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The Year in Film – 2001

2001 is not so much a year of bad film, but a year of such obsessively hyped and massively overrated junk that it’s hard to tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the simply mediocre. Most of the year’s films (and we saw about 300 of them collectively) fall into that third category – stuff like A.I., Waking Life, and Vanilla Sky is barely worth any of your attention. Even The Lord of the Rings trilogy could have gotten off to a better start.

The result: No real surprises on our top ten lists. The filmcritic.com consensus is pretty uniform regarding Memento, Ghost World, and The Royal Tenenbaums (we liked them), and if these three don’t appear on each of the lists below, it’s probably because the writer didn’t see it! Each critic rounded out his list with a few quirks, so hopefully this exhaustive year in review won’t be a waste. In any event, it will hold more surprises than 2002, when we will be besieged by an endless procession of sequels – Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Matrix, to name the biggies. (You’ll also find plenty of variety on the ‘worst of’ addenda, as each critic has their own personal peeves from 2001 — the ones they had to sit through!)

On behalf of the filmcritic.com staff, thanks for visiting us over the last six years. We’re looking forward to giving you the straight dope throughout 2002.
— Christopher Null, Editor-in-Chief


Christopher Null’s Top Ten of 2001

1. Memento – You knew how it ended the moment it began, but does this impact the effectiveness of a thriller? No. In fact, some of the best stories ever told give away the ending in their opening scenes – and Memento is no exception. The magic is in the telling, and Memento – maybe the only film in 2001 to achieve this feat – really made you think. Was it manipulative? Sure, but it made sense to be made that way. This told-in-reverse tale of a man searching for his wife’s killer – despite the fact that he can’t remember anything for more than five minutes – is the most gripping tale told in the movies since American Beauty.

2. Moulin Rouge – Sadly, the Moulin Rouge moment we’re most likely to remember forever is that of a certain young diva and a very unfortunate hairstyle as she crooned ‘Lady Marmalade.’ That’s too bad, because the spectacle of Moulin Rouge is utterly worth watching, divas or no. Baz Luhrmann has been hit-and-miss up until now. With Rouge, he has definitely hit his stride.

3. In the Bedroom – Certain to find a home on dozens of top tens this year, the underseen In the Bedroom features one of the top performances of the year (Tom Wilkinson) undergoing one of the slowest and hottest burns imaginable. His work here is somehow being overshadowed by that of Sissy Spacek, which, though good, is hardly the Oscar-caliber work of Wilkinson.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums – Wes Anderson’s characters are phenomenal, making this the best ensemble work of 2001 and the best of his three movies to date. But where’s the story, Wes? Gene Hackman will be ignored by the Academy but he deserves an Oscar for this hilarious performance. And Gwyneth Paltrow proves she can do comedy – provided it’s absolutely deadpan.

5. Ghost World – Almost impossible to judge against the equally hilarious Tenenbaums, but Ghost World‘s final act is just a little mixed-up and plodding. Otherwise, this sarcastic tale of suburban malaise is nearly Royal‘s equal, with a fabulous collection of actors (perfectly cast down to the smallest part), led by the inimitable Thora Birch.

6. The Score – Yeah, I always put a surprise on the list, and for sheer popcorn fun this year, The Score got my vote. De Niro and Norton pull off an incredible heist, but Marlon Brando’s near-cameo puts the movie over the top. Way over the top. And the movie’s score (ahem) is second only to Moulin Rouge in ’01.

7. Made – As in, ‘in the shade.’ Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn put together this hilarious indie comedy all by their lonesomes – a worthy successor to Swingers, even if they gave that idiotic ‘P. Diddy’ a part to play. If you don’t see someone you know in the eyes of Made‘s characters, well, you need to get out more.

8. Bully – Rough. Kids creator Larry Clark directed this harrowing tale of murderous Florida teens without a care in the world who kill their ‘friend.’ Almost avert-your-gaze horrifying, and only partly so because it’s a true story. See for yourself what Macauley Culkin saw in his ex-wife, Rachel Miner.

9. Monsters, Inc.Shrek was good, but Monsters is the best animated fare of the year, and I was highly skeptical it would be any good at all. Pure comedy that works for adults and kids and proves that Billy Crystal is best heard and not seen.

