The decade is coming to a close, and along with everyone else on the Internet I have opinions. Since my personality leans toward the obsessive compulsive I keep lists, especially my list of all films I’ve seen in my life (current up to 12/7/2009). I also keep the lists of every year’s best, worst, most over rated, and most under rated films of the year. For the next three weeks I’ll be posting the list for each year of the decade, the films in no particular order other than alphabetical. I’m sure I missed quite a few, but if you disagree and you check the list and I saw it then maybe it wasn’t good, and you have bad taste.
10 BEST OF 2000
1. BATTLE ROYAL – DIR. Kinji Fukasaku Japanese teenagers murdering each other on an island. That’s it. There is no explanation needed. Fukasaku has always been a master of violence dating back to the 1960’s with his “Yakuza Story” series, but this film shows that a master who has been working for 40 years can still be relevant, interesting, and banned in the U.S.
2. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS – DIR: Julian Schnabel This bio-pic of Reinaldo Arenas is an amazing example of how to do it right. Films like “Walk the Line” or “something” tell the story, but never give a true sense of a person or the impact they had on the world. Schnabel takes Arenas’ life and infuses it with the wonder that the man’s writing had. With a performance by Javier Bardem that has the power of a Category 5 hurricane this film destroys everyone leaving tears and joy in its wake.
3. BLACK HAWK DOWN – DIR. Ridley Scott Usually I find Ridley Scott to be way over rated, I’m a Tony Scott man myself, but there is one thing that Ridley does well and that’s action. And since this picture is little but action I said thumbs up. A real tribute to the men and women of the armed forces, and while it takes no effort to humanize, or even flesh out a real bad guy other than War itself, the film is powerful in its intensity. Being made pre-9/11 helps because it seemingly has no hidden agenda than to show off the horrors of combat.
4. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON – DIR: Ang Lee One of the most stunning visual masterpieces ever, this movie set the bar higher than any of the many imitators since have achieved. While a lot of film makers made my lists more than once, but Ang Lee is one of the few to make it in two categories. Always an interesting vision on a project Lee knows both drama and action, and they find a symbiosis in this film few can ever create.
5. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? – DIR: Danny Lenier A weird choice, I agree, but I also saw this movie six times in the theater with different people. Obviously I was a lot younger, and had a lot more time on my hands, nonetheless I stand by this film. Totally crazy, totally ridiculous, and totally funny. With Ashton Kutcher and Sean Willaim Scott it is like watching a meeting of the minds, these two play off of each other like real life Ren and Stimpy. Throw in some extremely hot aliens, Brent Spiner, Jerry O’Connell’s brother, the original Buffy, Sydney Bristow, and a bunch of rabid ostriches, this movie has it all.
6. ERIN BROCKOVICH – DIR: Steven Soderberg Soderberg’s first appearance on the list, in fact not even this year, this was the movie that made people fall in love with Julia Roberts again. And for a much better reason than the first time. Her somewhat annoying Oscar speech aside her performance in this picture is one of the best around. Soderberg is in fine form in the middle of a string of amazing movies starting with “Out of Sight” and going through “Ocean’s 11.” Only complaint is the one manipulative scene where Aaron Eckard longingly stares after a biker gang while taking care of Erin’s kids at a picnic.
7. HIGH FIDELITY – DIR: Steven Frears This is one of those movies that wasn’t complex or sad or any revolutionary, but it was solid. This was one of John Cusack’s passion projects because he got to choose all the music, and to be honest the soundtrack is solid too. With a weird cameo by the Boss and one of Jack Black’s funniest early jobs the movie works. Black’s rendition of “Let’s Get It On” during the climax is actually only second to Marvin Gaye’s.
8. O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU – DIR: Coen Brothers Up to this point in their joint careers the Coen Brothers had never made a bad film. This was no exception. Clooney is pitch perfect as Everett. Being one of the first films to be completely color corrected digitally, and only printed using a digital intermediate it is stunning. Roger Deakins blazes a trail like no other because every frame of this movie is a joy to look at.
9. STATE AND MAIN – DIR: David Mamet He’s divisive. I get it. You either like David Mamet or you don’t. If you’ve read his “On Directing Film” the simplicity of his pictures makes a lot more sense, and while his writing is usually what people like about his movies it is the pacing where his talent as a filmmaker actually stands out. Each scene is perfectly played even if they are super theatrical, but they move and move and move. They build from a simple idea and the characters volley that idea back and forth like Nadal and Federer.
10. TRAFFIC – DIR: Steven Soderberg Film number two of Soderberg’s on the top 10 of 2000. Depending on where you were when it was released this could have been 2000 or 2001, but since I saw it right at the end of 2000 that’s where it goes. Gripping, tight drama about the quagmire that is the war on drugs, this along with “Erin Brockovich,” “K-Street,” and “The Informant!” show Soderberg’s decidedly left leaning tendencies, which I feel is a refreshing change for Hollywood.
10 WORST OF 2000
1. THE ART OF WAR – DIR: Christian Dugaug This movie made absolutely no sense. The real beginning of a steep decline for the Snipes. It is basically the same story as the far superior, but still not that great “US Marshals,” but with the added awfulness of some terrible Asian philosophy thrown in.
