Best Films of 2001
This film could have
gone wrong in so many ways, from script-tampering by studio execs
clueless about the source material, to allowing special effects wizardry
to overwhelm the epic storyline. Fortunately (some might say
miraculously), the exact opposite has occurred, and the end result is
without question the year's finest, most entertaining motion
picture. Kudos to all involved on a job very well done.
destructive nature of obsession as only he can, David Lynch makes one of
the finest films of his brilliant, if incredibly checkered, career.
Reigning in the more outlandish impulses that have torpedoed recent
efforts, Mulholland Drive works because every scene counts, no matter how
unusual or seemingly bizarre. Though it must be stated for the record that
the phenomenal lead performance of Naomi Watts is the essential component
of its success.
Director Tsai Ming-Liang has explored alienation in prior films, but
never with such insight and consistency as he does here. An achingly sad
and remarkable examination of how people cope with distance, grief and loneliness. What
Time is it There? is a skillful, elegiac, and brilliant gift to the
world of cinema.
It's what happens
after tragedy strikes a family in a
small Maine town that Todd Field's full-of-surprises In the
Bedroom reveals its true form. Themes
of grief and revenge have rarely been explored with such depth and care,
taking what could have been little more than an artily-dressed up
thriller and elevating it to something far more potent, devastating and,
Richard Kelly's scathing indictment of the
latchkey kids/Reagan-dominated '80s works as marvelous satire and
melancholic examination of a deeply troubled young man looking for comfort
in a world that seems utterly alien to him. Trumping predestination has
rarely been illustrated with such bold, bizarre and engaging visual
flair. A true gem.
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, USA)
Daniel Clowes' graphic
novel focused on two girls recently graduated from high school,
apathetically wondering what to do with their lives. Zwigoff's
adaptation changes the focus to the relationship between teenaged
misanthrope Enid (deftly handled by Thora Birch) and Seymour, an
eccentric forty-something record collector. The move pays off
handsomely, thanks to Steve Buscemi's genuine performance as Seymour. A
smart, non-saccharine-flavored treat.
(Baz Luhrmann, Australia / USA)
Willfully anachronistic, unashamedly over the top, and delightfully
campy, Moulin Rouge
should have been nothing more than a guilty pleasure. But the acting,
art direction, choreography and, yes, the music catapult it beyond mere
cult-movie spectacle. Some viewers might find Baz Luhrmann's
hyper-kinetic style exhausting, but the film pays definite dividends to
those willing to keep up with the relentless visual calisthenics.
Amores Perros (Love’s A Bitch)* (Alejandro
González Iñárritu, Mexico)
stories set in Mexico City reveal just how much dogs can teach their
masters. The middle tale, involving a couple who lose their cherished
pet beneath the floorboards of their apartment and try frantically to
recover it, is a truly remarkable film sequence. A slightly drawn out,
but still-impressive debut from director Inarritu.
(*This film was released
internationally in 2000 and in the USA a year later.)
It appears that the Coen Brothers are
determined to tackle every genre in Hollywood history. Based on their
track record thus far, this looks to be a good thing. Film noir gets the
brothers' patented treatment here, with Billy Bob Thornton delivering
one of the year's most subdued and contemplative performances. Cut a few
unnecessary plot distractions and this film could very well have stood
near the top of the list.
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, USA)
A fine example of what can happen when the initial reason
for gathering such interesting people together (i.e., a murder mystery
movie) evolves into something far more engaging and sublime. By film's
end it would have been nice to have had less (or better yet no) mystery,
and simply let the interactions between the characters carry the day.
There's a much better film lurking inside this one, struggling to get
out of a clichéd dinner jacket.
|Notable near misses (Alphabetically Listed):
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, USA) The
year's most intriguing, promising mess. The main storyline never gets fully
developed because a second rate tale of renegade robots interrupts it. Great
job by Haley Joel Osment, though.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, USA) "Six
inches forward, five inches back, I've got an angry inch." Great music, campy
fun. Ultimately suffers from a lack of commitment to either a mock-documentary
or zany experimental style.
(Christopher Nolan, USA)
Nolan's reverse-narrative script will win the awards and garner the
lion's share of praise, but this is ultimately an actors' film to carry
or fumble. Guy Pearce (as Leonard, the short-term amnesiac protagonist)
and Joe Pantoliano (as the man who seems to want to help Leonard find
his wife's murderer) shine, providing the movie with an edgy
authenticity that is sorely needed after initial curiosity over the
structural gimmickry wears thin.
The Others (Alejandro Amenábar, USA / Spain) Watching
Rouge and The Others
back-to-back only reinforces what an astonishingly gifted and versatile performer
Nicole Kidman is. As a mother protecting her children from
the (perceived) damaging effects of sunlight, Kidman takes what should
have been a modest twist on Henry James' Turn of the Screw
and transforms The Others into a
haunting examination of love and love after death.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, USA) An entertaining
family-in-crisis comedy that takes on a little more drama than it can safely
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, UK) Seedy London underworld thugs
disrupt the southern Spain paradise of "retired" gangster and likeable lug
Gary (Ray Winstone). Menace has rarely been personified as effectively as
it is by Ben Kingsley's psychotically infantile Don Logan. A
stylish, smart study in guilt and devotion by director Glazer.
Jehane Noujaim, USA) Great document of the
boom-to-bust Internet gold rush from the mid-to-late '90s. This film will be
taught in business classes for years to come as a cautionary tale of how (and,
more importantly, how NOT) to grow a business.
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