In the past, the first semester final issue of MUSE has often been a sort of wrap-up/ top 10 list of the films that shaped the past year. Often it can serve as a very preliminary sort of Oscar predictor. To stir things up a bit, MUSE asked a small handful of staff writers and editors to give their take on films in 2000.
Quite frankly, there hasn’t been a movie year this bad for as long as I can remember. When summer began, there were one or two “decent” films I could stand to call “good” if I were forced. Pretty typical for the spring season. Then summer rolled around, and it was one clichéd piece of crap after another; blockbusters that didn’t exactly bust anything and tired wastes of the good consumer dollar. But I didn’t lose hope, remembering that once September began in 1999, we were bombarded with some of the most outrageous, original and innovative films of the decade. Alas, friends, the year 2000 is NOT following the same trend. After reading countless fall preview announcements, I was psyched for what seemed like a gallery of killer, original cinematic entertainment. Instead, we are treated to boring, recycled pretentiousness, with very few exceptions. It seems almost foolish to do an annual top 10 column again, since this year is more about films battling to be the lesser of the evils rather than the best of the crop (kind of like the recent election). It’s not too late, I suppose. There’s still all of December, plus films that are released for Oscar consideration in New York and Los Angeles, but won’t hit other cities until the New Year. And there have been a few sparkling gems in 2000 hidden beneath the dust and fog. Darren Aronofsky’s second feature, “Requiem for a Dream,” is easily the best film of the year, with its devastating examination of the drug addictions and afflictions of four people. The images, haunting score and unbelievable performances of Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans (!) remain with you long after leaving the theater. Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is similarly brilliant, combining action, “Matrix”-style effects and cinematography with romance, drama, myth and epic. To simply describe it is to do it an injustice; this is the one movie that the only way to believe is to see. Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” is heartwarming and fantastically written: an autobiographical piece about a young rock journalist, combining old and new talent with a sweeping panorama of the hazy early `70s and the evolution of rock n’ roll. And there you have it folks—three films on the top tier, while I would hope there would have been 10 to 12 by now. Honorable mentions to Kenneth Lonnergan’s “You Can Count On Me,” Michael Almeryeda’s “Hamlet,” Stephen Frears’ “High Fidelity,” Neil LaBute’s “Nurse Betty,” Philip Kauffman’s “Quills,” Stephen Soderbergh’s “Traffic,” Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” and Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.”
—Chad Berndtson Muse Staff
Special fillms are those that linger in your mind long after you’ve left the theater; long after the immediate images have faded and the memories are soft and gentle. Movies like the Academy Award-winning “All About My Mother” are few and far between. This movie is perhaps the best movie I saw in 2000, despite its late 1999 release. I saw it on a cold February afternoon, in the dark of the Kendall Theater, but its words and messages have never completely left me. “All About My Mother,” a Spanish film from the critically-acclaimed director Almodovar, tells the story of a mother, Manuela (Cecilia Roth) who loses her 18-year-old son, Esteban (Eloy Azarin), in a tragic accident. The story builds from her grief and leads her to build friendships with some incredible women who not only help her grieve, but also help her overcome grief and learn to live and love again. There is truly a simple elegance to “All About My Mother;” an elegance that touches one ever so lightly and reminds the viewer that life never gives us exactly what we expect. It reminds each one of us that acceptance and love are fundamental and our mothers help make us who we are. “All About My Mother” is one of those rare movies about something truly significant. It has no action, no romance, and very little comedy. And at the same time it tells an extraordinary story that is both entertaining and mystical. It leaves you thinking and questioning and needing to love someone.
