erasing clouds

our favorite films of 2000

2000 is pretty far behind us now, and you've no doubt already encountered enough year-end lists and award shows to make you thoroughly sick of them. But we're giving you a sort-of year-end look of our own, anyway. Why? Because most of those other lists had it wrong. That doesn't mean what you think it means--our picks are no more definitive or correct than anyone else's. The place where most year-end "best-ofs" go wrong is that try too hard to give the impression of authority, to say "these were the important movies of the year and we know because we are experts." That's not what this is about. We're not experts, just people--telling you what we liked most in the past year regarding movies. It's not so you can see how hip we are or feel bad that you missed all the important films...but just so you have more ideas about things you might want to check out sometime.

Dan Heaton

Best of 2000

I grow weary of hearing critics complain that 2000 was a bleak year for movies. One online critic said he had lost his love of films, and didn't want to see them anymore. I think everyone is going too far. While this past year may not have matched up to 1999 in terms of innovative cinema, there still were plenty of films to cherish in 2000. Even mediocre films like The Patriot and The Perfect Storm still had moments of excitement and interest. When viewing my list, keep in mind that I have not seen Requiem for a Dream, Dancer in the Dark, Before Night Falls, or Pollack. If you have any comments or criticisms of this list, please e-mail me at I've also included some positive elements from films that didn't make the list. Enjoy.

1. Almost Famous - Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical tale is filled with wonderful moments, and I can't remember enjoying a film more in recent years. It's all about love: a teen's first love for a girl, the universal love of music, a mother's quirky love of her children, and a girl's love for a rock star who has another woman. Anyone who's seen the Elton John scene in the bus can't say this film lacks emotional power. Oscar nominees Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand are wonderful, but the true star is Billy Crudup, a rising talent who immerses himself into every role. Patrick Fugit is perfect as the innocent boy learning about life and love, and Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a charming Lester Bangs. Leave your cynical side at the door and you'll adore this beautifully written movie.

2. Traffic - Stephen Soderbergh continues to establish himself as a director who remains independent and creative within the studio system. With Out of Sight, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, and Traffic, he's created four original films that are creative, enjoyable, and accessible to most audiences. The multitude of interesting characters in Traffic is brought together into an impressive whole through Soderbergh's inventive direction. Each story has its own look and feel, but it remains focused within the context of the film. This is a true ensemble film, with incredible performances from Benicio del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Erika Christensen, and numerous other talented actors. But the true star is Soderbergh, who concentrates on a depressing subject and creates excellent cinema.

3. Girlfight - This story about a troubled teenage girl who finds solace in boxing never felt contrived or schmaltzy. Instead, the characters talk and act like real people, and this adds an emotional weight missing from numerous "dramatic" films each year. Director Karyn Kusama is a disciple of John Sayles, and it shows in this story's realistic and interesting characters. Michelle Rodriguez has the necessary grit for this role that could have turned silly with virtually any other actress. Also, she shows us the emotional longing that exists within the tough exterior, and this identifies us with her character. Also notable is the excellent performance from Jaime Tirelli as the boxing coach who helps eventually realizes the power of this young woman. I loved the way this story strayed from the typical sports films. In the end, it's not really about winning or losing, but concentrates more on the choices we make in life.

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - American audiences usually shy away from foreign films. So how did this movie become the highest-grossing foreign film here in history? The answer lies in the universal appeal of this story and the grace of the action scenes. The pure beauty and elegance of the battle scenes is in direct conflict with the usual slam-bang Bruckenheimer entries that dominate this genre. Yet the danger and interest remains and actually increases for this story. I've never seen Chow Yon-Fat look more assured and comfortable on screen, and Michelle Yeoh is radiant as his unrequited love. This epic film may move slowly at points, but it also mesmerizes with its poignant emotions and gorgeous scenery. The finale may have baffled some viewers, but it perfectly ends the story with just the right mix of true faith and love.

5. High Fidelity - This movie brought back so many memories of the indie rock kings who inhabited KCOU, the college radio station I worked at in Columbia, Missouri. Almost any guy can identify with Rob and his incessant list-making and categorizing, and it makes for wonderful humor. John Cusack is a great choice for Nick Hornby's lead character, and the move from London to Chicago lessens none of the book's humor. I enjoyed this film from start to finish, and really identified with the struggles of Rob in becoming an adult. Jack Black is downright hilarious, and Tim Robbins has a great small role as a pony-tailed hipster. This is highly recommended to anyone, but especially to people who LOVE music.

