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Top Ten

The Year in Film

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Draggin': Gladiator's special effects covered up a dull story

Top Ten 2000

The Year in News 1. We Have a Winner?Our annual listing of all that's most fit to print is usually an exercise in... | By Michael Anft

All the News Not Fit to Print The Year in Non-News

The Year in Film Science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon once fashioned a maxim about the genre that came to be... | By Ian Grey

10 Best Films: Ian Grey 1Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, United States) Four very different souls go to Consumer... | By Ian Grey

10 Best Films: Heather Joslyn 1Chicken Run (Peter Lord and Nick Park, United Kingdom/United States)* A thrilling, inspirational... | By Heather Joslyn

10 Best Films: Luisa F. Ribiero 1Urbania (Jon Shear, United States) This kinetic, provocative tale of a catastrophic day in the... | By Luisa F. Ribeiro

The 10 Most Annoying Things About Music in 2000 . . . 1Lists As a dyed-in-the-wool, former-record-store-clerk music geek, I love a good list as much as... | By Lee Gardner

. . . and the 10 Best 1D'Angelo, Voodoo (Virgin) Sure, better songs would have been nice. | By Lee Gardner

10 Best Albums: Rjyan Kidwell 1Outkast, Stankonia (Arista/LaFace) Outkast knows precisely when to throw you a curve ball and when... | By Rjyan Kidwell

10 Best Albums: Daniel Piotrowski 1Modest Mouse, The Moon and Antarctica (Epic) Although it is by no means a departure for the... | By Daniel Piotrowski

10 Best Albums: Vincent Williams 1Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. | By Vincent Williams

10 Best Albums: John Lewis 1Otha Turner and the Afrossippi Allstars, From Senegal To Senatobia (Birdman) A trio of African... | By John Lewis


The Year in Books Like many wannabe serious writers, I've long felt the need to visit Paris. | By Eileen Murphy

10 Best Books: Michael Anft Plowing the Dark, by Richard Powers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Split between the heady digital… | By Michael Anft

10 Best Books: Mahinder Kingra 1Tulipomania, by Mike Dash (Crown) An elegant and entertaining work of popular history that... | By Mahinder Kingra

10 Best Books: Eileen Murphy 1The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday) Atwood hasn't abandoned her... | By Eileen Murphy

The Year in Theater FIVE SCRIBES, 10 SHOWS-- CITY PAPER THEATER CRITICS MICHAEL ANFT, ANNA DITKOFF, MIKE GIULIANO,... | By Michael Anft, Anna Ditkoff, Mike Giuliano, Brennen Jensen and Jack Purdy

The Year in Art 1Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930, Walters Art Museum There were... | By Mike Giuliano

10 Best Albums: John Lewis 1Otha Turner and the Afrossippi Allstars, From Senegal To Senatobia (Birdman) A trio of African drum... | By John Lewis

By Ian Grey | Posted 12/20/2000

Science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon once fashioned a maxim about the genre that came to be called "Sturgeon's Law." It boiled down to this: Sure, 92 percent of sci-fi may be crap--but 92 percent of anything is crap. In terms of movies, the year 2000 was a very Sturgeon year. Film after film demonstrated the near-total devaluation and outright contempt of synergy-crazed Hollywood product pushers for even the most basic basics of cinematic storytelling and characterization.

One of the biggest box-office grossers, Gladiator, did a cracking job of creating a colorful, digitally debauched Rome but fell all over itself when required to make narrative sense. So did another film beholden to computer-generated images (CGI) John Travolta's vanity project Battlefield Earth, which wrested the title of 2000's biggest shit fest from the Gwyneth Paltrow karaoke musical Duets. In Battlefield's attempt to make sense, it revealed corporate Hollywood's main process of creating product: Steal from older, better films--or just plain steal. The latest Arnold Schwarzenegger offering, The 6th Day, borrowed from his 1990 confection Total Recall. Mission to Mars and Red Planet saved their marketing teams' effort by sharing the same semi-plot. The Watcher and The Cell looted the same source--The Silence of the Lambs--for their components. (With its postmodern-art's-greatest-hits imagery, at least The Cell pilfered with visual flair.)

