Remembering a Decade…2001

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

As you may have noticed, we’ve changed the title of this series to simply the year; no “best of” anymore since as one reader pointed out, proclaiming one film better than another is preposterous. These are simply a consensus of our favorite films from the given year. See our top five for 2001 below underneath the seats…

Amelie


Please rise for the second lesson: 2001. The same way in which we always do our annual top ten list, each of the admins here took our top three of the assigned year and relegated a point system (with a bit of arbitrary) and came up with a consensus list of our top five favorite* films for that year.

Suraman in Fellowship of the Ring5) Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring

– In Fellowship of the Ring, the first entry in the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, filmmaker Peter Jackson brings to life J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, recreating this magical world in exquisite detail. What’s more, with Fellowship, Jackson successfully pulls off what few others seem capable of achieving in this era of CGI-laden motion pictures: he proves that million-dollar effects can co-exist with, and not overshadow, a richly detailed story. As exciting an adventure as Fellowship of the Ring can be at times, it remains the characters, and not the spectacle, that are the focus of it all, molding the personalities and relationships that will make up this story over the course of three films. Whereas the sequels would plunge us into the battle for Middle Earth, Fellowship takes it’s time in demonstrating exactly why it’s a place worth fighting for. – DAVE

Donnie Darko4) Donnie Darko
– A funny and rare thing happened with Richard Kelly’s filmmaking debut, Donnie Darko. In its very limited theatrical release, a release that was plagued by the plane crashes of September 11 (a major plot point involves the crashing of a jet engine into a house), it was one of these sort of movies that made a strong impression on cineastes and hipsters. Many ‘slightly off the mainstream’ critics had this one near or at the top of their list. Yet when the film filtered into a traditional mainstream success (making it one of the key ‘cult films’ of the new millennium) via DVD and world of mouth, many original supporters sort of walked away from the film. I do not understand why. The film balances a very human nuclear family story with apocalyptic fantasy and interesting (if vague) science fiction concepts. The balancing act of this alone is daunting, and it is pulled off with rare grace, humor and feeling (and not a small amount of showmanship). Credit the collection of actors and the showy, but appropriate directorial flourishes for this. The film is highly re-watchable for the performances alone, but the ‘right on the edge of understanding it’ factor is the real key to the films appeal. Teen narcissism? Over medication in an indifferent collection of institutions? A Christ parable? Crumbling of traditional family structure? The movie has so much stuff wrapped up in a neat (some – I am not one of them – may argue too neat) economical package. Any movie that has a theatre showing a double bill of The Last Temptation of Christ and The Evil Dead is alright in my book. A classic case of a film benefiting from studio interference, avoid the windier and hand-holding directors cut – it stinks. – KURT

 
Mulholland Drive3) Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Drive is many things: a dreamscape and a nightmare of mythical Hollywood; an attack on the Hollywood that David Lynch so often crosses horns with; a reverie on love, betrayal, loss, and identity; a mystery that refuses to answer all ambiguity; and probably the one film by Lynch that is both quintessentially Lynchian and relatively accessible. For those reasons, and probably more besides, Mulholland Drive made this list of our favorite 2001 films almost unanimously. Naomi Watts is a revelation as optimistic Betty Elms, arriving in a sunny, too-good-to-be-true Hollywood to make her way as an actress. When she meets Rita (Laura Elena Harring), an amnesiac after an accident on Mulholland Drive, the two girls embark on a Nancy Drew-esque attempt to discover Rita’s true identity – but end up discovering, well, something else entirely. The film is all-consuming – not only does it make you think and try to unravel everything (something that’s not necessarily worth the time), but it overcomes you, fills you up, and refuses to let you go, even after the credits have faded, the lights gone up, and you’re trying to stumble to your car. That’s great cinema. – JANDY

