|DAN'S 2001 MOVIE LIST|
"The romance of movies is not just in those stories and those people on the screen but in the adolescent dream of meeting others who feel as you do about what youíve seen. You do meet them, of course..."- Pauline Kael
"Often I donít like the movies I see, but I always like sitting there in the dark."- Jane Dark
In all its glory- the 2001 movie list.
82. Vanilla Sky- Cameron Crowe has lost his mind, Tom Cruise is insufferable, and the movie is a mess. I should have known better, but I was intrigued by the premise of the movie. Tom Cruise was in his "Iím a movie star" mode in this one and it was painful to watch. This lumbering fiasco of a film makes minimal sense. An interesting soundtrack does not a good movie make. Worst line of the year went something like this- "I canít believe this is happening, Iím frozen, youíre dead, but weíre together." New age hokum for the Goonies set. Owen Gleibermanís review says it all- "The sight of Cruise looking like Jerry Maguire playing the Phantom of the Opera is creepy in all the wrong ways. Instead of provoking sympathy, the ugly duckling nightmare only heightens our awareness of Cruiseís vanity."
81. Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone- Chris Columbus is a no talent hack. He has drained whatever sense of magic and wonder from the book in an attempt to not screw with the formula. If this movie were any safer, it would be The Lion King. I bet the board room discussions during the pre-production of this film had more intrigue than this bloated nonsense of a film. The digital graphics sucked and they used it for everything, even the scene where all the students throw their wizard hats in the air after graduation. It is a sad day for film when actors canít even be trusted to throw their hats in the air correctly. Anyone else notice that Snape looked like a slimmer Robert Smith or that the greedy goblin bankers with big noses are clearly a modern day version of Shylock?
80. Bad Company- A French In the Company of Men meets Breaking the Waves through the prism of a generic teen movie. Not as good as it sounds.
79. The Independent- A Spinal Tap type documentary starring Jerry Stiller as a struggling Roger Corman type filmmaker who thinks heís a John Cassavetes type. Good ideas, no energy.
78. Lakeboat- Based on a David Mamet play, dull as all get-out.
77. The Deep End- Tilda Swinton is nice to look at but this movieís plot is utterly implausible.
76. Heist- Iím through with David Mamet. No suspense, no good dialogue, and someone needs to tell Davey that his wife Rebecca Pidgeon sucks the life out of every scene sheís in. Gene Hackman is good though.
75. From Hell- Looked incredible and Iím not just talking about Heather Grahamís bosom either, but the movie was a snoozefest otherwise.
74. Pearl Harbor- The dialogue is laughably bad and the love story is ridiculous but the Japanese bombing is top notch except for the fact that itís interesting that almost 3000 people were killed without one drop of blood being spilled -gotta keep the PG-13 rating I suppose. I did like how the leisurely (some may say boring) pace of the first 90 minutes made the attack scene even more effective.
73. Not Another Teen Movie- It was quite surprising how many references to 80ís teen films there were in this movie. As Sarah and I left the theater, we overheard one teen telling another teen, "I didnít understand a lot of that." I wonder if the scenes making fun of Wes Bentleyís character in American Beauty will steal the thunder from similar type jokes in the upcoming Todd Solondz movie Storytelling.
72. The Pledge- This movie was fairly interesting, but the end fell apart for me. Nicholson was Nicholson and Sean Pennís direction was fine I suppose. When I saw this movie last January, I remember the ridiculous ending made me angry, but I suppose 11 months hindsight makes me less angry about the whole thing.
71. Planet of the Apes- Someone needs to have a little talk with Tim Burton. Ever since this movie, Sarah has liked to frighten me with simian noises. This movie is probably higher on the list than it should be, but I had to take into account the comfort of the loveseat we sat in in the comfortable Wisconsin theater.
70. The Legend of Rita- True account of a West German political terrorist hiding out in the East. Nice Easy Rider type ending.
69. Journey to the Sun- Life in Turkey is hard. This is a story of two friends- one is killed, one is tortured and then shunned. Yikes.