10. Fat Girl – Geez, you think Bully is rough? This existential look at a fat French girl’s miserable life is bleak and depressing – and monumentally true to life, if you ask me. Of course, my colleague Jeremiah Kipp absolutely hated it, so be warned this film is not for everyone. Maybe not anyone.

Honorable Mention (in order): When Brendan Met Trudy, Snatch, Haiku Tunnel, American Pie 2, Shrek, Ocean’s Eleven, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Series 7, No Man’s Land, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Worst of the Year (in order from most worst to least worst): Freddy Got Fingered, Ghosts of Mars, K-PAX, Down to Earth, American Outlaws, Say It Isn’t So, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Planet of the Apes, Valentine, The Mummy Returns

Best of the Year (special mention that defies categorization): Apocalypse Now Redux

Worst of the Year (special mention that defies categorization): Obsessed Lord of the Rings fans that send endless, pathetic hate mails despite a positive but firm review of the flawed film. Tolkien would have been embarrassed beyond belief by the sad behavior of his ‘followers.’ Note to geeks: We don’t read them!

Performances of Note: Guy Pearce (Memento), Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi (Ghost World), Will Smith and Jon Voight (Ali), Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), Gene Hackman and Gwyneth Paltrow (The Royal Tenenbaums), Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Cameron Diaz (Vanilla Sky)

Good Trailer, Bad Movie: Blow, Vanilla Sky

Overrated: Mulholland Drive, Gosford Park, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Lord of the Rings, Sexy Beast, Waking Life, A.I., Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Deep End

Wish I’d Seen: Donnie Darko, Amelie, Monster’s Ball, Training Day, A Beautiful Mind, The Others

Best Title Design: The Royal Tenenbaums

Best Single Moment of Film This Year: Vanilla Sky‘s vacant Times Square


Jeremiah Kipp’s Top 10

1. Ghost World – I’ll make an early prediction: Ghost World will become identified with the values of our decade, like Wall Street for the ‘80s and Fight Club for the ‘90s. If that’s a bit much, I’ll scale down and say that Terry Zwigoff’s comix-style portrayal of outsider survival amid strip-mall culture feels more emotionally true than the 2001 competition. Enid Coleslaw (Thora Birch) and Seymour (Steve Buscemi) are heroes for anyone who’s felt at one time or another that they don’t fit in.

2. Mulholland Drive David Lynch shuffled his failed TV-pilot, transforming it into one young starlet’s self-destructive fantasy. Betty/Diane (the astonishing Naomi Watts) is so wounded by the revolving door of Hollywood, she imagines a happier life in the form of a Twin Peaks-style mini-series. It’s as much of a Lynchian self-critique as it is a culmination of his work over the years, a troubling portrait of our fragile search for meaning.

3. Audition This hyperviolent Japanese film about a widower finding his dream girl (only to have those expectations brutally sliced apart) was seen only by cult audiences, but deserves to be sought out when it comes to video. Told with clinical detachment, it’s a scary examination of romantic idealization/reverse sexism and the inherent lies within.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums – Wes Anderson’s follow-up to Rushmore expands the palette to include an entire dysfunctional family of geniuses. There’s a rock ‘n’ roll vitality to Anderson’s work, as well as a thinly disguised anger. Like the British invasion, Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and Anderson are kicking against the machine. With a cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, and Danny Glover (all in top form), it’s a pleasing and energetic ensemble. The alternate reality version of New York (the 375th Street Y, brilliant!) provides the necessary distance required for a movie that cuts so close to the heart, a storybook reverie about people taking tentative steps closer together.

5. Ali It’s been referred to as a ‘tone poem’, not sticking to the tried and true conventions of the biopic. Beautifully photographed, it lyrically weaves together key events in Ali’s career to become a tapestry of a legend in his time. Will Smith’s formidable perfectionist performance is actually a metaphor for director Michael Mann, whose exacting approach to filmmaking informs Ali as a character. It’s more autobiographical of Mann than Ali, but you usually see the artist’s personality in great art.

6. A.I. Artificial Intelligence The robot boy’s Quixotic quest for love was disturbing, the one-track-mindedness of unchecked adoration. Philosophically challenging, Steven Spielberg’s seemingly superficial sweetheart ending was a horror film in disguise: It’s about familial connection by removing the qualities that make up a person. Spielberg’s visionary leap 4,000 years into the future was the boldest cinematic choice he’s made in years – probably ever.

