They say there are three kinds of soldiers. Ones that joined up because their fathers and grandfathers did, the majority of military personnel, ones who want to fight for their country and the ones who want to legally kill people, especially the brown skinned enemy. The latter are the ones the military really want. These are the people who are ideal in a combat situation and usually end up in prison in there home country. War is the best place for them. For some reason we see our armed forces as hero''s but many of them are simply better off over their, the topic of Harsh Times. 20% of the US prison population is ex forces. The insane decision to invade Iraq has produced a lot of unbalanced human beings. Harsh Times is from the writer of the Oscar winning Training Day, the 24 day shoot nearly bankrupting David Ayre''s directorial debut. So tight was the budget that star Christian Bale had to pay for the on-set catering and Ayer having to mortgage his house to pay for the rest, hence the big effort by Bale. It all worked out and Ayer now best known for End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, an inventive cop drama. Ex marine Jim Davis (Christian Bale) is back in his old South Central neighborhood in LA after fighting in Iraq, suffering from PTSD but getting treatment. He has hooked up with his old buddy Mike (Freddy Rodriguez), both men unemployed, Mike spending his days looking for work because he fears losing his gorgeous and working partner Sylvia (Eva Longoria), Jim preferring to drink and smoke weed all day whilst visiting his girlfriend Marta (Tammy Trull), who lives over the border in Mexico, who he is determined to bring back to America one day and start a new life with, the plan to join the LAPD, just a drug test and psyche evaluation to pass. Jim is soon leading Mike astray and the two getting up to no good, Jim selling a gun to ex con Darrell (Terry Crews) and then a run in with some ex girlfriends escalating things with the Mexican gangbangers. When they boost a drug deal they enrage the local gang and Jim is a marked man, dragging Mike into further peril he could do without as the ex marine''s behavior gets increasingly psychotic. These, it seems, are the ideal qualities to join the CIA, who are soon taking interest in the unbalanced Davis for some employment in South America with his Spanish and military skills. Not that great. Bale, as ever, bought his method acting thing to the party but it was wasted here, the script and plot not worthy of. He clearly felt he owed the director one and so gave it everything but his performance only ends up over the top and rather cliche. The film would have been a good project if it wanted to explore that moral conflict of being trained to kill abroad but unable to rationalize and so separate that heightened emotion when you return home but this doesn''t really get to grips with the guts of what''s right and what''s wrong with being an American soldier. The yanks are fiercely patriotic about their military and simply wont here anything negative about them. What domestic buzz can ever equal the excitement of war to soldiers who enjoy killing? The better movie on the topic of soldiers flipping on PTSD would have to be Platoon and a recent movie killed In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy lee Jones, an atmospheric father and son film that really nailed that family need to honor your parents by being the soldier they were but also feeding the urge to carry on the war back in America. This, on the other hand, is Bale simply playing a psycho and the Iraq War side of things quickly forgotten about. It''s a shame as he is such a cool movie star. Maybe he should have watched the excellent Tigerland with Colin Farrell to get what film this should have been. Its cost $2 million to make and did $6 million back and so the director got to keep his house, just. A little bit of Training Day and End of Watch does leak into the story here and it does seem Ayer''s is running out of ideas. It had a record 296 f-words as Bale and Rodriguez were allowed to improv and it''s that kind of lingo freedom that leads this astray. There are the occasional good bits but it all feels rather run of the mill TV movie and a film that has no real intention of being intelligent by exploring those politics of war. Without Bale this would have disappeared into the ether.
2001 : A SPACE ODYSSEY Anyone who hasn't seen Stanley Kubrick's influential sci-fi film may already be familiar with aspects of its plot. These could include the idea of classical music in space, realistic science concepts, the HAL computer and some confusing stuff about a huge baby in space or something. Being a fan of modern sci-fi I decided that I needed to see this film and I wasn't disappointed. "2001" has often been described as the film in which entertainment meets art, as its style throughout is clearly aimed at achieving a masterpiece of cinema rather than something which will appeal to the average cinemagoer. This must have alienated a great number of people over the decades since its 1968 release, however the film can be enjoyed as much today as ever. While clearly missing the mark on many of the assumptions of early twenty first century life and science, Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's film presents a very plausible near-future, and the storyline centred around the excavation of an ancient monolith on the Moon is mysterious and very compelling. Following is an overview of the film's plot, which may hinder your enjoyment if you plan on watching it in the near future. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------ ---PART ONE--- The film is divided into four parts which are, for the most part, mentioned in the film as seperate. The first part is "The Dawn of Man," a twenty minute piece without dialogue set in the dry African plains and showcasing the first time an ape-man learnt how to use a weapon to prevent starvation, after the appearance of a rectangular monument in the ground. While the apes are clearly well trained actors in suits, the filming of this portion is excellently achieved and manages to convey a number of important ideas for the viewer to dwell on despite not in
cluding any spoken words apart from animal noises. ---PART TWO--- With the famous shot of the ape-man flinging a bone into the sky the viewer is suddenly presented with a space station orbiting Earth at the end of the twentieth century, in the time-scale of the film in any case. This second part is credited as "The Lunar Mission," however the lack of a caption could indicate the similarity between the primitive, stupid and defenceless creatures... and the ape-men of the first part, ahh did you see that. Lengthy docking sequences express the realistic times involved in such procedures as a Doctor Heywood Floyd travels to deliver a briefing on a mysterious object uncovered on the moon. The public have not been made aware of the true situation, partially due to political relations between nations, but when Floyd and a team investigate the monument in spacesuits it begins emitting a powerful radio frequency into distant space. ---PART THREE--- Eighteen months later, "The Jupiter Mission" is where the film's plot really develops, and is the story of the astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole aboard the Discovery One on "a half-billion mile voyage to Jupiter" with three hibernating scientists and the latest of the HAL 9000 computer series; a computer in full control of the large craft with a personality designed to emulate a human. HAL's increasing errors and apparent deceptions cause Dave and Frank to hold a secret meeting about how to deal with him, although when HAL finds out he acts by marooning Frank in space to die while operating on part of the hull. Dave proceeds to rescue him, following an unnecessary 'intermission,' leading to the very famous and tense classic scene of man versus machine: DAVE: "Hal do you read me? Open the pod bay doors please Hal." HAL: "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." Once dan
georusly risking decompression to get back into the ship, Dave proceeds to disconnect ('kill') HAL, but not before hearing a rendition of "Daisy, Daisy." Upon the machine's termination, an automated message reveals that the ship's mission was to investigate the source of the monolith's transmission, believed to be a gigantic third monolith floating in orbit of Jupiter. ---PART FOUR--- The final section of the film, "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite," is the most memorable and often criticised part of the film due to its difficultly to grasp. Arriving at Jupiter, Dave sees that all of the gas giant's moons have formed a perfectly straight line and he leaves the ship in a pod to investigate. On doing this he is catapulted on an epic and truly psychedelic journey through colours, lights, images of galaxies and of creation before finding himself in a bizarre baroque hotel room. Dave has aged considerably and over time sees even older versions of himself who he 'becomes.' This rapid aging ends with the appearance of another of the apparently mathematically-perfect monoliths at the foot of his bed which transforms the dying astronaut into a new life form, a fetus within a glowing spherical womb. The film famously closes with the image of this new 'Star Child' examining the planet Earth, leaving many viewers filled with wonder and anticipation, and others with confusion and boredom. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------ I really enjoy this film as its artistic style makes it considerably different from anything else in my collection. I think that only around 30 minutes of the film is taken up by dialogue as there is none present in the first or last parts, while some people may also be put off by the fact that there is not a great deal which happens in the plot over the two hours. The film takes many risks which led t
