In a nutshell, what was 2000 all about?
The start of a new millennium that went tits up pretty quickly, planes not falling out of the sky at midnight, the international year of Math, AOL buying Time Warner for $162b and then everyone forgetting who AOL were, Tom Hanks increasing the stock price of Wilson volleyballs, the death of Peanuts, the birth of the PS2, Aussies going all Olympic, one particular Aussie going all Gladiator, and the birth of the one billionth living person in India.
15. The Virgin Suicides
Before she became the Queen of Naval Gazing with Lost In Translation Sofia Coppola made a statement of intent with her whimsically heartbreaking debut The Virgin Suicides. Adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel of the same name, Coppola focuses her wistful eye on the oppressive dynamics of a family of five mysterious sisters who live under the harsh rule of their strictly religious father (James Woods). When a group of local boys become obsessed with the girls it spells the beginning of their tragic self discovery.
While the adult cast was peppered with well known character actors Coppola used, with the exception of Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, relatively unknown actresses for the kids, all of whom who capture their slow loss of innocence beautifully. While Lost In Translation is the film Coppola is most acclaimed for, The Virgin Suicides is an emotional standard that she has never quite replicated.
14. Emperors New Groove
David Spade is as annoying a human being as I have ever encountered in person, from a distance or through the medium of recorded image and sound. But somehow his whiny self entitled manchild schtick is perfectly suited to voice the whiny self entitled Emperor-turned-Llama Kuzco, and a fantastic foil to John Goodman’s tired, serious farmer Pacha in Disney’s reinterpretation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.
It was for a time one of the last great examples of the traditional 2D cell animation that the Mouse House made their trademark for half a century. It was certainly the last palatable performance from the perma-pouting Spade.
13. Almost Famous
As a 16/17 year old music nut who was just in the process of discovering Sabbath, Floyd and Zeppelin about 30 years to late I couldn’t get enough of Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of how he got his big break in music jounalist, and his love affair with enigmatic groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson in a career high). Centred around a young aspiring music journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) who blags his way into writing a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine and as a result follows Sabbath-esque up and comers Stillwater as they tour America. A coming of age tale set against a backdrop of drugs, prog rock, unrequited love, idols, overbearing parents and Peter Frampton.
While the story may revolve around Fugit as the in all but name Crowe it is truly an ensemble affair with Billy Crudup and Jason Lee on fine form as the quarrelling egos of Stillwater, and some of the highlights courtesy of supporting cast members such as Jimmy Fallon, Jay Baruchel, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman as legendary DJ Lester Bangs. It’s a beautifully honest movie about seeing the humanity of your idols as well as the brutality of falling in love with the wrong girl at the wrong time. Crowe’s best film not called Jerry Maguire.
Remember when Ridly Scott still made great films and Russell Crowe wasn’t a strange joke? Yeah we do vaguely too. And in 2000 Scott re-defined himself as one of the most revered commercial directors working in Hollywood, all the while making a global superstar out of Russell Crowe and resurrecting the Cecil B. DeMille sword ‘n’ sandal epics of the Golden Era of cinema.
Although difficult to see it in hindsight, little was expected of Gladiator before it was released. Scott was not hot property, having wandered in the wilderness a little through the 90’s with stinkers 1492, White Squall and GI Jane. Equally, Russell Crowe, although coming into it with some critical wins under his belt after LA Confidential and The Insider, was not a box office draw in his own right. Yet at the end of it Gladiator cleaned up at the box office with over $450m worldwide and 5 Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe, changing the course of both Scott and Crowe’s careers immeasurably. Unfortunately the two have never been able to recapture the magic of Gladiator when working together since on A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007), or Robin Hood (2010).
In not too dissimilar fashion to his Gladiator contemporary, 2000 marked the beginning of Steven Soderbergh’s ascent back into the mantle of cinema’s most bankable auteur. After sizzling cat and mouse thriller Out of Sight (1998) put him back in the spotlight Soderbergh followed a pattern that would come to define him over the next 15 years by switching gears and making a sprawling Altman-esque tale of the destructive toll of the cocaine business in Southern California.
Based on Simon Moore’s 1989 British Channel 4 mini-series, Soderbergh’s version swaps the washed out blues of the Palistani-Euro heroin trade for the sun soaked yellows and oranges of San Diego’s Mexican border business. Pulling together a true ensemble cast Soderbergh gets some career high performances from Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid and Luis Guzman as he examines the delicately intertwined relationships of the narco business from the street users to the cartels to the DEA to the Government. It also gave Soderbergh the Best Director Oscar ahead of Ridley Scott, despite Gladiator winning Best Picture, and set him on the path to Oceans 11.
