December 31, 2000

2000 Year-End Wrap-Up

My Top Five Best Movies for 2000 (in alphabetical order): Almost Famous, Chicken Run, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Wonder Boys. I didn't see O Brother in the theater, but it's still one of my five favorites of the year. In fact, I missed a lot of good movies in the theater in 2000.

Here's a list of my Top Five Movies of 2000 (which I only saw on DVD):

  1. O Brother, Where Art Thou? • I skipped this movie because I hated the previous Coen Brothers production, The Big Lebowski.
  2. The Tao Of Steve • Who knows if Steve even had a theatrical exhibition in the state of Maine?
  3. Best In Show • Who knows if Show even had a theatrical exhibition in the state of Maine?
  4. Fight Club • I was a latecomer to the Fight Club phenomenon.
  5. Memento • Who knows if Memento even had a theatrical exhibition in the state of Maine?

December 24, 2000

What Women Want

whatConsidering the talent involved (Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, and Marisa Tomei all have little gold statues), I had hoped for much better. (Showcase Cinemas Randolph)

December 23, 2000

Miss Congeniality

An above average congenialityvehicle for Sandra Bullock. It's unfortunate that her average is so low that this movie is an improvement? (Showcase Cinemas Randolph)

December 20, 2000

Unbreakable

A fascinating and unsettling mystery. Rich in drama, thick with symbolism, and quietly threatening. I rewatched Unbreakable in 2011, for the first time since I saw it in the theater in 2000. The storytelling is so dense, and the twist ending is so compelling, that it deserved to be watched a second time a lot sooner than ten years later!

After a decade, I can finally bestow the "Rewards Repeat Viewing" medal on Unbreakable.

Like the best 'twist ending' movies (Presumed Innocent and The Usual Suspects come to mind) it works well from both perspectives, knowing the twist and not knowing the twist.
What also struck me the second time around is the "unsettling" part. I specifically noticed the cinematography. What the camera was pointed at, how it moved, how the shots were framed, I usually don't think a lot about this unless it's a Scorsese movie and I'm totally enthralled. In Unbreakable, the camera never let's you settle down and feel safe. After David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is caught in a catastrophic train accident, you never feel safe again. It's like the movie is holding its breath for 106 minutes. There's one scene where Elijah (Samuel L Jackson) has conspired to receive physical therapy from Dunn's wife (Robin Wright) specifically so he can talk to her. It's a creepy stalker move, and he has no harmful physical intent -- he's almost completely crippled, after all -- but the sense of danger and ominous portent is thick in the air, and the way the camera moves around them during their increasingly tense conversation only adds to the chills.

 The Rotten Tomatometer = 68%. Their consensus aptly encapsulates the movie as "a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages" However, it felt like a letdown after the truly thrilling and scary Sixth Sense. It's reputation was cemented "Unbreakable is ponderous, too long, inert" (take your pick). I disagree. The "holding your breath" feeling is David's latent mystery waiting to be discovered in himself. Unbreakable is more of a mystery than a thriller. There's no action until the very end. Dunn's life is never really in danger until the third act of the film. Elijah's chase scene and tumble down the stairs is hardly an action sequence, but when that guy vaults over the turnstile and Elijah sees the nickel-plated gun? What a thrill.

Don't let the slowly diminishing career of writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan deter you. Admittedly I owned the two-disc Vista Series DVD for a long time before I said "tonight's the night I want to rewatch Unbreakable", but I promise you it's worth a second look. My grade "A". (Maybe soon I'll rewatch Signs or The Village. I think I have them both on DVD?)

November 10, 2000

Charlie's Angels

charlies Sexy, sweet, and action-packed. I loved the whole thing. A guilty pleasure? Yes, it is. Some Friday nights I just need some mindless visual stimulation after a long work week: car chases, fist fights, cool camera work, exciting music, special effects. Instead of browsing through all my options streaming on the Roku, on Friday in 2016 I went old-school and cracked open my DVD wallet! Right at the front is a movie full of empty calories I truly enjoyed as empty calories in 2000: Charlie's Angels. I was nuts for DVDs after getting my first player circa 1998, but I don't think I had watched this disc in over a decade.
Wow, was I in for a surprise. Charlie's Angels has not aged well. At. All. This film may be the most contemporary movie ever made.

  • The first big surprise is the music. Except for a couple of 80s classics (Spandau Ballet, Wham!) the soundtrack screams "it's 1999!": Korn, Enigma, Dee-Lite, Blur, Fatboy Slim, Blink 182, and a whole fight scene scored to "Smack My Bitch Up". Blerg!
  • The fight sequences that seemed so modern and dynamic in 2000 now look like sad knockoffs of The Matrix: lots of wirework and physical impossibilities in a movie otherwise meant to take place on Earth. 
  • The movie is also overstuffed with "speed ramping", and excessive slow-motion, and the CGI opening title verged on parody.

Other Problems:
Drew Barrymore's boyfriend Tom Green has an extended cameo where it seems like he's making up all his lines. Tom Green was a comedy star in 2000, but he's since vanished from pop culture, making his presence seen weird.
Bill Murray is charming, but that doesn't mean he's good in everything: he seems to be winging it through this movie. This perfunctory money-grab looks even worse when bookended by his appearance in Rushmore in 1998 and The Royal Tenembaums in 2001.
Maybe this isn't a problem if I only noticed it in 2016, but the soundtrack is full of songs with the word "Angel" in the title, which seemed forced.

