2001: A Cinematic Odyssey – A New Semblance of Normal


Regardless of what was released in 2001, movies will be the least of the things that 2001 is remembered for.  The events of September 11th ensured that.  Now we find ourselves living amidst a new semblance of normalcy, one filled with renewed patriotism, pride and glory.  The world of the cinema took a backseat, but not for long, as we all realized that we were not going to let these bastards change our way of life.  So we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and began to resume our lives, with this new found attitude.  One of the ways we did this, was through the world of the cinema.  They became our haven; an escape from the saturation and madness, but were also a messenger; a reflection of the mood of a nation down, but never out, and rebounding stronger than ever.  Shots of the Trade Centers were edited, out of respect, from current releases such as Sidewalks of New York and Serendipity (but left in Vanilla Sky, fittingly) and other movies were delayed (Collateral Damage, Training Day) or shelved altogether (Jackie Chan’s latest project), but through it all, our resolve was reflected onto the silver screen, and screamed loud and proud, that we are America!  The storylines and messages may not have changed much, but the prevailing mood and attitude took on a decidedly patriotic tone.  Unintentionally, my Top 10 of 2001 is split right down the middle, 5 from pre-9/11, and 5 from afterwards.  It runs the gamut from the youthful escapism of animated ogres and young wizards, to  mind bending journeys through short term memory and the Hollywood dream.  Through it all, the movies applied a celluloid band-aid on a wound that may never heal, but will be avenged.  So without further adieu  I present, my red and white and blue clad dose of reel-ality and my views and thoughts, on the true shining moments of a year that needed them.


Statistics for the year


Number of 2001 releases seen 97
          - In Theater: 79
          - On Video: 18


Effective Dates: Feb 10, 2001 – Feb 2, 2002

List of Eligible Movies














Top 10 Movies


10.  Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring – Easily the most hyped and anticipated movie of the year, and it did not fail to deliver.  Tolkien’s tale of a young hobbit’s journey of discovery and realization, became the grandiose epic that everyone wanted to be.  Peter Jackson and company have not only built anticpation for the sequels, but have delivered one for the ages

9.  The Man Who Wasn’t There – Film noir got a breath of smoke filled rejuvenation with the Coen brothers simple tale of a barber, his wife, a store owner, and UFO’s.  With its soon to be award-winning cinematography, and award worthy turns from Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Shalhoub, The Man Who Wasn’t There becomes a film that we are thankful, actually is.

8.  Memento – Easily the most original film to come along in quite awhile, Christopher Nolan’s retrospectively told revelatory tale of a man who can’t retain memories, searching for answers is one to be seen multiple times for comprehension and true appreciation.  The storytelling method captures perfectly the methods of recollection.  While the character may not remember much past the recent, this is a film whose memory will stay with you for a long while.

7.  Shrek – At first glance, this appears to be yet another carbon-copied, youthfully targeted salvo in the animation wars between Disney and Dreamworks, but as many of this years films proved, looks can be deceiving.  Shrek not only boasts a wisely satirical script, mocking social status, the Mouse House, and classic fairy tales, but at it’s core is the message that you should not judge a book by its cover.  In this, the first year of the animated film category at the Oscars, there is no competetion that this modern day mature fairy tale towers above the rest.

6.  Moulin Rouge – Baz Luhrmann gives us a sensory overload of visuals, dancing, music, costumes and sets, wrapped tightly around a simple story of love, truth, beauty and power all set against early 1900s Paris, but dipped and twisted into present times.  Buoyed by strong leads from Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, and a boisterous supporting job from Jim Broadbent, this is truly a feast for the whole body and mind to absorb

5.  Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone – After Lord of The Rings, this was one that so many were waiting for, and the adaptation fans were more strict on this one, due to it being recent and more familiar.  Director Chris Columbus did not leave anything to chance, staying as true to the original story as any adapted movie ever has, and he does it to near perfection.  The origin of the boy wizard, the discovery of a past, the acceptance of the presence, and the anxiety for the future are all captured in a stunning, effects-laden thrill ride that takes the viewer back to the innocence of youth, while never forgetting that the at the heart of every truth, is love.  Combined with John Williams score, Alan Rickman’s delicious sneering performance, and that darned 3-headed dog, Harry casts a spell on all those who let him.  Those who don’t, need to remember their youth, put away their critical nature, and enjoy the ride.