o criticism of it when it came out, however opinion soon changed as it became clear that Kubrick had created a legendary movie. The original commissioned soundtrack was dropped in production in favour of more established classical scores from the likes of Bach and the famous Zaranthusa opening theme. The film has also endured due to its intriguing messages about humanity's development, past and future as well as the quantity of reproductive and sexual imagery. The egg-shaped pods, phallic spaceships, umbilical lifecords and obviously that big space fetus all contribute to making the film all the more fascinating to watch. My only criticisms of the film are the effect that time has had on the special effects shots, although by presenting very scientifically sound concepts rather than laser wars they manage to remain convincing for the most part, and that the characters are not fully explored. I am aware that the presentation of the human astronauts as bored, selfish and indifferent people stuck in a tedious job is intended to contrast with HAL's intense feelings of paranoia, confusion and fear, however these too could have been expanded upon. HAL is clearly one of the most memorable characters from science fiction of this era, and his sinister red 'eye' and slightly malevolent voice have ensured his endurance to the twenty first century. A lot of the film is about the subtext to the characters, such as Doctor Floyd's abruptness and businesslike nature with his daughter and the lack of concern for Dave's safety indicated by some of Frank's decisions. While the most appealing feature of the film is its mysterious storyline; who or what sent the monoliths?, what is happening in the solar system?, what is their true purpose?, I also find the reality of life in space to be a refreshing change in science fiction. Scenes with flight attendants walking 180 degrees around a door still warp your mind today, as does the scene in whi
ch Dave exercises 360 degrees around a circular deck of the spaceship, which is clearly based around some form of centrifugal force principle. There are even parts of the film, which is rated Universal and should therefore be an 'easy watch,' which do in fact scare me when thought about. The scene in which all of Jupiter's moons are shown to be in perfect conjunction with each other is almost incomprihensible, as are the appearances of million-year-old structures on the far side of the moon. This terror is amplified by the chilling chorus of voices and sounds which accompanies the appearance of each monolith perfectly. "2001" is a film which can be watched any number of times as long as it is used sparingly. I have only watched it twice since acquiring it several months ago, something usually unheard of for me, but I still have the urge to watch it again at some point. Arthur C. Clarke eventually brought out three sequel novels to the original 2001, written at the same time as the film was being produced but with a number of minor changes to allow for the film process, and a sequel "2010" have been produced, however these are not in the same league as this film. In fact, some of the more commendable and original qualities of 2001 such as its reality of the soundless vacuum of space and its classical musical score fail to translate over to 2010 which may make it more accessible, if less established. "2001" is a twentieth century classic of film-making which has inspired any number of space films since, and while it may not be to everyone's taste it includes a huge amount of excellent scenes and concepts.
My top list for 2001 goes a little summat like this(at least, I think these were all released in 2001)...bearing in mind I tend to make a point of missing anything tagged with "ought to win Oscars" until all the hype has buggered off and I haven't seen some of the supposed best movies of 2001. This is more a list of movies I thoroughly enjoyed in 2001 rather than a definitive best of... 1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Followship Of The Ring Peter Jackson's realisation of the book they said it would be impossible to film. Boy were they wrong! I absolutely adored Tolkien's LOTR trilogy(yes I know pedantically it's not a trilogy) and I've never looked forward to a movie quite so much as this one, unless we count the next one of course having had my appetite whetted by this one. The realisation of the world of Middle Earth onto the screen is absolutely stunning and whilst there are a few dissenters and of course those who are dissapointed about certain aspects of the novel being missed out, I think Peter Jackson's effort is as near perfect a translation as is possible with a book of such depth. 2) Amelie (Les Fabuleaux Destin De Amelie Poulain) Amelie is the most heartwarming and emotionally uplifting movie I think I've ever seen. At it's essence we have the story of a young French girl who is inspired by the death of Princess Diana to do good deeds to make those around her happy. That sounds simplistic and a little sappy I'm sure but the execution is so quirky and damn right adorable that you simply can't help but fall in love with the movie. I fully expected to be uninspired by this movie but it's easily up there with one of my all time favourites now and I'd have no qualms in recommending it to anyone. (subtitled but don't you dare let that put you off!) ...and yes I Know probably spelt the French title wrong... 3) The Others I'm not a fan o
f Nicole Kidman, in fact before this movie, I can't think of a single thing she has starred in which I would have given above a 3 star rating. Here though her performance is perfect...one might argue because she is asked to play the ice-maiden role which comes so naturally. But that would be too harsh maybe :oP The Others is a ghost story in the traditional sense of ghost stories. It doesn't offer much in the way of real shocks and the pace is very slow indeed but it spins out an intriguing story as it moves towards an ending which actually caught me out for once. Not to all tastes for sure because of a little false billing as a *really* creepy ghost story and because of it's slow pace but worth sticking with and easily one of the best of 2001. 4) Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone I'm not a Harry Potter fan. I read the first book through to the end on my second attempt(after much cajoling) and thought it was distinctly average and highly derivative of other stories, but that's just my view and a minority one obviously. I went to see the movie because of more of the same kind of cajoling(my girlfriend is a big fan sadly) and to my horror, loved it despite of myself. You know the story by now, (ordinary kid finds he's a wizard's son and goes to wizard school, has adventures, the end) which is nothing special but it makes for rather entertaining viewing. I do think considering all the hype surrounding the movie they could have made more of the special effects and could have found some child actors who could actually damn well act but in terms of being entertaining this is enormous fun and I suppose that's all that matters. Oddly, I enjoyed it more the second time around...which means I probably need to update the review I did here at the time. Hmpf. 5) Monsters Inc. Umm yes, another kiddie movie AND a Disney production so its honoured indeed because I tend to hate the over-moralising shites
. Monsters Inc. was enormous fun though. Brilliantly animated with jokes a-plenty for the kids and jokes a-plenty for the adult viewer as well, many of them sneaked into the background in the minutest of scenery detail and some great actors on the voice cast made this a must see movie. Monsters Inc. presents us with a city populated by monsters called Monstropolis which runs on scream power. Monsters leap out from closets in the middle of the night and harvest children's screams - a job which is becoming harder and harder now that children are becoming so hardened by TV. Mike & Sully are the scream factory's best team but a mistake caused by the arch-enemy leads to a child finding her way into Monstropolis, an event which could destroy them all. Oh screw the plot, just watch it, it's incredibly inventive and huge fun for all ages. 6) Shrek Before Monsters Inc. came Shrek which everyone was raving about but I ignored until having seen Monsters Inc. and hungering for more of the same I decided to rent. As it happens I'm one of the few who maintains Disney's movie is the better of the two but its a close run thing. Shrek takes place in a fairytale world, focusing on the story of a large green ogre called Shrek(voiced by Mike Myers) and his donkey companion called umm, 'Donkey'(voiced by Eddie Murphy) as they go off on a quest to rescue a maiden for the shortarse king so that Shrek can have his swamp back and all the fairytale creatures can live in peace. It's rude, irreverant, and pokes fun at Disney so of course I like it and basically is enormous fun. I don't think it's quite the masterpiece some of the initial reviews seemed to be suggesting but it is enormous fun. 7) Memento Guy Pearce has come a long way since Neighbours. Having seen The Time Machine some might be wishing he'd have never have left but in Memento he puts in a memorable performance in a simply superb, original movie. In
