Best Films of 2000
Dancer In The Dark (Lars von Trier, Denmark / Sweden / France)
Like some sadistic reworking of
Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc, Dancer In The Dark
is maddeningly manipulative, gratuitously overwrought and
hyper-contrived. It is also the single most
fascinating and challenging film of the year. Björk holds nothing back
as Selma, a near-blind factory worker struggling to preserve the sight
of her 10-year-old son. Audiences either loved it or hated it, but few
had an indifferent opinion about this unremittingly bleak musical --which
is exactly the polarizing effect director Lars Von Trier hoped for.
Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang, Taiwan / Japan)
during a wedding on the "luckiest day of the year," Yi-Yi
follows the subsequent trials and tribulations of a physically close,
yet emotionally disconnected Taiwanese family. A masterful study in
things not said and the temptation of unexpected second chances. Edward
Yang's patiently crafted film resonates with an understated, but no less
potent force. A stellar achievement.
You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan, USA)
A single mother (the
always great Laura Linney) is forced to contend with the return of her
directionless, no-account brother (well-played by Mark Ruffalo), who, in
turn, forms a special bond with her son (nicely handled by Rory Culkin).
The relationships in this film display a brutal honesty that elevates
what could have been a modest character study into something far more
sublime, an uncompromising look at sibling rivalry and familial devotion.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (The Coen Brothers, USA)
This yarn of three
escaped chain gang convicts in the deep south of the 1930s, framed by an
Odyssey-like story arc, might seem like an exercise in filmmaking
tomfoolery. But with the right amount of verve and hair gel, the Coen
Brothers manage to pull it off. The verbally challenged sparring of the
three leads is rivaled only by their exaggeratedly cartoonish physical
comedy; a near-flawless gem.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee,
The period is
early 19th century China, where a magical sword has been stolen. Throw
in some amazing fight choreography and stunningly beautiful scenery, and
it all adds up to one of the most enjoyable films of the year. Director
Ang Lee’s deft, magic realist touches make all the difference in what
could have been just another campy martial arts free-for-all.
Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, USA)
Steven Soderbergh’s War
on Drug and why it failed examination works best south of the border,
but not so well in the nation’s capital, where recently appointed drug
czar (a too earnest Michael Douglas) fights to save the life of his heroin addicted
daughter. While uneven in its overall impact, the performances of
Benicio Del Toro (as a dedicated, but frustrated Mexican cop) and Don
Cheadle (playing a jaded, but relentless DEA agent) jointly justify the
Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel, USA)
portrayal of Cuban author and tragic exile Reinaldo Arenas helps
transform what could have been a pedestrian film-biopic into an
intriguingly nuanced study of Latin American machismo and the perils
associated with shifting political and sexual identities. While a tad
overlong and narratively disjointed at times, the film is ultimately
Bardem’s to carry, which he impressively and gracefully does.
Best in Show (Christopher Guest, USA)
delightful mockumentary tackles the world of dog shows and the quirky
characters populating them (not to mention the owners’ wonderfully
neurotic pets). The film works because of the seriousness with which it
is played; hilarious parody, but in a loving, rather than cruel way.
Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean, USA)
Based on a collection of short stories by Denis Johnson.
Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton play lover-junkies in 1970s
road-to-nowhere America. Despite an intentionally loose narrative
structure that weakens the film’s hoped-for visceral impact,
works because of its smart interpretation of the source material and
top-notch performances by the lead and supporting characters.
Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, USA)
Cameron Crowe relives his teenage years in this story of a
too-young-to-shave journalist (winningly played by Patrick Fugit) who
gets an opportunity to go on the road with a rock band and write an
article about them for Rolling Stone. Kate Hudson’s performance as a
groupie who refuses to accept the fact that she’s nothing more than that is the highlight of the film.
|Notable near misses (Alphabetically Listed):
The Claim (Michael Winterbottom, Canada / UK) Winterbottom's glacially-paced (to a fault) study of greed and guilt during California's
post-Gold Rush years is a starkly authentic (if not wholly successful) work
that gradually, subtly gets under one's skin.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch,
France / USA) Jarmusch remains one of the most important and
interesting filmmakers working today.
(Stephen Frears, USA) London to
Chicago locale switch doesn't diminish the fun of this study in obsessive
record collecting/list making. John Cusack gives the best performance of his
Pollock (Ed Harris, USA) Should have had
more punch than it did. The emotional fireworks between the lead characters is
textbook well-acted, but lacks the raw, naturalistic fury required to make the
break between Pollock and fellow artist/wife, Lee Krasner, truly affecting.
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky,
USA) Bleak to the point of being self-obliterating. The idea of watching
this on a double bill with Last Exit
to Brooklyn (1990) is positively
State and Main (David Mamet, USA) Mamet
wimps out! Could have been a scathing indictment of Hollywood, an on
location companion piece to Altman's
(1992). Instead, it gets tidied up with a nice red bow in the end. Great
setup, torpedoed by a lame ending.
(Curtis Hanson, USA) Truly a near miss, as it came down to this or
for the last slot in a coin-flip close decision. Well-acted and filmed, as
based on the always-reliable
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