderful. The story centers around two great fighters, one female, one male, who've been in love with each other all their lives, but due to cultural "rules" never express this love. The female is sent to deliver the male's sword to a friend as a gift. The sword is stolen, and as they search to retrieve it, they encounter a new, young fighter and an old enemy. The film has a fairy tale like quality to it, combining myth, warriors, magic, religion and gravity-less powers. Many of the same elements that made the first "Star Wars" so special. But it is the action sequences that make the movie great. The fight scenes must be seen to be believed. Some of the warriors can defy gravity (much like the characters from the Matrix). This adds to the possibilities of where a battle can go! One fight takes place on the top of a forest of bamboo trees, another on the first and second floor of a bar. One fight, between two females in a locked room, was amazing. I couldn't imagine the time it took to choreography this five-minute battle with about seven different weapons, as they twisted, spun and flew through the air. It's important to point out the positive role the females played in this film. You never see a Hollywood film with female warriors on par or better than the men. One young female takes on 20 men and wins! Another point is the violence. Unlike Hollywood pictures that try to show as much gunfire, blood and graphic violence as possible, very little is shown here. This movie should be nominated if not win the best picture Oscar. If not, it will walk away with the best foreign film! I believe this is taken from the fourth book in a series of adventures and there are already plans in the works to make some of the prequels.
Fantasia 2000 When I was beginning my list I almost forgot about this film. I think of this movie as part of the great year of 99' since it was released on January 1, of 2000. This film was one of those great movie experiences if you were able to catch it on the IMAX screen. The giant images and amazing digital sound that the IMAX theater produces are able to do this film justice, and the audience agreed. The film was first released just in the IMAX theater, and did great business. It was later released on normal screens and dropped off dramatically. Disney moved it back to the IMAX and the film began to make money again. The film takes after the 1940's Disney classic, "Fantasia"; Animation combined to classical music. Walt Disney's original idea was to continue to release this film with different segments interchanged with each release. Well, sixty years later, Roy Disney finally helped to fulfill Walt's dream. Only one segment is brought back from the original, Mickey's "Sorcerers Apprentice". To be honest with you, I liked this version better than the original. The segments seem shorter and more viewer friendly and most have a story to them and are not as abstract as the original. This film is similar to my "Blair Witch" pick from last year, and what I mean by that is "Fantasia 2000" was a great movie experience, but wasn't necessarily a great movie. I have since purchased this movie on DVD and it has lost some of its punch on the small TV screens, but try it anyway.
Gladiator: Ridley Scott has always been one of those directors that I hold in great regard. He always seems to stick to his vision. His films don't come from the normal Hollywood cookie cutter school of moviemaking. Some of his films are good (Thelma and Louise), some are great (Blade Runner and Alien). "Gladiator" falls more into the good category. The story follows a great Roman general from the battlefields, through betrayal, slavery, training as a gladiator and revenge. It has an epic feel to it, but the story is quite simple for the epic it's trying to be. Russell Crowe puts in a star-quality performance as the general turned gladiator. Ridley Scott films some amazing views of the High Roman Empire, including an enormous battle scene at the beginning of the film and the splendor that was Rome. Unlike most of the FX effects throughout the year, Scott was able to show us moments of awe without having the special effects be the story. It ends up being a bit too long for the story it's trying to tell. You know where it's leading very early in the story, but it's quality was far better than most of the "big" movie hype of the year.
Requiem For a Dream: This is one disturbing movie! Like "Clockwork Orange" disturbing. It's quite possibly the best depictions ever of addiction. Not just in the story, but the visuals you see. And I don't just mean drug addiction, although that is the main focus, but the addiction of the American Dream; to have the house, look, feel and popularity that is in your dreams. The film centers around a twentysomething young man, his closest friend, girlfriend and mother. The two young men work in a small drug ring which helps them save money that they hope to use on their "dreams" of living a normal life. They throw small parties in which they use some of their own goods and develop their own addiction. The quick edits, showing the drug being melted, shot into the vein, flowing through the veins as the pupils' dialate is quite haunting. When their supply is cut off and their fortune is slowly spent, they must succumb to drastic measures to feed their addiction. His mother, on the other hand, has become addicted to diet pills after dreaming of appearing on a game show and being able to slip into the red dress she use to wear many years ago. Ellen Barkin puts in one of the best performances of the year. If it weren't for a few short sequences, you wouldn't know how good Barkin still looks. By the end of the movie she looks like a holocaust survivor. She begins having hallucinations of her refrigerator coming to life and taunting her with food. By the end of the movie, all the characters have fallen to the lowest depths of humanity; including jail, shock therapy, amputation, and becoming a sex slave, all quite graphically shown. There was a sequence near the end of the movie, which was quite difficult to watch. This is Darren A? second film, (his first was "Pi") and he begged his studio to release it the way he wanted. They agreed and it was slapped with an NC-17 rating. It's been released on video with an "R" version, but to get the full effect please look for the director's cut!
