These are presented in "reverse order" (saving the best for last):
Runners-Up (alphabetical): An Affair of Love, American Psycho, Dancer In the Dark, Erin Brockovich, Girlfight, The Interview, Mr. Death, Titus.
10. Quills: The Marquis de Sade as a champion of free speech? Actually, Quills has a lot more to say and offer than that. From director Philip Kaufman, this movie succeeds on three levels - as social commentary, as a biting satire of morality, and as a drama. The overall effect is helped immeasurably by a powerful, colorful performance by Geoffrey Rush and a wonderfully low-key characterization by Kate Winslet. There's quite a bit of kinky sex (more hinted at than shown), but the film's thematic depth indicates that it's far more than an exploitation piece.
9. Almost Famous: Unquestionably, the feel-good movie of 2000. Unfortunately, almost no one saw it. After taking Toronto by storm, the movie went on to flop at the box office. It's a shame, because it features some of the best performances of the year, and tells a wonderfully-realized coming-of-age story that boasts a nearly perfect mix of comedy, drama, and rock-and-roll. The underplayed love story is one of the most touching of the year, and the soundtrack ranks as one of the best collections of '70s rock ever compiled for a single CD. This movie deserves to be a big hit when it finally reaches video in 2001.
8. Traffic: With Traffic and Erin Brockovich on his 2000 resume, director Steven Soderbergh has to be considered the year's most consistently reliable filmmaker. Traffic is a bold and gripping tale that takes us through the life cycle of cocaine, focusing on a variety of people who are involved with the drug trade - from the politicians trying to stop it to the addicts willing to do anything for their latest fix. The film's scope, grittiness, and unwillingness to resort to simple solutions make this a memorable motion picture.
7. Gladiator : After many years of toiling in mediocrity, Ridley Scott has again risen to the top, riding the crest of a wave called Gladiator. A grand epic set in the days of a corrupt Roman Emperor, the film is noteworthy not only because of its high octane action sequences, but because of strong acting and an involving storyline. It's a long movie, but it seems much shorter than the running time indicates. The performance by Joaquin Phoenix is a highlight - rarely has a villain been so easy to despise. And Russell Crowe, with his rugged good looks, makes for the perfect gladiator.
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon : It has been called the most dazzling action movie of all time by some critics, and it isn't hard to understand their adulation. Crouching Tiger contains about a half-dozen eye-popping action sequences, each of which is guaranteed to amaze and exhilarate. Add to that powerful acting, amazing cinematography, and a suitably complex plot, and the movie represents one of 2000's most enjoyable two hours spent in a movie theater.
5. Show Me Love: In this country, few people saw Show Me Love in theaters, which is a shame. One of the most poignant and true-to-life depictions of adolescence, the film avoids all of the usual clichés and relates a tale that is touching, painful, joyous, and - above all - real. The performances are perfectly modulated and director Lukas Moodysson understands exactly how to tell the story for maximum effect. One of 2000's hidden gems - well worth uncovering in a video store. (Outside of the United States, this film goes by the title of Fucking Amal.)
4. Croupier: Released as part of The Shooting Gallery's inaugural series, Croupier was rescued from undeserved obscurity and became one of the biggest independent release success stories of 2000. This taut, brilliant character study of an author working as a croupier is effective as a drama, a mystery, and a thriller. The lead character, played with style and deadpan panache by Clive Owen, is an enigma - it takes a while to get used to him and to understand his motives, but, once you do, the entire movie makes perfect sense. Directed by none other than Mike Hodges, the man behind the camera for the original Get Carter (not the abysmal Sylvester Stallone remake).
3. Shadow of the Vampire: One of the most original vampire movies ever made, Shadow of the Vampire takes a fictional look behind the making of the F.W. Murnau silent classic, Nosferatu. Part homage and part clever speculation, the film manages to bring equal slices of comedy and horror to the table. The icing on the cake is a brilliant performance by Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck, the actor playing a vampire, who turns out to be a bloodthirsty beast in real life.
2. Cast Away: Despite ostensibly being mainstream, Cast Away does a number of decidedly non-mainstream things, including stranding Tom Hanks on a deserted island for half of the running length with no contrived situations to entangle him, no other actors to play off, and little substantive dialogue. The result is a brilliant and absorbing adventure film that approaches its subject matter in an unconventional manner, and offers a moving epilogue that reminds us of the fragility of fate and the uncertainty of the future.
1. Requiem For a Dream: Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to Pi is a visceral, brutal kick in the stomach. Requiem For a Dream is easily the year's most powerful and disturbing film - an uncompromising look at the bleak reality of addiction and the insidious power of drugs to destroy lives. Concluding with a tour de force of style and editing, Requiem For a Dream is guaranteed to leave viewers shaken and exhausted - hallmarks of great art and forceful movie making.
© 2000 James Berardinelli