The Year's Best Films
My Top 10, in alphabetical order:
Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
Croupier (Mike Hodges)
The Filth and the Fury (Julien Temple)
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky)
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
Spring Forward (Tom Gilroy)
Suzhou River (Lou Ye)
Yi-Yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang)
Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson)
Also: if Zemeckis' Cast Away had begun with the plane crash and ended with Tom Hanks on a raft, raising up his arm as his rescuers arrive, it'd be the greatest movie of the year.
Matt Zoller Seitz
My Top 11 starts with Disco Volante by Cinerama, the new band of The Wedding Present's David Gedge (a Connery lookalike and James Bond aficionado). This movie-inspired CD has given me as much pleasure as any movie in 2000, which might have something to do with Gedge's film savvy. Pop fans will recognize the title as a French record-lover's term for flying saucer. (Disco Volante was also the name of the ship in You Only Live Twice. In Irvin Kershner and Sean Connery's remake Never Say Never Again, they christened the ship with the English translation.) Gedge pays back the movies with the album's first single, "Lollobrigida." A lust/love song with pansexual temptation and testament, it's Cinerama's salute to movie culture (Parker Tyler meet Pauline Kael) and pop music's universal appeal. "Lollobrigida" does what a 10-best list cannot: simultaneously give a name to pleasure and affirm that pleasure's pedigree.
George Washington (David Gordon Green)
Humanite (Bruno Dumont)
Time Regained (Raul Ruiz)
The House of Mirth (Terence Davies)
Orphans (Peter Mullan)
Black and White (James Toback)
Mission to Mars (Brian De Palma)
The Little Thief (Erick Zonca)
Trixie (Alan Rudolph)
Pola X (Leos Carax)
"Well, I've got plenty of films for the bottom half of the list." That was my standard response when friends started asking me about this year's 10-best ritual. A decent year for really good films, but a lame one for flat-out masterpieces, 2000, coming after the much stronger 1999, proved the general rule that years that end in 9 tend to lord it over the zero-encumbered.
History may judge that the year's most important film was Don Roos' Bounce, simply for the fact that its November satellite transmission to theaters (which occasioned Miramax and Disney execs symbolically throwing cans of film into history's trashbin) marked the start of an era when, in a very literal sense, all movies will be tv movies. But rather than dwelling on that depressing sea change, I'd rather give a personal tip of the hat to the Shooting Gallery, which inaugurated an innovative distribution scheme for foreign and indie films that brought us the British and Iranian films saluted below.
My list is in order of preference:
Hamlet (Michael Almereyda). Shakespeare in New York, with a strikingly subtle Ethan Hawke as the slacker prince, wonderfully imaginative direction/adaptation by Almereyda, and a haunting death-of-film subtext.
Yi-Yi (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang). The first breakthrough for Taiwanese master Yang, this three-hour seriocomic meditation on the ages of life and strained family ties was the year's most gorgeously crafted film.
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola). As a cinematic debutante, Coppola recalls her dad less than Terrence Malick in this complex and dreamlike evocation of an America caught between innocence and repression.
Humanite (Bruno Dumont). Dark and astringent, Dumont's forgivably pretentious murder mystery was a welcome surprise, the most ambitious and compelling French film of recent years.
Mission to Mars (Brian De Palma). It had its faults, no doubt, but De Palma's balletic sci-fi fantasia was the brilliantly cinematic Hollywood movie of the year.
Croupier (Mike Hodges). The most adroitly stylish and sharply scripted British film of recent vintage got dumped by its producers and passed over by U.S. distributors, until the Shooting Gallery allowed audiences to rescue it.
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky). Based on Hubert Selby Jr. writings, Aronofsky's account of junkie life used an exhilaratingly kinetic style to overcome the subject's cliche potential; he also got terrific performances out of a cast led by Ellen Burstyn.
A Time for Drunken Horses (Bahman Ghobadi). Kids engaged in smuggling operations on the Iran-Iraq border were the subject of a debut film that recalled the Iranian cinema's debts to Neorealism.
Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta). Actor-writer Mike White was the comic dynamo behind this risky, faultlessly scripted tale of sexual fantasy and social embarrassment. Arteta's low-budget digital production showed the commercial viability of that form.
Heart of the World (Guy Maddin). Maddin's short, a pyrotechnic tribute to Soviet Formalism, deserves a place on this list because it's as memorable and stunningly crafted as any feature. I nominate Film Forum to include it in a future bill.
I hardly claim an encyclopedic knowledge of commercial releases this year. However, I do have the opportunity to see a lot of more outre experiments and underground items that others don't. About half the films and videos on this list are, in my mind, the best works of feature-length cinema made this year that you'll never see.
Bring It On (Peyton Reed). No film encapsulates American culture in 2000 better than Bring It On, the most stunning cheerleader film since Elliot Erwitt's 1974 documentary Beauty Knows No Pain. To quote Kirsten Dunst, "This is not a democracy, this is a cheer-ocracy."
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola). As sublimely Catholic a film as Rosemary's Baby, The Virgin Suicides combines pop, death and nostalgia like the cinematic version of an orange sunset airbrushed on driftwood.
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier). My feel-shitty hit of the year, this musical about the inescapable, inexorable march toward death beautifully ruined my mood for months.
Migrating Forms (James Fotopoulos). This homemade feature puts all our stupid, starstruck, shopping-mall indies to shame. Fotopoulos is the most important new director I've seen in many years, creating distinctive visions seething with ontological unease.
Planet Krulik 2000 (Jeff Krulik). Best known for his 1986 tape Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Krulik premiered this feature-length compilation of recent documentaries at the AFI in Washington this past summer. (It recently completed a New York run.) A unique blend of Errol Morris and Allen Funt, Krulik's friendly eye for the weird pins down a uniquely contemporary gray area between the famous and the everyday.
Sonic Fragments (Ian Kerkhof, Frank Scheffer, Micha Klein, Alexander Oey, Miriam Kruishoop, Rob Schroder, Joost Rekveld). A feature-length video concert by seven Dutch artists, Sonic Fragments proposes a new musicality of editing made possible through digital technologies. Ninety minutes of pure remixed abstraction shouldn't work this well, but it does.
Benjamin Smoke (Jem Cohen & Pete Sillen). As emotively superannuated as its subject, this documentary portrait provides an hour and a half of true human sanity in an increasingly unreal world.
Secrets of the Shadow World (George Kuchar). Told in three hourlong installments, Kuchar's long-form study of fringe science is more an epic underground miniseries than a feature, created by a master of the video medium.
Charlie's Angels (McG). A post-PlayStation synthesis of Run Lola Run and The Matrix done in a shameless ripoff style that only an MTV director could muster, Charlie's Angels is a scary-budget, ass-kicking assemblage of Gen-X mythology.
Songs for Cassavetes (Justin Mitchell). Don't be put off by the somewhat unfortunate title. This 16 mm documentary about early 90s indie rock avoids all stargazing and gets to the heart of what it meant for slacker kids to make art. And in the very last shot, the Cassavetes nod makes perfect sense.