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Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

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Screening Log



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The Top Ten Films of 2001:

10. Moulin Rouge – Baz Luhrmann’s gaudy, glimmering epic is too inconsistent and flawed to take the #1 spot on this list, even though it probably hits higher heights than any other film this year, on those occasions where its celebration of music, dance, acting, editing, and design manage to come together. A thrilling juxtaposition of tragedy, comedy, suspense, and above all else, romance, Moulin Rouge’s celebration of all things wonderfully feigned in the movies works so well since it plays it with a straight face and a hopeful heart.

9. Fat Girl – Early on, Catherine Breillat’s unabashedly frank Fat Girl apparently has so much objectivity in its portrayal of adolescent sexuality that by watching it, it becomes as much about the viewer’s personal reaction as about the characters on screen. That supposedly hands-off approach to the material in the first half of the film crashes down upon us in the startling final third, which shows us how much we have been duped. The film’s shocking finale brilliantly shows us just how subjective, and intensely personal a perspective we’ve seen.

8. Ghost World – Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World becomes profoundly sad and insightful when it’s made apparent to the audience, though not entirely to its protagonist Enid, that her alienation, if followed to its full extent, will ultimately place her in the same sad state as Seymour (Steve Buscemi), the record-cataloguing object of her affections, who would admittedly trade all of his cynical keenness for normalcy. That mid-film revelation, and its predilection for ambiguity over certainty, saved what appeared to initially be an admittedly hilarious angry rant against the middle-class American establishment of kitsch from becoming … well, American Beauty.

7. Va Savoir (Who Knows?) – Jacques Rivette’s Va Savoir is a comedy, but rarely relies on outright gags for laughs. The subtleties of the contradictions in the actions of the wonderful cast are what we derive our pleasure from. Wisely setting his tale of intertwined couples against the backdrop of a theater’s production, the disbelief caused by the coincidental minglings of these star-crossed, earthbound lovers feel far less contrived than they should. As each character comes to see that play, we understand Rivette’s elegant thesis: art doesn't imitate life, but rather inspires it. To live a life as gently mirthful and quietly wise as the one Va Savior would be truly wondrous!

6. Hedwig & The Angry Inch – Flush with an invigorating energy, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig & the Angry Inch is a celebration of the spirit of the sexual revolution that inspired the glam-rock wave that fuels it’s score. With songs that don’t that so much define its lead character as they enrich him, the movie’s constant ache is found in its struggle against anything as trite as a classification. Here are a few terms that might apply anyway: Smart, Fun, Pretty, Funny, Insightful, and Rockin’.

5. Baise-MoiBaise-Moi, judging from my inability to find another who shares my sheer affection for it, appears to be my oddball choice on this year’s top ten list. I found it a stunningly thought-through examination of both the fueling furor behind much feminist angst and the inability of women to escape patriarchal binds when presented with freedom. Although, I’m not sure I agree with the film’s politics, its use of a grimy and aggressive non-art aesthetic and the penetration shots found in hardcore pornography are almost as jolting as its message.

4. In the Mood For Love – The year’s best-looking film, In the Mood for Love had a sensual sense of rhythm and color that made the lack of more overt onscreen sparks between its fantastic leads (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) completely irrelevant. As much a slice of a specific time and place as a universal examination of unrequited (?) love, Wong Kar-Wai’s film made us feel the sensation that even sliding your hand over a door jamb could be an orgasmic experience with the right frame of mind.  The movie it's most like to me is Chabrol's La Ceromonie, another film that escalated everyday tensions until they became much more realized and pointed feelings, but Chabrol’s work lacked the insidiously clever first third of Love, in which Wong builds mystery out of the most mundane.

3b. Mulholland Drive - A nightmare wrapped up to look like a dream, David Lynch’s internalized epic Mulholland Drive was this year’s Rubik’s Cube. Everyone took a crack at it, and a few think they have managed to solve it, but I doubt anyone has completely (including Lynch). Who cares though, when a “great” movie is this fun? I imagine revisiting this film, finding a few more hints each time, will be an immensely pleasurable experience, and proof that the journey can be far more enlightening than the destination.  

