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Year End - 2000

     A reporter from USA Today called me recently about a column I'd penned in the Phoenix declaring 2000 the worst year in the 85-year history of Hollywood. "Didn't you write exactly the same thing last year?" he asked. True, but my November 1999 diatribe was tempered by a late-season outpour of decent pictures: The Insider, American Beauty, Inside John Malkovich, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and earlier there had been the wonderful comedy, Election.

     The most interesting studio films this year were Mike Figgis's four-screen experiment, Time Code, and Joel Schumacher's DVD-shot Tigerland. A few others were diverting: Finding Forrester, The Gift, Traffic, High Fidelity, Nurse Betty, Nutty Professor II-The Klumps, Best of Show. That's about it. I'll say it again: 2000 is the only year ever without a single Hollywood movie of true excellence.

     Shame, shame!

     "What about 1930?" the reporter cross-examined me. Keeping him on the phone, I checked quickly through critic Andrew Sarris's year-by-year guide, The American Cinema. "There were lots of very fine movies in 1930," I said, "like Joseph Von Sternberg's Morocco and The Blue Angel, and All Quiet on the Western Front."

     The reporter persisted: "What about 1929? When Hollywood was wrestling with switching from silent to sound?" Hmmm. Well, 1929 was almost as bad as 2000, I must admit. There wasn't a really great studio movie, yet at least four pictures are still revived 71 years later: King Vidor's Hallelujah!, Rouben Mamoulian's Applause, Ernst Lubitsch's The Love Parade, and the Marx Brothers-starring Cocoanuts.

     "Those films are historically important," the USA Today reporter conceded. Would that be true, three quarters of a century later, of Erin Brokovich, Almost Famous, and Charlie's Angels? I'd convinced him of the year 2000's dubious distinction: Hollywood Goes Stinko!

     But that's not true for American indies, which had a distinguished year, even as attendance - that's your fault, gentle reader! - dropped disastrously for non-studio movies.

     The envelope, por favor: The Best Feature of 2000: Claire Denis' Beau Travail, a mesmerizing transference of Herman Melville's Billy Budd to a homoeroticized French foreign legion post.

     The Rest of the 10 Best: Bruno Dumont's l'Humanite (France), Edward Yang's Yi Yi (Taiwan), Miguel Arteta's Chuck&Buck, David Gordon Green's George Washington, Kenneth Logergan's You Can Count on Me, Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lauren Cantet's Human Resources (France), Darren Arnofsky's Requiem for a Dream, Max Farberbock's Aimee & Jaguar (Germany).

     And these estimable runners-up: Zhang Yimou's Not One Less (China), Mike Figgis's Time Code, Woody Allen's Small-Time Crooks, Stanley Tucci's Joe Gould's Secret, Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher (Scotland), James Toback's Black & White, Michael Almareyda's Hamlet, Robert Altman's Dr. T & the Women, Eric Mendelsohn's Judy Berlin; Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog:Way of the Samurai.

Best Screenplay: Mike White, Chuck & Buck
Best Cinematography: Agnes Godard, Beau Travail
Best Boston Fiction Film: Ellie Lee's Dog Days
Best Boston Documentary: Laurel Greenberg's 94 Years and One Nursing Home After

Best Documentary: Frances Reid's and Deborah Hoffmann's Long Night's Journey into Day
Runners-up: The Hank Greenberg Story, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, One Day in September, The Kings of Comedy

Best Actor: Mike White, Chuck & Buck. Runners-up: Ian Holm, Joe Gould's Secret; Richard Gere, Dr.T & the Women; Colin Farrel, Tigerland; Eddie Murphy, Nutty Professor II-the Klumps

Best Actress: Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me. Runners-up: Cate Blanchett, The Gift; Rene Zellweger, Nurse Betty; Maria Schrader, Aimee & Jaguar; Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Black, High Fidelity. Runners-up: Luis Guzman, Traffic; Fred Willard, Best of Show; Matthew Broderick, You Can Count on Me; Robert Downey, Jr., Black & White

Best Supporting Actress: Madeline Kahn, Judy Berlin. Runners-up: Elaine May, Small Time Crooks; Lupe Ontiveros, Chuck & Buck; Julia Stiles, Hamlet; Samantha Morton, Jesus' Son

Most Encouraging Local Film News: Joe Zina, Executive Director at the Coolidge Corner, is keeping the Coolidge operative as a viable non-profit film house. The new video room is a thing of beauty, and funding has been located to repair and upgrade the upstairs theatre.

Most Discouraging News: The sick-puppy Boston Film Festival limped along for another unchanged, non-curated year, a city embarrassment. I bolted the same week for the great Toronto International Film Festival.

Most epiphanic moment in a film: the spilling of the childhood secret in Chuck & Buck.

Other eye-popping moments: Robert Downey, Jr., cruising Mike Tyson in Black & White; the Eddie Murphy-is-a-genius Klump family dinner in Nutty Professor II; the anal crack of Jack Black hilariously revealed as he bends over LPs in High Fidelity; the Prince's To Be or Not to Be soliloquy delivered in the Action Section of Blockbuster Video in Hamlet

Most Underrated Film: Nutty Professor II-the Klumps

Most Overrated Films of the Year: Almost Famous, Quills, Girlfight, State and Main, Wonder Boys,

     That's it... until I grumble again in January, 2002.

(December, 2000)


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