(photo right: Drew Barrymore with her jumpsuit open, can rotate my tires anytime)

November 4, 2000

The Legend of Bagger Vance

legendRobert Redford's golf movie did nothing for me. I just don't find golf transcendent. But then again, I loved A River Runs Through It, and that's about fishing, fer Chrissakes...

October 14, 2000

Three Acclaimed Horror Films Which Didn't Scare Me

There's a lot of nostalgia for these "classic" scary movies from the 60s and 70s, and they were hits when they were released, but I just didn't find these three stand the test of time:
  • The Amityville Horror Not scary, and anti-climactic too. Basically, once they figure out the house is haunted, they all leave and the movie ends.
  • Rosemary's Baby Whining and petulant Mia Farrow does nothing but complain, and then it turns out Satan's helpers are a bunch of elderly, upper-class Jews from Manhattan?
  • The Exorcist I had never seen it before a special edition re-release in 2000. The pea soup and head spinning are old jokes these days. The "shocking" things Regan says and does seem pretty tame. The only part which scared me was when the giant chest of drawers was about to crush Ellen Burstyn. The only time I jumped in my seat was when the phone rings. If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. What a cheap shot!I guess I just don't find Satan to be very scary.

The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen

exorcistWhen it comes to 1970s horror movies, this film and Rosemary's Baby are both completely overrated. Maybe it was scary back then? I dunno. I wasn't scared at all. (Hoyt's Cinemas South Portland)

September 22, 2000

Almost Famous

almostA lovingly told, mostly autobiographical story of going on the road with your favorite rock band, circa 1973. Every detail is done right.

August 5, 2000

X-Men

It is difficult to do justice to so many interesting characters in one movie, but Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie does a good job.
Hugh Jackman gets Wolverine just right, and even makes the hair plausible.
Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen really sell the blend of old friendship. It's easy to understand how rivals can have so much in common.
Famke Janssen is a terrific blend of brains, restraint, and mystery, which pays off in the next two movies.
Halle Berry seems adrift as Storm, and having a lame superpower doesn't help.
Anna Paquin is some kind of miscasting mystery. She brings zero to the movie. It's like a black hole of personality.
Migrating the physical appearance of comic book characters is not always easy. Most Batman costumes look completely non-functioning. Christopher Reeve succeeded as Superman thanks to pure confidence, muscle tone, and someone watching him for sweat stains. We might not ever see an Incredible Hulk that looks as believeable as Gollum or Dobby. There's no yellow Spandex in this movie, and they don't even wear their uniforms until the third act. Professor X wisely avoids the pointy, Vulcan-esque eyebrows. Storm's hair looks good, and Cyclops's headgear is OK too. Toad (Ray Park) looks ridiculous with his seemingly random skin and hair color, plus some odd teeth. And yet, its totally unfair, because there's no logical reason why Rebecca Romijn looks so plausible as Mystique. The blue skin, red hair, and yellow eyes seem totally random, and yet it works. Her body helps, I suppose...

Stub Hubby Sees The X-Men Movies

...or click the label Marvel in the right column

July 31, 2000

The Perfect Storm

perfectstormNot all that great. Director Wolfgang Petersen tries very had to make these noble fishermen seem heroic instead of foolhardy. In the press, more fuss was made over the hard work to create CGI waves than the rest of the movie.

July 16, 2000

The Patriot

patriotCoulda been soooo much better. I am still waiting for the definitive Revolutionary War movie. Chris Cooper was great, he seemed born to play a 1700s American colonist. We saw this in Randolph, on the drive back from Mike and Laura Lee's house in Humarock. (Showcase Cinemas Randolph)

June 23, 2000

Chicken Run

chickenThis perfect kids/adults action comedy hybrid with chickens was awesome. Clever, funny, ingenious comedy. (June 23rd and July 8th, 2000)

May 5, 2000

Gladiator

A visceral adventure with brains and heart. A class act all the way, with some hambone acting from Oliver Reed and Joaquin Phoenix. When will they release the DVD with the Latin dialog track?

April 30, 2000

Where the Heart Is

whereNatalie Portman and Ashley Judd star in the best movie ever made about white rural America.

April 29, 2000

U-571

u571Great sound design makes this submarine movie a real audible experience in the theater. Because submarines have no windows (duh), the thrills are all about listening to your enemy. Probably not worth watching on home video, unless you have a real dark room and a great surround sound system. (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

April 17, 2000

High Fidelity

(Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth MA) As a music lover, I love a movie about how you can express yourself with someone else's art, in this case, the art of the mix tape. At the end of the movie, where Rob finally learns how to make a mix tape for his girlfriend, because he's finally learned to think about her feelings, gave me chills. The awesome Stevie Wonder song helped too.

I bought this movie on DVD, and I remember looking for a movie to watch while recovering from a recent breakup. I got as far as Rob's first line in the movie ("Which came first? The music or the misery?") before I pressed EJECT, and looked for something else:
What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

March 1, 2000

Wonder Boys

wonderThe best film of the year. Very close to perfect. A midlife crisis and a coming-of-age story, both told over one soggy Pittsburgh weekend. The plot is frayed and scattered in a charmingly realistic way, which makes the tidy, easy pat ending a little jarring.

January 1, 2000

The Talented Mister Ripley

talentedDark and thrilling, and as close to a Hitchcock movie we get to see these days, not including the movies of Brian De Palma. Damon, Law, Paltrow, Hoffman, and Blanchett are all wonderful. My only complaint is that the movie is a tad long.