In the Even More Obvious Rehash Department, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bedazzled, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch II blithely shat upon their source materials. Further dilutions of the originality pool were evidenced by 102 Dalmations, Mission: Impossible II, and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. This year saw new ideas--never a hot commodity in Hollywood--fall on even tougher times.

Mirroring the state of the movies themselves, we met lots of characters who had little idea who they were and or where they were going--and were sure to get nowhere courtesy of Hollywood's rigidly enforced "no bummers, ever!" policy. High Fidelity's well-observed, rudderless record-store nerds fell victim to tidy 11th-hour resolutions. The identity-challenged cheerleaders of Bring It On suffered sudden personality erasure in order to become happy-ending ciphers. Me, Myself and Irene and American Psycho explored similar confused-person territory with far more hilarious, eviscerating results in their respective tales of a cop with a split personality (Jim Carrey) and a stockbroker who's also a serial killer (Christian Bale). The Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle The Beach didn't even bother to establish personalities for its characters, having no recognizably human characters at all.

But even the most wretched years reveal trends. 2000 revealed two: an increasing reliance on CGI, and plain ol' racism. Granted, the latter is a harsh accusation, so make of the following evidence what you will. In The Patriot, slaves chose to continue working for Mel Gibson's title character even after winning their freedom from him for fighting in the Revolutionary War. The Legend of Bagger Vance gave us yet another manifestation of the popular Black Savant courtesy of Will Smith's titular mystic caddie. Other films offered African-Americans as idiot thieves (Bait, Pay It Forward) and possessors of very large or hyperactive sex organs (Black and White, What Planet Are You From?), while tokenism ran rampant in more films than space allows. Positioned against these mutant children of liberal guilt and/or utter cluelessness, Spike Lee's searing satire of media stereotypes, Bamboozled, was almost redundant.

But racism alone does not necessarily ruin good movies. For that, Hollywood reached out to CGI. Regardless of genre, approximately one third of all new domestic features lived and (mostly) died by special effects. Aside from the delightful Chicken Run and the goofily entertaining Charlie's Angels, few movies warranted, or were improved by, the profligate employment of high-tech bells and whistles.

Despite it all, there were films--tellingly, most of them produced outside the States--that offered the faithful continuing reasons to believe. All About My Mother, Croupier, Rosetta, and Winter Sleepers all put their American brethren to shame, while Lars von Trier's meta-musical Dancer in the Dark squeezed some fresh juice from the minimalist tenets of Dogme 95.

Back in the U.S.A., Nurse Betty maintained auteur Neil LaBute's indie cred while earning mainstream laughs, and Small Time Crooks showed that Woody Allen could still be a funny guy as long as you keep him from the young 'uns. The Hurricane gave Denzel Washington the role of a lifetime, as Darren Aronofsky's astringently brilliant Requiem for a Dream did for Ellen Burstyn. On a lighter note, director Steven Soderbergh and Julia Robert's cleavage entertainingly kicked corporate ass in Erin Brockovich. Also deserving of mention was Cameron Crowe's somewhat prettied-up remembrance of '70s boogie bands, Almost Famous, and Jim Jarmusch's hip-hop Mafia thriller, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.

If there was one favorable trend this year, it was the sudden influx of excellent films directed by women: American Psycho (Mary Harron), Girlfight (Karyn Kusama), Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean), and The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola).

Our critics' lists of their top 10 favorites from this year are culled from all the movies that opened or will open in Baltimore in calendar year 2000; films that have been released in other cities to qualify for the coming award season but haven't yet opened locally were not considered. Movies currently available on video are indicated with an asterisk.

And what will next year bring? Ask us when we've recovered from this year.

Related stories

Top Ten archives

More Stories

The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

More from Ian Grey

The Perfect Prescription (4/22/2009)
A musician explores the role music has played in treating his mental illness

Teen Screams (9/24/2008)
Dark Young Adult Fiction Captures Rudderless Horrors of Contemporary Adolescence

Dr. Horrible: Triumphant (7/21/2008)

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