Imperfect 10s

Picking the best of a bad movie year

8. High Fidelity. As insightful a romantic comedy as we've seen in the last couple of years, from the talented Stephen Frears.

9. Chocolat. Yeah, Lasse Hallström's movie is almost too sweet, but I was totally charmed by this American knockoff of Latin American magical realism. Wonderful cast.

10. Cast Away. I'll probably regret this one down the line, but I was deeply moved by parts of this yuppie Robinson Crusoe story and was impressed by how well director Robert Zemeckis resisted his inclinations to go for the obvious slick Hollywood satisfactions.

Chicken Run
Chicken Run
Chicken Run
Chicken Run

And a few picks in random categories:

Most underrated: Under Suspicion. Everyone else thought Stephen Hopkins' thriller sucked. I was knocked out. So sue me.

Best little indie film out of nowhere: George Washington. From David Gordon Green, a first-time director in his early 20s with a strikingly unique vision.

Best documentary: Dark Days. A real underground movie: Marc Singer goes to live with the homeless in New York's subway tunnels.

Best long-overdue release by a great filmmaker: Madadayo. Why did it take seven years for Akira Kurosawa's touching valedictory to reach American screens?

Best totally startling avant-garde vision: Matthew Barney's Cremaster 2. Jesus, what is this guy smoking?

Best totally startling avant-garde vision, Hollywood division: The Cell. Director Tarsem Singh is obviously dipping into Matthew Barney's stash.

Hong Kong-goes-America honorable mentions: The Legend of Drunken Master (Jackie Chan's best '90s film finally gets released in the U.S., dubbed but otherwise intact), Shanghai Noon (Chan gets to make his long-awaited martial-arts Western, and it turns out amazingly well) and M:I-2 (far from John Woo at his best but still better than the series deserves).

Robert Wilonsky
There were some remarkable films released this year, movies that will live long past the arbitrary expiration date bestowed on them by critics rushing to compile glib Top 10s (some job, eh?). I've failed to include many of them -- George Washington, Before Night Falls, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Black and White, Best in Show -- simply because, as moving and marvelous as they are, their prowess and achievements fail to cut deep to the bone. (If this list went to 20, the next 10 entries would be named Croupier.) They strike my head and not my heart, and lists such as these should favor those movies that make an impact emotionally as well as intellectually. It's little wonder, then, that several of the films on my list (which is arranged alphabetically) are about writers, music fetishists, comic-book fans or all three (though I'm not sure what the inclusion of American Psycho says about me). Your Top 10 list will no doubt be far different, as well it should. Just don't put The Perfect Storm on there.

1. Almost Famous. Cameron Crowe makes the perfect concept album about a teen (and teeny) rock crit on the way up, a rock band on its way up and out, and a groupie on the way home. Sure, it's glossy and damp with nostalgia. It's supposed to be. Docked points, though, for containing the third-best Billy Crudup performance of 2000, after Jesus' Son and Waking the Dead.

2. American Psycho. Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' lurid, turgid novel isn't to be celebrated for excising the violence and trimming the Huey Lewis speeches. It's to be celebrated because it's the funniest movie of the year -- a comedy with, ah, guts.

3. Chicken Run. The best Mel Gibson movie of the year is the one in which he doesn't actually appear; that's what men want, anyway. And this is the movie women should have wanted: The Great Escape starring chicks. Claymationed chickens, anyway.

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or, the anti-Charlie's Angels. Ang Lee's Eastern fairytale dolled up for the Western multiplex is the most thrilling and moving film of 2000: It kicks your ass and breaks your heart. What else do you need?

5. High Fidelity. Yeah, yeah -- it drops the better ending from Nick Hornby's novel, and some of the best scenes landed only on the DVD. But what guy out there hasn't chosen his record collection over a girlfriend? No, be honest.

6. Quills. It's not about censorship or, for that matter, sex. And it's not about Geoffrey Rush's cock, either, though showing his schlong will do wonders for his Oscar chances -- stripped naked for his art, blah, blah, blah. Actually, Philip Kaufman's movie, adapted from Doug Wright's play, is about how little control the artist (in this case, the Marquis de Sade) has over his art -- meaning his dick.

7. Traffic. The Academy's going to give Steven Soderbergh the nod for Erin Brockovich, which, when translated from the original Urdu, means "Julia Roberts' tits." But he deserves the praise for this piece of reportage from the front lines of the war on drugs, which might be the best Miami Vice episode ever made.

8. Unbreakable. So, you hated the ending. Yeah, and comic books are for kids, too.

9. The Way of the Gun. For his directorial debut, Chris McQuarrie, the man who wrote The Usual Suspects, loads the shotgun (and machine gun and Glock and so on) with dark, resonant laughs. Audiences and critics hated it because it was way too smart, but only in a brilliant kinda way.

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