7. Series 7 Reality TV was mercilessly satirized in Daniel Minahan’s kill-or-be-killed game show. The cultural erosion and cold-blooded backstabbing of Survivor are taken to their logical conclusion. Frightening.

8. In the Bedroom – Reserved New England grief is embodied in the subtle, fiercely quiet performances of Sissy Spacek and the especially good Tom Wilkinson. Todd Field’s austere debut didn’t reach for emotional effects, it simply presented them.

9. Donnie Darko Set in the ‘80s, Donnie Darko imaginatively combines the John Hughes teen coming of age stories with a bizarre Ambrose Bierce-style time travel fantasy. It’s also about the end of the world. Though Richard Kelly’s debut feature can’t quite make good on the force of its ambition, it’s a clever and compelling indie gem.

10. Shallow Hal ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ is the common reaction when I’ve told my colleagues that the challenging Shallow Hal made this list. Through its grotesque satire on body image, it required viewers to reevaluate their priorities. Placing emaciated Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of a 300 lb. woman (seen without fat suit in Jack Black’s fantasies) brought to mind anorexia nervosa in troubling ways.

Honorable Mention: (in alphabetical order) A Chronicle of Corpses, Diamond Men, Hamlet, In the Mood for Love (I gave it a low rating, and while I stand by that review it’s still one of the more compelling art films this year), Intimacy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Memento, The Pledge, The Tailor of Panama, Signs & Wonders, Under the Sand

Worst of the Year: K-PAX, From Hell, Vanilla Sky

Best Badass Mofo: (tie) Viggo Mortenson in The Fellowship of the Ring, Brooke Smith in Series 7

Worst Badass Mofo: Denzel Washington in Training Day

Best Location: The abandoned asylum in Brad Anderson’s creepy Session 9

Overrated: Amelie, Waking Life, L.I.E., The Others, Sexy Beast

Wish I’d Seen: Baran, Code Unknown, Eureka, Monsters, Inc., The Road Home, Southern Comfort, Together

Inexplicably favorite line of dialogue of the year: ‘Now who’s the fool-ass disloyal bitch made punk?’ (Training Day): New York Press film critic Armond White correctly picked up that Denzel Washington was talking about himself.


Max Messier’s Top Ten of 2001

1. Moulin Rouge – A stimulating smorgasbord of maniacally song-and-dance numbers, career defining acting roles, and extraordinary visual effects combine to illustrate one of cinema’s greatest love stories. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge stands as proof positive that cinema can co-exist as art and entertainment.

2. Amelie By combining inventive storytelling with an odd and dynamic cast of characters, Amelie represents French cinema at its finest in recent years. One of the funniest and wildly passionate films of the year.

3. Donnie Darko – By crossing the work of the two Davids (Lynch and Cronenberg) and early John Hughes, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko delivers a powerful effigy of the nuclear family’s devolution, the subversive nature of the most charismatic among us, and the lessons delivered within our dreams.

4. Memento – Great noir has finally returned after years of neglect. Excellent acting from Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano combine with an inventive script and impressive direction.

5. Session 9 The greatest terror is one the stands just outside of the shadows. One of the most disturbing films of the year – Session 9 – uses digital video and a run-down mental institution to create a standout horror film.

6. Waking Life Richard Linklater pokes the realms of existence, conspiracy theories, mind control, love, death, and salsa dancing with your own neuroses in order to understand the mortal coil in this CGI-animated curiosity.

7. Audition (Odishon) – Leave it to the Japanese to produce the second most disturbing film of the year with a deceptive narrative about a heartbroken man attempting to reinvigorate his life – both emotionally and physically – and the costs he pays for them.

8. Series 7 – Few films have been so cruel, so terrifying, and so amazingly beautiful as this sinister and Orwellian view of America’s pledge of allegiance to the almighty idiot box.

9. The Royal Tenenbaums – Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson team up again to bring us the most dysfunctional family ever filmed. Their most crowning cinematic success to date.

10. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within The story made no sense. The voice-overs seemed stiff and forced. The motivations for its characters didn’t exist. But despite its flaws, Final Fantasy‘s incredible animation is captivating enough on its own to earn the #10 spot.