Traffic: Probably the best made film of the year. Steven Soderbergh continues his streak of directing very good and widely diverse films (Out of Sight, Three Kings, Erin Brockovich). The idea for the story came from a British TV miniseries entitled "Traffik" which tracked a drug route from Pakistan through Europe to Great Britain. It followed three interconnected stories of the illegal drug environment. Sodenberg took this idea and transformed it into a 2-hour plus film that lost little of the original kaleidoscope of stories. All the major characters are shown including users, dealers, law enforcement and politicians. They decided the story should center around the borders of America and Mexico. The writing and editing of the film gives you glimpses into each story and character and carefully weaves it together to show how each player is effecting the other and how the war on drugs seems quite pointless. Soderbergh does a good job telling the personal stories without becoming too preachy. The film is littered with great acting all around. Michael Douglas plays a high ranking U.S. government official recently assigned to fighting the war on drugs. By the end of the film he goes searching for his drug-addicted daughter who is missing with an inner city drug dealer. Douglas' wife in real life, Catherine Zeta-Jones, plays the wife of a major dealer who has just been arrested and she finds a way to continue the business even though she's very pregnant. Dennis Quaid is the lawyer trying to get her husband off the wrap. Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman play DEA agents trying to fight this crazy war, risking their lives every day. And Benicio Del Toro gives an amazing performance as a Mexican policeman who's trying to do the right thing while dealing with the corruption coming from both the drug dealers, government and armed forces of his country. This film along with the previous movie "Requiem" are two of the best views of the drug world filmed in years.
The Virgin Suicides: The only film on my list from a directorial debut. Sofia Coppola, daughter of the great Francis Ford Coppola, wrote and directed an amazing film based on a novel from Jeffery Eugenides. The script is wonderful and the directing is truly hypnotic. The film has a similar feel as last years "American Beauty". The film is set in the mid-70's, in a middle class suburb in Michigan, but it could have been any town in America. Mr. Lisbon (James Woods), the somewhat dorky High School Math teacher, and Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner), an extremely strict and religious woman, live with their five teenage daughters. These beautiful girls, isolated by their overprotective parents, being to cast a spell over a group of neighborhood boys. Early on in the film, the youngest daughter commits suicide and the boys try to learn more about the dead girl and all her sisters. The cool jock at school, played by Josh Hartnett tries to date one of the daughters played by Kirsten Dunst. He convinces a few of the boys to take all the girls to the prom, which begins a series of events that will change all of their lives forever. Coppola does a wonderful job of capturing the 70's time period, as well as the life of a teenager. The soundtrack contains classic rock songs of the era, and haunting new music from a band called "Air".
Runner-Ups: The next category are the runner-up movies. These are films that were a complete pleasure to watch. They are simply mindless entertainment that takes you away from your problems for 90 minutes. These are the types of films that may get nominated for a special effects Oscar or costumes, but that is the best they can hope for. But in 5 years down the road, when your flipping through your 600 channels on your high definition, flat, widescreen TV, hanging on your wall, you may stop and not have to flip any farther!
The Contender: A scary look at the way the American political machine works. Great acting all around, but tidies up the ending a little too much.
Erin Brockovich: A very good performance by Julia Roberts. Also an amazing supporting role by her undergarments.
The Patriot: I've been waiting for Hollywood to make a great film about the American Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, this is only a good film. It is beautiful to look at, but focuses a little too much on being gruesome and revengeful. I want the Founding Fathers!
Remember the Titans: A real good movie that the whole family can sit around and watch.
Return To Me: This film made me smile. The whole donor story was the main focus, but didn't need to be there. Great little scenes of seniors trying to marry off their granddaughter.
Shadow of the Vampire: William Defoe having a little too much fun at what he's doing!
What Lies Beneath/The Gift: These are 2 separate films, but both try to do the same thing, and both do it equally well. Both deal with the supernatural, ghosts and trying to scare the audience. Twists and turns abound, along with great acting.
X-Men: One of the best comic book films in a long time.
When some directors have problems making one fair to semi-good movie every 2 to 3 years, the good directors can make a couple of good or even great films in one year. Steven Soderbergh was nominated for two Best Director Oscars this past year (winning one) a feat that has only happened once before back in the 30's. He released two high quality films in "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich" and has become one of the best directors working today. To add to his praise, Hollywood says he's one of the nicest guys around and every actor wants to work with him.
Robert Zemeckis also released 2 quality films. "Cast Away", although having a couple of problems in the begin and end, was held together nicely by Tom Hanks acting and the directing. His second film, made while waiting for Hanks to lose weight for "Cast Away" was a classic thriller "What Lies Beneath". Most directors would do anything to make a film with the quality of any of these projects some time in their carrer.
Most Overrated Movie:
High Fidelity: I just didn't get the whole praise about this film. I have always loved John Cusack, and I'm also one of those crazy people who make up stupid lists. When this movie was getting great reviews by the critics, it made me hope for the joyous romantic comedies that Cusack made in the 80's (Say Anything or Better Off Dead). Unfortunately, this film bored me to death. And when it wasn't boring me it was bringing back all those bad memories of relationships gone bad. I also found the supporting cast quite annoying. Recently, I was offered a free copy of this film and I passed on it.
Wonder Boys: Another film I just didn't get. I kept waiting for something to happen. Critics say Michael Douglas was robbed of a Best Actor Oscar nomination. O.K. so it might have been his best acting in quite some time, but what has he done lately. Yeah, it's your best thing if your not comparing it to anything else (He was much better in Traffic)! And let me ask you this, which actor would you knock off the list to put him on. I don't think so. Never really cared for any of the characters in the film or what happened to them.
Worst of the Year/Biggest Disappointment:
Blair Witch 2: Your typical story of a studio trying to suck money out of the hit from the previous year, the problem being is that the original was not a great movie, but an interesting idea that should just be left alone for what it was. The original directors were smart to stay far away from this project which spent millions more to make this film and didn't come close to getting anything back like the original.
Little Nicky: I've never been a huge Adam Sandler fan, but this film was beyond bad!
102 Dalmatians: When even kids stay away from a movie like this you know there is something wrong.
Proof of Life: The movie studio said people stayed away from this film because it broke up a marriage. No, it had nothing to do with the supposed affair between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe, it had everything to do with being a boring and poorly written film.