—Lindsey Stanberry Muse Staff
No, I have not yet seen “Gladiator.” Or “Charlie’s Angels.” Or “The Perfect Storm” or “Mission Impossible 2.” Nor do I want to. I’d like to recognize the best of the incredibly few films that actually made me want to go to the movies in 2000. Once again proving foreign filmmakers can capture childhood in their films better than Americans, Spanish director Jose Luis Cuerda’s “Butterfly” was one of this year’s most poignant releases. A young boy scared to begin school befriends his open-minded and gentle schoolteacher. Set during the Spanish Civil War, we see the effects of war through the eyes of children and adults and the divisions it causes. Cuerda has a knack for portraying the innocence of youth. In the tradition of “Cinema Paradiso” and “Ponette,” the impressive honest and touching performance of the very young main character in “Butterfly” is sure to strike audiences. Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” and Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” rank as two of the most intense film experiences I have ever had. Shame on you if you have not yet seen either one. “Requiem” follows the course of addiction in the lives of four characters. “Dancer” is the story of a mother who daydreams about life being a musical and tries to save her son from going blind. Not only were both films visually innovative and captivating, but the directors also ingeniously incorporated rhythm and music to their content, a technique is rarely perfected in recent films. I left both films in a silent state of shock that turned into an adrenaline rush when I discussed them with friends. Bjork’s performance in “Dancer” and Ellen Burstyn’s performance in “Requiem” are riveting, and most certainly deserve nods in the Best Actress category at the upcoming Oscars. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the documentary “The Filth and the Fury,” the story of the pioneering punk band, the Sex Pistols. Even if you’re not a fan of the band, director Julien Temple made one hell of a documentary worth seeing. That is, if you don’t mind Johnny Rotten moaning “NO FUN” during a concert for at least 10 minutes straight.
–Kerri Chyka Muse Staff
So 2000 wasn’t much of a movie year. As in all years, there were some great films, and there were some horrible films, but that alone wasn’t what made 2000 so bad. It was the sheer excess of films that were immediately forgettable and mediocre. It’s doubtful that films like “The Contender” and “The Perfect Storm” will wind up on anyone’s worst-of-the-year list, but they’re far from masterpieces. So many films failed to do anything but inspire yawns. With that in mind, I’ll attempt to highlight some of the best. And, to top things off, there’s also a brief preview of a few of the year’s heavily-buzzed-about-but-yet-to-be-released films for winter vacation viewing. Winning the award for best theater marquis since “‘The Muse’ Now Hiring” (which really was used to promote a new writers’ meeting in Fall 1999) is the Loews Nickelodeon’s listing a film called “You Can Count.” The film’s real title is “You Can Count on Me” and was one of the year’s “smile films.” It’s hard make a successful comedy, but it’s even harder to make an emotionally uplifting drama. The working class British Film “Billy Eliot” also fits into that category, as does Cameron Crowe’s overrated, but still solid piece of work, “Almost Famous.” Depressing films were also present in this year’s shallow pool of winners. Bjork turned out one of the year’s strongest performances in “Dancer in the Dark,” though she could be facing some tough Oscar competition from Ellen Burstyn in “Requiem for a Dream,” though neither film is typical Oscar-fare. Darren Aronofsky, following his brilliant debut, “Pi,” has officially become the filmmaker to watch in the next few years. He’s already turned out two of the best films in recent memory, and his hyperactive, but thoroughly coherent style shows no signs of slowing. Though neither film is not for the week-of-heart, one film recommended for anyone looking for something original and thought-provoking should consider seeing “Wonder Boys.” Along with being a truly engaging and well-acted, “Wonder Boys” is one of the most amazingly well-shot films this year. It also showcases some of the most effective use of weather in a film. A few other films that shouldn’t be missed: Christopher Guest’s hilarious “Best in Show,” “Chicken Run,” the Marquis deSade story, “Quills,” “Chuck and Buck,” “High Fidelity,” “Nurse Betty,” “Unbreakable” and “American Psycho.”
–Nolan Reese Muse Staff
“Gladiator.” “Dancer in the Dark.” “Requiem for a Dream.” Am I noticing a pattern here? Not only were the films of 2000 incomparable to the wonders of 1999, but all the best films mentioned above were heavy, heavy, heavy, dark, dark, dark. In such a year, I feel compelled to ask: what about the movies that were made just for fun, that had no intention of ever making a top 10 list or getting an Oscar nomination? 2000 may not have had a large handful of films critics could write home about, but it did have its fair share of movies so bad, they were great. Among them are recent releases “Charlie’s Angels” and “Little Nicky,” as well as this summer’s “Coyote Ugly” and “Bring It On.” However, I’d like to leave, for your consideration, the best (bad) movie of 2000, “Center Stage.” With no big name stars (unless you count Ilia Kulik, 1998 Olympic Figure Skating Champion) and no originality, the film not only did well in the box office, but had theater-goers leaving with smiles on their faces and ballet shoes in their hearts, and sometimes, that’s all you need to make a good movie.
–Breanne L. Heldman Muse Staff