it he hunts for the man who raped and murdered his wife, something which has escaped the police so far. He has however a slight problem - he has no short term memory having suffered brain damage himself during the attack and must therefore conduct the investigation with a series of visual aids - polaroids, tattoos etc. The premise is great and the execution is absolutely superb. I'm not going to say anything else about this other than WATCH IT if you haven't already because it's absolutely superb and the less you know about it before watching the better. 8) K-Pax I don't think they'll ever be a movie starring Kevin Spacey which I'll actually be able to dislike(I loved American Beauty before someone comes back with that one again). K-Pax is based upon a book by Gene Brewer and thanks to two great performances from the two stars had me enthralled from start to finish. Oh sure, it's flawed and were 2001 a better year for movies might not have made this list but I loved it. Spacey is Prot, an institutionalised mental patient who claims he is from the planet K-Pax visiting Earth as a kind of space tourist. Jeff Bridges as his doctor is naturally sceptical but soon begins to have doubts and becomes drawn into Prot's world. Is Prot a loon who has created a complex fantasy world or his he really a space tourist? That's the question which could have been mishandled so badly but ends up deeply intriguing instead and leaves you asking questions long after the credits roll. 9) The Deep End Probably one you've never heard of and perhaps really only of interest to me because I recognise half of the settings from Tahoe. The Deep End is a movie which only received a limited release in UK cinemas but which ought to have been given a wider showing if audiences could be drawn to a movie with no real stars and no flashy moments to fill a trailer. No, not likely to fill a cinema is it. Sigh. What you get though
is a neatly crafted drama where a mother tries to cover up for her son who she believes has killed his older gay lover with a little blackmail and drama tossed in. It's a TV movie plot in many ways but the quality of the performance from the boy's mother(name escapes me right now I'm afraid) and an interesting subtext on lack of communication made this one of my favourites of 2001. Maybe just for me though. 10) From Hell I've seen this slated quite badly around the various movie sites I use but unjustly so I feel. What you get at its simplest is Johnny Depp as an opium addict London police inspector on the trail of a certain Mr. Jack T. Ripper in old London town. Where this movie succeeds for me though is both in the interesting new spin put on the story and in the dark, gothic nature of the scenery which truly makes London look like the creepiest stalking ground of the Ripper ever. It also gets brownie points for being the only movie I can remember in 2001 which had me recoiling in my seat in horror at one particularly visceral thoat slashing scene AND for using a largely British cast and doing so well, even if we have Mr. Depp and Heather Graham in the main ones. You can always giggle at Depp's mockney if nothing else but I think you'll find more than that to be entertained by here. Probabaly a strange and rather lightweight list by most people's standards but 2001 wasn't a great year for film was it? lol I know the likes of Moulin Rouge, A Beautiful Mind, The Royal Tenembaums, Gosford Park, Vanilla Sky, In The Bedroom and a host of others aren't there but the reasoning behind this is simple. I'm not keen on watching movies under the influence of hype, it usually means I'm disappointed, so I've yet to see them :o)
2001 wasn't a great year for cinema and there were certainly a lot of movies that are reguarded as really really bad (Jeepers Creepers, not even the best horror film in the last ten minutes let alone the last ten years, Pearl Habour, big budgets don't make a good film and The Mummy Returns, I could create better effects for the Scorpion king) however there were some outstandingly good films hidden amoungst the forgettable and often regretable there are some really cool films that make that year a bit better. All the films in my list were given a UK cinema release in 2001 Number 10-A.I Artificial Intelligence Haley Joel Osmand stars in a future set futuristic Pinocchio type story. The film has some breathtaking special effects and set. It also has a good story and it has good direction from Speilberg who took over Kubricks film after he died. Although the film is quite long and the last 20 minutes are stupid because the film ends in a good way then starts again to give a less satisfactory ending. There are some quite moving moments that come from David and also some light hearted moments. Number 9 - Moulin Rouge The reinventing of the musical, although it was good I don't think that is the way musicals should go. Very, very stylished and a wonderful mix of colours, lavish costumes, outstanding sets and dizzying camerawork.Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor can actually sing well and lead this tragic love story well. This is defintely a visual feast for the eyes but the film can seem a little incoherent at times. Number 8 - The Man Who Wasn't There Billy Bob Thornton stars as a barber in this film noir by the Coen brothers. Thorton is a barber who finds a way of getting money to invest in a store.By blackmailing his wives lover. However when murder comes into the mix the story Ed Cranes life get more complicated. This film which was filmed in colour then changed to black and white looks spectacular. Although some
people may find it a little boring I think it was a capitivating watch. Number 7 - Bandits Good, clean healthy fun which sees Billy Bob Thornton give another spectacular performance as a hypochondriac. The story of the sleepover bandits and their hostage, Kate. The film is a documentary style with Bruce Willis talking to a reporter about his career as a bankrobber. Although I did guess the ending I still found this film interesting and the 'Beavers and Ducks' moment is one of the funniest I have ever seen because it is so unexpected. Thorton's character Terry really makes this movie good. Number 6 - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon I have never, ever seen a marital arts type movie before this and thought that it would be all boring fighting and nothing else. However I was completely blown away by this film. It has a strong story, good acting (I think it's hard to tell when you don't speak the language)a dn good direction. The fight scenes are spectacular and add to the story. Also the fact that their are girls fighting I think adds to the appeal. The subtitles were not of putting, I thought they would be. A must see. Number 5 - Almost Famous Story of a young boy who dreams of being a great rock journalist. He goes on tour with band Stillwater. This film has a wonderful story and interesting characters, great directing and a good soundtrack. What I also like about this film is the humour that is added by Frances McDormand. This film seamlessly intertwines drama, comedy and romance to make a wonderful watch and has outstanding performances. Number 4 - The Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Rings I never read the book and thought the film sounded pretty lame and I wasn't particlarly counting down the days until it was released. However I did go and see it because it was directed by Peter Jackson and absolutely loved it. I firstly I loved the look of the film it looked quite dark and dingy. T
he villians were really quite scary and looked menacing. The heros are all likeable and there are many suspensful moments. i loved the mine bit. It deserves to do better than Harry Potter. Number 3 - Amelie A happy, heart warming film which would cheer even the most black hearted people up. The film is centered on the sweet Amelie (played wonderfully by Audrey Tautou) and her quest to make everyone happy. She is almost child like but unfortunately she is lonely. She lives in a dream world and is bound to be loved by anyone. The is wonderful direction and acting and the story is construced well with brilliant visuals which bring this magical story to life. Number 2 - Battle Royale Wow! This film blew me away with all the gore. Battle Royale is about how Japan has decided to straigten up their children. By introducing the Battle Royale act. Once a year a class is sent to a deserted island. There they must kill each other until there is only one left.There is a time limit of 3 days and if there isn't a winner by then they all die. The film mixes Lord of the Flies with reality TV and throws in a bucket ful of gore. Wonderful direction and the operatic music adds well to the style of the film. But the best thing is the cool deaths. Sure to become a cult favourite Number 1 - Ghost World I absolutely love this film because it is different to al those sickening teen films where it is so cliched it isn't even funny. What makes this film so great is the characters, espcially Enid and Rebecca who are so funny and their comments on everyhting is funny. Ghost World is based on the also excellent graphic novel by Daniel Clowes which is also excellent. Sadly it is not as well known here as it should be. Some of the films in 2001 two of the most disappointing films for me were Jeepers Creepers (I thought that it could be more than a shitty trendy horror, I was wrong), The Others (I found it more funny then creepy.)
