Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2000

Frank Jim Chris Tony
1. Requiem for a Dream 1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
A crushing depiction of the descent into the depths of drug use is poetically and stunningly presented in a gripping and compelling film which depicts the upsetting, self deprecating inhumanity which the characters go through to get a fix.  Ellen Burstyn deserves an Oscar for her role as Sara who proves both legal and illegal drugs are equally devastating as we watch each major player end up in the same position. A magical journey combining a mystical fabled 19th Century China with a gravity-defying depiction of wondrous encounters between young and old warriors with a striking slant toward feminine empowerment.  It fulfills a martial arts take on The Matrix soaring from rooftops and tree limbs to reach an airborne acrobatic apex along with its dramatic wizard like fabled story.
2. You Can Count On Me 2. Into the Arms of Strangers
The performance by Laura Linney carries a simple impressive comfortable story of a brother and sister who suffer as adults from the trauma of losing their parents in childhood. Each travels an unconventional life style clashing with each other's insecurity.  A warm slice of life which draws us into the spirit of these siblings is so real it appears extraordinary. This unforgettable film has personal meaning to producer Deborah Oppenheimer - her mother was a Kindertransport survivor, one of the Jewish children sent to England from other European countries to insure their safety before World War II.  The shattered children did not understand leaving their parents; the heartbreak is evidenced by the hardships endured by separation.  Narrated by Jude Drench, this deeply wrought film is filled with anguish and uplifting accounts of the fractured lives.
3. Nurse Betty 3. Almost Famous
Nurse Betty succeeds in every way.  The unusual fantasy script collides with reality as Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger), a small town waitress and intense soap opera fan, pursues her dream world which she believes is real.  A very satisfying ending leaves Betty in Oz, rather than returning her to Kansas while hit men, producers and actors fall. Arguably one of the best American films of 2000, Cameron Crows' diverse film finds insight into writing and Philip Seymour Hoffman is great as a rock critic who tells a young aspiring writer the cruel nature of being with a rock group.  William Miller's Fugit learns more away from school by watching the rock band on the road and connecting with Kate Hudson's Penny Lane.
4. The Cell 4. Traffic
In a world that resembles a surrealistic Silence of the Lambs, Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) reaches for a young woman locked in a lethal water cell.  Filled with stunning, confusing and bizarre images, The Cell is a visual feast that matches the dazzling nightmarish script which brings us full circle with unique imagination and great beauty even in its brutality. A daring muckraking thriller on the drug trade which no Hollywood studio has made in the past.  Impressionistically filmed with hand-held cameras with an urgency and style emanating from a dynamic stream of consciousness which threads three stories together with surprising and shocking dexterity.  Steven Soderbergh weaves a story using Michael Douglas as the national drug czar, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the wife of a drug cartel leader who is on trial, and Benicio Del Toro as an honest Mexican cop through the dark dirty world of drug selling and drug use, leaving us with the conclusion that the war can not be won as long as users are willing to buy.
5. Frequency 5. Gladiator
Set with the back drop of the 1969 amazing Mets World Series, a father and son converse over a radio frequency created by an unusual aurora borealis which transcend time and death.  Warm and human from a family point of view, and filled with all the possibilities of shifting time it compels our attention throughout. Ridley Scott's state of the art mounting of the forgotten sword and sandal genre combines with Russell Crowe's heartfelt and courageous performance as Maximus, the Roman general who becomes a slave and a gladiator.  With spectacular CGI work the epic film returns with renewed realism.
6. Chicken Run 6. You Can Count On Me
A delightful, clever, pleasant and joyful adventure about chickens who long for freedom, Chicken Run accomplishes what few films can, it holds a mature audience with its astute script, while delighting kids with the antics and heroics of the chicken flock. A film that instills a deeply felt combination of wit and compassion in a surprising drama that features a moving performance by Laura Linney, as it underlines a potent dichotomy within the dynamics of a family.  This fascinating look into a relationship between two adult siblings, whose parents were killed in a car accident when they were children is surprisingly powerful.