10. Requiem For A Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to his indie breakout Pye is not an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination. Set in the world of highly dependent drug use it is, however, a brilliantly original deconstruction on the ravaging effects of heroin on a group of otherwise healthy and attractive young people (Jennifer Connolly, Marlon Wayans and Jared Leto in a post Fight Club breakout). Like many other drug movies it takes you to the bottom of the addict’s barrel. Unlike many other drug movies though when it gets there it just keeps going, smashing through the base before relentlessly burrowing through the mire of shit that the barrel is placed precariously upon.
All pale in comparison though to Ellen Burstyn’s terrifyingly heartbreaking performance as Jared Leto’s long suffering, and possibly culpable, mother. A performance that afforded Requiem it’s only Oscar nod. Had it have been nominated for Best Picture I am fairly confident it would have been the first time in history a film with a double ended dildo scene and the phrase “ass to ass” boldly said by a group of Japanese business men was up for contention.
9. State And Main
David Mamet is a genius wordsmith. A poet of the profane. Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my all time favourite plays and movies. Yet, before State and Main I had no idea he could do a screwball comedy to rival anything the Coen Brothers had previously made. Set on the fictional production of a period drama being filmed in Maine, Mamet’s ensemble comedy is a fast paced foul mouthed Ealing comedy insight in to what can happen when Hollywood clashes with small town Americana.
Words on a page mean nothing though without the right voice to bring them to life and Mamet managed to secure a fantastic cast of Hollywood comedy character actors and Sarah Jessica Parker, including a pre-30 Rock comedy masterclass from Alec Baldwin. A must see for any aspiring comedy screenwriters.
8. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
It’s difficult to pigeonhole Ghost Dog into a particular genre. With it’s quiet, strong morally contradictive central character and themes of redemption and revenge you could almost call it Jarmusch’s Western. But in typically Jarmuchian fashion it’s never that straightforward as he throws in Far Eastern philosophies and classic New Jersey mafia bloodshed.
Forest Whitaker was an interesting choice to play the corn-rowed, pigeon loving assassin who works for his boss as part of a debt of gratitude as well as a natural aptitude for his particular skill set. The way that he conducts his business is methodical, precise and without emotion. Bathed in blue tones and trip hop beats overseen by RZA, Jarmush creates a unique environment for his ultimately generic samurai assassin story.
7. American Psycho
Christian Bale is infamous for throwing himself lock, stock and barrel into his roles and he made no exception with Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous novel. For those that have read Ellis’s grotesquely graphic yet undeniably brilliant dissection on the Wall Street alpha male bullshit that exploded in the 80’s, it was unsurprising that many considered it to be unfilmable. Patrick Bateman is self involved and narcissistic to a psychotic level, his life entirely built around the acquiring of the most expensive luxuries. He is a man who gets off watching himself banging high price escorts in his minimalist Manhatten apartment. A man who would happily murder colleagues who have a better business card than him. He is a terrible human being, although probably par for Wall Street
American Psycho gained a lot of negative tabloid coverage when it was released due in no small part to it’s unfliching violence which Bateman dishes out with glee. Yet at no time does it feel like Harron includes something that could be considered unnecessarily gratuitous, in fact for those that have read the book it is often a far more toned down affair than the source material. Bale has since gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic leading men and American Psycho has seen a straight to video sequel as well as a mis-judged West End musical. This remains the original and the best.
Guy Ritchie wasn’t always just “that British guy who married Madonna and got her to drink ale and wear flat caps like a twat”. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s he was one of the most exciting British up and coming directors. Coming off the back of his genre defining London gangster comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie decided you shouldn’t mess with a good thing and made what should be considered a perfect companion piece in Snatch. Able to use his new found money and status to get some genuine A-List talent in Brad Pitt and Benecio Del Toro, Ritchie transfers his fast paced foul mouthed writing style from the card tables of the East End to the dirty world of gypsy bare knuckle boxing.
It would unfortunately be a long time before Ritchie came back with anything worthwhile watching with 2008 Rock ‘N’ Rolla, as he spent 8 years being Mr Madonna, and over-estimating the extent of his own talent. Strangely once he removed his ties to the skull faced pop Succubus the quality of his work dramatically improved…
5. Erin Brockovich
A second entry for Soderbergh on this list. And may also be the only time you see a Julia Roberts led movie in a list on this website that doesn’t exist to list all the movies I hate Julia Roberts in. Which, given it’s lofty place on this countdown, should give you some indication of just how much I liked Erin Brockovich. And even I will admit much of that is down to an uncharacteristically likeable performance from Roberts as the legal assistant with both a heart of gold and a balcony you could recite Shakespeare from. Brokovich also fell into the golden period of Steven Soderbergh’s remarkable resurgence, along with Traffic, Out of Sight and a year later Oceans Eleven.