4.  Hedwig and The Angry Inch – A late entry into the Top 10, due to an initial hesitancy and prejudice, Hedwig roars, or should I say, sings, its way into your heart as one of the most touching, yet brutally honest self discovery stories ever told.  Forget that it’s a story of a transsexual, whose botched surgery has left him two halves of one person (in more ways than just physically) and let the true heart and emotion of the story capture you.  Writer/director/actor John Cameron Mitchell takes us along, through Hedwig’s journey forward to find her place, while helping us understand how she came to embark on this journey.  The simultaneous unraveling of the past through songs and flashbacks, combined with a catchy, yet powerful soundtrack (reminiscent of of Pink Floyd’s The Wall) make this one to see, hear, and let become a part of you.

3.  Amelie – It is absolutely impossible not to fall in love with this tale of a French do-gooder with the heart of gold, the smile of a cherub, and the gleeful spirit that most seem to lack.  Director Jean Jeunet has captured elements of every film from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Emma to Slacker, to Magnolia in this tale of a young woman who only wants to be the Pied Pieper of good deeds while inadvertently finding herself along the way.  Audrey Tautou’s energetic performance will make you smile, and this film will make anyone who absorbs it, feel better, and realize that making the world a better place can be as simple as a random act of kindness

2.  A Beautiful Mind - A beautiful cinematic journey, of love through the eyes of madness, and the power of the human mind and soul.  The tale of recluse schizophrenic John Forbes Nash may have taken some liberties with the Nobel genius’s life, but there is no denying its emotional power and message.  Director Ron Howard may have created his masterpiece, and at the center of it, are the two strong performances from Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connolly, who could bring home gold for this wonderful journey which leave you crying and cheering simultaneously.

1.  Mulholland Drive - The crown jewel in the resume of the master of the twisted story, David Lynch.  His viscerally stimulating, twisted, mind-bending simultaneous construction and destruction of the Hollywood dream was far and away the years most unique ride. Lynch’s tale of a young dreamer and those she encounters, both in reality, and in her imagination, uses stylish cinematography, haunting music, eclectic casting, and an odd assortment of character to create the years most cerebral cinematic ride. Those who see it, may not understand it, and those who understand it, may not agree completely, but there is no denying that his dream-like interpretation of days in the lives of a Hollywood starlet, a struggling director and a mysterious cowboy, must truly be seen and experienced.


Honorable Mentions: 

Oceans 11


Riding in Cars With Boys

The Deep End

Enemy at The Gates


Guilty Pleasures:

American Outlaws


Save The Last Dance

Two Can Play That Game





Russell Crowe - A Beautiful Mind

John Cameron Mitchell – Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Denzel Washington - Amelie

Tom Wilkinson - In The Bedroom

Will Smith - Ali


Honorable Mentions – Sean Penn – I Am Sam, Billy Bob Thornton - The Man Who Wasn’t There and/or Monsters Ball





Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive

Sissy Spacek - In The Bedroom

Audrey Tautou - Amelie

Tilda Swinton – The Deep End

Halle Berry - Monsters Ball


Honorable Mentions – Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge, Thora Birch – Ghost World


Supporting Actor:


Tony Shalhoub - The Man Who Wasn’t There

Ben Kingsley – Sexy Beast

James Gandolfini – The Mexican

Jim Broadbent - Moulin Rouge

Steve Zahn - Riding in Cars With Boys


Supporting Actress


Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind

Marisa Tomei – In The Bedroom

Cameron Diaz – Vanilla Sky


Best Song from a Movie


Come What May – Moulin Rouge

Wig in A Box  - Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Origin of Love – Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Love Don’t Love Me – The Brothers


Best Use of a Song in a Movie


Allstar (Smashmouth) – Shrek

It’s Raining Men (Weather Girls) – Bridget Jones Diary

Macho Man (Village People) – One Night At McCools


Best Use of a Song in a Trailer


Novocaine for the Soul (The Eels) - Novocaine

Drops of Jupiter (Train) – K-Pax

Connected (Stereo MC’s) – Blow


Best Lines of Dialogue


I gave a piece to my mother. I gave a piece to my man.

 I gave a piece to the rock star. He took the good stuff, And ran” - Hedwig and The Angry Inch

“You should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.” - Snatch



2001 may indeed have been an odyssey, as prophesized by Arthur C. Clarke stated in his title book, but for different reasons than anyone could have imagined.  We, as a nation, changed.  We changed for the better, we found ourselves again, and we move forward, bigger, stronger and prouder than ever.  Some stated recently that this was not a good year for movies, and it was difficult to argue until November, and with the fighting spirit and consistent resiliency, it rebounded and finished quite strongly.  As we enter Y2K+2, movies, the country, and the world move onward and upward towards a brighter tomorrow. (Note: I apologize for the soapbox editorial commentary, but it’s hard not to these days)