2000 in Review
The decade got off to an inauspicious start in the wake of that ballyhooed year of 1999. 2000 couldn't help but be a letdown, and writer after writer fell over one another to declare the entire crop a dud. As you might've guessed, I don't agree. I can't exactly slight a year that debuted my favorite movie of the decade (if not the "best") and gems as disparate as Requiem for a Dream and Bring It On.
As with many years that get tagged as sub-par, the failure isn't in the entire slate of movies, but in the high-profile ones that were supposed to be good. In that respect, 2000 had some really high-profile pieces of shit. Especially when it came to would-be Oscar contenders. The total failure of The Legend of Bagger Vance, All the Pretty Horses, and Pay It Forward probably put all those Worst Year Ever stories into play in the first place. (Not to mention punchline-friendly non-Oscar movies like Gone in 60 Seconds, Dude Where's My Car?, and Autumn in New York).
Click below for the year's blistering debuts, plus the best movies and performances of 2000.
The Oscars opted for an interesting mixture this year: two mega-popular spring movies (Gladiator and Erin Brockovich), two late-breaking critics' darlings that strongly resonated with middlebrow movie fans (Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and one really late-breaking trifle that Harvey'd its way onto the short list and became so notorious for doing just that that it acquired some cultural cache of its own (oh, Chocolat, I should probably watch you sometime). It may not have reflected anyone's actual Top 5 that year, but it holds up remarkably well to a decade of scrutiny.
Also of note? The actors who stormed onto the landscape, a kind of Class of 2000 that no one really talks about. But: Billy Crudup had been on the radar for a couple years, but his turns in Almost Famous and Jesus' Son shot him to the front of my imagination. Add to that the electrifying debuts of Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count on Me), and Colin Farrell (Tigerland), and you've got a bumper of crop hot new acting talent.
The Year in Matt Damon*: After the well-received, but awards-snubbed, performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Matt was flying high. By the end of the year, his career was a smoking pile of rubble, after two extremely high-profile commercial and critical failures -- The Legend of Bagger Vance and All the Pretty Horses. Add to that another clunker, the animated Titan A.E., where he voiced the main character, and it was a pretty disastrous year.
The Year in Tilda Swinton**: Don't tell the Orlando fans, but the first time I ever saw Tilda Swinton was in 2000's The Beach. It was something of a thankless role, aside from a mosquito-net-obscured, vigorous sex scene with Leo DiCaprio (who, incidentally, was at his boyish peak), but her imperiousness made an unmistakable impression on me.
*In recognition of what I consider to be the most interesting career path of the decade, I've decided to track the year-by-year progression of this most savvy of actors.
** Ditto above, but for "actresses" at the end.
Best In-Theater Experiences
I saw Almost Famous with my then-college roommate, and we both fell in love with it immediately and hard, so much so that it became something of a shorthand for us throughout the years. Remember when Roger Ebert said that movie made him want to hug himself? That's kind of how I felt about the universe upon exiting the theater. [Runner-Up: Laughing harder than I've ever laughed before at a out-of-town-cousins-reunite screening of Best in Show.]
My Top 10
1. Almost Famous
2. You Can Count on Me
3. Requiem for a Dream
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
6. Wonder Boys
7. Erin Brockovich
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
9. Best in Show
10. Bring It On
Darren Aronofsky - Requiem for a Dream
Cameron Crowe - Almost Famous
Ang Lee - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Kenneth Lonergan - You Can Count on Me
Steven Soderbergh - Traffic
Christian Bale - American Psycho
Billy Crudup - Jesus' Son
Michael Douglas - Wonder Boys
Ed Harris - Pollock
Mark Ruffalo - You Can Count on Me
Laura Linney - You Can Count on Me
Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream
Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Renee Zellweger - Nurse Betty
Gillian Anderson – The House of Mirth
Best Supporting Actor
Billy Crudup - Almost Famous
Benicio Del Toro - Traffic
Albert Finney - Erin Brockovich
Morgan Freeman - Nurse Betty
Gary Oldman - The Contender
Best Supporting Actress
Kate Hudson - Almost Famous
Frances McDormand - Almost Famous
Catherine Zeta Jones - Traffic
Marcia Gay Harden - Pollock
Samantha Morton – Jesus’ Son
Five Films That Have Endured
Bring It On
Best in Show
Wonder Boys gets more enjoyable with every viewing, while being reminded that Erin Brockovich really does hold up is a happy revelation every time. It's like your brain doesn't want to think it's possible that a movie that sold itself on Julia Roberts's impossible cleavage could possibly be that good. But it is! Again and again. I hardly think I need to give a testimonial for any Christopher Guest movie, at this point, and certainly not Best in Show. As for the lowbrow duo, Bring It On is the one that's actually good -- great, even -- but I can't deny the guilty pleasure I still get from Piper Perabo and her big dumb Casio keyboard.
Five Films I Should See Again
The Virgin Suicides
The Way of the Gun
State and Main
State and Main could easily be a movie that, while I already found to be funny, would seem even funnier after a decade immersed in following the movie biz. The dreamlike quality of The Virgin Suicides was one of that film's major virtues, but it's also made parts of it fade from my memory quicker than most movies I've liked. I'd like to see if Betty is still as clever as I thought it was back then (and why Morgan Freeman missed out on a no-brainer of an Oscar nomination). The Gift was a movie that never clicked with me, but the images of dead Katie Holmes have endured enough that I might owe Sam Raimi another go at it. I thought I'd discovered something special with The Way of the Gun, but then nobody else seemed to even see it, much less want to talk about it. I still think it's the movie that officially made me a fan of Ryan Phillippe's performances rather than an ogler of Ryan Phillippe's body.