Let's face it, 2001 hasn't been the greatest year for Hollywood movies. Fortunately though, there were enough of the independent, smaller budget films to make up for that. I had to go all the way back to January to find a few of the choices for my top ten, but this may have been down to me missing a lot of the well-praised movies of the year ('Amelie' and 'Ghost World' for starters). As has been noted elsewhere, it's quite difficult to compile a list of the best films of the year when you haven't actually seen every film released! However, as well as missing some good movies, I was also subjected to the Hollywood disappointments of the summer, of which 'Pearl Harbour' was by no means the worst. Thankfully, there were a number of movies that I did enjoy, although it should come as no surprise when I tell you that 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider', 'The Mummy Returns' and the shockingly bad 'The Gift' won't be featuring in my list. Still, there definitely were some bright spots to the year, and with a few great movies among them, there's plenty to write home about. 10. BEST IN SHOW A comedy about a national dog show perhaps isn't the strongest premise for a movie, even less so for an enjoyable one. However, writer/director Christopher Guest (previously responsible for rock-spoof, 'This is Spinal Tap') employs a mockumentary style that elicits laughter in a subtle and effective manner. Centring on the increasingly eccentric owners of five of the competing dogs, we are treated to some of the funniest improvisation and character work I've seen in a while, and Guest employs it perfectly. There are plenty of quotable lines, with perhaps the best scenes going to the ludicrously out-of-place commentator Fred Willard, who deals non-sequiturs like there's no tomorrow. Perhaps what's most surprising is how co- commentator Jim Piddock mana
ges to keep a straight face. Of the actual contestants, the best performances come from Eugene Levy as Gerry Fleck, a Terrier owner with two left feet, and from Guest himself as Harlan Pepper, a Bloodhound owner with a talent for ventriloquism and "naming nuts". However, the real winner here is the witty and hilarious writing. 9. THIRTEEN DAYS It's not entirely surprising that '13 Days' didn't do that well at the UK box office - after all, from the trailer it appeared to be about a load of politicians shouting at each other, and the added 'bonus' of Kevin Costner probably condemned it before it had even opened. Remarkably though, this is Costner's best film for years, and despite the slow moving on-screen action, the obvious tension surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis is more than enough to keep the pace at an energetic level. Roger Donaldson directs the tension superbly, and for those who have seen his little-known thriller 'No Way Out', this will come as no surprise. That we know the ultimate outcome of the crisis is inconsequential; in fact, it goes to show just how well the screenplay has been developed. You'll be rooting for the situation to end peacefully, and you'll also see quite how difficult a position John and Robert Kennedy were put in for those tense thirteen days, as the threat of nuclear war grew ever more likely. 8. THE PLEDGE What starts out as an apparently simple story - a retiring cop promises the parents of a murdered girl that he will find her killer - slowly descends into something altogether more complex and disturbing. Despite the somewhat clichéd premise, it's about the only thing that is predictable in this movie, with the ending in particular being far from your typical Hollywood resolution. And of course, that's part of what makes it so good. As director, Sean Penn is very impressive, but the standout (possibly ca
reer-best) performance from Jack Nicholson is what sticks in the mind the longest. How he hasn't been showered with awards is beyond me, and if the Academy makes one surprise decision this year, I hope it'll be to at least nominate Nicholson for an Oscar. His portrayal of anger, determination and ultimate obsession makes for thoroughly compelling viewing, and not until the very end are the importance of the opening shots made clear. This is a film that many won't appreciate, but for those who enjoy challenging cinema, it's one of the year's best. 7. THE OTHERS Definitely the surprise hit of the year, this low budget traditional ghost story grossed almost $100 million at the US box-office, and more than £10 million here in the UK. Without doubt, the highlight of the movie is the outstanding Nicole Kidman - yes, she's even better than her turn in 'Moulin Rouge' (which will certainly win her more awards). Kidman's utterly believable performance here is helped by the masterful direction from Alejandro Amenábar, who makes the tricky art of building tension and atmosphere look easy. The story itself is uncomplicated enough; it's essentially about a mother and her children, who gradually discover the huge house they live in is haunted by ghosts. Don't worry though, it's anything but formulaic. 6. THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE Although it took me ages in getting around to watching this film, I'm glad I did in the end. A Coen Brothers' production is normally a must-see for me now - they're two of the most consistent American filmmakers working today. What strikes you first about 'The Man Who Wasn't There' is the quite brilliant black-and-white cinematography by Roger Deakins (who also, coincidentally, shot 'Thirteen Days'). Combined with the wonderful lighting set-up (Joel Coen clearly knows what he's doing there), the film is a jo
y to watch, and that's before you even consider the central performance from Billy Bob Thornton, and the film-noir inspired plot that involves murder, blackmail and flying saucers. It's a little strange in places, but the typical Coen Brothers' humour is excellent, mainly when delivered in a dry, deadpan voiceover by Thornton, although special mention must also go to Tony Shalhoub. In a brilliant supporting performance, he plays probably the only lawyer to ever use the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle as a defence for murder. Not quite up to the standard of their greatest movies ('The Big Lebowski' is one of my favourites), but definitely one of the best of the year. 5. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING Does it really need any introduction? While I wasn't as overwhelmed with this adaptation as many people clearly were, I do recognise its obvious winning credentials. The overall look and feel of the movie is outstanding, with some marvellous location shoots recreating the depth and beauty of Middle Earth perfectly. The performances are good too, with the major actors seemingly well suited to their characters. Peter Jackson's direction is also effective, working from a screenplay that was nothing if not brave - after all, bringing Tolkien's massive work to the screen was never going to be easy. And that's really the only problem with the film. In trying to cover so much story, and filling in so much exposition, there was always going to be something missed out. Unfortunately, it's the depth of the characters that is sacrificed, with most simply becoming caricatures that further the plot with little or no explanation. Of course, with this being the first of three films, I would hope these thinly developed characters would be fleshed out more in the next instalment. This is, however, my only major criticism of the movie, and besides, it's more of an event than a film
