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Best Movies of 2000

By Rob Vaux

Common wisdom holds that 2000 was a bad year for movies. Personally, I don't feel it was any better or worse than most years, but when compared to the stunning achievements of 1999, it can't help but pale in comparison. Certainly, we had our usual share of stinkers, as well as a spate of entertaining-but-forgettable pap. But there were also some real gems: legitimately fine pictures that don't deserve to be handicapped by appearing in a "weak year." As arbitrary as top 10 lists are, the number of names which critics are bandying about suggests that more than enough good films came out this year to make things worthwhile. Here then, are my own equally arbitrary picks for the year's best films, topped by a terrific quartet about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Please keep in mind that Flipside grades on a sliding scale, and that some films with higher ranks may not have made the list -- either because they weren't quite as daring, or didn't linger in the mind quite the way these did.

10. Hamlet. Michael Almereyda's clever retake on the age-old story features some terrific contemporary updates, a fine slew of performances and demonstrable proof that good drama always endures. The script isn't bad either.

9. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Hip-hop-gangster-Kurosawa-action-comedy-social-satire, an exhilarating cocktail of conflicting cultures from Jim Jarmusch. Forrest Whitaker's sleepy-eyed leading performance marks a high point of his career, and makes us almost willing to forget his appearance in Battlefield Earth.

8. Chicken Run. Easily the most entertaining film of the year, Peter Lord's and Nick Park's ditzy parody of World War II escape films -- as performed by a gang of barnyard hens -- hasn't lost any of its charm. Hopefully, it's the first sign that studios other than Disney can make money from animation.

7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Ang Lee's art house kung-fu epic stands as the year's single most beautiful film, an achievement of pure cinema that no one else even approached. A certain clinical distance from the characters is the only reason I didn't rank it higher.

6. Thirteen Days. How do you make first-rate drama from something that already happened? Watch this film and take notes.

5. Wonder Boys. I'm shocked to learn that some people still haven't heard of this one, an early-year entry that faded quickly at the box office. But director Curtis Hansen's sly look at faded potential, generational jealousy, and the incestuous relations between writers and editors shouldn't be forgotten when the time comes to hand out gold statues.

4. High Fidelity. An ode to obsessive know-it-alls, whatever their stripe, and a keen-eyed comedy on the horrors of avoiding adulthood. Headed by John Cusack's screamingly funny serial monogamist, one of the best films about fandom ever.

3. Almost Famous. Speaking of fandom, Cameron Crowe's semiautobiographical comedy captures the essence of rock 'n' roll during one of its supposed low points: the early '70s. By approaching his subject with genuine affection, he paints a simultaneously funny and heartfelt picture about the love-hate relations between rock stars and their fans. Billy Crudup's LSD-laced trip to a suburban block party is a must-see.

2. Traffic. Steven Soderbergh has always been terrific, but this near-comprehensive examination of America's war on drugs reaches new heights. Thoroughly engrossing, and consummately cinematic, the issues it raises show no signs of going away soon.

1. Requiem for a Dream. Haunting, horrifying, exquisitely imaginative take on the inevitable descent of drug addiction. Like Traffic, it tackles an important subject with no preachiness or judgmentalism. It also demonstrates the unique properties of film as an art form; no other medium could tell this story with so much power. Watching four characters completely destroy their lives doesn't translate into light filmmaking, but Darren Aronofksy uses such visual inventiveness that we can't help but remain transfixed from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions: O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Cecil B. Demented; Gladiator; X-Men; The Cell; The Gift; The Virgin Suicides; State and Main.

Article published 02.01.2001.

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