2000 Ten Best Movies

Yi Yi

Pretty good argument for an alphabetical list, the year 2000 is; I don’t get a movie demanding the top spot with absolute authority, and I also notice that looking through the long list of worthy contenders, I have not seen any of these movies more than once. This is one of the strange side-effects of being a reviewer for a newspaper, where a great deal of movie-watching energy is necessarily devoted to the fierce urgency of now: how can I be expected to watch Yi Yi again when I have to go to The Back-Up Plan tonight, and write about it immediately?

Anyway, it’s not quite right to say I haven’t seen any of 2000’s films more than once; at the time I might have gone back for another look at Almost Famous, which for gentlemen of a certain age group is a crucial little touchstone. And I did see O Brother, Where Art Thou? again recently, althought that’s not really in the hunt for #1.

Whatever the Big One might be on any given day, when you take the year as a whole, it really looks like an exceptionally good one. Strong on Asian films such as Yi Yi and In the Mood for Love and the worldwide smash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Good on American indies, and the arrival of the decade’s Mexican boom.

I give the edge finally to Yi Yi, which had an almost liquid storytelling fluency about it; but it really is a virtual dead heat with the half-dozen or so that follow.

February 2012 addendum: Just watched Yi Yi again. No more confusion about the top spot; no more dead heat. It’s Yang in a walk. The film’s a masterpiece that shows mastery and insight in every scene.

The ten best films of 2000:

1. Yi Yi (Edward Yang)

2. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonergan)

3. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai)

4. Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis)

5. The Circle (Jafar Panahi)

6. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)

7. Faat Kine (Ousmane Sembene) and The Day I Became a Woman, middle segment (Marzieh Meshkini)

8. Faithless (Liv Ullmann) and Innocence (Paul Cox)

9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)

10. Beau Travail (Claire Denis) and “Pink Moon” Volkswagen ad

And that’s me cheating by a few titles. The Zemeckis film is remarkable in many ways, not least for its attempt to force the audience back to an older, slower way of watching movies. Panahi’s Circle is an art movie and a social-issue picture, and so blunt it’s a marvel he was allowed to make movies in Iran at all after that (as I write this he is still imprisoned by authorities).

The #7 titles look at women in the Third World, wryly in Sembene’s film and forcefully in Meshkini’s film (the other two segments are fine, but the middle story in this omnibus is a stunning old-school parable involving a woman on a bicycle fleeing male pursuers). The #10 slot is a pair of sensual montages, inspired in the one case by Herman Melville and in the other by Nick Drake; the latter is only 60 seconds long and, yes, is trying to sell you a car, but images and music will do what they do (I believe the Little Miss Sunshine people had something to do with the spot, but am not quite sure about it – if so, it’s their best work).

Look at the stuff that misses: Amores Perros, Memento, Dancer in the Dark, Traffic, Wonder Boys, High Fidelity, Code Inconnu, American Psycho, Best in Show, Jesus’s Son, Gladiator, Sexy Beast. That’s quite a weekend of movies. I also testify on behalf of a couple of disregarded pulp items, David Twohy’s Pitch Black and Christopher McQuarrie’s Way of the Gun, exceptionally good offerings on lowish budgets.