19 April 2009

The Decade List: Some Honorable Mentions for 2000

As time is not on my side, I probably won't get the chance to write about (or even view) all of the films I'd like to for The Decade List. To make up for this, I've singled out a few other notable films from the year 2000, most of which aren't likely to show up on the big list down the road. Some of them are annotated, others not. Of the films below, only five have been revisited within the past year. You can still expect a bunch of other 2000 films throughout the year. I'll probably continue to do this with other good, if not amazing, films from the past 10 years. The films below are in no particular order, though the annotated ones are listed first.

Seom [The Isle] - dir. Kim Ki-duk

A rewatch of the film that introduced me to Kim Ki-duk proved less satisfactory than I had remembered. Outside of its grotesqueness, Ki-duk conducts a breathtaking landscape, a dream/nightmare world of floating houses on a Korean river with dialogue at an absolute minimum. This setting/tone of a cinematic poem works a lot better in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, but on a visual level, The Isle is still quite lovely.

With: Suh Jung, Kim Yoosuk, Park Sung-hee, Jo Jae-hyeon, Jang Hang-Seon
Screenplay: Kim Ki-duk
Cinematography: Hwang Seo-shik
Music: Jeon Sang-yun
Country of Origin: South Korea
US Distributor: First Run Features

Premiere: 22 April 2000 (South Korea)
US Premiere: 2002 August 23

The King Is Alive - dir. Kristian Levring

Of the notable Dogme 95 films of the 21st century (which, I believe, Lone Scherfig's Italian for Beginners, Susanne Bier's Open Hearts and Ole Christian Madsen's Kira's Reason: A Love Story may be the only others), Kristian Levring's The King Is Alive always stood as my favorite, despite the handful of problems that lie within. The premise, in which a group of tourists get stranded in the middle of an African desert when their bus veers off-course, isn't remarkable. It's a classic pre-reality TV boom exposé of the dark side of the human condition, in which a group of strangers resort to greed and treachery as their hope diminishes, and it doesn't break new ground there. However, when meta psychdrama takes precedence over bleak survival drama, The King Is Alive becomes a lot more intriguing. Of the uniformly excellent cast, Levring provides his actresses with the best material, with Romane Bohringer as an Iago-esque French woman, Jennifer Jason Leigh as a seemingly vapid party girl, Janet McTeer and Lia Williams as women unsatisfied by their husbands. Though certainly contrived, The King Is Alive is rather beautiful when it's hitting the right notes.

With: David Bradley, Romane Bohringer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, David Calder, Bruce Davison, Lia Williams, Chris Walker, Vusi Kunene, Miles Anderson, Brion James, Peter Khubeke
Screenplay: Kristian Levring, Anders Thomas Jensen, with inspiration from William Shakespeare's King Lear
Cinematography: Jens Schlosser
Music: Derek Thompson
Country of Origin: Denmark/Sweden/USA
US Distributor: IFC Films

Premiere: 11 May 2000 (Cannes)
US Premiere: 2001 May 11

Awards: Best Actress - Jennifer Jason Leigh (Tokyo International Film Festival)

Psycho Beach Party - dir. Robert Lee King

An amalgam of Frankie & Annette beach films, slasher pics and 60s Americana, Psycho Beach Party finds nothing new to say about its gender or sexual politics, but in such a rambunctious, vibrant package, it's hard to complain. The year 2000 was a strong one for Lauren Ambrose, whose hysterical performance as the spunky schizo Chicklet here and the lost teenager Frankie in Robert J. Siegel's somber Swimming would lead her to the amazing Six Feet Under the following year. Though Psycho Beach Party has a few casting missteps (Nicholas Brendan as Mr. Perfect?), Amy Adams, as the boycrazy Marvel Ann, is one of the bright spots.

With: Lauren Ambrose, Charles Busch, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon, Beth Broderick, Kimberley Davies, Matt Keeslar, Danni Wheeler, Amy Adams, Nick Cornish, Andrew Levitas, Kathleen Robertson, Nathan Bexton, Buddy Quaid
Screenplay: Charles Busch, based on his play Psycho Beach Party
Cinematography: Arturo Smith
Music: Ben Vaughn
Country of Origin: USA/Australia
US Distributor: Strand Releasing

Premiere: 23 January 2000 (Sundance)

Awards: Outstanding Actress - Lauren Ambrose (L.A. Outfest)

Trolösa [Faithless] - dir. Liv Ullmann

Ingmar Bergman screenplays directed by other people always lack the filmmaker's visual and emotional touch, but his frequent actress and former lover Liv Ullmann does an impressive job with Faithless, even if it does feel like something's missing. There's a strangeness about the unveiled disclosure of the screenplay, in which Erland Josephson, another regular in Bergman's troupe of actors, plays a character named Bergman, living on the island of Fårö, where many of the master's great works were filmed and where he'd later die. Ullmann keeps things ambiguous however, intertwining imagination and memory and keeping the narrative from feeling too confessional.