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 7. Wonder Boys
In a fabled world of 19th Century China we see a stunning ballet of female martial arts warriors as they move in spectacular ways, up walls and on top of bamboo trees leaving us believing the mystical adventures and dream like moves are real.  The airborne acrobatics are brilliantly choreographed and the simple story is compelling. A deliberate wacky comedy set during the weekend Wordfest literary festival in a snowy Pittsburgh is a funny and moving tale of campus life that has rarely been enriched in this fashion.  An emotionally restrained off beat comedy that is strongly conveyed through Michael Douglas' best performance since Wall Street.
8. Chocolat 8. Billy Elliot
The miracle of the power of chocolate in the hands of Juliette Binoche's mystical Vianne gently breaths warmth and beauty into a small French town. Chocolat is a poem and fantasy that reaches not only for the intoxicating taste of chocolate but the feelings of love and affection which are released from the stilled hearts of the towns folks. Billy Elliot's personal milieu has him trading in his boxing mitts for ballet slippers in a moving film that could be a subordinate part to The Full Monty.  Set amid a 1984 coal miners strike in North East England, Billy stands against the norm when he dances and it takes him a long time to convince his proud father, who understands at the end, how Billy feels electricity when engaging in "bolley."
9. The Contender 9. State and Main
A political drama with brilliant performances by Joan Allen and Gary Oldman.  Allen, the Vice Presidential nominee, comes under fire from Oldman's Congressman, Shelly Runyon.  The seasoned President makes practical decisions; in contrast, the contender will not talk about her sex life as a matter of principle.  The Contender is a rich, tense and exciting drama.  It demands attention as the twists keep us guessing and allow our imagination to dream the best and worst of these political leaders. A satire and screwball comedy set in the quaint town of Waterford, Vermont about the conflict of making a film.  The comedic ensemble is inspired by the biting dialogue of director David Mamet in a sharp stab at a venal Tinseltown, the indelible line, "It's not a lie; it's a gift for fiction," adds to the irony in this Mamet-lite movie-within-a-movie.
10. Almost Famous 10. Chicken Run
We follow the journey of a fifteen year old writer on the trail of a rock group in the seventies as he attempts to write an article for "Rolling Stone".  The film reveals insight into the gypsy like existence of rock stars, their weaknesses and allure particularly for "band aids" like Penny Lane.  Innocence ends as he candidly exposes what groupies like Penny Lane have always known. The flawed characters are endearing and the seventies look real again. This clay animated feature delights young and old in making us root for the flock of a "Stalag 13" like encampment compliments of the Wallace-Gromit shorts which families enjoy.  With a cocky charm that adds to the wizardry and a smooth blend of humor as one hen affirms, "I don't want to be a pie."

1. The Wonder Boys 1. The Way of The Gun
Michael Douglas gives his best performance as an alcoholic, troubled professor in this quirky, enjoyable film.  During one weekend his character experiences a gamut of emotions all of which are fascinating. An updated version of the old axiom "to live by the sword is to die by the sword," this film revolves around the most despicable cast of characters, all looking to score in the world of crime.  Truly a film for those willing to pay close attention to detail and to be rewarded by a gritty and sometimes bloody story filled with subplots galore and characters you will love to hate.
2. Unbreakable 2. Requiem for a Dream
An unusual thriller about good versus evil.  Director M. Night Shyamalan, who also wrote the screenplay, tells an uncommonly good story. Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson give terrific performances and the story is never predictable. A stunning film showing the desperation of drug addicts and the depths to which they will go to secure their high.  A great commentary on both legal and illegal drugs and their users / abusers.
3. Gladiator 3. Traffic
A rip-roaring, exciting saga that became a Summer blockbuster.  The scenes inside the fighting arenas are spectacular and Russell Crowe delivers a star making performance as a slave turned hero. Drugs once again make a star appearance as we are shown the "war" on drugs through the eyes of a government drug czar, a Mexican police officer and the wife of an on trial drug lord. The film's climax is the admission that the "war" being waged on drugs is futile.  Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones drive this powerful film and deliver great performances.