68. Curse of the Jade Scorpion- Woody Allen needs to take some time off.
67. Lantana- This Australian flick had itís moments, but itís desperate attempt to pull everything together Robert Altman style at the end really left a sour taste in my mouth.
66. Monsterís Ball- One of those movies that the director and screenwriter desperately want to have a character move from Point A to Point B emotionally, but have no clue on how to show the audience that itís plausible. The two most fleshed out characters arenít in the entire movie either further weakening the movie. Billy Bob Thornton is good, Halle Berry is real nice to look at, Peter Boyle is fine, even Sean Combs is acceptable, and the story is pretty damn interesting but Marc Forsterís direction is easily the clunkiest piece of "A filmmaking" since The Insider. My favorite headline of the year in the review of this movie in the Voice- "The Sorrow and the P-Diddy".
65. Jump Tomorrow- Silly, slow at times, really funny at others, Sarah has a crush on the star- sort of a nerdy Malcolm X type. Kinda charming, kinda dull.
64. Devilís Backbone- Set during the Spanish Civil War, this ghost story from the director of Cronos had a lot of potential, but in the end fell short of expectations. Still, I did like the image of the unexploded bomb in the middle of the courtyard of the orphanage.
63. Shrek- Enjoyable, but the anti Disney digs arenít as daring as most people would have you believe. Also, was it really necessary for the Gingerbread Man to tell his enemy "Eat me"? From Jim Ridley- "I hate to be a grouch, but an aimless montage set to Smashmouth is lame enough in live action; in computer animation, itís a waste of resources. And donít get me started on the supposedly hip pop-culture gags about the Matrix and, oh my sides, Riverdance. The lamest comedy writing in movies today, from Shrek to Scary Movie 2 to Not Another Teen Movie, congratulates viewers just for ticking off references."
62. Ali- The first 30 minutes are stupendous, the last 45 are a lackluster remake of the documentary When We Were Kings. The movie skips around too much for itís own good and Ali is only portrayed superficially but that ainít Will Smithís fault. Heís pretty damn good and the boxing scenes especially the first Liston fight are incredible. I donít like Michael Mann.
61. Shallow Hal- Love that Jack Black. Not that great otherwise.
60. Panic- The first two thirds of this father (Donald Sutherland) son (William H. Macy) hitman tale of family strife was really good but the last third was a stinker.
59. Fat Girl- French film from the director of Romance about two teenage sisters- one beautiful, one not and the strife between them. At times, like a darker Welcome to the Dollhouse. Her last movie ended with a closeup shot and I do mean a closeup of the main character giving birth, this movie ends in a completely different manner if not a tad more or less shocking depending on how you feel about childbirth.
58. Moulin Rouge- A big Bollywood spectacular. Looked absolutely dazzling, but ultimately way too long. Still, if you had told me 20 years ago that one day I would see a movie with Obi Wan Kenobi singing Elton John songs, I wouldnít have believed it.
57. With A Friend Like Harry- A French stab at Hitchcock. Two of the creepier movies of recent years are Francois Ozonís See the Sea and Michael Hanekeís Funny Games. In the hands of either of these two gentlemen, this movie might have been something else, but in the hands of whoever the hell directed it, it was just kinda good.
56. Southern Comfort- Documentary about two transsexual lovers, one of whom is dying. Quite touching at times.
55. Sobibor Oct. 14, 4 PM- Documentary about the one known successful Jewish uprising in a Nazi concentration camp.
54. Lumumba- Based on the leader of the Congo in the early 60ís- the end was startlingly violent even though I knew what was coming.
53. Lisa Picard is Famous- Waiting for Guffman type doc about an aspiring actor and aspiring actress. Terry Crummitt would dig this, I guarantee it.
52. Series 7- A fake documentary about a Survivor type TV show with the loser getting killed by the winner. Some really funny moments, but Robocop, Starship Troopers, and even The Running Man are more effective in their social satire.
51. Startup.com- A documentary about obnoxious people making some money and then watching it go down the tubes dot com style.
