My Favorite Films of 2001
by Jeffrey W. Ruggles
1. In The Bedroom -- Dir. Todd Field
This film, in a lot of ways, defies words. It is beautiful and quite disturbing at the same time. Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marissa Tomei, and even Nick Stahl all give great performances. The cinematography by Antonio Calvache is rivaled by none. This is a quiet subtle film that highly deserves the Oscar for Best Picture.
2. Amelie -- Dir. Jean Pierre Jeunet
After bombing with Alien Resurrection, Juenet is back doing what he does best... making quirky, beautiful films. Everything in the film is virtually flawless. The characters are well thought out and believable, the cinematography is impeccable and the editing is on point to say the least. Anyone who is not affected by this film should have their pulse checked. Amelie is by far my favorite foreign film of the year and i can't wait to see what Jeunet does next.
3. Monster's Ball -- Dir. Marc Forster
Another amazing film that brought to mind the solitude and silence of In The Bedroom is Monster's Ball. The film gives us superb performances from Billy Bob Thorton (one of many this year) and Halle Berry (It turns out she CAN act) and deft direction at the hand of Marc Forster. The story is harrowing, but at the end the audience doesn't come away depressed and troubled. Optimism seems to loom on the horizon for the characters. A great American film, pushing forward the seemingly diminished idea of independent cinema.
4. Yi Yi -- Dir. Edward Yang
Ang Lee was at the premiere of this film in New York. After the film had ended Lee approached Yang, whom he did not know, grabbed him away from a conversation and hugged and thanked Yang for making such a beautiful film. I think that this was actually released in China last year, but it did not make it to the united states until this year. The film is again quite and beautiful, full of the trials and tribulations that life has to offer. It is nice to see a film set in contemporary China. Most films imported to the U.S. tend to be "stereotypical" films, i.e. period pieces and samurai films. A great film that I really never wanted to end.
5. Amores Perros -- Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu
I think in years to come, the movie going public will be hearing a lot from this young Mexican director. Another film, released abroad last year, but released domestically this year, Amores Perros is an epic of sorts. It has action and sentiment, love and hate, everything that makes film interesting. If Quentin Tarantino and Ingmar Bergman had a child it might be Inarritu. He has a head full of ideas to make interesting characters and an eye to complement the ideas with stunning visuals. Fantastic cinema.
6. The Others -- Alenjandro Amenebar
Amenebar is another director that will be on everyone's mind in the future. His follow up to the Spanish hit Open Your Eyes (remade by the always shitty Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky), The Others is a Hitchcock-esque tale of terror. Nicole Kidman gives a very good performance that I feel was overshadowed by her work in Moulin Rouge (a very mediocre film in my opinion). The film is both scary and intelligent, something that is not seen very often in current suspense/horror films. It is visually stunning and the soundtrack, which was written and performed by Amenebar, is fantastic. The Others is a great film that I think was overlooked and ignored by too many people.
7. In The Mood For Love -- Wong Kar-Wai
Wong Kar-Wai is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. His visual style is amazing as are his stories. And In The Mood For Love does not stray from this path of excellence. Like Jeunet, the characters are quirky, but in a less cute and lovable way. The film has some of the best cinematography that I saw all year and is a must for all those looking for contemporary Hong Kong cinema without all the blood and guts of John Woo.
8. The Gleaners and I -- Agnes Varda
It is not secret that I am a sucker for films shot on Digital Video. I like just about every DV film made, regardless of whether it is good or not. But The Gleaners and I gives the viewer the best of both worlds. Varda, one of the most underrated and overlooked filmmakers in France, brings us a tale of modern day gleaning. This documentary is a subtle blend of beauty and ugliness. On one hand, people could look at gleaning as a sad, horrible travesty. But it is presented in such a way that it becomes beautiful. The DV looks great and Varda is at the top of her game, even in her 80's.
9. The Heart of the World -- Guy Maddin
Guy Maddin hails from Canada and is another one of my favorite filmmakers working today. The Heart of the World is a rarity in my list, because it is only six minutes long. Yet, it could be called an epic. It packs more punch and has more fervor in six minutes than most films have in 2 or 3 hours. It is silent and is in the style of the great Russian and German films of Eisenstein and early Fritz Lang. Although Maddin can be hit or miss, this film definitely hits and hits hard. Those interested in surrealist film, i.e. David Lynch or Louis Bunuel, should definitely check out Guy Maddin.
10. Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring -- Peter Jackson
I really never liked any of Jackson's other films, but LOTR is incredible. It looks great without ever being too hokey and the actors play their parts without ever being too melodramatic. All in all, LOTR is a great action/adventure film. When all three are out if will rival, and possibly surpass, the Star Wars Trilogy. In fact, as of right now I know of no other film i am more excited about than LOTR, The Two Towers. Jackson does a great job of keeping the story close enough to the books for the die hard fans, but shying away enough to hook the mass audience. LOTR is a great film that shows us that not everything Hollywood does is bad.