, anyway - you just have to see it, especially if you've read the book. 4. TRAFFIC Whilst the original television mini-series was arguably better, mainly due to the longer running time, this movie adaptation is nevertheless worthy of high praise. Steven Soderbergh picked up a Best Director Oscar for his work here, but perhaps more interesting is his cinematography credit. Following three stories along different points of the drug supply chain, a distinct method is employed for filming each one. The sepia-toned vision of Mexico's front-line contrasts starkly with the blue-washed images of Washington as a government-appointed drug czar fights the narcotics trade at home and abroad. The casting, and therefore acting, is virtually flawless. Benicio Del Toro won all the plaudits, but the performances of Don Cheadle, Miguel Ferrer and Catherine Zeta Jones are also impressive. The real star though, is Soderbergh. Like the series before it, 'Traffic' gives an honest and unflinching look at drug use, and pulls no punches when showing just how difficult it is to stop the illegal trade. Because of this, it isn't an easy film to watch, but I still recommend it for anyone who can appreciate good filmmaking. This is Soderbergh's best movie so far. 3. ALMOST FAMOUS Easily one of the best and most enjoyable feel-good movies of the year. Cameron Crowe writes and directs this story of young William Miller (Patrick Fugit) as he goes on tour with a rock group and on the way discovers as much about himself as the people he is following. The soundtrack is excellent, the acting universally impressive, and the writing thoroughly entertaining. One thing is certain: it would be very hard not to like 'Almost Famous'. The characters are interesting and funny: Frances McDormand is brilliant as William's overprotecting mother; Kate Hudson shines whenever she's on the screen as a groupie who fol
lows the band everywhere; Philip Seymour Hoffman (in a very small role) is perfect as music critic Lester Bangs; and Billy Crudup gives a complex and subtle performance as Russell Hammond, the band's lead guitarist. Cameron Crowe shows, as he did in 'Jerry Maguire' and 'Vanilla Sky', that he is more than capable of bringing out the best in his actors, and he can also bring together a likeable and appropriate soundtrack. 'Almost Famous' is undeniably a feel-good movie, but that's one of its biggest strengths. 2. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON It's pretty unusual for a foreign, subtitled movie to be successful at the box-office. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' took more than $120 million in the US alone, and for good reason. The film contains examples of beautiful cinematography, stunning martial arts choreography, and a rousing musical score from Oscar-winner Tan Dun. The story itself concerns the long-standing love between warrior Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat Chow) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), against a backdrop of the theft and subsequent search for a mythical and powerful sword. Most of note in the film are the remarkable sword-fight sequences, in which the warriors defy gravity while flying across rooftops, standing on slender tree branches and climbing walls in a single bound. The best of these though is the heated confrontation between Shu Lien and Jen (Zhang Ziyi) in a weapon-filled dojo, and it's here that Wo Ping Yuen's inspired fight choreography really comes to the fore. This isn't simply a martial-arts movie, though. There's also a much deeper current running through the story, and the thought-provoking ending is one of the most poignant of recent memory. 1. MOULIN ROUGE "Spectacular! Spectacular!" shout several of the characters in this movie, and that's exactly what Baz Lurhmann's colourful musical is, as well as being
my Film of the Year. Following aspiring writer Ewan McGregor on his exploration of the bohemian nightlife of turn-of-the-century Paris, Lurhmann directs the action with a flourish. Fast cuts, spectacular music sequences, and some wonderful costume and set-design set this movie out from the crowd. Nicole Kidman is simply the icing on the cake, and even though diamonds are her best friend, she manages to sparkle all on her own. The story itself is actually the least special thing about 'Moulin Rouge', but somehow that doesn't really matter. You won't be worrying about plot while the pace is kept so fast, and with the music and set pieces coming thick and fast, the picture draws you in until you're truly involved. Admittedly, it does become rather slow in the final act, but that's forgivable when the director is audacious enough to provide re-workings of modern pop-songs that surprisingly fit the setting. Madonna's 'Like a Virgin' is used as a sales pitch, Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' is chanted by an enthusiastic crowd, and to top it all, 'Roxanne' by The Police is adapted into a tango that intersects a crucial turn in the story. Baz Lurhmann certainly doesn't do things by halves. I resisted seeing 'Moulin Rouge' at the cinema because I thought it wasn't going to be my type of film. Therefore, I was very surprised by quite how much I enjoyed it when watching the DVD. If you can still catch it on the big screen (a few cinemas are still showing it), I'd highly recommend doing so, although seeing the movie at all is a must. Spectacular. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ So there we are, then - my top ten films of 2001. I'm sure plenty of you will disagree with my choices, or my failure to include certain films that you enjoyed. But hey, we can't all like the same things, huh? Do let me know in the comments section though, as I'll be interested to see which
of the films I missed are worth watching once they arrive on DVD.