4. Traffic 4. Wonder Boys
Steven Soderbergh's riveting drama explains the American drug problem from alternate perspectives.  Four separate stories with powerful messages punctuate that drugs effect every social and economic background.  Outstanding performances by Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Erika Christiansen and Benecio Del Toro make the connecting stories emit a compelling impact. Michael Douglas is back as an English professor who achieved acclaim when very young.  Watch this campus comedy as it shows the arrogance of youth and follow it to redemption.
5. Thirteen Days 5. Dinosaur
It's difficult to tell a story where everyone knows the outcome and still make it interesting and gripping.  But Roger Donaldson's political thriller which tells of America taken to the brink of nuclear war with Russia over the installation of USSR rockets in Cuba, does just that. Fascinating scenes inside the halls of power during a crisis create genuine and palpable tension.  Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood star as Kenny O'Donnell and President Jack Kennedy. Disney strikes it big with the best animation ever to hit the big screen.  A wonderful treat for young and old.  Be prepared to be entertained, amused and amazed, but most importantly be prepared to forget you are watching an animation.
6. The Contender 6. Almost Famous
It's surprising that this film didn't do better at the box office.  Its release was timely (in the middle of the 2000 fall election season) and the story is gripping.  Joan Allen delivers an award winning performance as a Vice Presidential hopeful who has to pass muster before a Congressional Committee.  Gary Oldman plays a Congressman convinced that she's morally corrupt.  It's just like real life only better. The 70's return as we find a 15 year old writer chronicling the life and times of a rock band for Rolling Stone magazine.  His revelations expose the excesses of bands, groupies and fans.  A true vision of the times.
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 7. Space Cowboys
This marvelous film elevates martial arts to a new level.  It isn't just a visually exquisite film, it's a a great story of romance and honor.  Director Ang Lee brings athletic fight scenes to the screen that have never before been seen.  The actors fly at one another like birds and even have a sword fight while swaying from bamboo tree tops, totally awesome. A ragtag group of aging astronauts prove that age does not limit potential.  Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland provide drama and comedy in this space bound adventure.  You're bound to ask yourself when you leave the theater "Where are the actors of this caliber under the age of 40?"  The answer is: you've seen the best, now the rest must prove themselves.
8. Finding Forrester 8. Frequency
Sean Connery, who has given a lifetime of good performances, offers one of his best as a reclusive author who had one best selling novel, and never published again.  He's wonderful as a crotchety, abrasive character who ends up sharing some of his writing knowledge with a bright, eager black student.  It's a good, old fashioned character driven yarn and truly a pleasure to watch. With a bit of science fiction, Frequency delivers the tale of a father and son that spans from 1969 to present via a short-wave radio and solar flares.  This touching portrayal of father and son intertwined with a murder mystery delivers a warmth long missing from the big screen.
9. Remember the Titans 9. Remember the Titans
Denzel Washington shines as a coach of a newly integrated high school in this football drama based on real life events.  A film about football rarely focuses on the players like this one does. It adds to the excitement of the games, because we care about the individuals.  A wonderful film with great performances about a serious subject. Not your traditional football film.  Denzel Washington delivers a great performance as the coach of a recently de-segregated team in very tense times.  A real story about real people and real times.
10. Return to Me 10. Fantasia 2000
Minnie Driver and David Duchovny star in a romantic comedy that oozes charm.  The story of an ill woman who falls for the wrong man, isn't unique.  But, what makes this film so special is her grandfather (Caroll O'Connor) and his card playing cronies who root for her to find overdue happiness.  The sensational moody background music along with the connection between the actors, make this a magical romance. An update to the original has never been done better!  Disney will evoke every emotion you can think of and most importantly delivers something for those from seven to 70.  I promise you that you will never look at a flamingo after this film and not smile or chuckle.