Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2001

Frank Jim Chris
1. A Beautiful Mind 1. In The Bedroom
Ron Howard's unique direction showcases mental illness in a unique and telling style and Russell Crowe gives another powerful performance.  A film that follows the struggles of John Nash, who has a mind that sees the universe in mathematical terms but expands to a world that doesn't exist, rendering him incapable of functioning normally.  With help from Jennifer Connelly as his wife he perseveres and in a magnificent climax is recognized with a Nobel prize. Director and co-writer Todd Field makes a surprisingly assured debut of a film set in Maine where tragedy and grief makes for a measured, yet unexpectedly powerful drama.  A music teacher and a town doctor who are married and suffer a terrible loss are played marvelously for the disparate emotions resulting by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson.  And Marisa Tomei also makes a memorable turn in this unforgettably graceful tale which ultimately can't bear its domestic destruction.
2. The Majestic 2. Memento
Jim Carey in a performance more like Jimmy Stewart than the Grinch warms the hearts of folks in a small town who believe he is a returning World War II soldier lost nine years before.  The Majestic is the town's movie house which reopens as he returns.  The entire town works through wrenching emotions with a Frank Capra style ending that brings tears but leaves us feeling good. Christopher Nolan's expertly written non-linear story of murder and betrayal on the outskirts of LA grabs one with style and authenticity into the dilemma faced by Guy Pearce's ex-insurance investigator afflicted with short-term memory loss.  Joe Pantiolano and Carrie Ann Moss (both of The Matrix) provide service and conflict for a man who uses photos with captions and tattoos as clues to avenge the murder of his wife in this stimulating reversing suspenser.
3. Shrek 3. Shrek
In what is probably the smartest and best script of the year, this animated feature is a joyful telling of many fairy tales featuring an ogre named Shrek who must save a princess and over come a dragon with the help of reluctant donkey.  Shrek brings animation one more step toward reality but it's the bright script that makes the film outstanding. This fractured-fairy tale of an ogre's love and the truth of beauty coming from within is top-notch computer animation abetted by the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz whose Princess Fiona likes Pina Coladas.
4. Amelie 4. Mulholland Drive
Audrey Tautou's Amelie is a delight to watch - she is charming, captivating and endearing.  A simple story (in French with sub titles) leads us around the Montmartre section of Paris as she helps and encourages average people to reach for a better life.  An enthralling warm fulfilling story about real people. David Lynch makes an oddly fascinating story from the serpentine titular LA setting that channels life extension through dreams with mesmerizing power through Naomi Watts delusional actress.  Before "Silencio" is heard, Lynch's wickedly inventive directing works on many levels with a mysteriously haunting quality daringly met by Watts who can surprise with her innocence and an unforeseen sensuality.
5. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 5. A Beautiful Mind
The J.R.R. Tolkien epic story of good versus evil exquisitely presented by Director Peter Jackson with stunning scenes both real and created.  Elijah Wood's Frodo embodies goodness in a mysterious, thrilling, exhilarating action packed big adventure film in Middle Earth. Ron Howard's film chronicling the life of mathematical genius John Nash diagnosed with schizophrenia allows Russell Crowe to internally battle delusions arguably with more range than he showed in Gladiator where he won an Academy Award for Best Actor.  It's hard not to dislike this unsympathetic performance which is so good because of Jennifer Connelly's generous supporting role as Nash's frustrated, yet undaunted wife Alicia, who was a Physics student before they married when he taught her (not so well in studies) at MIT.  The chemistry between Crowe and Connelly sparks in more ways than Howard can keep the material from lagging beneath their efforts.
6. Memento 6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Director Christopher Nolan presents a revenge film in backward format.  The murder mystery is presented scene by scene: the last shown is the first in the story.  This unique presentation is compelling and irresistible. The first installment of the trilogy shot simultaneously drawn from the indelible Tolkien books has the right stuff when it comes to sweeping, mythic adventure and tight bonds when it comes to its characters. From the bucolic shires to the Morian mines, the attempt to preserve Middle Earth from the sinister Sauron is directed with a colossal visual aptitude to make one care about those affected by a ring which has a stealth and unsettling power associated with it.