50. Why We Laughed- A tale of two Italian brothers between the years 1958-1964 with all the action taking place on one day in each year. Interesting way to tell a story, but I wasnít completely taken with the characters.
49. Joy Ride- A re-imagining of Duel from the director of Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. One scene near the beginning involving an ice truck is truly terrifying. Marc wanted more Leelee Sobieski.
48. Fighter- Documentary about a Holocaust survivor retracing his steps showing how he eluded the Nazis back in the day. An amazing life and some amazing bickering between he and his friend as they travel together as crotchety old men.
47. Djomeh- A charming if not frustrating tale of an Afghan refugee living in Iran who canít get the girl of his dreams to pay attention to him.
46. The Princess and the Warrior- From the director of Run Lola Run. Truly unbelievably good first hour, truly bad second hour. So I guess an A+ and a D- meet somewhere here.
45. Gosford Park- Disappointing. It almost seems like if Robert Altman even puts out a halfway decent movie, critics go apeshit. I donít know, maybe Iím just not into this kind of film but then again as Chris Moonie pointed out every scene was pretty interesting despite itís genre.
44. Chopper- A charming psychopath is a charming man nonetheless. Eric Bana is pretty damn good.
43. In the Bedroom- Riveting if not slight however the scene where they are listening to a Red Sox game at a barbeque turns into a National League game for no apparent reason other than a lazy person in charge of continuity really made me angry. Marisa Tomei was really good.
42. Donnie Darko- Back to the Future meets a menacing version of Harvey.
41. Otomo- Based on a true account of a black man in Germany accused of riding on a subway with an expired ticket who flees the scene and is killed a few hours later by the police. Stars that French ice cream vendor from Ghost Dog.
40. Behind the Sun- From the director of my least favorite film from 1998, Central Station, but this one is much better. Set in Brazil in 1910, itís about two rival families who keep killing off each otherís sons in an eye for an eye battle of honor. The initial chase scene is one of the best scenes of the year, the film looks great, the La Strada circus like scenes are stupendous, but the ending is a little too predictable and maudlin for my tastes.
39. The Personals- An Asian Next Stop Wonderland. Darling, quite darling.
38. Oceanís Eleven- I gotta say- the ending did surprise me. Fun from beginning to end.
37. Ginger Snaps- Teen Wolf meets Heathers unfortunately degenerates into Wolfen in the last 30 minutes. Marc was set to put this as this yearís Pups until the ending spoiled it.
36. Under the Sand- Another year, another interesting Francois Ozon film. This one is about a woman who takes a nap on the beach and when she wakes up her husband is gone. Did he drown? Did he leave her? Did he get abducted? A study of psychology, not suspense.
35. Amores Perros- Does for Mexico City what Amelie does for Paris but in a anywhere is better than here gritty kind of way. Any movie that begins with the disclaimer "No animals were harmed during the making of this film" promises to be interesting. Sort of a Mexican Pulp Fiction revolving around dogs instead of a mysterious briefcase. Interesting soundtrack. The plotline of the dog trapped under the floor reminds me of the story of the late great Bumpo the cat trapped in the walls of my parents townhouse.
34. Vertical Ray of the Sun- Vietnamese brother and sister who look absolutely gorgeous as they get up every morning and in their underwear do their morning exercises listening to the Velvet Underground.
33. Code Unknown- From the director of Funny Games. An insightful look at class and race in modern day France. The beginning is really good, the middle is decent, the ending is incredible.
32. Waking Life- The process of how this film was made and the way it looks is the reason it resides even this high on the list. Sort of an animated version of Slacker with people talking about philosophy and dreams for 90 minutes. If I were 20, Iím sure this movie would have blown me away but the last time I checked merely throwing out ideas from famous philosophers does not a good script make. Still, quite enjoyable however. Jamie feels like I am dismissing this film for flimsy reasons however and he ranks it number one. He argues that just because philosophy is discussed in a movie doesnít mean that itís just for college kids. I agree but at the same time, thereís nothing else to the movie besides the philosophy and the animation.
