My Fave Movies Of 2000 - 02.12.01

This year wasn't quite as good as the last in terms of film, but after a pile of decent things came out around the end of the year, it ended up not being a complete waste. Instead of coming up with a list of top 15 (because I think I'd be stretching it if I were to list that many), I just came up with this list of films that I liked. They're in order from ones I like the most to ones I liked almost as much. Like always, there were several movies I didn't get around to seeing (but probably will as they come out on rental). As always, feel free to e-mail me with your comments (good or bad).

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In terms of sheer beauty, this is easily at the top of my list for the year. Everyone is talking about the special effects in the film, and although they are pretty amazing, they're still secondary to the excellent story, which traces the path of a sword and those who come in contact with it, but really is sort of a higher metaphor about believing in yourself and trying to realize your own dreams and potential instead of pleasing everyone else. It's a film in which the female characters are smart and strong, the story is interesting and finely woven, and it even has lots of scenes that just make you say, "keen."

2. Requiem For A Dream
Darren Aronofsky grabbed my attention 2 years ago with the movie Pi and at the time I wondered what he could do if he were given a decent-sized budget. This is the answer (although it still wasn't a big budget) and while at some times I felt it went a bit overboard where subtlety could have worked better (the same problem I had with Pi), this was still an amazing film. In terms of pure attacks on the senses, this is probably one of the most intense films that I've ever seen or heard and it ran me through the spectrum of emotions and left me feeling like I'd been kicked in the gut several times and left laying out in a desolate street somewhere. Of course, that was probably the point to it all, and with the film Aronofsky just cemented my view that he is someone to watch in the future. It's one of those movies that takes away all hope for the characters in the movie, but ends up somehow giving you a little more yourself after watching it.

3. Dancer In The Dark
Long before I had the chance to see this film, I'd read that this was not only the first movie that Bjork had been in, but that she also had stated afterwards that she'd never be in another one. After watching it, I think I can understand her sentiments a bit, mainly because it's one of the most emotionally wrenching movies I've ever seen. While there are moments of brightness punctuated by song and dance, it's basically a 2 hour spiral towards darker and sadder things to come, but it's also quite beautiful at the same time. This all makes it a bit of an unconventional musical, but putting it the context of one given the interests of the main character (Bjork's Selma), it works amazingly. Shot on handheld digital video, it's a bit raw, but don't any of the above stop you from seeing it.

4. Traffic
After Out Of Sight and The Limey, Steven Soderbergh re-established himself as one of my favorite directors working today. Proof in his solid directing is that he can even punch out a film like Erin Brokovich and make it enjoyable and above the usual Hollywood fare, but this movie is his opus for the year. With over 100 speaking parts and camera work that he did himself (under a pseudonym), this film weaves together several stories while keeping them all cohesive and very interesting. Benecio Del Toro was by far the standout, but the rest of the cast was amazing as well, including Don Cheadles, Michael Douglas, and Dennis Quaid.

5. Best In Show
I saw Waiting For Guffman a couple years back now and it completely cracked me up. Instead of going for gross-out humour or something more obvious, it played on human quirks of personality and was one of the funniest movies I'd seen in years. When I heard that director Christopher Guest had another movie coming out in the same style, I just had to see it as well. In my opinion, Best In Show is even funnier than the aformentioned Guffman, and was by far one of the more entertaining films I saw this year. If you like comedy that's just a bit unconventional, rent this movie as soon as it becomes available.

6. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
Yet another sort of free-roaming Coen Brothers movie, and again it ended up being better than 95% of films released in the same year anyway. As usual, it's sort of hard to fit the movie into a easy category, but it's sort of a comedic musical romp through 1940's Mississippi. The music is solid, and the cast (with George Clooney, John Turturro, John Goodman, and newcomer Tim Blake Nelson) of characters is again the focus as the plot weaves and winds its way through the loose story arch. If you're a fan of Coen Brothers films at all, go see this as soon as possible, and even if you're looking for a bit of an offbeat comedy, this one will totally score.

7. Unbreakable
Another steadily paced and assured film from M. Night Shamalyn, I liked this film just as much as The Sixth Sense because I think that the human side of things showed through even more. Bruce Willis is again excellent playing the quiet but effective character and Shamalyn establishes himself even more as quite skilled in pacing and camera work in general. Although the story hinges on one revelation, it doesn't add a big twist, and the film doesn't rely on it to work well. Plus, it was good to see Sam Jackson in a role that he wasn't completely over the top in.