7. Mulholland Drive 7. Moulin Rouge
Director David Lynch presents a fascinating tale filled with the confusion he is famous for.  With a haunting daring performance by Naomi Watts we are never sure when each scene takes place, only to learn in the end that it is the beginning of this weird compelling chronicle. In revisiting the fin de siecle times in Paris, Baz Luhrmann has made a visually frenetic musical that reaches wondrously.  Leads Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor are febrilely paired to make its elaborate, pressing production able to dazzle in sight and sound even if it is overcome by absinthe and consumption.
8. In The Bedroom 8. Ghost World
Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson deal with the murder of their son by Marisa Tomei's estranged husband.  As the legal process drags the husband and wife find their emotions exploding until they can no longer stand the pain.  Performances carry this powerful drama. "Accentuate the negative" is the slogan of this unusual, yet engaging adaptation of Daniel Clowes dark comic strip from Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb").  Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi are quite appealing as two people separated by age but not by artistic interests or a general apathy.
9. A.I. 9. Black Hawk Down
Steven Spielberg's interpretation of a film which was a Stanley Kubrick project deals with the love an android, played by Haley Joel Osment, gives to his adopted mother even when he is abandoned by her.  The film has an epic scope, stunning scenes and a heart rendering story. Ridley Scott's unwavering direction of harrowing war sequences of a botched rescue attempt in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 overcomes preachiness and has something politically relevant to say while realistically praising those doomed behind enemy lines.
10. Monsters, Inc. 10. A.I.
Sully Sullivan and Mike Wazowski are animated monsters who scare up energy by frightening little kids.  The twist is that the monsters are fearful of the kids and will do anything not to be touched by them.  But when little Boo sneaks into their alternate universe, they can't help falling in love with her and protecting her from the bad monsters. 
This is a film that's a joy to watch.
Steven Spielberg completes the intriguing project begun by his late colleague, Stanley Kubrick. The result is a darker sci-fi tale than expected, loathed by many, even if Haley Joel Osment goes the distance to find something special he needs as a child robot.

1. A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe delivers the best acting job of the year as real-life mathematician John Nash, Jr., who suffers from schizophrenia.  Director Ron Howard gives new understanding to this horrible disease and incorporates a great love story to boot!
2. Black Hawk Down
A brutally realistic film about a one hour assignment in Mogadishu, Somalia during 1993, that turned into a sixteen hour deadly ordeal.  What is different about this war film is the focus is on the action and not on the individual stars portraying real-life soldiers.  Director Ridley Scott recreates a devastating experience for the movie-goer.
3. In The Bedroom
A mother and father suffer a terrible family tragedy.  Director Todd Field gives a very intimate look at a couple grieving in private, after the mourners go home and friends stop calling.  Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson are terrific in this moving drama.
4. Bridget Jones's Diary
I thoroughly enjoyed this sassy, fun comedy.  Rene Zellweger is just terrific as the single, thirty something Brit coping with dating and her weight, without much success on either front.
5. Shrek
Animation at its best.  A wonderful fun film that not only appeals to youngsters, but with the voice talents of Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy, adults get a big kick from this clever and appealing comedy.
6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Tolkien's novel comes alive with visually spectacular settings and exciting adventure.  Each character is well defined and their honorable mission of protecting humanity from the power of the ring is involving and spirited.
7. The Majestic
Jim Carrey plays a Hollywood screenwriter in 1951 who has an accident and loses his memory.  He's accepted by a small town that he wanders into as the long-lost son of the owner of a run down movie house.  It's a feel-good, slice of nostalgia.
8. Moulin Rouge
This film grew on me.  At first, it seemed to be a musical carnival-run-amok.  But, I soon appreciated its innovative settings, characters, costuming and frenetic pace.  The film caught me up in it's music, dance and especially its unique love story.  Nicole Kidman and Ewan MaGregor are terrific, it is truly one-of-a-kind!
9. Memento
All I could think while watching this strange mystery, was how did the editor ever know how to put the pieces together to make a cohesive story.  A man (Guy Pearce) suffering from short-term memory loss, relies on Polaroid pictures and tattooed clues to solve his wife's murder.  The film draws us into the mystery and its hero's eerie plight.
10. Gosford Park
Director Robert Altman corrals a large talented cast made up mostly of British actors.  It's a stylish murder mystery that delves into the lives of the titled, as well as their servants.