With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. And so we’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year starting today,with 2000 (it’s also very possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the list, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.
So here we begin, with the year 2000, the start of the 21st century, when everyone was finally over pre-millennium tension, Y2K and other-made up nonsense by the press trying to describe some sort of global anxiety or malaise. Film was not in a bad place. After years of the Academy rewarding chum like “Forrest Gump” (over “Pulp Fiction” or “The Shawshank Redemption“) or playing it safe, (“Braveheart“), the Academy was finally wising up and awarding a dark suburban drama, “American Beauty” the 2000 Best Picture Oscar winner (released in 1999). And after several coveted nominations and a few key Grand Jury prize awards, in 2000, Lars Von Trier would finally win the Palme d’Or for his harrowing musical, “Dancer In The Dark.” It seemed, at least momentarily, good cinema was finding the credit that was due. Below, our ten best of films of 2000.
10. “Requiem for a Dream”
More horror story than after school special, Darren Aronofsky’s lightning bolt drug nightmare concerns four individuals barely clinging onto hope in 1980s Coney Island. Pitched at a heightened reality and littered with moments of crippling existential torment, this Hubert Selby Jr. adaptation still carries its visceral punch years later as a portrayal of how close ordinary people can be to the abyss. Without a single dormant moment, the volatility of the camera is countered by a set of unsettling performances we spent years divorcing the actors from, particularly Ellen Burstyn, now forever huddled behind the couch, watching for that refrigerator. Another highlight is the oppressive Clint Mansell score, which perversely became the defacto accompaniment to a series of action movie trailers.
9. “Almost Famous”
Director Cameron Crowe mined his real life experiences on the road with bands like Led Zeppelin as inspiration for this classic-rock coming-of-age tale. Set in 1973, an aspiring high school reporter cons his way into a gig with Rolling Stone magazine and goes on the road with an up-and-coming rock band. With an all-time great soundtrack (featuring Led Zep’s first legally sanctioned film tunes), stellar performances from the likes of a young Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman (a phenomenal rendering of rock critic Lester Bangs), Frances McDormand, and more “I forgot they were in this movie too” moments (Zooey Deschanel, Anna Paquin, Jimmy Fallon, Rainn Wilson), it’s tough not to fall in love with this drug-fueled look back at the golden age of rock and roll. Plus the “Untitled‘ director’s cut (a meaty 2 hours and 42 minutes) is even better.
8. “Amores Perros”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s epic triptych of the tale of lives connected by a violent Mexico City car wreck was a festival darling and Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, and heralded the arrival of neo-Mexican cinema, along with Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (both starring Gael Garcia Bernal). But, while “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is a fun, sexy romp, “Amores Perros” is a searing, visceral kick straight to the solar plexus. The film veers from adrenaline-fueled car chases and dog fights to the walls of a luxury apartment where a lost terrier drives an injured model to the brink of insanity, to the street life of the vagrant hitman El Chivo — allowing the viewer to peer into the darkest depths of human love, loss and pain. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography sets the gold standard for the hyperrealistic, gritty style that has influenced both indie auteurs and Hollywood films since. As the original title suggests, in a classic double entendre, love is, indeed, a bitch.