OFC title

    The Best and the Worst Movies Released in 2001:

    The Top Ten:

I know how much people like to complain that there aren't any good movies these days but 2001 really wasn't a bad year to go your local multiplex. The ones that I liked weren't, for the most part, the ones that did big box office but that happens every year. Here are my favorites, in order of preference:

1) Ghost World – my favorite films usually combine comedy with light- handed social commentary. GW is a great example – many of the funniest scenes didn't rely heavily on dialog – I could have laughed without hearing the soundtrack.

2) Gosford Park – by far the best film nominated for Best Picture this year. I had to see it three times to fully appreciate it. The dialog is very dense and I found it hard to keep the names of the characters straight on the first pass. I can't think of another film with such a large ensemble of outstanding actors.

3) Black Hawk Down – one of the best, if not the best, war movies of all time. It is rare that a filmmaker (Ridley Scott in this case) resists the urge to radically change a true story in order to find a wider audience (which is why you won't find A Beautiful Mind among my "Best of 2001").

4) Tailor of Panama – a spy movie starring Pierce Brosnan as a bad-boy spy – this is so much better than James Bond. I really wanted this to do big box office so that more of John le Carre's novels would make their way onto the big screen.

5) Amelie (aka: Le Fabuleux destin d'Amιlie Poulain) – the perfect antidote to post-9/11 depression. A lovely but painfully shy young woman (played by rising star Audrey Tautou) decides dedicate herself to helping other people find happiness.

6) The Others – a classic supernatural thriller like we haven't seen in years. Nicole Kidman should get an Oscar for this movie – not that anything was wrong with Moulin Rouge.

7) Monsters Inc. – a rare movie that can appeal to all ages. Billy Crystal does one of the best voice performances of all time as the one-eyed, green- ball of a monster. The film has heart and deserves the first animated feature-length Oscar.

8) Bandits – Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton at their best. There is one scene – where they have just met and are riding in her car -- that alone is worth the price of admission.

9) Memento – a very interesting story, told in reverse chronological order, of a man who has lost his memory. It can be a little hard to follow – I figured it out (I think) on the second viewing.

10) Mulholland Dr. – another somewhat hard to follow (but worth the effort) story written and directed by David Lynch in his characteristic style. Naomi Watts gave a standout performance.

    Honorable Mention:


Spy Game

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


The Shipping News

Now the fun part! –

    The Worst Movies (that I saw) of 2001:

Worst Movie of 2001 (in a walk): Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – I walked into this movie with very low expectations – it was based on a video game – enough said. I had heard that the animation might be worthwhile and I'm usually willing to sit through lots of mindless dialog to see if new ground had been turned in terms of animation. Well, the animation was crap – the characters looked like they were either cross-eyed or looking at the floor when they should have making eye contact. I won't even go into what I thought of the story, characters, etc. The real kicker – I read in Premiere magazine that it cost $137 million to make the movie – unbelievable! Some heads should roll because of that (at Sony, I think).

Worst Movie of 2001 to Receive Critical Acclaim (including Oscar nominations!): In the Bedroom – with better editing, it could have been a good solid film. The first act went very well - I felt that I knew the characters and cared about them – but after that (when the son dies) the movie goes into a funk – highly repetitive melodrama. They could have cut at least 45 minutes of the mom and dad having a bummer and giving one to the audience. And not only that but the filmmaker left out [of discussion in the of the dialog between the principals] the most important plot-point of the film: why the father (played by Tom Wilkinson) decided to kill the killer of his son (a vigilante act - morally questionable! – my point is that the filmmaker ignored that issue but overwhelmed the viewer with so much detail when the couple was bumming over their son's death).

Worst "Event Movie" of 2001 by a Director Who Should Know Better: Pearl Harbor – not totally worthless – some of the action sequences were very well done – but Michael Bay (director) should have resisted the urge to make the story of a major turning point in American history into a sappy love triangle, a la Titanic.

Worst Movie of 2001 – in the "So Bad That It is Good" Sense: Ghosts of Mars – a lot fun but still a really bad movie – it reminded me of the bad low-budget sci-fi movies made in the 1950s. I suspect that director John Carpenter knew, when he cast an ex-rapper (Ice Cube) opposite an ex-model (Natasha Hensridge) fighting zombies on Mars, that he might wind up with a camp classic. It worked! -- a bad movie to be remembered.

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