Almost Made The List: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, American Pie 2, The Score, Shrek, L.I.E., Company Man, Jeepers Creepers, Joy Ride, Kiss of the Dragon

Worst of the Year: Planet of the Apes, Double Take, Swordfish, Evolution, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, American Outlaws, Angel Eyes, Joe Dirt, Sugar & Spice, Freddy Got Fingered

Worthy Performances: Guy Pearce (Memento), Marlon Brando (The Score), Brian Cox (L.I.E), Brooke Smith (Series 7), David Caruso (Session 9), Jon Voight (Pearl Harbor)

Biggest Disappointment: The summer of 2001


Pete Croatto’s Top Ten of 2001

1. Mulholland Drive – Whether you loved it or hated it, David Lynch’s fever dream/Hollywood satire had everyone talking. The sex scenes! The return of Ann Miller! The creepy old folks at the airport! The sex scenes! But most importantly, this masterpiece had the balls to visually and mentally stimulate you every minute, even if it occasionally steered off course. And someone give an Oscar to Naomi Watts, who displayed an astonishing emotional range that belied her golden looks.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums – A perfect balance of quirky humor and intelligence, Wes Anderson’s skewed look at a dysfunctional family was the rare film that reveled in the little moments. Bill Murray quietly asking wife (and clandestine smoker/philanderer) Gwyneth Paltrow for a cigarette; Gene Hackman taking flowers from his mother’s grave; the insistence on everyone living in the past (check out the early 1980s wardrobe). You don’t see movies like this anymore.

3. Amelie – Just a wonderful film about how life’s little things can be fun and mysterious, all shot in a kinetic, poetic
cinematic style that swept me out of the theater. Far and away, this was the best romantic comedy of 2001.

4. Innocence No one saw this. In fact, I don’t think I even saw this Belgian/Australian product. Just kidding. Paul Cox’s drama about two old lovers reuniting after 40 years is a powerful and beautiful reminder that love doesn’t come easy, especially when health and marriage become considerable obstacles. And it’s proof that senior citizens do not have to be relegated to second-class citizen status at the movies.

5. Ocean’s Eleven One of my Christmas wishes came true. In our ‘What We Want for Christmas’ feature, I complained about how big studios have lost the ability to release quality blockbuster movies. Several days later, I saw Steven Soderbergh’s remake of this 1960 Rat Pack movie, and all is forgiven. Terrific cast, funny lines, exciting plot, great ending. I feel safer stepping into the multiplex again.

6. The Night of the Hunter Okay, it’s a re-release. But in a year where the other two horror movies I saw underwhelmed (The Others) and outright sucked (Soul Survivors), I’m allowed a little leeway. Scary from start to finish, this is the year’s only movie where I gasped in fright.

7. Greenfingers In the not-so grand tradition of Saving Grace comes another wacky European comedy about horticulture. But this true story about a group of prison gardeners succeeded because it didn’t exploit the goofy topic, but rather focused on the characters’ plights. The result, a feel-good movie that actually feels good.

8 & 9. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back/American Pie 2 Bawdy humor gone wonderfully, wonderfully right. Alyson Hannigan, you are my hero. Kevin Smith, my New Jersey brethren, you’re not too bad yourself.

10. Waking Life – Richard Linklater provides us with the world’s most fascinating philosophy lesson. On here for a lot of the same reasons Mulholland Drive is on this list, most importantly, that it challenged the audience.

Honorable Mention: Shrek, Monsters, Inc., Memento, Made, A Beautiful Mind, Snatch

Worst of the Year: On the Line, Soul Survivors, Not Another Teen Movie, Exit Wounds, Heist, Down To Earth, Hardball, See Spot Run, Planet of the Apes, One Night at McCool’s

Great Performances: Jennifer Aniston (the only good thing in Rock Star), Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums), Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), Ray Liotta (Heartbreakers, Blow), Vince Vaughn (Made), Gwyneth Paltrow (The Royal Tenenbaums), Will Ferrell (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Scarlett Johansson (An American Rhapsody), Woody Allen (Company Man), Dennis Farina (Snatch), Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski (My First Mister), Stanley Tucci (Sidewalks of New York)

Worst Endings: My First Mister, Planet of the Apes, Dinner Rush, Along Came A Spider

Worst of the Year (special mention): The preview for the Britney Spears’ star vehicle Crossroads. I lost about three years of my life in two minutes. And the worst part is I know I’ll be reviewing it. Runner-up: Jake Busey in a thong (Tomcats)

Overrated: Dinner Rush, Together, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Deep End, The Others

Underrated: Greenfingers, Innocence, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Heartbreakers,A Knight’s Tale ,Along Came A Spider (aside from the finale, good, clean escapist fun)

Biggest Disappointments: Hannibal, Shallow Hal, From Hell

Wish I’d Seen: Moulin Rouge, Ghost World, Donnie Darko, In the Bedroom, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Black Hawk Down


Blake French’s Top Ten of 2001

1. Mulholland Drive – David Lynch’s complex, suspenseful tale of illusion confuses, contorts, and dazzles the imagination. Filled with unforgettable images and a story everyone will interpret differently, this is Lynch’s best achievement yet.