8. Timecode
Mike Figgis can easily be labeled as a self-indulgent director, and he probably is. After his most famous film to date (Leaving Las Vegas), he directed a little-seen film before moving onto this, one of the most audacious attempts of a film in recent years. Breaking the film into quadrants, he tells the story of 4 different people as their lives weave together and drift apart. It's all done in one take and even though there are a few points that feel a bit rough, it succeeds for the most part. That alone is quite a feat, but the film itself is also surprisingly enjoyable with some moments of excellent comedy (Julian Sands as a corporate masseuse works as nearly a film-long sight gag) and pretty much excellent performances all around.

9. High Fidelity
I'm not sure if the reason that I enjoyed this movie had to do with the fact that I enjoy music so much or what, but I thought it was a pretty darn good comedy/drama. Like many people, I've always had kind of a weak spot for John Cusack, and although he doesn't really tend to play that different of characters from film to film, this was one of his best roles in years. A lot of the relationship commentary was pretty spot-on as well and I was smiling at the musical references and name-dropping for a large part of the movie as well. Oh yeah, and Jack Black is a funny motherfsuker.

10. Almost Famous
This film just screamed, "nice," but director Cameron Crowe still managed to squeeze out a film that was very entertaining without being overly sappy. William Fugit is awesome as the young, bright-eyed journalist that follows the semi-autobiographical story of Crowe and his teenage years of writing for Rolling Stone magazine. The rest of the cast is just as excellent as well, including Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Francis McDormand, and Kate Hudson. If you're a fan of music or just a nice, happy movie, this one should fit the billing well.

11. Castaway
Although I'm kind of sick of Tom Hanks just like about everyone else, this was a great role for him and Robert Zemekis showed a nice flair for subtlety. Lots of people thought they dropped the ball on the ending of the film, but I thought that it was handled really well and just about as simply as they could (with a nice touch of ambiguity). While the man verses nature part of the film was by far superior, there was a lot of emotion on display as well (including some amazing scenes with a volleyball!). Even if you don't like Hanks, give him one more chance here, then hope that he takes something unconventional for everyones sake.

12. Nurse Betty
This was a weird damn movie and I don't think that a lot of people quite gave it the credit that it deserved. Not only was it a great commentary on our television-obsessed culture, but it had some excellent moments of dark comedy and some good performances as well. Coming from Neil Labute (whose previous films have all had a heart of coal), it was refreshing and funny and didn't even fall into the trap of crashing down into a completely Hollywood ending. Plus, it had Crispin Glover. What the hell more could you want?

Finally, before I go, I have to admit that I have a weak spot for films that aren't necessarily good, but I had a good time watching. In fact, I saw 5 films (probably more) that stick out in my mind as what I like to call "guilty pleasures." For the most part, they're either overblown studio offerings, or completely goofy flicks that I just had a good time at (sometimes a combination of both). I've listed them below.

1. Snatch
Although this was basically a more Americanized version of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, this was a damn fun film in its own right and a great popcorn flick. It had loads of great characters and even though they were mainly underdeveloped and some underused (Benicio Del Toro), it was full of laughs and enough visual pizazz to keep the blood pumping.

2. Gladiator
Another rah-rah film, this film was historically woeful but visually rockin'. Russell Crowe struts around and makes you want to join in his legion and kick ass right along with him. Crazy fight scenes and epic filming.

3. Erin Brokovich
I hadn't seen a film with Julia Roberts in it for a long, long time, but I'll see anything by director Steven Soderbergh at this point. What could have been a complete ball of rubbish was instead an enjoyable summer movie with a heart. Sure, it was pretty mainstream, but don't tell me you didn't enjoy it at all...

4. X-Men
Yay! For once someone got a superhero film right. Although there were some fanboys whining about how this one worked out, I'm not sure it could have been much better as an introduction to the characters and it also made me an instant member of the Hugh Jackman fanclub. A fun movie with nice action and some good laughs, which is more than you can say about most comic book adaptations.

5. Shanghai Noon
Although Jackie Chan is slowing down a bit in terms of his crazy stunts, he's also getting to be a much better actor. Although he's not going to win any Academy Awards anytime soon, he's so irresistable that you can't help but liking him. Owen Wilson is the perfect choice for a sidekick and together the two of them made for a summer flick without any explosions and hardly any visual trickery that was still a ton of fun.

Special Mentions
Finally, I'd like to mention three movies that didn't technically came out this year, but were ones that I saw in the theater. The Exorcist, Rear Window, and Legend Of Drunken Master were all re-released to the theater this year and I really enjoyed seeing all of them on the big screen. Although they were all completely different, it was good to see them as they were originally intended, and in one case (Drunken Master 2) for the first time ever. We need big re-releases like these every year.