Top ten films of 2000
By JOSHUA TANZER and DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Despite an early lead by
"Coyote Ugly," David wound up picking 10 other films as the top 10 of 2000,
led however improbably by a cinema-verite Danish-directed musical. Meanwhile,
Joshua picked the film version of a groundbreaking 1992 theater piece so great it's
still tops eight years later. We saw hardly any of the same movies, by the way, but we
agreed about "High Fidelity," "Almost Famous," and a certain Danish director.
See Joshua's list |
See David's list
Other Top 10's: 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 1999
Like last year, I gave myself 13 choices because three of my 10 favorites are as-yet unreleased.
Plus, one only played for a week and a half. So take it any way you like keep the top 10 and snip off
the last three, keep the 10 publicly released films and edit out the three unknowns, or be
charitable and give me all 13. Just make no mistake the best film of 2000 was . . .
1. Twilight: Los Angeles
Anna Deavere Smith revisits her 1992 documentary theater piece in which she interviewed
thousands of people connected to the Los Angeles riots, studied their
characters, and then re-enacted several dozen of their statements on stage. We've seen
this technique imitated on New York stages all year, and this film reminds us of the
power of Smith's original performance and the smoldering anger that sparked the
horrors of eight years ago.
(Israeli) A tough-minded drama about love denied, mistreatment of women
and religious closed-mindedness in an Orthodox community in Israel.
The story of the main characters' loving but doomed relationship is touching,
while another couple's arranged marriage is so wrong it hurts.
3. Suzhou River
(Chinese) A cool motorcycle messenger falls in love
with a beautiful girl but suddenly finds himself in a gritty remake of
Hitchcock's "Vertigo" set in underground Shanghai. This obvious homage
has its own style and ends with an unexpected twist for those who've
seen the original.
4. Play For Me
(unreleased, originally titled "Henry Hill") A patient and brilliant drama starring Jamie Harrold, who also played
the dweeby water clerk in "Erin Brockovich." Here he's a musician
who, after a disastrous audition in New York, shoots himself in the
head five minutes into the film. Fortunately, the show must go on,
so our still-slightly-dweeby hero gradually recovers in the care of the
family he was trying to escape when he left small-town Maine.
5. Mr. Death
Documentarian Errol Morris turns his camera on the man who does our
dirty work gleefully designing the equipment with which our
prisons put people to death. This strange, amoral little man's
transformation into an enthusiastic Nazi sympathizer should make us
wonder about our own national character because we made him who he is.
6. The Idiots
(Danish) Dogme 95 director Lars von Trier (also director of "Dancer in the
Dark," on David's list) explores the fine line in the human mind between
normalcy and mental illness. The many reviewers who were shocked by scenes
of graphic sex missed the point in this story of bourgeois Scandinavians
on a kind of new-age retreat in which they cast off their inhibitions and act
like what the title implies. Is it therapy or yuppie indulgence? Is it a movie
or is it real?
(Chinese) Laments the loss of family, community and continuity
in China's rush to modernize, with a sentimental
and sensual story about a local bathhouse in a neighborhood scheduled
8. Winter Sleepers
(German) Tom Tykwer's film before the runaway hit "Run Lola Run" is no high-speed rock
video it's actually an intense and mysterious drama about four characters
trying to find one another's true selves in a mountain town.
(unreleased) Some former Jim Jarmusch crew members make their first movie
just for practice, really, but it's a totally lovable story about two
small-time Brooklyn crooks who travel all the way across the country to
screw up an easy heist.
10. State and Main
David Mamet great dialogue writer. I mean, a fucking great dialogue writer.
Only problem: his characters are a little thin. Made of goddamn cardboard.
So I know what you're thinkin' comedy, right? So that's
what he did. Fuckin' perfect.
11. The Five Senses
(Canadian) These interlocking stories in which each character
has too much of one of the senses or not enough of another seem occasionally
contrived to maintain the theme, but leave you with plenty to think about.
12. High Fidelity
Like "Almost Famous," a love letter to our foolish, idealistic younger selves, back
in the last historical moment when it was still possible to think rock 'n' roll could save
the world and justify our lives. John Cusack in the role that finally
vindicates the many fans who I suspect have him figured for the world's perfect
boyfriend is outgrowing his obsession with music but still gets passionate
when the right band comes along. And that goes for women too. (His ex, by the way,
is played by Iben Hjejle of Mifune.)
(unreleased) There's some preaching to the choir in this sendup of right-wing
puritanism, but good humor and inspired madness save the day as a group
of Southern performance artists do battle with Bible-thumpers.
Honorary member: Too Much Sleep
This New Jersey suburban satire by David Maquiling (general manager
of the Anthology's New Filmmakers series) already made my 1999 list
for its one-day
showing. This year it enjoyed a special 10-day run at the Anthology; at this rate,
it should be playing 100 days in 2001. And after garnering warmly appreciative
reviews in all the New York papers, maybe it will.
