Top films of 2000: 'Mars' is 'Cast Away' while 'The Replacements' get caught in 'Traffic'

Now it's official. The first year of a new century, 2000, was the worst year for films in at least a decade. In fact, this critic can't remember a year where trying to pick the best films of the year was harder then finding the worst movies. However, let's not be too harsh on the films of 2000. Like an undisciplined class of fourth graders, there were a few bright spots in the class of 2000. They stayed quiet for the most part, and let blockbusters with big stars like "Gladiator" and "Erin Brockovich" take the spotlight. This top ten has some rather large variety on it, from critical darlings, to movies that the public just could not understand. So, as 2001 starts up, lets take one last moment to reflect on 2000, and remember that even in the worst year, there are a few films that deserve to be mentioned.

10. You Can Count On Me Sure, it's a small simple story about a brother and a sister trying to mend together both there lives, but as "American Beauty" said, "look closer..." This movie was able to decipher what we fear in life - being alone. Take a great script, a rookie director and you have one of the true feel good gems that is not the least sappy . And yes, Julia Robert did a great job in "Erin Brockovich" earlier this year, but the best actress award should justly be given to Laura Linney for hr gusto performance as a woman whose life has hit a true crossroads.

9. Unbreakable Now those reading this list are, for the most part, ready to dismiss it because this movie appears. Just sit and read for a moment more, and discover why this movie was not only better then "The Sixth Sense", but the most misunderstood film of the year. M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a serious comic book film, stripping the genre of the usual convictions and making it the human story it deserves. The film also shows a remarkable growth in the way it is directed, with Shyamalan letting his characters breath and making the camera feel more like an observer rather then an intruder. Lets also not forget Samuel L. Jackson, putting in his strongest performance since "Pulp Fiction", because he restrained himself. The best parts of "Unbreakable"? The beautiful pacing, reminding us how great it is when a movie just unfolds and does not push the viewer into its story.

8. Cast Away The movie that this critic felt most skeptical about was actually the best surprise of the year. Tom Hanks has put in amazing performances before, but here, he has to carry a film all alone for an hour, and he makes it riveting. Robert Zemeckis slummed once this year, with the overrated and horribly done "What Lies Beneath." Here, Zemeckis shows the ability that he showed in such films as "Contact" and "back to The Future": the director displays a case of wonder and danger at the same time. The movie as a whole is like walking on a high wire. It could slip at any time, losing the audience and its story along with it. Yet the film doesn't, partly due to hanks, partly to Zemeckis, and partly due to a volleyball named Wilson.

7. High Fidelity The best comedy of the year is also a welcome return to that small kind of film that not only wins on charm, but on realism as well. John Cusack puts forth his best performance since 1989's "Say Anything...", as a guy who's growing up, owns a dying record store, and lost his girlfriend. He lives his life through his music, but his girlfriend has put her foot down, he either gets some direction or she is gone for good. Why is the film so wonderful? Look at how real it feels, what guy has not gone through the "finding there ex's and trying to learn what it all means?" stage? Almost no one. "High Fidelity" is the rare movie where the main character must grow up, and the audience must do it along with him. Put together these factors and an incredibly funny and scene stealing Jack Black, and you have a great film.

6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon It takes your breath away. Some have stated that this film is marvelous, others just can't get past the subtitles. No matter what, it is the most critically praised film of the year, and why not? The film has everything: action, love, an epic feel, and masterful performances. The fight scenes play like a ballet, so good that one is dazzled throughout the film, hoping for the next breakout of martial arts. Ang Lee ("The Ice Storm", "Sense and Sensibility") has out done himself with the direction in this film. It the most beautifully shot movie of the year, and it feels like a wonderful dream that makes you never want to awake.

5. Traffic Steven Soderbergh has had the best year of anyone in Hollywood. He got the exposure and success he has deserved for so long with "Erin Brocovich", and here, Soderberg makes his best directorial effort to date. This intertwining and always engaging film about the complexities of the drug trade takes the viewer and plunges them into a world in which thing constantly change and morals are always compromised. The film balances montages of characters that almost never interact and somehow, the film flows amazingly. The handheld camera work, also done by Soderbergh, is jumpy and exciting and even uses filters to make one know which story there watching (California is sunny, Mexico is bleached yellow, and Dc is a cool blue). What rounds the film out as a masterpiece is Benicio Del Toro, coming into his own and making himself the best supporting actor of the year.