– David Lynch’s TV pilot was shunned by the ABC television to the point of being thrown away until a french distribution company financed the completion into a feature film. And there was much rejoicing for lovers of the surreal commentary of Americana – the director is in full Blue Velvet mode here. The movie is named after a famous and dangerous stretch of road in the Hollywood hills and ends up being a “poisonous valentine to Hollywood” (something Lynch would take even further with Inland Empire) . The film begins in an atmospheric, yet quasi-normal way, but as more and more characters are introduced, a plucky aspiring actress with Nancy Drew tendencies (effectively the launching pad for Naomi Watts as an A-list actress), an intensely strange movie producer that simply will not take no for an answer, and a weird psychic cowboy) and things plug along, there comes an event that shatters the narrative and begins a new one, with many of the same characters. This is sure to divide the audience into two camps, those who are Lynch fanatics, and those who hate sloppy messy convoluted plots. The structure is reminiscent of Lost Highway and like that film, there are some simply jaw-dropping moments sprinkled through Mulholland Dr., specifically Rebekah del Rio’s version of Roy Orbison’s, “Crying” which is one of the peak cinematic moments in the new millennium. This movie does go over-the-top at times which almost requires laughter at the sheer audacity of it all. It also clearly shows that it was to be a TV show because there are more loose ends than a ball of string that has been worked over by a dozen kittens. Yet for whatever reason, on some primal level, the thing leaves an impression. A big one to make it stand out as one of Mr. Lynch’s finest achievements. – KURT

Amelie2) Amelie
Amélie is a film and a character that could have easily become one of those quirky films that just tries so hard to be cute that it ends up being annoying. But thanks to the unique style of director Jeunet and lead actress Audrey Tautou, the film did nothing but turn heads at every screening from fans and critics alike. Not only did it make Tautou a household name, but it helped bolster the foreign language film into the mainstream (which is a rarity these days). Amélie is immensely likable from the get-go and never has a romantic comedy been so rich with detail and delight. From the unique construction to the unique way in which our protagonist interacts with the world, there is no question that Amélie was one of the finest films of 2001; if not the decade. – ANDREW

Royal Tenenbaums1) The Royal Tenenbaums
– Everyone has their own favorite Wes Anderson film and it’s easy to see why. Each one plays to its strengths and even its weaknesses usually end up being pleasant imperfections. So while a lot of viewers walked out of Tenenbaums scratching their heads proclaiming that they sort of liked it but weren’t really sure why, ask those same viewers three months later after a second viewing and listen to them proclaim, “I loved that movie!” Yes, The Royal Tenenbaums is truly like a fine wine in that it definitely is a movie that just gets better after each viewing. Is it the odd familial relations of the Tenenbaum family? Is it the unique style and attention to detail that accompanies all of Anderson’s films? It could be the dark, comedic way the film somehow manages to tug on the heart strings a little. Maybe it’s the deadpan humor of Paltrow in probably her best role to date. Or it could be the goofball comedy of Gene Hackmans in one of his finest roles (and that is saying something, the man does always turns in fine work, despite his prolific C.V.) Likely a combination of them all I would suspect. But whatever it is, it certainly struck a chord with everyone sitting in the third row and we just couldn’t, in good conscience, not have it in our #1 position. – ANDREW

- – one honorable mentions from each admin: The Pledge, Black Hawk Down, Monsters Inc., Moulin Rouge!, Gosford Park, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Waking Life

We’ll see you in a few weeks with our picks for 2002.

THE COMPLETE SERIES (so far):
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008

Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Student. Also, beer.

39 Comments

  1. The biggest discussion (at least from my point of view) was about The Pledge. It originally didn't start on the list but Kurt and I bitched and moaned until it made it on as an honorable mention.

    Reply
  2. I didn't complain too hard about BHD. but it was nowhere near my list which was:

    1. Innocence

    2. Fellowship of the Rings

    3. The Pledge

    4. Donnie Darko

    5. The Royal Tenenbaums

    Reply
    • Well shit, if we're letting our personal lists hang out in the wind:

      1) Amélie
      2) The Royal Tenenbaums
      3) Monsters, Inc.
      4) Blow
      5) Sex and Lucia

      with Y Tu Mama Tambien right behind.

      Reply
  3. say what you really feel Henrik.

    Mine is the only list that matters:

    1. Waking Life

    2. Mulholland Drive

    3. In the Bedroom

    4. Gosford Park

    5. Amelie

    Reply
  4. @Dave "Whereas the sequels would plunge us into the battle for Middle Earth, Fellowship takes it’s time in demonstrating exactly why it’s a place worth fighting for. "

    Exactly, in fact, the emphasis on battle and bringing in so many more characters and conflicts in the sequels make them lesser films. I find long stretches in Towers & King to be empty spectacle. I think that Fellowship is so much better than the follow-ups (I feel the same way with the books too), yet taken all together, I do like the way the story and themes play out in the end.

    Regardless of Henrik's emphasis that film has to be on real people and grounded emotion, there is most definitely room for world building on this scale and high drama and emotion. This is one blockbuster most definitely done right.

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    • "Fellowship of the ring…

      You guys are such fucking retards!"

      hey, it wasn't on my list. Though yeah, of the three films, the first one is decent. The other two are dreadfully boring (to me).