The list was just a little too short for: Almost Famous, Bury the Evidence,
Once We Were Strangers, Calle 54, Erin Brockovich, Mifune,
The Carriers Are Waiting.
Re-releases excluded, most critics agree that 2000 was a pretty poor year at the movies, which makes coming up with a year-end Ten Best list a bit of a challenge. Quite by accident, almost all
of the films that made my grade turned out to have one thing in common: a strong, central performance.
(In alphabetical order.)
Cameron Crowe's sincere yet slightly sanitized ode to rock 'n' roll is
everything you'd expect from the guy who made "Jerry Maguire": a film
that's extremely well acted, written, and directed. Newcomer Patrick Fugit
excels as a '70s highschooler who bluffs his way into covering a Lynyrd
Skynyrd-type rock band for "Rolling Stone" magazine only to learn that
truth-in-reporting isn't as easy as it sounds. With staunch support from
Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, and
Jason Lee, "Almost Famous" is funny, genuinely touching . . . and Absolutely
One of the most controversial films of the year is also one of the
funniest. Mary Harron's take on Bret Easton Ellis' satirical novel
features a sensational performance from Christian Bale ("Empire of the
Sun") as a wealthy, white-collar executive who just so happens to be a
serial killer on the side. Whether it's a caustic indictment of yuppie
Wall Street do-nothings, or an equally derisive put-down of popular music,
"American Psycho" delivers its message blam! like a nail gun to the back
of the head.
The re-teaming of the director and star of "Forrest Gump" (respectively,
Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks) proves just as successful second time
around. Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a time-obsessed Federal Expressman who
tells his girlfriend (the ubiquitous Helen Hunt) one Christmas Eve that
he'll be right back, crash lands in the Pacific, and spends the next four
years of his life stranded on a desert island and learning to be a better
man. Hanks, with only sun, sea, and sand to relate to, transforms "Cast
Away" into an emotional experience that resonates.
Dancer in the Dark
Ever since it took the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, critics have been
strongly divided about the latest entry from the Dogme 95 school of
filmmaking. Icelandic pop ingenue Bjork stars as Selma, a Czech immigrant
who, along with her ten-year-old son, is slowly losing her eyesight to a
hereditary disease. In order to escape the stresses of her daily routine,
Selma daydreams, imagining herself leading lavish Hollywood production
numbers. With "Dancer in the Dark," Lars Von Trier ("Breaking the Waves")
has not only resurrected the musical form, he has reinvented it in a way
that is brave, emotive, and truly astonishing.
He cruises the urban NYC streets with the lumbering bulk of the grizzly
bear and the stealth of the sleek black panther. When he strikes, his hits
are swift, effortless, and final. He is Ghost Dog and his ways are those
of the Samurai. Jim Jarmusch's film benefits from the director's typically
offbeat humor, hip-hop artist THE RZA's evocative music score, and most of
all Forest Whitaker's sleek, lumbering performance as the disconsolate
They don't make films like this any more. Or do they? Ridley Scott's
blockbuster and rightly so about a Roman general turned amphitheater
slave ("The Insider"'s Russell Crowe) is big on spectacle, but in a way
that reminds us why we still go to the movies.
Another film firmly focused on rock 'n' roll and then some (see: "Almost
Famous"), Stephen Frears' splendid adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel is one
of the most faithful you're likely to see. This smartly written and very
funny film stars John Cusack (in perhaps his best ever performance) as Rob
Gordon, a record store owner slash collector boy who reminisces about his
former Top 5 girlfriends to his Championship Vinyl staff (played with gusto
by Todd Louiso and Jack Black). Tim Robbins is hysterical as a
high-kicking new ager who happens to be dating Rob's latest ex-in-progress.
Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" is structured more as a series of
vignettes than a traditional central narrative yet many of these disparate
storylines (which feature a striking ensemble cast, among them Julianne
Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Seymour
Hoffman, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards, and last but by no means least,
Tom Cruise) come together very untraditionally in the film's breathtaking
final act. The director of the acclaimed "Boogie Nights" takes a number of
chances in "Magnolia"; the fact that they meld perfectly with the
escalating human drama only substantiates Anderson's skill as a writer and
director of unique and remarkable vision.
"Timecode" is four films for the price of one, a brilliantly conceived and
executed piece of experimental filmmaking that questions the notions of
traditional narrative cinema by challenging the very way in which we view
movies. Directed by Mike Figgis, oddly.
The Virgin Suicides
This deliberately paced gothic fantasy about the ill-fated Lisbon sisters
told from the vantage point of the neighborhood boys who worshipped them
from afar is as fragile and delicate as the teenage female condition it
examines. Working behind the camera for the first time, Sofia Coppola
(daughter of Francis Ford) directs with power, wit, and remarkable
sure-footedness. With James Woods, Kathleen Turner, and Kirsten Dunst as
the bold Lux.
Runners-up: Croupier, Best
in Show, The Family Man, Butterfly.