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Film Comment’s End of Year Critics’ Poll 2001

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In the year 2000 there were no flying cars, but plenty of good movies. Here they be, ranked for your pleasure

We asked contributors and selected colleagues to vote for ten films in each category. The results were determined by a point system with a number one choice receiving 10 points. Participants: John Anderson, David Ansen, Nicole Armour, Paul Arthur, Michael Atkinson, Marjorie Baumgarten, Chris Chang, David Chute, Andrew Lewis Conn, Richard Corliss, Roger Ebert, Graham Fuller, Larry Gross, Dennis Harvey, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Peter Hogue, Robert Horton, Harlan Jacobson, Kent Jones, Kristin Jones, Dave Kehr, Phillip Lopate, Mark Olsen, Gerald Peary, Richard Peña, Alissa Quart, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Andrew Sarris, Alissa Simon, Robert Sklar, Gavin Smith, Gregory Solman, Chuck Stephens, David Sterritt, Amy Taubin, Anne Thompson, Armond White, and Michael Wilmington.

 

CRITICS POLL: TOP 20 FILMS
Films released theatrically in the U.S.

  1. Beau travail
  2. The Wind Will Carry Us
  3. Yi Yi
  4. The House of Mirth
  5. Time Regained
  6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  7. Almost Famous
  8. Dancer in the Dark
  9. You Can Count on Me
  10. Wonder Boys
  11. Humanité
  12. Ratcatcher
  13. George Washington
  14. Gohatto / Taboo
  15. Croupier
  16. Traffic
  17. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
  18. Erin Brockovich
  19. Human Resources
  20. The Color of Paradise

 

TOP 10 UNRELEASED FILMS
Films that premiered but have yet to be released in the U.S.

In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong) 1
Platform (China) 2
The Circle (Iran) 3
Werkmeister Harmonies (Hungary) 4
Eureka (Japan) 5
The Gleaners and I (France) 6
Faithless (Sweden) 7
La Captive (France) 8
Devils on the Doorstep (China) 9
Voyages (France) 10

 

Highs, Lows, & Status Quos
the year in relief: sixteen movies that mattered—and why

The House of Mirth (Terence Davies)
Amidst the current digital free-for-all in which cinema and TV are closer than ever, Davies came clean with a true, glorious movie. A work of precision—from the cinematography to the actors' physical movements and vocal inflections—it reaffirms that despite the current emphasis on "big and blaring" and "fast and cheap," films of elegance and restraint are still being made by directors with a full command of the medium. Cinema lives!

Charlie's Angels (McG)
The epitome of contemporary moviemaking values. Conceived by its stars as a stylish pop divertissement, this irrelevant anthology of sketchy setpieces, dazzling fragments, and disposable conceits is a post-feminist, girls-kick-ass in-joke whose point was lost somewhere along the way. It represents the irresistible ascendancy of pastiche as its own reward: Seventies TV reimagined as music video reinvented as not quite an action film, not quite a musical, not quite a movie, but indisputably a franchise.

Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta)
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier)
Bamboozled (Spike Lee)
Time Code (Mike Figgis)
The future's looking·dim? Chuck & Buck's murky non-look agreed with its queasy, off-kilter narrative, but it felt like a dead end. Bamboozled's inert, glassy images fit its crude moralistic posturing all too perfectly. Though undeniably exciting, Dancer in the Dark had an air of regression—primitive silent-era melodrama and a camera that felt like it was controlled by a precocious seven-year-old. Time Code? Figgis usually can't figure out what to do with one image, let alone four.

The Perfect Storm (Wolfgang Petersen)
The summer event movie as ersatz thrill-ride is a foregone conclusion. New to the formula, however, is a film in which the effects play the lead, and everything tangibly human is cut to the bone. The cast, loaded with some of the most sensitive and nuanced actors in Hollywood today, is outflanked by digital water, clouds, boats, etc. Pray this isn't the wave of the future.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
The Hollywood/Hong Kong fusion never happened on these shores - too much market-tested heaviness for a style that thrives on instinct. It finally took a mainland setting with a Taiwanese transplant director and an American writer, who endowed the romantic stars with a mythic glow, and blended the action into the love story rather than vice versa. Some purists are grumbling, but this is the crossover everyone's been waiting for.

Scary Movie (Keenen Ivory Wayans)
Distinguished by its heartless contempt and sexual disgust, Scary Movie abolished the distinction between comedy and horror gross-outs. Its stupefyingly graphic money-shot gags, featuring geysering ejaculation and glory-hole penetration, lowered the bar on tastelessness with no discernible comic return. Since the Scream series was parody in the first place, this crowd-pleaser was fundamentally superfluous. Which goes to show that nothing succeeds like excess, and nothing exceeds like success.

13 Days (Roger Donaldson)
Rules of Engagement (William Friedkin)
The Patriot (Roland Emmerich)
Or American Psychosis: a hokily exciting re-creation of the Cuban missile crisis as Clintonian mettle-test (JFK's Bill, Bobby's Stephanopoulos, O'Donnell's Al Gore); a noxious Giulianian concoction with a slippery POV that cheats on an absurd "moral dilemma" (whether or not to slaughter a crowd of Yemenites); another cultural hash from Emmerich, who recasts the British in the mold of his homeland's military circa 1940. What's most significant about these movies isn't their relative popularity, but that they actually got made.

George Washington (David Gordon Green)
American independent film, both as an object and a movement, has all but ceased to exist. George Washington, by a 25-year-old novice, is a bright reminder of how things once were/ could have been. A moving, quietly enigmatic film-poem about the waning of community in the American heartlands, George Washington is special both for the heroically imperfect work it is and the sweet sense of longing it so delicately conjures.

Yi Yi (Edward Yang)
Humanité (Bruno Dumont)
Foreign films that clock in at nearly three hours are deadly in today's exhibition market. Potentially burdened by their duration or (in the case of Humanité) by difficult subject matter, these breathtaking films still secured a niche for themselves. They use their time wisely, carefully developing portraits of characters who inhabit fully realized worlds. Which still draws audiences in.

Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
A perfect illustration of the "crisis" in American cinema, the movie that seemed to have everything going for it finally satisfied only a minority: too youthful and Seventies-drenched for older customers, too archaic and Seventies-drenched for the youth contingent, too "morally compromised" for critics. For once, we were the ones sticking up for a mainstream movie, while everyone else was turning up their noses.

PERSONAL BESTS
Nicole Armour
(alphabetical)
Beau travail
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin)
The House of Mirth
Lost Motion (Janie Geiser)
Not Resting (Nicky Hamlin)
Shanghai Noon
Time Regained
Voyages
Yi Yi

Paul Arthur
(alphabetical)
Arbor Vitae (Nathaniel Dorsky)
Croupier
The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him (Stan Brakhage)
The Heart of the World
Human Resources
In the Mood for Love
Our Song
Ratcatcher
The Wind Will Carry Us
Yi Yi

Chris Chang
(alphabetical)
American Psycho
Before Night Falls
Brother
Faithless
George Washington
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
In the Mood for Love
Nest of Tens (Miranda July)
Toy Story 2
The Way of the Gun

Robert Horton
(alphabetical)
Almost Famous
Dancer in the Dark
Flowers of Shanghai
In the Mood for Love
Jesus' Son
Pitch Black
trans
The Way of the Gun
Wonderland
You Can Count on Me

Alexander Horwath
(alphabetical)
Les Destinées sentimentales (Olivier Assayas)
Eureka
O fantasma (Joao Pedro Rodrigues)
The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him
Le Goût des autres
The Long Holiday (Johan van der Keuken)
The House of Mirth
In the Mood for Love
Manila
Platform

Kent Jones
1. The House of Mirth
2. Origin of the 21st Century (Jean-Luc Godard)
3. Arbor Vitae
4. Gohatto/Taboo
5. Werkmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr)
6. Platform (Jia Zhang Ke)
7. In the Mood for Love
8. Almost Famous
9. Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
10. Fa Talai Jone (Wisit Sasanatieng)

Dave Kehr
1. Cast Away
2. Dancer in the Dark
3. The Wind Will Carry Us
4. Human Resources
5. Wonder Boys
6. George Washington
7. Croupier
8. POLA X
9. Nurse Betty
10. Spectres of the Spectrum (Craig Baldwin)

Harlan Kennedy
1. Yi Yi
2. Dancer in the Dark
3. The Circle
4. The Road Home (Zhang Yimou)
5. The Ring (Hideo Nakata)
6. Comedy of Innocence
7. Water Drops on Burning Rocks
8. The Young and the Dead
9. Chopper (Andrew Dominick)
10. Black and White

Mark Olsen
(alphabetical)
Almost Famous
American Psycho
Dancer in the Dark
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
The House of Mirth
Jesus' Son
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Ratcatcher
Traffic
The Way of the Gun

Phillip Lopate
1. The House of Mirth
2. Platform
3. Humanité
4. In the Mood for Love
5. Gohatto/Taboo
6. Yi Yi
7. Voyages
8. A Time of Drunken Horses
9. Almost Famous
10. You Can Count on Me

Jonathan Romney
(alphabetical)
Amores Perros
Beau travail
Blackboards
Last Resort
Magnolia
Memento
Les Marchands de sable (Pierre Salvadori)
Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson)
Werkmeister Harmonies
The Wind Will Carry Us

Jonathan Rosenbaum
1. The Wind Will Carry Us
2. The Circle
3. Yi Yi
4. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
5. Beau travail
6. One Day in the Life of Andre Arsenovich (Chris Marker)
7. The House of Mirth
8. La Captive (Chantal Akerman)
9. The Day I Became a Woman (Marziyeh Meshkini)
10. George Washington

Paul Schrader (alphabetical)
Almost Famous
Bamboozled
Before Night Falls
Best in Show
Chunhyang
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In the Mood for Love
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Requiem for a Dream
Yi Yi

Gavin Smith
1. Beau travail
2. Gohatto/Taboo
3. Origin of the 21st Century
4. The Wind Will Carry Us
5. Almost Famous
6. The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him
7. The House of Mirth
8. Engram Sepals (Lewis Klahr)
9. In the Mood for Love
10. The Heart of the World

Chuck Stephens
1. Gohatto/Taboo
2. Beau travail
3. Fa Talai Jone
4. Face (Junji Sakamoto)
5. Pola X
6. Mysterious Object at Noon
7. Not Forgotten (Makoto Shinozaki)
8. Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1960)
9. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Amy Taubin
1. Beau travail
2. In the Mood for Love
3. Eureka
4. The House of Mirth
5. Love & Basketball
6. La Captive
7. Werkmeister Harmonies
8. The Heart of the World
9. Ratcatcher
10. Wonder Boys