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  •  TOP10: TOP 10 FILMS OF 2000

    Top ten films of 2000


    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.

    2. Kadosh

    (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?

    7. Shower

    (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 for demolition.

    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.

    9. Criminals

    (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.)

    13. Existo

    (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.)

    Almost Famous

    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 Fabulous.

    American Psycho

    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.

    Cast Away

    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.

    Ghost Dog

    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 contract killer.


    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.

    High Fidelity

    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.

    DECEMBER 31, 2000

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