6. O'Brother, Where Art' Thou? - The preview for this Coen Brothers' classic didn't appeal that much to me, and I finally saw it pretty recently. Wow, what a surprise! This film is virtually a musical, with nearly constant folk songs playing throughout the story. I love the music, and urge everyone to buy this soundtrack immediately. George Clooney finally sheds his usual image and really injects energy into his quirky lead character. John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are totally silly and perfect, and plenty of supporting characters join the mix, including Coen standard John Goodman and Holly Hunter. Based loosely on Homer's Odyssey, this story does have a cyclops, sirens, and a character named Ulysses, but it varies considerably from the original story. Enjoyable and beautifully filmed.

7. State and Main - David Mamet is a wonderful writer, but can he inject his wit into a straight comedy? The answer is a definitive yes. The plot covers the efforts by a major studio to shoot a film called "The Old Mill" in a small town on the east coast. Unfortunately, there is no mill, and that is one of the numerous obstacles that falls in their way. The highlight of this film is the cute romance between Philip Seymour Hoffman's conflicted writer and Rebecca Pigeon's local bookstore owner. Both actors sparkle with genuine caring, and their characters kept the somewhat predictable events interesting. Mamet injects plenty of witty cracks at Hollywood in this story, but it never becomes vicious and remains enjoyable throughout the story.

8. Best in Show - Waiting for Guffman creator Christopher Guest strikes gold again with this silly mockumentary about a group of contestants vying for the top prize in a major dog show. Fred Willard's side-splitting performance as a ridiculous commentator alone makes this film worth seeing. He steals the show in the end from a talented cast of actors playing silly, over-the-top roles. Eugene Levy once again plays a mild-mannered, shy man with an odd physical disability, and Guest shines as a man who chats with his dog. Although it falls just short of the bar set by Waiting for Guffman, this comedy stands as a unique creation.

9. Timecode - Mike Figgis' inventive four-square presentation is one of the most creative films released this year. The entire movie is shot in one take from four digital cameras roaming throughout several blocks of Hollywood. Figgis edits the film by focusing the sound on one of the four squares on the screen. Much of the material is improvised, and this allows for a greater level of spontaneity and originality in this story. The plot is fairly simple, but the wit and energy in the performances keeps the events interesting.

10. Wonderland - This Michael Winterbottom film focuses on the trials and tribulations of three sisters in working-class London. While the story is nothing too inventive, the acting and innovative directing really brought me into the stories. The events are often sad and depressing, but the small, happy moments remained with me for a long time after viewing this film. Gina McKee shines as a young woman looking for love with all the wrong men, and Molly Parker once again shows her talent as a troubled housewife.

Honorable Mention (Three films I also really enjoyed)

Unbreakable - This film contains all the elements of a classic comic book. We have the evil mastermind with an odd handicap, the hero just beginning to understand his super powers, and the final showdown between the two rivals. While this episode skimps on the final showdown, it feels like an introduction to this slightly imaginary world. I love the deliberate pace used by director M. Night Shyamalan, which adds to the eerie and mysterious nature of the story.

Croupier - Plenty of memorable moments exist in this story of a casino employee who becomes involved in an elaborate con game. Mike Hodges' direction is excellent, and lead actor Clive Owen's deadpan narration is perfect. Although I'm still unsure of my thoughts on the ending, this is a film I definitely want to see again when it comes out on DVD.

Kikujiro - Similar to Sonatine and Fireworks, this Takeshi Kitano contains moments of stunning exterior beauty and peace. However, this story moves away from the violent gangster world and focuses on the relationship between a strange man and a young boy. This is a charming story, and its upbeat nature really grows on you as the movie progresses. This is a surprising achievement from Kitano.

Other Elements of Films That I Loved

Julia Roberts' exuberant performance in Erin Brockovich

The opening chaotic battle scene in Gladiator

The crazy final 30 minutes of Mission Impossible 2

Will Patton and Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans

The sailboat rescue in The Perfect Storm

The stunning, painting-like scenery in The Patriot

Christian Bales' gutsy performance in American Psycho

The convoluted, but exciting time-travel plot of Frequency

The super-slow car chase in Way of the Gun

Owen Wilson's silly performance in Shanghai Noon

Bryan Singer's impressive version of the X-Men comics The eccentricity of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog

Willem Defoe's nearly unrecognizable role in Shadow of the Vampire

Jeffrey Ruggles

Favorite Ten Films

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Before Night Falls
Dark Days
You Can Count on Me
Julien Donkey-Boy
Requiem For a Dream
Children of Heaven
My Best Fiend

Dave Heaton

My favorite 10 movies of 2000

  1. Dancer in the Dark
  2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
  3. Kikujiro
  4. Jesus' Son
  5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  6. Unbreakable
  7. You Can Count on Me
  8. Before Night Falls
  9. O Brother Where Art Thou?
  10. Bamboozled

And nine more: Requiem for a Dream, The Virgin Suicides, State and Main, High Fidelity, Traffic, Croupier, Small Time Crooks, American Psycho, Chicken Run

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