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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 2000


 

#10: Titus Andronicus

Richard Griffin's little-seen digital-video rendering of Shakespeare's most disreputable play deserves to be seen outside Providence.

 

#9: Best in Show

The moment when Fred Willard compares a dog to Shoeless Joe was one of my big laughs of the year.

 

#8: X-Men

A summer blockbuster done right, for once -- with gravity, smooth craft, and attention to character.

 

#7: Wonder Boys

It got a second chance (barely) and didn't make it then either -- no wonder, since its re-release only reached a handful of venues. No matter. Time will validate it.

 

#6: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

The funniest, strangest culture-clash movie in years, with a solid and tranquil performance by Forest Whitaker and a scene-stealing scowl by Henry Silva ("What kind...of bird...?").

 

#5: High Fidelity

The girlfriend stuff gets a bit wearying after the third or fourth viewing, but this rumpled and ornery character comedy -- which dares to give us a rather disagreeable John Cusack levelling with us about exactly why he's a dick (his character, that is) -- has many, many incidental pleasures, starting with top-notch support from Todd Louiso and especially Jack "A COSBY SWEAT-AHH" Black as Cusack's record-shop cronies.

 

#4: Nurse Betty

This got misplaced; it was a tough sell to begin with, lacking the acid that would draw Neil LaBute fans and the simplistic emotions that would draw the mainstream crowd. It's as radiantly bold and different a star vehicle as Renée Zellweger could've hoped for, and she more than meets the challenge.

 

#3: American Psycho

I still crack up at the "Hip to Be Square" scene ("Is that a raincoat?" "Why, yes, Paul! It is!"), but what makes this brilliant improvement on Bret Easton Ellis' grimy novel stay in the mind is its portrait of a psyche cracking apart, in all its pathos as well as comedy. If Christian Bale is not nominated for an Oscar, the award means nothing.

 

#2: Chuck & Buck

Flat-out amazing whatsit (one hesitates to call it a "comedy" or "drama") illustrating two sides of the same Gen-X coin: One side wants to stay a kid forever, the other side throws himself into the corporate pool as if running from childhood. A detailed and often moving work, with a dead-center creepy-yet-sympathetic performance by Mike White (who also wrote the script). Plus, just try to get that damn catchy oodly oodly fun fun fun ditty out of your head.

 

#1: Dancer in the Dark

Those who hate this really hate it, and those who love it really love it. Put me in the latter camp. Either the balancing act of grim, gray melodrama and poppy, pastel musical flights of fantasy works for you, or it doesn't. For me, it did; it's an intoxicating homage to the power of movies.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
The pressure-cooker morality tale Boiler Room, told at the speed of greed, and featuring what should've been Giovanni Ribisi's breakout performance; John Waters' gentle Hollywood satire Cecil B. DeMented, in which Waters tweaks self-serious "indie" filmmakers as well as bloated megaproductions; Nick Park's goggly-eyed Chicken Run, whose success proved that there is a market for intelligent kiddie fare after all; Stanley Tucci's Joe Gould's Secret, with Ian Holm in the latest of a string of career performances; Michael Almereyda's Hamlet, a noble, not always successful experiment that nonetheless hits its mark more often than not; the colorful, vivid Orfeu, with its Dancer in the Dark-style mix of the gaudy and the grim; and M. Night Shyamalan's flawed but fascinating Unbreakable.

· Star-power strut: Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents, Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor II, Jim Carrey in Me, Myself & Irene (and not in The Grinch), Mel Gibson in What Women Want -- all big players who stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park
· Great performances that outclassed the movies they were in: Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous, Jeff Bridges in The Contender, Dennis Farina in Reindeer Games, Jeffrey Wright in Shaft. Great performance in a pretty good movie: Elaine May in Small Time Crooks

GUILTY PLEASURES:
· The exuberantly trashy Gone in 60 Seconds. C'mon, people, it wasn't that bad
· The Pez-flavored grrl-power thrill ride Charlie's Angels
· The largely indefensible Coyote Ugly, a goofy charmer
· Brendan Fraser's variety of guises in Bedazzled
· Adam Sandler's agreeably shambling Little Nicky, his first flop
· Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson yukking it up in Shanghai Noon



SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION

 
Jonathan Demme's Storefront Hitchcock got a bit of a raw deal: shot in 1997, it played a few festivals in 1998, then collected dust until its eventual VHS/DVD release in 2000. This is a more than worthy follow-up to Demme's classic concert film Stop Making Sense, with Robyn Hitchcock in fine idiosyncratic form. A model of restrained craft and unintrusive editing throughout; the MTV hotshots who do everything but put a camera up a performer's nose could learn a lot from Demme. Those who appear on MTV could also learn a lot from Hitchcock, who proves that "smart pop music" doesn't have to be an oxymoron.


Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 2000

 

#10: Hollow Man

Never was a movie more aptly named. It might be a guilty pleasure if it were a pleasure. As it is, you just feel guilty for watching -- and not in a cool Hitchcock Rear Window way, either. That's one direction this invisible-man thriller could have gone -- but instead it opted to pitch to the morons in the crowd.

 

#9: Scream 3

As Roberto Duran said: "No mas." The concept was pretty much played out with the first sequel; this one just put a few more dollars in Miramax's pocket.

 

#8: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

I really loved watching it tank at the box office; sometimes the bad guys lose. A hapless and inept attempt by a gifted documentarian (Joe Berlinger) to take the franchise in a different direction.

 

#7: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It's huge, it's shaping up to be the biggest hit of the year -- and it sucks. What's worse, it delivers the chilling news that Jim Carrey's future lies exclusively in witless kiddie fare, if he wants to remain the $20 million man. He gave 1999's most brilliant performance in Man on the Moon, and watched the movie die in theaters and be snubbed by Oscar; let's hope he doesn't take the wrong message from this.

 

#6: Gladiator / The Patriot

Since they're both essentially the same movie (rugged manly man gets revenge on snotty authority figures who put a big dent in his family). Mel Gibson will usually go where the money is anyway, but Russell Crowe (who gave 1999's second most brilliant performance in the overlooked The Insider) should've known better. What mystifies me is that these films, especially the bloated Gladiator, are already being canonized on the web as if they were indisputable modern classics.

 

#5: The Cell

An artsy-fartsy excuse to show women in various stages of degradation and pain. Roger Ebert railed against I Spit on Your Grave in the '80s, but this misogynist sludge he praises as one of the year's best? Despite the occasional critical burp on the order of "visually stunning," this is an ugly experience, with nothing to redeem the ugliness.

 

#4: What Planet Are You From?

The year's most steadfastly unfunny "comedy"; it's as if the talented comedians Garry Shandling and Mike Nichols were tired of making people laugh, so they sat down and worked up the most laughless script possible. (If you want evidence of Mike Nichols' true genius, seek out The Designated Mourner -- which he did not direct or write, but instead performs in, with astonishing candor and skill -- on videotape or DVD.)

 

#3: Pay It Forward

One of the more gratifying experiences of the year -- not the aggressively schmaltzy film itself, but the spectacle of its failure at the box office despite its naked desire for big grosses and Oscars. Sometimes American moviegoers aren't stupid.

 

#2: The Watcher

Note to Keanu Reeves: Never again agree to do a film as a favor to some guy who directed a few videos for your rock band. This was a real dip in slime. A lively debate could be had as to whether this or The Cell is more repugnant.

 

#1: Battlefield Earth

Travolta says he wants to make a sequel. Okay, John, sure. Let's see Lucky Numbers 2 first, because that's equally likely to happen.


DISHONORABLE MENTIONS:
The waterlogged The Perfect Storm, with Diane Lane giving the worst performance by a talented actress in recent memory ... the by-the numbers thrillers Pitch Black and Reindeer Games ... the cliché-loaded U-571 (with its impossible-to-remember title) and Frequency ... the disastrously miscast Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath ... the pompous jungle downer The Beach.

DISAPPOINTMENTS:

[Not terrible movies per se, but movies that could've/should've been better, or are just decent enough to make you wish they were better]

· Cameron Crowe's amiable but inconsequential Almost Famous
· John Woo's impersonal misfire Mission: Impossible 2
· Rod Lurie's tediously partisan The Contender
· Darren Aronofsky's sophomore slump Requiem for a Dream
· Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides: promising debut for its director, but in and of itself, not much of a movie
· Robert Zemeckis' hefty Cast Away, carried by Tom Hanks on his beefy-then-slim shoulders

 


SPECIAL DISHONORABLE MENTION

 
The idiotic "sequel" Heavy Metal 2000, which deserved all the scorn that Titan AE unfairly got. Kevin Eastman's bankrolling an expensive toon around the minimal voice talents of his wife Julie Strain was akin to Charles Foster Kane's building an opera house for his untalented wife to "sing" in. A gruesomely stupid movie any way you look at it -- even the animation sucks -- and doubly irritating as a "follow-up" to the cult-favorite 1981 original. No one will look back on the sequel with fondness in 20 years, I can assure you of that.


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