3a. Werckmeister Harmonies - Seen after my list was finalized, but it's so damn good...

2. Waking Life – Insanely close in overall theme to the remarkably different Mulholland Drive, Richard Linklater’s animated opus was a celebration of the possibilities of communal dreaming. Less about the sometimes-crackpot, sometimes-profound ideas that its characters espoused than the fact that they were considering things at all, the film had an immeasurable amount of warmth toward the notion that we’re all working toward the same things as a race, even if our methodology might differ. This was a movie to get lost in, and like Mulholland proof of the power of the journey.

1. Code Unknown - In a little over fifty, mostly single-shot, scenes Michael Haneke’s Code Unknown manages to establish a stunningly encompassing treatise on the way that we either create or see a “false face” so that we may avoid truly relating to others. Despite coaxing the year’s best performance, courtesy of Juliette Binoche, and a stunning use of the language of film, Haneke isn’t pompous enough to attempt to solve the issues that it raises. It’s not so much a macro-political film as a micro-political one. It doesn’t proffer solutions, but instead causes individual viewers to examine their own responses and assumptions as they shift during the film’s running time. One could argue that the film is cynical enough to endorse prejudice, but I would counter that it is not endorsing the behavior in it so much as showing us how such bigotry is cultivated. Haneke’s film disarms much possible criticism by refusing to slide into preachy moralizing. Code Unknown doesn’t create narrow-mindedness, but instead, uses it as a topic to illustrate just how brilliantly broad-minded filmmaking can be.   

A Dozen Runner-Ups

Charlotte Grey, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, Bully, Gosford Park, Tape, The Others, Kandahar, Final Fantasy, Last Resort, Intimacy, The Man Who Wasn't There, Ali

Best Achievements in Individual Categories: 

Best Director – Michael Haneke – Code Unknown (Runner-up: David Lynch - Mulholland Drive)

Best 1st Feature – Baise-Moi (Runner-up: Hedwig & the Angry Inch)

Best Ensemble – Bully (Runner-up: Va Savoir)

Best Actor – Billy Bob Thornton – Bandits (but also Monster’s Ball & The Man Who Wasn’t There) (Runner-up: John Cameron Mitchell – Hedwig & the Angry Inch)

Best Actress – Juliette Binoche – Code Unknown (Runner-up: Cate Blanchett – Charlotte Gray)

Best Supporting Actor – Gene Hackman – The Royal Tenenbaums (Runner-up: Ben Kingsley – Sexy Beast)

Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei – In the Bedroom (Runner-up: Taraji P. Henson – Baby Boy)

Best Original Screenplay - Michael Haneke - Code Unknown  (Runner-up: David Lynch - Mulholland Drive)

Best Adapted Screenplay - Daniel Clowes – Ghost World  (Runner-up: Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi - Baise-Moi)

Best Cinematography - Christopher Doyle – In the Mood for Love (Runner-up: Jurgen Jurges - Code Unknown)

Best Art Direction  - Moulin Rouge (Runner-up: Ali)

Best Costumes - Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Runner-up: In the Mood for Love)

Best Editing - In the Mood for Love (Runner-up: Hedwig & the Angry Inch)

Best Sound - The Others (Runner-up: Ali)

Best Sound Editing -  Mulholland Drive (Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings)

Best Visual Effects - The Lord of the Rings (Runner-up: Final Fantasy)

Best Makeup - The Lord of the Rings (Runner-up: Hedwig & the Angry Inch)

Best Score - Mulholland Drive (Runner-up: Gosford Park)

Best Song - Come What May – Moulin Rouge

Best Foreign Films - Code Unknown, In the Mood for Love, Va Savoir (Who Knows?), Fat Girl, Kandahar, Faithless, Last Resort, Audition, Brother, The Circle, Amores Perros, Eureka

Best Movie Trailer - The Royal Tenenbaums, (Runner-up : Ghost World)