31. Jung: In the Land of the Mujaheddin- Gut wrenching Italian documentary about doctors trying to start a hospital in Afghanistan to treat landmine victims.
30. Little Otik- A bizarre tale of a Prague couple who really really really want to have a child but canít conceive. The husband fashions the wife a gift of a baby made out of a tree stump. She increasingly becomes convinced that it is real and then fakes a pregnancy for the neighbors. After 8 months (she was too impatient to wait 9) she unleashes the doll on the world. The real fun begins when the tree does come alive and as it grows begins to eat people. A little long but still pretty damn funny. Makes me really want to see the directorís stop motion animation version of Alice In Wonderland.
29. Sexy Beast- Josh Granger says that Ben Kingsley looks like a walking penis in this movie. This is a fun version of a traditional heist film. Two thirds of the movie is about one gangster trying to convince another gangster to participate in the robbery. I really hope Kingsley gets nominated for an Oscar but I suppose he wonít. The scene of the boulder landing in the swimming pool is fun. Sort of had a Limey feel to it.
28. Anniversary Party- Itís fun to watch Hollywood assholes makes assholes of themselves. This vanity project of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming (who according to Jeremy and Allison looks like me when he puts on a wig and makeup) works more often than not but the digital video aspect of this movie looked like absolute crap and it didnít work at all for me. Still, the scenes in the closet, the charades, and the underwater scenes were really great. John C. Reilly, Jane Adams, Parker Posey, Gweneth, whatís not to like other than the last 15 minutes?
27. Black Hawk Down- I read a review of this saying that this is the first Jerry Bruckheimer art film. Ridley Scott atones for Gladiator with this riveting war drama that takes place in one day- the U.S. raid in Somalia that left almost 20 U.S. soldiers dead. There are some images in this film that will stay with me for years but the larger context that could make this film much better is missing. Maybe after having recently seen 10 hours of Band of Brothers, I need more than just a great battle scene to make my top 10.
26. Gleaners and I- Agnes Vardaís documentary about the French practice of gleaning (taking extra food from farms) is also a touching meditation on aging and death as Varda uses her own aging hand as a framing device with her digital camera.
25. Too Much Sleep- Slacker meets After Hours. The end where the protagonist beats the hell out of his enemy in a suburban backyard with a wiffleball bat and a volleyball is classic.
24. Tape- The other less hyped Richard Linklater movie is more fun. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman are fun to watch and the digital video crappiness of the look of the film only enhances the claustrophobia of the hotel room where all the action is set.
23. The Others- Creepy and even though it was obvious there would be some sort of twist at the end, it was still quite effective nonetheless.
22. Va Savior- One of those French relationship movies that only the French can do well. The duel at the end for the favors of a woman between two of the male characters on a narrow catwalk high above a theater is amazing. They keep drinking and drinking and drinking and the loser will be so drunk that he falls off the catwalk to his death. Iíd like to see Edward Burns concoct something even a tenth as clever as that.
21. Adagemmon- Engrossing, fascinating, and of course depressing film about a village in Africa in the 1600ís attacked and enslaved by African slave traders.
20. A.I.- The most unfairly maligned film of the year. What was so wrong with this movie? For most of the film the tone was dark, claustrophobic, and moody. The shots of Manhattan and the World Trade Center underneath water seem even more eerie post Sept. 11. If Spielberg just had had the sense to end the movie with the boy trapped in the ice underneath the Wonder Wheel, this would have been much higher on my list. Still, I donít think the ending was too much of a copout- the boy doesnít end up happy, just delaying the inevitable sorrow.
19. Our Song- Crown Heights drama about three teenage girls. The scenes of the real-life Jackie Robinson Steppers Band are some of the best of the year.
18. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring- The anti Harry Potter. Peter Jackson creates a whole other world vividly and convincingly. He uses digital graphics to enhance the action not as the backbone of it. The action is thrilling and scary. The film dragged at times but the background is necessary for the next two films to truly kick ass in the proper manner. Unlike the Phantom Menace, I left this movie craving more and terribly excited for the next installment. I do like Elvis Mitchellís review of this movie where he states that all the characters (hobbits elves, etc.) are easily kept track of by their matching 70ís rock band hairstyles.
17. Widow of St. Pierre- Juliette Binoche in a French epic, the kind you just donít see anymore. The year is 1850 and there is a prisoner to be beheaded. The camerawork is nice, you are right on top of the action. The fog, the ships, the majesty of it all. If this movie were made in the U.S. in the late 50ís/early 60ís it would have been a Cinemascope feast starring Elizabeth Taylor.
16. Monsters, Inc.- Pixar kicks ass, it really does. Very clever and quite thrilling at times- the door chase scene reminded me of the mine chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the CDA (Child Detection Agency) workers reminded me of stormtroopers from Star Wars et al.
15. Behind Enemy Lines- Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson are so much fun to watch in this movie. I suppose this movie is this yearís Final Destination- a movie that probably has no business being this high on the list- but you would only say that if you havenít seen it. The action scenes are incredible, the film is amazingly suspenseful, the Bosnian kid wearing the Ice Cube shirt was great, the Dion song was fun, and the scene of Wilson hiding from his pursuers in a mud filled open graveyard of fresh copses is one of the best scenes of any movie this year.
14. Audition- Itís almost as if Eric Rohmer directed the first half of this film and then turned the reigns over to Brian Depalma to direct the rest of it. I never ever ever ever will forget the scenes of the woman calmly and sweetly calling out "Deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper." I donít want to ruin this for anyone so I wonít explain any further.
13. Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Talk about a movie that creates a vivid alternate universe. Wow, I loved the story, the songs, and the bizarreness of the entire film.
12. No Manís Land- Dark comedy about a Serbian and Bosnian soldier stuck in a trench in No Manís Land between their respective sides with another live soldier lying on top of a landmine which will explode once he is moved. Makes good points concisely within the constructs of the plot. The U.N. and the media are easy but necessary targets of the satire. One soldier wears a Rolling Stones tongue T-shirt. Best line- two soldiers are reading a paper in the trench and one remarks to another- "Rwanda is a real mess!"
11. Last Resort- A Russian woman and her son are accidental refugees in a rundown London beach town (think Atlantic City mid November) full of losers, punks, and Internet porn purveyors. Effectively grainy and a lot of Spiderman references to boot.
10. Ghost World- The numchucks dude was alone worth the price of admission. Are there any movies that have a better opening sequence this year than this one?
9. Kandahar- An Iranian film about an Afghan woman living in Canada who sneaks into Afghanistan to bring her sister to Canada. Depressing, exciting, scary, this film really shows how crazy Afghanistan had become under the Taliban. It almost felt like Tattoine from Star Wars if the Empire had completely taken the planet over. For those who always make fun of me for liking films from Iran, this is a good film to start the broadening of your film palate with. Interesting sidenote- one of the actors who in the movie portrays a black American living in Afghanistan wearing a fake beard to assimilate is being accused of assassinating an Iranian exile leader 22 years ago in the U.S. The director of the film Mohsen Makmalbaf says he has no idea of the background of the actor stating, "I have always chosen my actors from crowded streets and barren deserts."
8. Amelie- From one of two directors of Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children Jean- Pierre Jeunet, this film screams out "Look at me, Iím precious" and I guess I canít argue with that one. Audrey Tautou is easily the cutest brunette with a bob cut in film since Louise Brooks. If J.K. Rowling had any artistic integrity, she would insist that Jeunet be the director for the next Harry Potter- he has a real sense of how to make the everyday magical and Alien Resurrection proves that he can direct Hollywood brats like Winona Ryder. Makes Paris look like the best place ever. Sarahís favorite of the year.