If it wasn’t for the late flourish of blockbusters it would be yet another poor year for movies. The last three or so have seen Hollywood having to give all the rewards to the above average and not great films in the run up to the Oscars. Pictures like American Beauty and Erin Brokivich are along way from Schindlers List and The Godfather.We reached an all time low when Titanic was a warded a hatfull just because most of the movie industry needed it to be a hit as they had financial involvement. This year we have seen The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter break box office records during the critical Christmas period. If it wasn’t for these big earners I would say it would have been the worse year for movies since I can remember, apart from last year and the four before that. These are ten I have seen on video this year of 2001, as I can’t afford six quid a hit for the cinema, hence why the big two flicks are not there. Im not that sophisticated in the film pallet so expect no French relationship black and whites or Blackadder style Ruff epics. These are my most enjoyable films this year on VHS. 1) THE DISH………..Another brilliantly enjoyable Aussie comedy based on the true story of an outback-remote large array transmitter. It was the only one situated in the southern hemisphere to transmit the now legendary grainy black and white moon walk film. The whole of the world was relying on a small sheep farming town and its assortment of characters to carry out the triumphant task to bring those moments to the world. It quickly goes wrong with power outs and high winds as scientist Sam Neil who is in just about every OZ movie saves the day. This was his and the towns big moment to make the world proud and us laugh every minute. Wonderful warm comedy with beautiful outback panorama’s……….8/10. 2) AMORES PERRES………They called it the Mexic
an Pulp Fiction as this foreign national film pops all around and in the nasty world of dog fighting.Its in out of order segments like Tarrantinos stuff but the tempo is more gritty and urban. There was controversy of the overly realistic dog scraps in prizefights but BBC’s Mark Kamode of the quiffy top assures us that no dogs were even scratched during the filming. Its violent, real and a powerful piece of film that will leave you fully entertained. The old tramp and political killer guy is superb…..8/10 3) CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON……….No one would have thought an elaborate Kung Fu film would have one last years best foreign film Oscar.Well it did and it’s a quite extraordinary production experience as the actors fly though the tress in those breathtaking special effects. The music is stunning to as the love story fairy tale of two people and a beautiful sacred sword. Mixed in with the visual and enigmatic performance, it makes for the almost perfect cinematography come to life. Must see foreign classic………….8/10. 4) SEXY BEAST……Ok its yet another Guy Richie gangster film spin off starring the predictable Ray Winstone and Amanda Redman.But the film is stolen by a stunning performance by Ben Kingsley as the psychotic Don Logan who is a kind of criminal head hunter. He comes down to the Costa del Crime to round up retired lag Winstone for one last job in London.Rays not interested in the gig but dare not say no to Logan.Hence follows an extraordinary barrage of expletives and bad behavior by Logan as Kingsly sends his acting skills. He’s so far removed from Ghandi I can tell you…….See it just for mad Logans turn and the boulder busting start to the movie. The director is more used to pop videos than Brit Flick but brings something fresh to the cinema in his fat paced style…………See it for mad Ghandi!…R
30;….7?10. 5) BEST IN SHOW…….A funny take on the show dog world of all things by Spinal Taps legendary axe David Saint Hubbins Hubbins,aka,Christopher Guest.It’s the same kind of approach to as the brilliant rock band spoof as we go from Rockumentry to Dogumenetry with lots of solid laughs and sharp script throughout.. The highlight of the film is the show sequence where American Pies, Eugene Levy has to run the hound on the floor as a sports commentator calls the last six dogs display. This section makes the film and its well worth the rental for dog and great comedy lovers……..7/10. 6) ALMOST FAMOUS……..A brilliant mood period piece as a young wannabe rock writer bluffs his way to the top at the grand old age of fifteen. It’s a coming of age rights of way passage film as the young one gets a lesson in life by the cute teen rock muse played by the gorgeous Kate Hudson. He gets a lesson to in just about every else ayoung mans play book including being deflowered by thee girls and travelling on a road trip with middle of the road rock band Stillwater. Its wonderfully filmed and delightful performances all round as the film gently washes over you like a summers breeze………..A must see of 2001……8/10. 7) TWO HANDS……Another cracking Aussie film that premiered this year on tape.Its one of those obscure rentals that gets the bottom left corner of Blockbuster next to Crocodile Dundee in LA and Honey I shrunk Myself. It’s a comedy thriller that twists and turns as a young Aussie guy trys to impress the local crime lord (Bryan Brown of course!) who gives him a small job to see what he’s made of. But he cocks it up and must get the money back or he’s a dead man. Its fast paced and original with some great performances by the young up and coming cast. If you like Aussie style then this will please you greatly!…̷
0;………..8/10. 8) ME MYSELF AND IRENE……..Ok this is borderline 2000 release but I liked it so much above the pap Ive seen this year that it must get a mention. If you enjoyed Dumb and Dumber then you will really get into this as we see more of the dark side of the flexible Jim Carrey. The LA funnyman has multi facets to his talents from the twisted Cable Guy to the honest lawyer in Liar Liar.Its laughs again all the way in this one as Carry gets to grips in being a schizophrenic in small town American police force. The plot allows him to be naughty and cutting and it quickly evolves into a guy’s film like Bridge Jones is for chicks. Lots of clever in-jokes and some risky stuff thrown in. If you have heard bad reports and ignored it so far then now is the time to check it out!…..7/10. 9) NURSE BETTY………Sexy cute Rene Zellwegger plays a bored housewife who is so obsessed with soaps that she ends up in one. After her husband is gunned down by an aging hitman and his apprentice she flees to meet the doctor in the soap who she honestly believes is real. The dippy blonde pretends to be a nurse to meet her beau with the hitmen hot on her tail in this cross America romp. Morgan Friedman wants to finish his final job and tie up the loose ends as the hired killer as we get a rip-roaring film on an unusual subject. Its main quality is the subject matter and the story tells well on the screen. It had no big screen release here and would easily have slipped by without a whisper. If you like something different and funny then this is a must……7/10. 10) SNATCH…….Again it’s a marginal as most people saw it at the movies in 2000.But I waited for its video release after the ok Lock stock dint really grab me.But this is a far more superior product with much more style and humor and not a blatant Pulp Fiction rip off!. Gangster wanna be Richie reall
y comes up trumps with the best British film in ages here and I cant wait for his next one………….8/10. Heres some more I liked but didn’t make the cut. MAGNOLIA. TRAFFIC. 13 DAYS. STATE OF MAINE. U521.