2. CECIL B. DEMENTED – DIR: John Waters To be honest I’m not really a John Waters fan. Actually I’m a fan of Waters, just not a lot of his later movies. “Pecker” or “Serial Mom” are fun, but this is just impossible to watch. With every annoying film reference thrown in haphazardly it is like sitting through a second rate film school recitation. There is one funny joke in the whole film with Melanie Griffith and a white limousine.
3. THE CELL – DIR: Tarsem Oh, Tarsem. Such colorful images. Such a lack of anything else. His follow up years later, “The Fall” is actually worth watching, but here there is imagery not so deftly stolen from Damien Hirsch, there is no discernible plot, there is Vincent D’Onofrio. Need I elaborate?
4, GET CARTER – DIR: Steven T. Kaye Sylvester Stallone looks like a broken saddle. So does Mickey Rourke. Those facts alone made the film distracting, but the flashy editing and the wannabe Tony Scott desaturation were just cheap techniques to distract you from the fact that the film itself falls about two minutes in. By the end I was so confused I thought they had spliced in scenes from “The Specialist” without me knowing.
5. LOSER – DIR: Amy Heckerling The title says it all.
6. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 – DIR: John Woo Maybe John Woo wised up and went back to China for “Red Cliff” because he has not made a good movie in America yet. The best might have been “Hard Target,” that at least had JCVD with a mullet. Tom Cruise’s long hair is so laughable in this movie it almost makes you forget that he’s doing all his own stunts. L. Ron must have been looking out for him when he was motorcycle fighting. Where there first and the third in the series kept the action huge while grounding it somewhat in reality…somewhat… this one just goes into Pierce Brosnan 007 territory.
7. THE PERFECT STORM – DIR: Wolfgang Peterson For those of you who love “Enemy Mine” this is not that Wolfgang Peterson. This is “Troy” Wolfgang Peterson. I don’t know if the “Perfect Storm” was the meeting of two hurricanes, or the meeting of Clooney and Walberg. I really don’t remember much about the movie except the end, which didn’t tie anything together it just sto-
8. SCARY MOVIE – DIR: Keenan Ivory Wayans This one blows me away. The Wayans troupe had the goods in the 80’s and early 90’s. “Gonna Get You Sucka” and “Livin’ Color” were great. Then there was “Scary Movie.” Every joke is quite possibly the easiest, laziest joke that could appear in any situation. There is no creativity to the whole picture, every scene is like the obvious wise cracks of the “Class Clown” during a high school sex ed filmstrip.
9. UNDER SUSPICION – DIR: Stephen Hopkins I was expecting “Judgement Night.” I got something less. Considerably less. Monica Bellucci can’t even save this boring, slow film that might have worked better on the stage than the screen. And Morgan Freeman is supposed to be Puerto Rican. Really?
10. THE WATCHER – DIR: Joe Charbanic Quite possibly in the “Top 10 Worst Films of All Time” list. Rumor was that Charbanic got Keanu Reeves drunk, then got him to sign on to do the movie, then threatened to sue if he didn’t comply. Some how I doubt Neo would have that bad of a lawyer, but watching this it might explain the reason he is actually in this movie. Keanu might not be a great talent, but even he is better than this movie.
MOST OVER RATED MOVIE OF 2000
First to explain what this one category is about. Every year there is that one movie that everyone goes ga-ga over, and to me I didn’t see what any of the hype was about – usually it is the best picture winner. “Titanic” would have been a good example, “Gladiator” almost made it for 2000, but there is always at least one. Usually two… or three… but I try to narrow it down.
ALMOST FAMOUS – DIR: Cameron Crowe This is one of those that when watching I didn’t mind, but afterwards upon reflection felt like I had been tricked into not minding. There wasn’t really all that special, and the scenes that were supposed to be the great ones, the “Tiny Dancer” scene for example, when thinking about them became cheap and manipulative. It was infused with a false sense of nostalgia for a time no one, except maybe Cameron Crowe himself, lived through. Kate Hudson was fine, Patrick Fugit was fine, Billy Crudup was fine, it was just too safe to be as good as all hooplah.
MOST UNDER RATED MOVIE OF 2000
This, like the last one, bears a little explaining. This is one that kind of got a bad wrap, or no one saw and really should have. It wasn’t one of the best movies of the year, but still had a lot of merit that no one really saw, at least at the time.
THE WAY OF THE GUN – DIR: Chistopher McQuarrie It is just a solid little B-Picture with a lot of balls. Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillipe are fun and dumb and kicking all kinds of ass. The ridiculousness of this movie is cranked way up, and the heroes, if you can call then that, are such charming assholes with little to no redeeming qualities that it is just fun to watch them go at it. With their names Parker and Longbough, the real last names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you can kind of see the movie nerd inside McQuarrie peeking out. He might have squandered some of the good will he had in Hollywood after the “Usual Suspects,” but this movie has gained quite a loyal following over the last decade, and it’s a shame he hasn’t directed another picture since.
That’s it for now. Tune in soon for 2001 because that has my favorite of the Under Rateds of the whole decade. Sort of. You’d have to read the explanation.
By Paul S. Myers