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Best and Worst of 2000






Just like Santa Clause, we keep a list. We check it twice. And when the Oscar wannabee crunch hits in November/December -- 40 films in 20 days -- we wonder if all the pain killers are having detrimental effects on our mental processes, fade out, snap back and go, naah...

What we did notice, beginning around last March, was that every movie we sat through had at least one scene of a man urinating. or vomiting. sometimes both. Given the amount of time it takes to get a film made, we figure that it goes back to Elisabeth Shue sitting on the potty in Leaving Las Vegas. It hadn't been seen before. Neither had anyone shown guys, well . . . that about sums up the year. A piss poor year for movies.

We had a top ten movies and a top ten films list and when we crunched 'em down into one list, it came out an even split between serious films and warm fuzzies (alphabetically): Almost Famous; Billy Elliot; The Claim; Erin Brockovich; Frequency; Gladiator; Quills; Saving Grace; 13 Days; Traffic. The best popcorn flicks: Jackie Chan's Legend of Drunken Master; Charlie's Angels, Gone in 60 Seconds, X-Men

And honorable mention to: American Psycho; Bamboozled; Ghost Dog; O Brother Where Art Thou?; Requiem for a Dream; Shadow of the Vampire, Two Family House

When we sat down with our scratch pads of notable and/or disastrous films endured in the year 2000, two things stood out immediately. We've got at least two "winners" who stand out for great work in at least two (or more) movies this year. One is a director. The other an actor:


Steven Soderbergh, Director x 2

Steven Soderbergh delivered one of the best movies of the year back in February, Erin Brockovich. A great real life story that left audiences feeling empowered and glad to have seen it. What we wrote then holds even now. If Erin had been ready for the 1999 deadlines, it would have scored a statue for star Julia Roberts and an easy nomination for Best Picture. It would have been enough to stop there, but Soderbergh paired a dynamite cast with a great, serious script and delivered Traffic. Every actor worth their salt put their egos on hold for this movie, one of the best of the year. When one man delivers two "Best Of" titles, there's no real competition.

But these directors came close: Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous; Philip Kaufman for Quills; Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Michael Winterbottom for The Claim.


Geoffrey Rush, Best Actor (Quills)

Our choice had a lot to do with the actor's effect on the overall movie. One potential Oscar nominee was spectacular all by himself on an island, but that's an acting exercise, not an overall best performance. Rush, gave us a battle of both psychological and physical wills in Quills, as the Marquis de Sade in his last days versus Michael Caine as the captor determined to break his spirit however possible. There is humor and pathos in the iron fist in a velvet glove performance.

And close behind: Kevin Costner in 13 Days; Russell Crowe in Gladiator;
Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys; George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou?; Tom Hanks in Cast Away


Ellen Burstyn, Best Actress (Requiem for a Dream)

There is no way you will come out of Requiem for a Dream humming a happy tune. Burstyn's role, as an elderly woman who gets hooked on speed so she can drop a few pounds to fit into a dress, is a heartbreaker. For the first time in years, there was a real battle.

And close behind: Joan Allen in The Contender; Gillian Anderson in House of Mirth; Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich; Renee Zellweger in Nurse Betty


Joaquin Phoenix, Supporting Actor x 3

In each case the supporting actor is supposed to set up a base to let the principals kick some royal booty, as Joaquin Phoenix did for Geoffrey Rush in Quills. Then you get the performances where not only does the actor do the job, he also leaves you walking out of the theater remembering his name. That was the case in Gladiator, with Phoenix playing the sniveling backstabbing Emperor Commodus. Finally you get the occasional movie where the supporting actors outshine the principals, which was the case with The Yards, Phoenix' best performance of the three.

Other performances of note: James Caan in The Yards; Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire; Albert Finney in Erin Brockovich; Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous; Gary Oldman in The Contender


Frances McDormand, Supporting Actress (Almost Famous)

Domineering and possessive mom faces the day when the bird must leave the nest. "And don't do drugs" is as much a demand for control as an expression of a mother's love.

Ditto for: Faye Dunaway in The Yards; Kate Hudson in Almost Famous; Madeline Kahn in Judy Berlin; Kate Winslet in Quills

THE WORST The Ninth Gate (Johnny Depp) was flat out awful; Battlefield Earth (John Travolta) was campy enough that it will find a home at midnight; Duets (Gwyneth Paltrow) as we warned, gave us a song that will never stop playing on soft rock radio and not much more PLUS a special award to the unfortunate choices of actress Kim Basinger in I Dreamed of Africa and Bless The Child
SCREENPLAY Frequency by Toby Emmerich was the most perfect SF script in years. Not a single continuity flaw and still mesmerizing even when you knew what had to happen at the end; Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe, considering that we started working in rock radio in the 1970s, perfectly got that era while telling a fun story; Erin Brockovich by Susannah Grant made us want to cheer; Quills by Doug Wright dripped with irony; Traffic by Stephen Gaghan ran multiple stories side by side, seamlessly.

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