As ever with these top ten film lists, they're made more difficult to compile if you haven't actually seen every film released, and hence you inevitably end up with a list which is biased according to your individual tastes and preferences. For example, there are some films, released in 2001, which really didn't appeal to me on the basis of their plots. Had I seen them, I might have found them to be the best thing ever, even better than jam, but I didn't. My criterion for whether or not films are eligible for this category is their UK theatrical release date. If a film received its first theatrical screening in this country during the year 2001, then it qualifies for the list. By this criterion, 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000) and 'Mononoke Hime' (1997) both qualify. 'Ali' (2001), however, would not. Typically, I've just made it a lot more difficult for myself to compile this list, because by far the majority of films that I saw at the cinema during 2001 were foreign or arthouse films which were actually released over the last few years. In addition, I managed to miss several of the films which made it onto most people's top 10 lists of the year - 'Moulin Rouge', 'The Others', 'Bridget Jones's Diary', 'AI', 'Traffic' and 'Cast Away'. Similarly, I managed to avoid several of the year's worst films - 'Planet of the Apes', 'Evolution', 'Jeepers Creepers' and 'Pearl Harbor'. However, that's not to say that my taste was impeccable this year - I wasted my time (and money) sitting through such dross as 'Along Came A Spider', 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider', 'The Gift', 'Hannibal', 'The Mummy Returns', 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back', Disney's 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' and 'Shrek'. So, having bored you with that preamble, and hav
ing already mentioned twenty-one films, I suppose you're wondering if there are actually ten decent films left for me to write about! Well, let's get on with the list then: 10. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE (2001) My enjoyment of 'Harry Potter' was probably artificially increased by the fact that I really didn't expect it to be any good. I've not actually read any of J. K. Rowling's books, and my only pre-film experience of the story was a brief snatch of one of the audiobooks, overheard while working in the laboratory one day. My instant judgement on the story was that it sounded like remarkably generic fantasy - and indeed, to an extent it is. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers that there is another world beyond the one we all live in - a world of magic, in which he is already known, where he goes to study wizardry at Hogwarts School. However, the realisation of the film was actually surprisingly good, and although the story wasn't particularly inspiring or original, I found the film to be impressively immersive. Director Chris Columbus did an impressive job of converting Rowling's vision to the big screen, creating some impressive and memorable locations for the story's events. That's not to say the film was without flaws - the child actors and the special effects let it down to a certain extent, and pacing was patchy. But, overall, the film was a nicely diverting jaunt, which managed to fill two and a half hours without ever seeming excessively slow. 9. THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE (2000) A new direction for Disney saw a new type of animated feature - a movie entirely driven by comedy. In a way, the film attempted to tap into the same vein as 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama', incorporating both obvious slapstick humour and more intelligent, subtle references. This is a buddy movie, in the very traditional sense - two unlikely travelling companions
(Emperor Kuzco (David Spade), turned into a llama by his jealous ex-administrator, and simple farmer Pacha (John Goodman)) have to travel across country to the emperor's palace. The trademark attention to detail in the quality of the animation, and the strength of the story made for a brilliantly diverting and entertaining feature. Although there was a song, it was a relatively brief but largely amusing one, at the beginning of the movie, and the film made great use of its cast of excellent voice actors. This was a surprisingly enjoyable movie, which has probably been overlooked by all too many people as "just another Disney movie", due to the inept publicity campaign it received. The only flaw, as I see it, is that the film is a scant 78 minutes long. Certainly, 'The Emperor's New Groove' is a good deal better than Disney's other 2001 animated feature - the unevenly paced and uninspired 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' - another experimental feature for Disney, a more serious animation aimed at an older audience. 8. BEST IN SHOW (2001) After the superb 'This Is Spinal Tap', it seemed unlikely that Christopher Guest would ever manage to produce another such supremely entertaining mockumentary. Certainly, his 1996 film 'Waiting For Guffman' examining an amateur theatre production in small town America falls disappointingly short of the earlier film's brilliance. Nonetheless, 'Best In Show', following five dogs, and their owners, as they go to attend a major dog show is an extremely amusing and enjoyable movie. The majority of the dialogue in 'Best In Show' is improvised, and the movie has been cut from many hours of recorded footage, to incorporate the most entertaining lines. The result is a series of hilarious vignettes, as we follow the five sets of unlikely characters. Christopher Guest himself is absolutely superb as bloodhound-owning Harlan Pepper,
and Eugene Levy shines as terrier-owning Gerald Fleck. However, probably the film's most entertaining moments are provided by the dog show announcer Buck Laughlin, played by Fred Williard. It's refreshing to see a film that is capable of comedy without resorting to puerile crudity, as so many comedies seem to nowadays. This was probably the most amusing film at the cinema in 2001, for my money. 7. SAFAR E GHANDEHAR [KANDAHAR] (2001) There can be no doubting that the Western release of the Iranian film 'Kandahar' came at probably the most germane moment. Released shortly after the attacks on the United States in September, 'Kandahar' considers the state of Afghanistan under Taliban rule from the point of view of an outsider. In the film, we follow Nafas (Niloufar Pazira), an Afghan refugee who has been living as a reporter in Canada, as she battles to get back to the city of Kandahar in a race against time to prevent her sister committing suicide during the 1999 eclipse. In many ways, the film is flawed - the pacing is uneven, and the acting is variable. However, the film has three major strengths - the cinematography, the documentary aspect, and its topicality. Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's presentation is absolutely superb. I freely admit that I'm a sucker for sweeping shots of deserts, but 'Kandahar' presents some truly beautiful images - the scenes of the Red Cross parachute drops of artificial limbs on remote aid posts, for example, are stunning. The documentary aspect of the movie is also excellent - giving a real insight into what life was like in Afghanistan under the Taliban and the plight of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. So, although 'Kandahar' is in many ways not a great film, there is certainly enough that is memorable and compelling about it to qualify it for a position in my top ten of 2001. It's definitely a film that people should see, if onl
y to confirm why it was so important that the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan be overthrown. 6. BATTLE ROYALE (2000) A highly controversial movie from Japan, 'Battle Royale' is part black comedy, part horror movie, and part social satire. Set in the near future, the film follows a group of schoolchildren as they take part in that year's Battle Royale programme - a system designed to reduce civil disobedience and disrespect among the young people of Japan. The schoolchildren are transported to a remote island, and are pitted against each other for three days - either only one of them survives to win the programme, or they all die. It?s fascinating to watch, as we follow the relationships between the classmates - firm friends initially work together to survive, knowing full well that the game's rules will eventually force them to turn on each other. There are some terrific performances here from the young actors, and Takeshi Kitano is particularly good, as one of the class's old teachers, who explains the rules of the "game" to them, and monitors their progress. The film has its flaws, not least of which being that it is difficult to see how the Battle Royale programme actually serves to improve behaviour of the nation's students, but at the same time, it's a remarkably compelling film - at times claustrophobic, at times exhilarating, hilarious and tragic. The amount of violence in the film will mean that it's not likely to appeal to all, but it's certainly a film that merits watching. 5. MONONOKE HIME [Princess Mononoke] (1997) Some four years after its release in Japan, and two years after its U.S. release, 'Princess Mononoke' finally received a spectacularly limited release in the United Kingdom, playing at just a handful of cinemas before receiving a quiet DVD release and disappearing. It's pretty typical of the UK reaction to Studio Ghibli animations - th