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  5. It is the way to go Kurt.

    The first 2 hours of the first LOTR film I really enjoyed, I was buying into the hype that these were the best films made in my lifetime. Then they fight the giant squid and go into the cgi cave to fight a computertroll. From there, everything turned to fucking bullshit. Nothing was sensible, nothing meant anything, and no person on screen for 2 seconds could tell me why I was supposed to feel during the computer parts.

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  6. I actually agree that the CGI in the film is about the breaking point, and the fights go on too long, but I did like how they treated gandalfs death and the melancholic continuing journey without their leader, the Moria Cave Fight is only a minor weakness in the film.

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  7. The death of Gandalf is exactly what I mean when I say "no person on screen for 2 seconds could tell me why I was supposed to feel during the computer parts." It meant nothing, but then they try and tell me that it did mean something afterwards with some cheap slow motion shots of crying people. No thanks.

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  8. I like those cheap slo-mo crying shots! The music was good, the mood was good. The manipulation felt earned to me. Suspension of Disbelief achieved. Blockbuster working.

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  9. "I congradulate you all for not putting on Ghost World."

    1. The Royal Tenenbaums

    2. Waking Life

    3. GHOST WORLD

    4. The Devil's Backbone

    5. Startup.com

    also: The Man Who Wasn't There, Amelie, Donnie Darko, In the Bedroom, Black Hawk Down, The Anniversary Party, Monsters Inc and Freddy Got Motherfucking Fingered.

    Reply
  10. another Waking Life fan. I don't hear many people praise that film… on the slash film podcast they unanimously berated the film. I think it is a masterpiece and actually better than the more praised A Scanner Darkly. I watched it at the film festival, a day or two after Sept 11th, when the festival was still trying to figure out if it should go ahead at all. Linklater had rushed back to America, the film was shown oddly enough in Roy Thompson Hall. I had never seen anything like it, and in context of the events surrounding it, I was moved by it in ways I can hardly articulate. It is about escaping life, the realities of the everyday to become a dreamer again, to love the possibilities of every moment with same enthusiasm someone rushing into university might have, learning all new ideas coming from all ends… the sense of the possible in everything. It was one of the greatest festival experience I have ever had.

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  11. I heart WAKING LIFE. Quite a bit actually. But I thought there was a significant progression on matching form to material with A SCANNER DARKLY.

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  12. (And I was at that same screening, it was at the ROY THOMPSON HALL…remember coming out of the show in a great mood!

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  13. I remember coming out of it like I just woke up from a dream, quite literally, I felt like I had to relearn the art of walking. I went deep into that film.

    I disagree about A Scanner Darkly being an improvement, I own both and have watched both many times, but A Scanner Darkly is not nearly as visually interesting as Waking Life. It doesn't aspire for the same poetics as Waking Life. There is a lack of wonder in A Scanner Darkly, something like the identity suit should have been a wonder to look at but it isn't, same goes for the sterile settings a lot of the people takes place in. Reigning the story into something more realistic, more contained doesn't make it a better movie. The ambition of Waking Life is to break with the rational mind and let everything flow over you, and it does. I find it amazing that I have seen Waking Life at least ten times now and I still cannot anticipate the sequence of events as they happen, near the midway point my mind wanders and each new scene comes without provocation by my inquiring mind, and that kind of flow is rarely achieved in cinema.

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  14. Admittedly I've seen Waking Life more times than A Scanner Darkly, but I think it gels together more. But perhaps we are arguing different things. WL is more of a pop philosophy 101 reverie, ASD is more like, uh, a movie.

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  15. see I think people look at the pop philosophy as something of an agenda on Linklater's part and how it overwhelms you is a fault of the film, when I think it is pretty clear it is SUPPOSED to overwhelm you. Its not so much what is being said, but rather the manner in which the barrage of these ideas lulls you into this state of submission, and then the second half kicks in and gets really trippy. I am a philosophy nut and even I was taken under by the barrage. The criticisms I hear of the films are about it being like a lecture, taking it literally, and not measuring its effect and how it plays out in the second half.

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  16. I love everything Linklater has done until Fast Food Nation and Me and Orson Welles (which has not come out yet). He has proven himself mortal to me.

    Slacker is awesome, I own the Slacker book. That may have been the very first independent film I ever encountered.

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  17. "on the slash film podcast they unanimously berated the film. "

    That show is not very good.

