My 2000 Picks: Douglas, Zellweger, Count on Me

People have been asking me when I’m going to publish my 10-best list for the movie year 2000, and I’ve been telling them I am still pondering my choices. This year was particularly difficult because so many worthy contenders had their release dates bunched together over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I have been getting my 10-best lists published since 1958, a year that will live in infamy in my mind for my omissions of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil . There is no guarantee that I won’t make comparable mistakes again.

One mistake I won’t make is to wail forlornly for the glories of past years. Every moviegoing year since at least 1915 has been underrated in its time and overrated in retrospect. The 40’s were more than Citizen Kane and Casablanca , too much more. I know. I vas dere, Charlie. Which brings us to the year 2000, which turns out not to be nearly so rotten as many people said it was. Of course, I am still talking about movies now, and not the stock market or the vote swindle in Florida. So without further ado, here are the 10 Best English-Language Films of 2000, in order:

1. Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me

2. Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys

3. Terence Davies’ The House of Mirth

4. Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic

5. Mike Hodges’ Croupier

6. Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream

7. Neil LaBute’s Nurse Betty

8. Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich

9. Robert Altman’s Dr. T and the Women

10. David Mamet’s State and Main .

The most controversial film on my list is probably Dr. T & the Women , which wound up on a few 10-worst lists. I don’t agree with people who say it is misogynistic in that it surrounds a man with demanding women until he goes stark raving mad. It is no more, and perhaps no less, misogynistic than Buster Keaton’s brilliant Seven Chances (1925). Richard Gere is quite good as Dr. T and, as always, terribly underrated.

But the big shock for me on the list was Darren Aronofsky, whose first feature film, Pi (1998), was so excruciating to my eyes and ears that I wanted him barred from using a camera ever again. Requiem for a Dream made me glad that no one paid attention to my request. I don’t know how he managed to generate such strong feelings out of such terminally downbeat material, but with Mr. Aronofsky it seems to be a case of more is more, and the hell with Stanislavsky.

My other choices should come as no big surprise to anyone. This is not a year of consensus picks. Actually, my first three choices are in a virtual dead heat: If I give Mr. Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me a slight edge over Mr. Hanson’s Wonder Boys and Mr. Davies’ The House of Mirth , it is because something subtle in Mr. Lonergan’s unobtrusive style strikes me as exceedingly unusual in this age of hollow razzmatazz. Mike Hodges’ Croupier is a personal favorite, inasmuch as good reviews rescued it from virtual oblivion and helped revive the career of one of the unsung masters of film noir. Mr. Soderbergh scored a rare double play with two very different kinds of movies, while Mr. LaBute showed a softer side with someone else’s screenplay. Mr. Altman displayed a commendable resilience and durability, as he has done so often in recent years with variable material. He has gone up and down with more sang froid than any director I can think of, but nothing apparently is capable of shutting him down for good. Mr. Mamet, like Mr. LaBute, displayed a lighter, softer side, but with his own screenplay. What my list suggests, all in all, is that at heart I am an unreconstructed auteurist and always will be.

There were several English-language movies clamoring to get into the No. 10 slot. These include The Perfect Storm , Girlfight , The Virgin Suicides , Bedazzled , Me Myself I , Best in Show , Claire Dolan , Judy Berlin , High Fidelity , Cotton Mary , Timecode , Unbreakable , Proof of Life , Before Night Falls and Luminous Motion .

In case you were wondering, I never considered including Billy Elliot . After all, how long is Thatcher-bashing going to go on? The Full Monty and Brassed Off were enough, thank you. I didn’t like Gladiator or Almost Famous either, and despite its prodigious craftsmanship, Chicken Run didn’t grab me. I could go on and on, but why bother? I have never done a 10-worst list, and I never will. For a simple reason: There are too many candidates, and I may never see the most deserving ones. With about 500 films each year in the pool, I may not live long enough to cover them all, but I shall keep trying.

I could certainly save a lot of trouble by declaring the 10 parts of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue (made in 1988 and re-released here this year) to be the 10 Best Foreign-Language Films of the year. But I suppose that would be cheating, and deplorable laziness besides. So here are the other 10 Best Foreign-Language Films of 2000:

1. Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (A One and a Two)

2. Danièle Thompson’s La Bûche

3. Benito Zambrano’s Solas

4. Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

5. José Luis Cuerda’s Butterfly

6. Ye Lou’s Suzhou River

7. Yimou Zhang’s Not One Less

8. Bertrand Tavernier’s It All Starts Today

9. Kwon-taek Im’s Chunhyang

10. Akira Kurosawa’s Madadayo .

Foreign-language film distribution and exhibition being as erratic as it is, I won’t consider the also-rans in this category this year. Instead, I will return to the English-language cinema to make some judgments on actresses and actors–partly as a way of confessing my main motivation to see movies, with actresses transcending even auteurs as my primary incentive in what I see, and partly as a way of resurrecting the word “actress” from the unisex limbo in which it finds itself now that “actor” has been designated as the correct term to apply to women and men. Hence, the 10 Best Actresses of 2000:

1. Renée Zellweger, Nurse Betty

2. Gillian Anderson, The House of Mirth

3. Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me

4. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

5. Katrin Cartlidge, Claire Dolan

6. Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream

7. Frances O’Connor, Bedazzled

8. Michelle Rodriguez, Girlfight

9. Kate Winslet, Quills

10. Frances McDormand, Wonder Boys and Diane Lane, The Perfect Storm (a tie).

To show you how emotionally treacherous this category is for me, the reason that I specified a tie for Ms. McDormand and Ms. Lane was that I found myself with 11 and simply couldn’t bear to eliminate any of the candidates. As it is, I limited my choices to English-language performers because I am not enough of a linguist to feel sufficiently qualified to evaluate foreign-language players with the same degree of exactitude. The same disclaimer applies to my choice of the 10 Best Actors of 2000:

1. Michael Douglas, Wonder Boys

2. Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me

3. Clive Owen, Croupier

4. Brendan Fraser, Bedazzled

5. George Clooney, The Perfect Storm

6. Tobey Maguire, Wonder Boys

7. Mark Wahlberg, The Perfect Storm

8. Richard Gere, Dr. T & the Women

9. Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire

10. William H. Macy, State and Main .

I must confess at this point that I do not feel significantly caught up with the movies of 2000, and now 2001 is crowding in on me with all sorts of new challenges. Yet I am only part of a network of opinion-givers now proliferating beyond measure on the Internet and in the endless chain of human conversations once quaintly classified as “word of mouth.” Movies are a subject on which everyone has an opinion, and I would be the first to admit that my sensibility is the sum total of every conversation I have ever had about movies, from that moment in childhood when I first began talking about the flicks to my most recent class on the subject. All my lists are therefore provocations for a continuing conversation, one that will never end until I do.