4. Requiem For A Dream It's exhausting and very tough to watch. This story about addiction in Coney Island "starts its characters in purgatory and becomes a decent into Hell", according to director Darren Aronofsky. That's the best description of the films story, but now rods can truly show the films style. It's unlike anything ever used before, with jump cuts, split-screen, you name it, Aronofsky uses it, and uses it effectively. The performances are wonderful, especially Ellen Burstyn. As a lonely older woman who becomes addicted to diet pills to get thin, Burstyn breaks the heart of everyone who sees her. Its not only the best supporting part by a female, it's the best acting of anyone all year. What a said state it was to watch this lonely old woman lose herself. Only stepping back from the story does one realize the marvel of a performance they just saw.

3. The Virgin Suicides A true gem left from the start of last year. The movie feels like a dream, not pleasant of distasteful, just a dream. Its power is hypnotic and at the same time, parts feel so hurtful tat its hard to watch. The movie tackles so many topics, from the complexities of being a teen girl, to how young boys can never truly understand those that they lust for, all the way to how the 70's burned out. All those and more are under the surface of this movie. But director Sophia Coppola will not spell these ideas out for those watching; she makes them think about them and come up with there own conclusions. Why did these beautiful girls do this to themselves? It's for the viewer to determine or for them to be as confused as the boys who wanted them. There is no more disturbing shot then seeing young Kirstin Dunst alone on an old football field after her first time. The pain and loneliness in hr eyes are the most memorable shot of 2000.

2. Quills The Marquis De Sade, who would have thought he was so much fun? Phillip Kauffman's film about censorship and free speech may take historical liberties, but it never bores or takes its subjects lightly. The performances, from Michael Caine to a wonderful Geoffrey Rush as De Sade himself, shine on the screen. The story is funny at times, disturbing at others, showing that maybe the insane asylum is a microcosm of society. The best part of this film is its argument to free speech: It's needed and worth fighting for, but it can have consequences if those who want an excuse too hard get a hold of it. What makes "Quills" different then other films that tackle the subject is that it shows consequences for everyone's actions, not just those that deserve it.

And number One is... 1. Almost Famous Why is that beautiful story about a young journalist following a dysfunctional rock band in the ?_~70's number one? Maybe its because it was not only the most complete movie if the year (in the direction, writing, and acting) but the most enjoyable. Its so rare that a film this well done can be so much fun. Se it a first time for the sheer joy that Cameron Crowe's film resonates. See it a second time to realizes how accurate it is about fame, about friendship, and ultimately, about choices. Patrick Fugit is a marvel as the young journalist, and Frances McDormand is magnificent as his mother. But one actress echoes the spirit of the film, and that's the ravishing Kate Hudson. She embodies the spirit of the 70's freedom; yet, her spark is dying inside. "Almost Famous" is not only an excellent film, but one that gets better the more one thinks about it. It's the rare combination of craft and fun meeting, and because of that, it's the best picture of 2000.

Lets not forget the few other great films of 2000... Pollock Shadow of the Vampire O Brother, Where Art Thou? State and Main Chuck and Buck Tigerland

And a Little of the Worst...

1. Mission To Mars The worst space movie, and that's saying a lot. Sitting through this movie is a lot like a bad party. You laugh at first about how bad it truly is, and then realize you have to sit through it. A truly awful, awful film that should never be seen, even.

2. Eye of the Beholder It came out at the very start of 2000, but believe it, its so bad it stays in ones mine. Did Ewan McGregor love Ashley Judd? Did he hate her? Did we want to kill ourselves while watching this crap? That one can be answered yes, bring in the noose.

3. Drowning Mona Drown the critic!! Seeing Bette Midler is scary enough, seeing her as an angry cruel woman is too much. Every joke here falls flat, and everyone watching can't wait to disown this atrocious comedy.

4. The Replacements How do you screw up the sports film genre? Hell, "Major League 3" even followed it. There is nothing worse then hearing John Madden do play by play on a love scene; it's enough to make one throw up. Combine that with Gene Hackman doing a bad impression of himself in "Hoosiers" and you have so-bad-its scary film.

5. Rules of Engagement (tie) The Patriot These two films and those who made them should be smacked. They display the same awful tendencies, there long, there boring, and they are blindly racist. In "Rules" every Arab is a US hating terrorist, in ""The Patriot" the slaves are so happy, they invite Mel and his family to stay with them. Both these films are offending, and both are false patriotic slop that some one threw up onto the screen.

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