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 (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 2000 and 2001 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2002. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.
In 2002, the name of the game was bigger is better. Cinemagoers got a year full of sequels including “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones,” “Men In Black II,” “Blade II,” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” But it wasn’t just franchise films audiences flocked to. A little film called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was the sleeper indie that turned into a blockbuster smash. At the Oscars, it was an uncommon year with auteurs taking control of the show over populist crowd-pleasers. Roman Polanski‘s “The Pianist,” Stephen Daldry‘s “The Hours,” Spike Jonze‘s “Adaptation” and Hayao Miyazaki‘s “Spirited Away” took home the major statues, although “Chicago” danced away with Best Picture. But, if Hollywood was having a rare year featuring a burst of creativity, our top ten of 2002 shows they paled in comparison to their competition from overseas, as our list for this year is appropriately foreign-film-heavy.
10. “24 Hour Party People”
Michael Winterbottom‘s brilliant meta-textual look at the phoenix-like trajectory of Factory Records and the surrounding ’70s post-punk music scene in Manchester, England is deliciously mischievous. A clever re-contextualization of history via its 4th-wall-breaking tour guide, the picture is piloted by the wonderfully pretentious wanker Tony Wilson (magnificently played by Steve Coogan in a role he’s never topped). For music heads, it’s an amazing frolic through the history of British post-punk (cheeky depictions of Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays, and The Durutti Column are realized by some great unknown actors) but it also marvelously stands on its own. There are staggeringly good (and wickedly humorous) performances here: Paddy Considine is fabulous as Joy Division’s perennially irate manager Rob Gretton and Andy Serkis as the bloated madman record producer Martin Hannett – a sort of futuristic version of Phil Spector – is utter hysterical genius). Not only is this spry film loose and witty to the bone, it’s a transformative po-mo work that takes a deliriously fun and gonzo approach to narrative.
9. “Time Out”
The natural corrective to comedic fantasies like “Office Space,” Laurent Cantet’s corporate nightmare, based on true events but somehow less sensationalized, tells the story of Vincent, an office drone with a listless demeanor and no ambition, who also hides a secret — he’s unemployed. Instead of telling his family the funds are dried up, Vincent ambles about in suit and tie from empty office to empty office, consistently mistaken for someone with a job. When he starts to become concerned with his family’s well-being, Vincent begins working random odd-jobs between spells of inactivity and weary daydreams. Pitched at a low heat, Cantet’s drama shows us exactly how easy it is to divorce ourselves from everyday life. The man, sans cubicle, becomes an island, and in doing so presents us with a ghost story of sorts, set between transparent revolving doors, empty desks and blank calendars.
8. “What Time Is It There?”
In what is probably Tsai Ming-Liang‘s best evocation of loneliness and longing, the Taiwanese master finds romanticism in the quirky compulsion of a young watch salesman enamored with a random shopper. The vendor, Hsiao-kang (consummate Tsai leading man Lee Kang-sheng), meets a woman at his kiosk, speaks with her briefly, and soon after learns of her departure to Paris. Dismayed by his missed opportunity, Hsiao-kang commences the odd behavior of setting each clock he sees to French time, immersing himself in French culture and repeatedly watching Francois Truffaut‘s “The 400 Blows.” Meanwhile, in France, Hsiao-kang’s paramour encounters Truffaut’s chief muse Jean-Pierre Leaud in an strange and unexplained moment of universal connectivity. Later in his career, Tsai would revisit and celebrate these abstract themes in twin musicals “The Wayward Cloud” and “Face,” but the sparse, haunting ‘What Time’ remains one of his most engaging and accessible films to date.