2. Moulin Rouge – Easily the best-made film of the year. Baz Luhrmann’s zesty, electric, musical love story might revive this forgotten Hollywood genre. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor have glorious performances. So good I saw the film twice in theaters, bought the soundtrack, and even purchased the DVD.

3. A Beautiful Mind – Another fascinating, passionate performance by Russell Crowe in a thought-provoking biopic about overcoming all odds. It leads us to believe it is about one thing, then shows us it’s about something else. Masterfully crafted by Ron Howard.

4. Wit – Emma Thompson and Mike Nichols adapted this story from the play, where a middle-aged professor is treated for advanced ovarian cancer. Thompson has the single best performance of the year. Too bad that since the film didn’t get a theatrical release, she won’t be eligible for Academy awards.

5. Ghost World – Not into typical teen movies? Here you go. We get to know the characters so well, we know what they’re thinking before they talk. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson make a perfect pair, playing two teen best friends who begin to drift apart. They create a dazzling chemistry that gradually evolves into an awkward tension.

6. Life as a House – What would you do if you only had four months to live? Irwin Winkler’s heartbreaking film is a tear-jerker that really does evoke tears. By the end, all the characters are better people, and we leave striving to be, too.

7. A.I. Artificial Intelligence – The ideas of Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg blend into a beautiful dream of science fiction and fantasy. It’s a harsh film – that could have been harsher – but it still leaves us with a sense of wonder. Beautiful performance by Haley Joel Osment.

8. Lantana – An unflinchingly honest, compelling film that shows what can happen to a family due to a lack of communication. Harrowing performances by Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, and Geoffrey Rush.

9. Blow – Ted Demme’s vivid portrait of George Jung. Johnny Depp depicts the character with such energy and conviction that after watching the film, we know who this man is, and we care about him, even though he was a big drug dealer.

10. K-PAX – A movie that begs for discussion and individual interpretation. It provides no easy answers but gives you a warm fuzzy anyway.

Honorable Mention: The Pledge, 15 Minutes, Joy Ride, O, 61*, Training Day, Vanilla Sky, Memento, Jeepers Creepers

Worst of the Year: The Fast and the Furious, Down To Earth, The Mummy Returns, Summer Catch, Say It Isn’t So, Joe Dirt, Pootie Tang, The Day I Became A Woman, See Spot Run, Ghosts of Mars, Sugar & Spice, Freddy Got Fingered, Scary Movie 2, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back


Norm Schrager’s Top Ten of 2001

1. Ghost World – As movies about teenagers often slide into complete parody, Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ underground comic book presents one of the fullest, funniest, and most heartbreaking takes on entering adulthood in years. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are perfect as Enid and Rebecca, two remarkably cynical high school graduates headed for unexpected change. Part of the reason the film works so well is that Zwigoff and Clowes begin by making the girls as two-dimensional as the paper where they originated – poking snotty, smirky fun at everyone around them – only to have them blossom into women with deep feelings amidst some creatively funky situations. Steve Buscemi gives his career performance as a geeky record collector who changes Enid’s life. The outrageous scenes in the convenience store are reason enough to buy the DVD.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums – Wes Anderson is the rare person making truly complete movies – films with funny and unique characters, twisted storylines, and some outlandish and imaginative production design. This, as with Rushmore, brings it all together with the human heart as an anchor.

3. Memento – Some moviegoers criticized its backward narrative as just a cheap plot device – yeah, well if it’s the best plot device of the year (and it is), screw the detractors. Pity poor Leonard (a funny, intense Guy Pearce), searching for his wife’s killer, with no brain ability to connect the dots. Because of his ‘condition,’ it makes perfect sense for director Chris Nolan to tell the story in reverse, so that we have no more knowledge than the protagonist himself.

