best film: In Werckmeister Harmonies Bela Tarr became one of the all-time great movers of the camera. The cinematography in the film rivals the best work of the greatest since the beginning of the art form: Murnau, Renoir, Ophuls, Tarkovsky, Scorsese (perhaps to a lesser degree) and then Tarr. There are others of course (Cuaron may be the modern master) but Tarr is up there. There are multiple shots in Werckmeister that are amongst the best of the decade including the long take opening shot. The grand cogitations in the narrative are bleaker than Kieslowski and less personal than Tarkvosky but I think both are fine comparisons. It’s hypnotic, haunting and elegiac and balanced by a transcendent score from Mihaly Vig
most underrated: Both Traffic and American Psycho are woefully underrated, should be in the top 300-500, yet can’t be found in the top 1000 on the TSPDT. Since I have traffic slightly higher that would be my most singularly underrated film of 2000 and I can’t understand why really. I think it’s unfairly, now, categorized as an “issue” film like Hotel Rwanda or Crash or something which have messages that are very worthy of praise but there isn’t a ton of artistic ambition. That’s not the case here with traffic. Yes it’s a complicated moral look at drugs but it’s also Soderbergh is at, or close to, his most visually experimental. The lighting choices are absolutely magnificent. It’s the work of a talented auteur.
most overrated: Many great minds I admire (Bordwell chief amongst them) adore the work of Edward Yang so there may be a time here Yi Yi rises to the top of my list here but for now, after two times watching the film, I can’t get behind the 131 all-time ranking on TSPDT (which makes it #1 of the 2000). I do, as I’ll mention below, think it’s a top 5 of the year quality film that just happens to be left out below on my top 10 through no fault of its own—but because 2000 is just such a ridiculously good year. But still, if the TSPDT consensus has it #1 and I’m at #11 that’s enough of a disparity to bare the description—“most overrated”.
gem I want to spotlight: So I have 12 top 5 films for 2000. I have the 10 below, Yi Yi from Edward Yang which I just talked about in the “overrated” section. The other remaining film is Almost Famous which I have to mention here since I can’t find a spot for in my top 10 of the year. It’s a perfect film—written and directed with great passion by Cameron Crowe and acted out by a very solid ensemble (McDormand, Crudup, Kate Hudson are all spectacular— as is PSH in his few scenes). It’s all held together with a wonderful soundtrack. It may not be virtuoso high-wire act filmmaking like Werckmeister Harmonies and In the Mood for Love but it’s an amazing film nonetheless.
trends and notables: If forced to choose I think I would pick 2000 as the 3rd best movie year of all-time behind 1960 and 1939. It’s that good. There are other years, like 1982, that give me pause but I feel pretty good here. The year has everything. It has two films that I think will stand the test of time in my top 100 (in the mood for love and werckmeister harmonies), fine depth beyond the top 10 (films from newcomers like the yards and sexy beast) but it’s really the 12 top 5 of the year level films that makes it an exceptional year. Amongst those 12 films is Christopher Nolan’s stunning archiveable debut (second film) Memento. Just as impressive as Memento is Inarritu’s debut ammorres perros. James Gray (2nd film)’’s archiveable debut is here (the yards) and is Jonathan Glazer’s (sexy beast). Tarr and WKW are major all-time great auteurs and 2000 gives us their best work—so that’s obviously of note. Dancer in the Dark is an important bounce back film for Von Trier after the idiots. It proves breaking the waves was no fluke and, to me, makes that earlier masterpiece even richer with the benefit of further evidence of his genius. Requiem For a Dream isn’t Aronofsky’s first film, first archiveable film or even first top 10 film, that’s Pi in 1998—but Requiem makes him a top auteur. Soderbergh has been doing solid work since his debut in 1989 but 2000 may be his peak with not only Traffic but a second, solid, archiveable film, Erin Brockovich. Catherine Zeta Jones had her archiveable debut in 2000 and a big year with her work in traffic and high fidelity and the year marked the debut archiveable film for Mark Ruffalo in You Can Count on Me and he’s tragically brilliant in it.
best performance male: Christian Bale is a revelation in American Psycho and challenges my own sacred “director as auteur” mantra as I believe his achievement here is even greater than Mary Harron’s (director). It’s a comedic performance to rival any in recent memory and has individual scenes and sequences that showcase the full gamut of emotions. Behind Bale’s tour-de-force is Tony Leung’s more meditative brilliance in In the Mood For Love. Guy Pierce for his work in Memento is right there with Leung as the next best behind Bale. Benicio Del Toro gives the performance of his career in Traffic and ditto thus far for Jared Leto in Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. My last mention is for Ben Kingsley who is an absolute dynamo in Sexy Beast.
best performance female: By an eyelash I have Ellen Burstyn’s work in Requiem as the performance of the year in this category of Bjork. In almost any other year Bjork gives the performance of the year. Bjork’s performance in Von Trier’s dancer in the dark mirrors Marie Falconetti’s epic performance in many ways. She’s tortured, sacrificed, and it would be the sole acting performance by both actresses (again thus far for Bjork). Maggie Cheung is every bit as good as Tony Leung in in the mood for love so for me she comes up third. Jennifer Connelly does her best work to date Requiem and it’s hard to believe, based on her underwhelming remaining body of work, that that is really Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. She’s both genuine and effervescent as Penny Lane. My sixth and final mention is Laura Linney for her work in You Can Count on Me. Ruffalo captured much of the praise when the film was released but she’s every bit as good even if the role is a little less showy.
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- In the Mood For Love
- Dancer In the Dark
- Requiem For a Dream
- American Psycho
- Amorres Perros
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- O brother, Where Art Thou?
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|Almost Famous- C. Crowe||MS|
|Amorres Perros- Iñárritu||MS|
|Before Night Falls||R|
|Cast Away- Zemeckis||R|
|Chuck & Buck- Arteta||R|
|Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys- Hanake||HR|
|Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon- A. Lee||MS|
|Dancer In the Dark- Von Trier||MP|
|Erin Brockovich- Soderbergh||R|
|George Washington- Gordon Green||R|
|Gladiator- R. Scott||HR|
|High Fidelity- Frears||R|
|In the Mood For Love- WKW||MP|
|O Brother, Where Art Thou- Coen||MS|
|Quills- P. Kaufman||R|
|Requiem For A Dream- Aronofsky||MP|
|Sexy Beast- Glazer||HR|
|Shadow of a Vampire||R|
|Songs From the Second Floor||R|
|The Circle- Panahi|
|The House of Mirth- Davies||HR|
|The Princess and the Warrior- Tykwer||R|
|The Road Home- Yimou Zhang|
|The Widow of Saint-Pierre- Leconte||R|
|The Yards- Gray||R|
|Under the Sand||R|
|Werckmeister Harmonies- Tarr||MP|
|Wonder Boys- Hanson||R|
|Yi Yi- Yang||MS|
|You Can Count On Me- Lonergan||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives