Note: This list references films released in NYC in 2001, not year of production or year in which they first the hit festival circuit or whatnot.
Runners Up (in descending order): Sexy Beast, Ali, Series 7: The Contenders, The Others, Last Resort and Waking Life. I don't remember loving Ali that much... and more than The Others? I don't remember that at all. I mean Nicole Kidman was the shit TWICE OVER in 2001.
In my round up of the year I also sang the praises of Monsters, Inc, Crazy/Beautiful and Wet Hot American Summer. Even though I listed Monsters, Inc as "underrated" I still didn't have it in the top 16. That was weird, me! I never consider documentaries eligible for the year's top ten. That's a quirk of mine that I can't really defend except for to say that I don't see enough of them to fairly evaluate their merits and I find it nearly impossible to compare their merits to those of narrative features. That said, in 2001 I was wild for The Gleaners and I.
10 No Man's Land
This acclaimed Bosnian film from Danis Tanovic is a startling visceral comedy about the lunacy of war. Let's hope it beats the overpraised (if admittedly enjoyable) Amélie to the foreign language Oscar this year.
I was surprisingly prophetic there though I understand a lot of people are still mad about that underdog win.
09 The Royal Tenenbaums
A film that flirts with greatness and becomes all the more touching by missing the mark. There's one great scene after another in Wes Anderson's fairy tale document on a family of failed geniuses. The film is blessed with a beautiful team-spirit bouquet of fine performances from Paltrow, Hackman, Huston, Glover, and the Wilson brothers. They've got character.
er... I get what I was saying but I'm not so sure this film missed the mark. It's a thing of melancholy beauty and curious singular humor. Anderson's best by a significant margin.
08 In the Bedroom
Todd Field's studied and terrific debut may not be the masterwork some have claimed it to be but it's a damn good film nonetheless. Its most remarkable feature is its honest deceptiveness. You think it's a love story. Bang, It's not. You think it's a thriller. Oops, think again. It's not that the film is lying, but that we are so accustomed to certain plot trajectories that its difficult to see the film's harrowing turns coming or to immediately understand how thoroughly it undermines traditional notions of revenge or catharsis. Bonus points to the cast for illuminating the emptying effects of grief, and the rage of the broken.
Todd Field and Wes Anderson's subsequent films have made me question my love for these on occasion. I can't say that I remember In the Bedroom well but I like what I remember still. That The Tenenbaums is all the way down at #9 only goes to show what a great year 2001 was.
07 Tillsammans (Together)
The sweetest film of the year is also one of the smartest. Lukas Moodyson throws a broken family into a 70s commune and the resulting emotional, personal, romantic, and idealistic collisions that ensue expose, illuminate, and energize all involved. "Feel good" is a term often used to describe manipulative, simple-minded, happy endings and Hollywood-style sugarcoating. Thankfully, this Swedish comedy has neither of those attributes and actually feels good. It uplifts while engaging you both emotionally and intellectually.
Nobody talks about this movie (maybe because Lukas Moodyson's subsequent films have been so brutal as to be deemed unwatchable by some fans of his first movies) and in truth I don't remember it well but I do remember how I felt leaving the theater: marvelous.
06 Gosford Park
No movie this year approaches it in terms of its nimbleness and fluidity in mixing character, theme and wit. Robert Altman's return to form is wildly entertaining.
05 Mulholland Dr.
This, the critical darling of 2001 (OK, In the Bedroom came close) was the year's most familiar complete stranger. We've seen all the Lynchian motifs, images, and characters before but this time, the singular auteur fashioned something new and revelatory out of his used parts. This picture, a grand one, had tremendous "give" in it allowing for multiple correct intrepetations, thereby prompting the most fascinating critical discussions of the year. But all that aside, the truly smart way to watch Lynch's mindfuck is to just let go and give in to its undeniable and nonsensical pull. From the frenetic overexposed jitterbug opening sequence to the final silencing moment, it's undeniably gripping. Just dive into the blue box.
Subsequent years have only strengthened its grip on the imagination, haven't they?
04 Hedwig and the Angry Inch
A triple threat triumph from writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell. That this unforgettable theatrical experience made such a successful transfer to the screen with its punk edge, subversive charm, and visceral rock spirit intact was the year's happiest little miracle.
03 In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar Wai has outdone himself. The year's most glorious foreign film has the year's best cinematography. It paints a masterful and hypnotic meditation on memory, emotional stasis, and romantic yearning. The luminous coupling of Maggie Cheung as Mrs Chan and Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Mr. Chow astonish: They're as erotic as Mulholland Dr's Nancy Drew lovers without a sex scene, as glamorous as Moulin Rouge!'s doomed bohemians without as many costume changes and in the end they're more emotionally affecting than either of those sensational couplings. Unmissable.
If I had a gazillion dollars I would have this movie projected on my bedroom wall 24/7. Who needs photos, wallpaper, art or paint? Just these visuals on loop, forever.
02 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Pure magic. Peter Jackson's new film sets the bar high. Released just one month prior to it, Harry Potter looks even more factory-like next to it. The Fellowship of the Ring recalls the grandiose Star Wars magic minus the bad acting and none of the eventual dissappointments of an embarassing Episode One. Fellowship is compared to many films but the one it looks prettiest sitting next to is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. In just two short years, two signature adventure epics for The East and the West have arrived that dwarf everything their genre has offered for years. Both films will likely inspire future filmmakers who are now but starry eyed children discovering the enormous magic of the cinema while watching them for the first time.
01 Moulin Rouge!
It's no secret that I've always adored Bazmark productions. (Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet were also top ten entries in their years.) But Luhrmann and his troupe topped themselves this time. With the final film in his Red Curtain Trilogy celebrating 'real artificiality,' Baz delivered his masterpiece. A lot of ink has been spilt covering Bazmark's divisive musical fantasia and I could certainly spill a lot more, but I think this revolution of a musical sums itself up quite well and accurately in one of its first numbers.
Spectacular! Spectacular!More than any film in 2001 this film hit my nerve center of cinephilia: I got completely lost in the daring aesthetics, inspired performances, music, dance, and romance. I was stunned, flabbergasted, thrilled, moved, entertained, and drained all at once. When it was over I could only applaud, buy the soundtrack, and return to the theater repeatedly. To paraphrase another song from the film: come what may... come what may.... I will love this film until my dying day.
no words in the vernacular
can describe this great event
you'll be dumb with wonderment.
I wasn't kidding.
What were your favorite pictures from 2001?
Do they hold up now? Do you agree that 2001 was the best film year of the decade? For the record the films I was not at all crazy about that quite a few other people love include: The Devil's Backbone, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, A Beautiful Mind, Shrek, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone and Ghost World.