4. The Pledge – Jack Nicholson gives one of his greatest performances in this Sean Penn feature – one that very few people saw. Penn keeps nearly the whole film in second gear, allowing nothing but fearless, emotion-driven acting to command the film. By the movie’s end, we inhabit Nicholson’s tragic character along with him, primarily because Penn has given Jack the Legend enough time and care to let that happen.

5. A Beautiful Mind – Easily Ron Howard’s finest work. In addition to an absolutely searing performance from Russell Crowe and a well-written, finely structured screenplay from Akiva Goldsman, it’s got a healthy combination of slightly off-center drama and reliable, Hollywood sweetness.

6. Monsters, Inc. – Pixar has created what every animated family film should aspire to, with a wildly creative plot, solid voice acting, and wow ’em visuals.

7. In the Bedroom – Director/co-writer Todd Field takes a story of unspeakable loss in a small Maine town and turns it into one of the most visually thoughtful films of the year. The incredible performances, most notably from Tom Wilkinson, could have been enough, but Field’s delicate shot composition and on-the-money timing make this a superb film.

8. Serendipity – Full of neat surprises and happy happenstance, this romantic fantasy literally keeps viewers at the edge of their seats, as John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale just keep missing each other.

9. Made – Jon Favreau’s first feature is so anti-hip, so full of painful, whacked-out dialogue, and so against the Swingers grain that it seems like Artisan had trouble promoting it. Vince Vaughn does a fantastic job riffing on his Swingers character while making Ricky a truly uncool, original moron. This comedy’s so good not even Sean Combs’ appearance screws it up much.

10. Amelie – Besides being sweet and mysterious, this French comedy is completely original, as told through the bold eyes of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. From his point-of-view, the camera swoops and dances, with some surreal effects to add spice and the beautiful Audrey Tautou as the pivotal title character. Audrey Hepburn would’ve wished she’d made this movie.

Honorable Mention (in order): Session 9, Mulholland Drive, Apocalypse Now Redux, Amores Perros, Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Performances of the Year: Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind)

Best Opening: Amelie, Josie and the Pussycats

Best Ending: Monsters, Inc., Made, Snatch

Worst of the Year: Head Over Heels, Tape


Rachel Gordon’s Top Ten of 2001

1. The Royal Tenenbaums – Family dysfunction has never been this entertaining. Wes Anderson somehow managed to top the unique voice he brought to Rushmore with this tale of failed geniuses, poignantly balancing style with substance.

2. Mulholland Drive – Only David Lynch can screw with our minds and force us to enjoy it. A
film that could be analyzed till the cows come home without actually knowing its true intentions, and yet still make sense no matter how you slice it, MD is a great addition to his quirky repertoire.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Peter Jackson confidently met, and surpassed, the high expectations of Tolkien fans with this adaptation. Frodo, (Elijah Wood) our reluctant hero, is provided with such a beautifully gothic setting, among engaging comrades, that I actually look forward to the next installment.

4. Ghost World – A powerful portrayal of isolation in individualism, it admirably maintains a sense of humor about making mistakes once you leave the safe confines of high school.

5. Hamlet – If Shakespeare were captured with this natural grace more often, maybe audiences would risk losing 3 hours to enjoy it. Campbell Scott, as co-director and titular character, goes beyond doing the Bard justice to create possibly the best Hamlet adaptation ever filmed.

6. Memento – Screwing with narrative structure while managing a well-crafted, adrenaline-pumped, story always wins kudos in my book. Guy Pearce ain’t too shabby either.

7. Gosford Park – Having almost lost faith in Robert Altman’s duds since Short Cuts, it’s good to see the man hasn’t lost his touch after fifty years of making movies. He is back to the core of his talent, mixing up an ensemble of Who’s Who of British acting royalty to create a hilarious rendition of class structure.

8. The Man Who Wasn’t There – Imperfection and weakness are actually entertaining as Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) tries to find his place among those with more chutzpah than him in the Coen brothers’ latest respectable project.

9. Life and Debt – is what documentaries were meant to be, juxtaposing what a layman tourist sees of Jamaica with the various exterior influences the culture has had to endure. Native filmmaker Stephanie Black takes us on this journey through a mix a wry wit and depressing facts to create a compelling collage.

10. Series 7 – It’s kill or be killed, and about time someone spoofed on inane reality shows. Writer/director Daniel Minahan adds his name to the list of filmmakers to look out for with his subtle art of violent humor.

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