Worth noting that the next time Roberts teamed up with the genre hoping maestro was on the awful Oceans Twelve, the lowlight being when she played a lookalike of herself pretending to be herself talking to Bruce Willis.
4. High Fidelity
As a teenager who in 2000 was just finding both the joys of spending long hours staring at vinyl records in my local record store and also discovering the likes of Fugazi, Echo and the Bunnymen, Nirvana and The Beta Band, High Fidelity was my perfect movie. If it wasn’t for careful reflection and placing it in the wider context of the cinematic merits of the other three movies ahead of it there is a good chance it would have automatically made top spot. John Cusack is perfect as the doe eyed sad-sack who lives every situation through the music he invests his very being in. Jack Black, in an early career supporting role, benefited from people not yet being bored of his gurning.
Much was made by fans of Hornby’s source novel about the fact that the story was transported from London to Chicago. However, for me as a fan of indie music Chicago was the perfect place to set it. Chicago has a rich and illustrious musical tradition with the likes of Muddy Waters, Patti Smith, The Smashing Pumpkins, 90 Day Men, Tortoise and Fall Out Boy as well as spewing out musicians like Eddie Vedder, Tom Morello, Adam Jones ad Kim Thyall. If it was going to be anywhere else I’m glad it was there
It’s easy in 2014 to point to Marvel adaptations with an expectation that they should break most top 20 mainstream lists, but back in 2000 the comic book revolution was yet to take hold. Marvel was not synonymous with blockbusters. And while Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry may be household names now, at the time they were nowhere near the box office haul they would later become. Brian Singer was also a brave choice at the time for directing. Although he had set himself apart from many of his peers with the near flawless Usual Suspects, and underrated follow up Apt Pupil, he had not proven himself a big budget action director.
It was somewhat of a triumph though and arguably the genesis superhero movie that started Hollywood on it’s path to the current geek revolution. Not long after Sony took a punt on another director not known for action who they hoped may spark a flagging franchise when Sam Raimi made Spiderman. By 2007 between the two franchises they had grossed over $3.5billion in box office revenue, not taking into account any ancillary income such as home theatre releases. More than enough to inspire Marvel to start greenlighting projects like Iron Man. And the rest is geek history
Remember when M Night Shyamalan made good movies? Yeah neither do most other people. It did happen though and way, way back he made one of my favourite superhero movies of all time. Why? Because in Bruce Willis’s everyman who slowly discovers he has remarkable powers Shyamalan created a pure superhero. A flawed man coming to terms with his extraordinary gift. It was grounded in rain and working class neighbourhoods. Shyamalan also elicited a terrifying performance from Sam Jackson as the villain of the piece, an equally flawed man whose search for answers as to the cosmic reasons for his own vulnerabilities leads him on a path of mass murder. All set against the backdrop of the rules of comic books and superheroes.
As a follow up to Sixth Sense it is as good a debut and sophomore combo as I can remember in recent years from a film maker. What makes this all the more remarkable is that the expectations after the sleeper hit Sixth Sense were that much higher. And yet he delivered with aplomb. Unfortunately it was a slow descent from here culminating in After Earth, remarkable in it’s own right for the fact someone gave him $100m to make another movie, and pop culture ridicule. A real shame.
1. O’Brother Where Art Thou?
This might have been the year that Mamet made a screwball comedy the Coen’s would have been proud of, but it was also the year that the Coen’s made their own. One that any filmmaker would have been proud of. And one that reinforced that, along with the likes of Steven Soderbergh and Paul Thomas Anderson, they can turn their hands to pretty much any genre and make it work.
Who else but the Coens would take one of the World’s hottest and most bankable actors in George Clooney, who was at this time very much in the midst of his ascendency to the top of the Hollywood tree, and put him an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey set in the world of 1920’s bluegrass music? No-one but the Coens could have sold that one to the financiers. And no one but the Coen’s could have made it the finest film of the year and a surprising box office success with a $72m haul. Not only that but it spawned the best soundtrack of the year and if my friends are anything to go by led to a whole new generation interested in a genre of music long since popular.
What would make your list for 2000? Should anything here be higher or lower? What do you think should have made the list instead?
You can find the full list of movies released that year right here http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view2=worldwide&yr=2000