7. The Royal Tenenbaums- Sort of a Belle and Sebastian song come to life through the prism of J.D. Salinger with the feel of a 1970ís dramedy but still feeling very much like Wes Anderson film. Owen Wilson is the most charismatic actor in the world, Gweneth gets more delicious in each successive film, Gene Hackman is solid as ever- my two favorite moments of his are his little laugh after being accused of stealing Ben Stillerís savings bonds and when he gets tipped as an elevator operator and quietly utters as he holds the money aloft, "And deserved". The set design and costume design are amazing- the attention to all detail adds so much to Andersonís films.
6. Mulholland Drive- David Lynchís nightmarish film that mixes remnants of Sunset Boulevard era Hollywood with Lynchís Twin Peaks tone of 50ís innocence run amok is truly creepy and inspiring. The Cowboy is the scariest character committed to celluloid since Robert Blakeís character in Lost Highway. Naomi Watts, the arrogant filmmaker, the film audition, the car crash, the monster lurking around the corner, the poolside party, the Roy Orbison song in Spanish, the dead body on the bed, the song on the set of the film set, the list goes on. What a movie! If the first 2/3 of the film is a dream, then the last 1/3 makes perfect sense, right? Right?
5. The Man Who Wasnít There- The Coen brothersí best film since Barton Fink. For the first time in years, they donít parade themselves in a shield of silliness and parody. This is an incredible looking, written, and acted modern piece of film noir in slow motion. Billy Bob Thorntonís character with a cigarette always in his hand is one of the best characters of this genre that Iíve ever seen. The entire cast is pitch-perfect . One of the best lines of the year when the lawyer portrayed by Tony Shaloub proclaims,"I litigate, I donít capitulate."
4. In the Mood For Love- Wong Kar-Wai is consistently the most interesting director making movies today. Tong Leung always with a cigarette and Maggie Cheung in the Hong Kong drizzle are a sight to behold. This is the best looking film from beginning to end of any film this year. Wong Kar- Wai even shot a scene of the two leads having sex with no intention of even using it, he wanted the couple to play the second half of the film like they had already slept together. Thus, the restraint felt by the two is even more interesting to watch. Leung and Cheung were however a little miffed they filmed the scene for naught.
3. Together- Swedish director Lukas Moodysson is the New Truffaut. His debut film Show Me Love was one of the best films of 1999 and his latest is one of the best of 2001. He brilliantly depicts a commune in the year 1975 as the rest of the outside world has pretty much moved in from 1960ís idealism. Every character is interesting, every piece of dialogue works, and I havenít been moved to tears by a football game since Darrell Green knocked the ball away at the goal line to send the Redskins to Super Bowl XXII. Marcís favorite.
2. The Day I Became A Woman- One of those movies (like last yearís Beau Travail and George Washington) where I feel like I have never ever seen anything like it before. This Iranian film is really 3 short films- one about a little girl, one about a young woman, and one about an old woman. All exist in a strange Fellini like fantasy world of hyper-realism if that makes any sense. All have a sense of excitement and suspense. All portray the role of a female in Iranian society in their own way. The second story is an almost silent film of a woman in a bike race with other woman trying to outrun her family in one of the most interesting 25+ minutes of film that I have ever seen.
1. Memento- I havenít seen a movie that invites so much discussion in a long time. 2 of my top 5 films this year are re-imaginings of classic themes of film noir rather than a mere stylish copying of the style like L.A. Confidential. Both Mulholland Drive and Memento pull many tricks on the viewer adding to the fun. Months later, it is so much fun to think about this movie and try to figure it out. Some have said that telling the story backwards is a cheap ploy but to me it works perfectly. I have never seen another film like this one before and I look forward to the director Chris Nolanís remake of the 1997 Swedish film Insomnia.
Well, there you have it. Please send me your lists soon and Marc will post them on his website. For those who canít remember what they saw this year, this website might help. http://www.the-movie-times.com/thrsdir/moviesof2001.html
Also, for the record my predictions for the Best Picture Oscar nominations are - A.I. (to coincide with the E.T. rerelease), Black Hawk Down, In the Bedroom (All Hail the Miramax publicity machine), A Beautiful Mind, and Lord of the Rings.