anks to Manga Entertainment's releases over the last few years, the public perception is that all Japanese animation is super-violent porn. This is far from the truth - in Japan, two out of every five books published is a comic book (manga), and the diversity of genres covered in these comic books is as broad as that of books printed over here. There's no stigma attached to manga there, as there is to comic books here, and an adult reading a comic book on the Tokyo subway won't attract the dismissive glances that one would on the London Underground. Animation in Japan has similarly wide appeal, and animations are watched by all demographics - not just families. 'Princess Mononoke' has a typically mature theme. Set in Japan's Muromachi era, Prince Ashitaka is cursed by a Boar God, who has been corrupted into a "Cursing God" or Tatari-Gami by his hatred of humans. Ashitaka travels west to find the Deer God who might be able to rid him of the curse, finding himself mixed up in a conflict between a village of iron smelters and the wolves of the neighbouring forest. It's a strong story, which is well told, whether you watch with the original Japanese dialogue or the English translation (produced by acclaimed Western comic book writer and author, Neil Gaiman). There is a strong ecological message, as there is in many of Studio Ghibli's titles. The animation is truly outstanding, far beyond the standards of much of Disney's recent work, making it easy to forget that you're watching an animation. While the story contains a fair degree of violence, certainly more than other Studio Ghibli releases, it is far from gratuitous. The movie is certainly not appropriate for very young children, but will be enjoyed by older children and adults alike. 4. WO HU CANG LONG [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon] (2000) Ang Lee's first Chinese language movie since the Oscar-nominated '
;Eat Drink Man Woman' is a radically different affair - a wistful Chinese folk tale, punctuated by balletic, beautifully choreographed sword fights. The film follows Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), a warrior who feels he has reached a wall in his search for enlightenment at the Wudan temple, and gives up his sword, the Green Destiny. He asks Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) to convey the weapon to Sir Te in Beijing. The sword's arrival at Te's house coincides with a visit by his neighbour, Governer Yu and his daughter, Jen (Ziyi Zhang). When a mysterious figure breaks into Te's house that evening and steals the Green Destiny, it's believed to be the work of Jade Fox... though it seems that Jade Fox is hiding out in Governer Yu's house... The real strengths of the movie are the stunning fight choreography, overseen by Hong Kong legend Yuen Woo Ping, and the beautiful cinematography. The fights are pure acrobatic fantasy, with characters literally climbing walls in a single bound, before flying across rooftops. Peter Pau, another Hong Kong movie veteran, is responsible for the film's stunning cinematography - as the camera glides beautifully through the Chinese cities and countryside. Words of praise are particularly offered for the bamboo-based fight sequence, and the opening scenes of 19th century Beijing. Tan Dun's music is also beautifully evocative, combining well with Yo-Yo Ma's moving cello solos. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' is a superb martial arts film - the fight sequences are as beautifully presented as an audience could hope for, and while the story is slight compared to many Western movies, it is easily enough to keep the film moving. Beautiful. 3. GHOST WORLD (2001) Released the same day as 'Harry Potter', 'Ghost World' was destined for poor box office takings. Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, 'Ghost World' is a paean for the alienated and the disaffec
ted. In the film, we follow the lives of two friends; Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) as they graduate from high school, and try to decide what to do with the rest of their lives. Enid befriends Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a lonely guy with an obsessive interest in blues music, and begins to drift away from her friend. For me, 'Ghost World' was particularly enjoyable viewing because I could relate to the film's main characters - to Enid's smug sense of superiority, to Rebecca's lack of direction, and Seymour's obsessiveness. In a sense, this comprehension and understanding of the film's characters was quite unsettling, but it just goes to show how brilliantly observed and well portrayed the characters were. In addition to the superb characterisation and dialogue, the film takes savage satirical swipes at modern culture - "Give everybody a Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and they're happy," mutters Seymour derisively. The film's visual style is also superb, strongly reminiscent, in many scenes, of 'American Beauty'. If this weren't enough, there are so many neat little touches and quirks to the 'Ghost World' - from the nunchaku-weilding patron of the convenience store, to the morbid staff of the comic book store, via Norman, who waits for the bus that will never come... 2. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) We've probably all seen it by now. It was inevitable that a film adaptation of Tolkien's classic fantasy work was going to divide its critics - every reader will have formed their own impressions of the book's locations and characters, which may not agree with director Peter Jackson's vision. For me, however, this was a stunning realisation of a beautiful, deeply immersive fantasy world. If there is a problem with the film, it lies with the pacing - there's a lot of plot covered in the movie's thr
ee hours, inevitably meaning that the story moves at an extremely fast pace. Essentially, there's no break in the action for the full length of the movie, so make sure you've gone to the toilet before you go in - if you have to go during the movie, you'll probably miss an important plot point. But, this minor criticism aside, I was left with glowing praise for the film - from the sumptuous locations and the stunning presentation of the gorgeous New Zealand countryside, through the superb acting, to the (generally) good special effects. 'The Fellowship of the Ring' was an outstandingly good movie upon which to end the year - as Jonathan Ross didn't put it - "a wight-wollocking woller-coaster wide of a movie." 1. LE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMÉLIE POULAIN [Amelie] (2001) And, my top movie for 2001 is the latest from French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ('The City of Lost Children', 'Delicatessen' and ahem... 'Alien Resurrection'); the magical, touching, beautiful, moving 'Amélie'. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, negative to say about 'Amélie'. It's just a lovely, feelgood, charming film. Hmm... maybe I'd better describe it, rather than just list adjectives... Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) has an unconventional upbringing in a small village in France. Her parents have little physical contact with her, so when her father (a doctor) gives her a medical examination, the flurry this causes in her heart causes him to diagnose a weak heart. So, young Amélie is deprived of any real adventure, forcing her to create a fantasy world in her head. When Amélie grows up, she leaves home to become a waitress in the Montmartre region of Paris, attempting to seek out love and the meaning of life. As she hears of the news of Princess Diana's death, Amélie drops a bottle top, which rolls along the ground dislodging a tile on the skirting board. When she rem
oves the tile, she discovers a box filled with childhood treasures, and becomes determined to return it to its original owner. So begins Amélie's quest to bring joy to those around her. It's a beautifully shot film, with truly outstanding cinematography throughout. The acting is absolutely first-rate, with the impish Audrey Tautou producing a heart-meltingly wonderful performance as Amélie herself. The story twists and turns through all manner of touching, humorous scenes. Paris has never looked so beautiful... or so appealing. It's funny, it?s charming, it's... oh, look, just go see it, can't you? You'll notice I've not written an opinion on the film on dooyoo - I just don't think I can do it justice. CONCLUSIONS So there we have it... Probably some of my choices are surprising, some are probably not. I expect to take all sorts of abuse for not including the Coen brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' - which, while boasting what was probably 2001's best cinematography (in an admittedly good year for artistic composition in film), managed to disappoint me with a bland plot and a lacklustre conclusion... particularly by the Coen brothers' high standards. In general, I felt 2001 was a pretty good year for film... though that's mainly non-mainstream film, you understand. Apart from an upturn toward the end of the year with the two strong fantasy book adaptations, Hollywood managed to produce yet another year coloured by spectacularly uninspiring mediocrity. Still, with the two fantasy film series set to continue into 2002, at least I'll have two films from Hollywood to look forward to. Somehow I suspect 'Austin Powers: Goldmember' isn't going to inspire me... and 'Star Wars: Episode II - Send In The Ten Foot Mutant Killer Tomato Clones' looks more 'Phantom Menace' than 'New Hope'.