    Anyways…

    Fast Food Nation is at least better than the Newton Boys and the Bad News Bears remake. I think the cow choppy choppy may have been what swung a lot of reviews to the negative side. I think a lot of people felt uncomfortable already and that teetered them. Not saying its a great film, but I felt it was a little underrated.

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  18. leaving the theater for WL I had the same feeling as when I left Synecdoche, just disoriented, everything around me felt unreal, just in a daze.

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  19. I like FAST FOOD NATION a lot: (From http://kurtscomment.blogspot.com/2007/10/kbt-pres… )

    At some point you have probably seen a film by Richard Linklater. He tends to make quite static very talky films that are as much centered on people or culture rather than story. They are tableaus of a time and place told almost entirely through conversation as opposed to conventional story telling and action. Perhaps most famously Before Sunrise is a romantic drama which consists entirely of two characters who meet randomly on a train and get to know one another walking around Vienna over the next few hours. In Dazed and Confused a portrait of the late 1970s is painted via suburban high-school on the last day of school. In his animated pictures, things are even less plot driven, particularly Waking Life, which is a philosophy survey meshed with dream logic (and lots more talking), which mirrors his debut film Slacker which used the novel structure of the camera following someone into a conversation and following the other participant out in an endless linking of random encounters in Austin, Texas.

    I go through a brief survey of many of Linklater's films to illustrate how appropriate of a choice he was in the strange enterprise of translating Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book of investigative journalism and agitprop muckraking on the fast food industry, Fast Food Nation. Because the novel linked many aspects of American culture and disparate institutions into the machine of selling the soul of that nation back to itself in re-constituted parts, so too does the film. However, it does it in a non-documentary format, using Linklater's signature style of connecting a disparate collection of individuals through chance encounter and loads of conversation and ideas.

    Now, this film was savaged pretty hard by the mainstream critics. Slagged as too obvious, too boring, not fun, not witty. I think that was entirely by design. Take for instance the Fast Food Marketing exec played by Greg Kinnear. For much of the film, he is sort of the moral center, slowly understanding the spiral of 'efficiencies' in running a business that gradually grinds the human element (not to mention the food element) out of the equation. The film sharply mirrors this, in one of the most cutting scenes where he is broken of his idealism and just walks right out of the picture. Other threads, which mirror the talking points in the book, involve immigrant labour in the meat packaging plant (which supplies the burger patties for the fictional fast food company in the film), the fast food employees and dead-end nature of the McJob are filled either with fresh young faces or the occassional cameo of a known face. The attraction to this film however, is watching how Linklater and Schlosser's mourning for what America may have been at one time, and how painful it is to watch it wither away. Fast Food Nation is as much a lament for roads not traveled in American Society as it is about the compassion-less corporation. It may seem obvious, but the relentlessness with which the film is delivered was still ignored by the nation at large.

    I guess the choir will have to do for now.

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  20. urp, I never seem to remember Newton Boys and Bad News Bears, ok, so I guess Fast Food Nation wasn't the first misstep.

    Fast Food, to me, put the nail in the coffin on that sort of multithreading an issue, each character arc serving the issue. I have never liked this approach, not Traffic, not Babel, and only on a meta level for Crash.

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  21. Another Waking Life fan. I don’t hear many people praise that film… on the slash film podcast they unanimously berated the film. I think it is a masterpiece and actually better than the more praised A Scanner Darkly.

    Waking Life > A Scanner Darkly. I actually thought most people thought this – most of the reviews I saw of A Scanner Darkly weren't overly positive. But then, I don't think I read that much about Waking Life. Just saw it and was overwhelmed. Other Linklater films – Before Sunrise is my favorite hands down, and I like Slacker a lot. Didn't really get Dazed and Confused for some reason.

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  22. and the years shall run like rabbits…

    I hope you are aware Jandy that it is empirically proven that Before Sunset is the better of the two films. sorry.

    and for the record Before Sunset is in my top five films of all time, one of the rare breaches to my more snooty art film selections.

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  23. rot, I saw Before Sunrise and Before Sunset back to back a couple of years ago. I fell in love with Before Sunrise immediately, and was expecting Before Sunset to have the same feel to it, but it really doesn't, so I wasn't sure at the time what to make of it. I like it better thinking back on it than I did when I watched it, and I expect a rewatch would do wonders. But it wasn't instant love like Before Sunrise was. Sorry.

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  24. Honestly I think this is a pretty good list! I would have changed up the order a bit and put Royal Tenenbaums a further back, though. So much hate for Fellowship of the Ring, although I love it :D

    Reply

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