With: Lena Endre, Erland Josephson, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon, Michelle Gylemo
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography: Jörgen Persson
Country of Origin: Sweden/Italy/Germany/Finland/Norway
US Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Premiere: 13 May 2000 (Cannes)
US Premiere: 2001 January 26 (Palm Springs International Film Festival)

Happy Times - dir. Zhang Yimou

Happy Times would be the turning point in Zhang Yimou's successful, if overpraised, career. His fascination with human drama ended on a high note with Happy Times before giving way to shit-fucking-awful martial arts epics Hero and House of Flying Daggers (as well Curse of the Golden Flower, which I never saw, and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, a "return to form").

With: Zhao Benshan, Dong Jie, Dong Lifan, Fu Biao, Li Xuejian
Screenplay: Zi Gai, based on the novel Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh by Mo Yan
Cinematography: Hou Yong
Music: San Bao
Country of Origin: China
US Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Premiere: 31 December 2000
US Premiere: 2002 July 26

Erin Brockovich - dir. Steven Soderbergh

As wildly diverse as Steven Soderbergh's career may be, he found one of his best films, Out of Sight, under the Hollywood umbrella. While not nearly as good as Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich was, for this writer, the better of Soderbergh's offerings in 2000. Erin Brockovich's "empowerment" and sense of humor made for a much more enjoyable filmgoing experience than Traffic's "grittiness." Both could be thrown together as "message movies" about giant social issues, and while their insincerity comes from divergent reasons, Erin Brockovich never strives for anything bigger than its real-life subject does, and thankfully a few of those things are a tight-top, big hair, high heels and plenty of sass. All snark aside, Julia Roberts' performance is quite good, and her Oscar for it is certainly justified from a Hollywood perspective (though, of course, plenty of other actresses were even better with more challenging roles).

With: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Marg Helgenberger
Screenplay: Susannah Grant
Cinematography: Ed Lachman
Music: Thomas Newman
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Universal Studios

Premiere: 14 March 2000 (USA)

Awards: Best Actress - Julia Roberts (Academy Awards); Best Actress - Julia Roberts (BAFTAs); Best Actress, Drama - Julia Roberts (Golden Globes); Best Actress - Julia Roberts, Best Director [also for Traffic] (National Board of Review)

Dancing at the Blue Iguana - dir. Michael Radford

As a film, Dancing at the Blue Iguana isn't much, but as an acting experiment, which was how the film became what it is, it's fantastic. Surrounding the personal and professional lives of five strippers at the Blue Iguana, Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly and Sandra Oh deliver some of the best performances of their careers. All three tool around with their own expected cinematic personas (Hannah as the ditzy blonde, Oh as the introverted nice girl and Tilly as the fiesty vixen) with remarkable results. As one might expect from a film based around improvisation, Dancing at the Blue Iguana works better in individual scenes than as a whole. The most memorable occurs when Tilly, after finding out that she's pregnant, tries to smoke in the waiting room of the doctor's office and goes off on the irritating mom-to-bed next to her. Though neither Hannah nor Oh are physically believable as strippers (I always assume chest size is a pre-requisite for such a job), they make up for it in other areas. Dancing at the Blue Iguana is one of the few examples of a film that overcomes the fact that the sum of its parts greatly out-weight the whole.

With: Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly, Charlotta Ayanna, Sandra Oh, Sheila Kelley, Elias Koteas, Robert Wisdom, Vladimir Mashkov, Kristin Bauer, W. Earl Brown, Chris Hogan, Rodney Rowland, Jesse Bradford, Christina Cabot
Screenplay: Michael Radford, David Linter
Cinematography: Ericson Core
Music: Tal Bergman, Renato Neto
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Lions Gate

Premiere: 14 September 2000 (Toronto Film Festival)
US Premiere: 21 April 2001 (Los Angeles Film Festival)

Trasgredire [Cheeky!] - dir. Tinto Brass

Taken from my earlier review: Tinto Brass still makes films as if it were the 1970s. We open Cheeky! with our heroine, Carla (Yuliya Mayarchuk), strolling through a London park like Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can’t Help It to an amusingly high-cheese score, where it just so happens everyone around her is engaging in lusty sex. Everywhere she turns, there’s a woman uncrossing her legs to reveal she forgot to put her panties in the laundry that morning. Or there’s a couple in heat, appeasing one another’s sexual urges. Of course, Carla, looking like an Eastern-European streetwalker dressed up as Brigitte Bardot, joins in on the fun, wearing a see-through skirt and exposing her buttocks to passer-byers. There’s a story that follows involving Carla’s tight-ass boyfriend and her search for an apartment, but really this is only an excuse to introduce Carla to as many sexual partners as possible or place her in a situation where others are about to bang. The playfulness of Cheeky!’s sexuality is admirable and refreshing, even if the film is simply pretext for close-ups of Mayarchuk’s ass and sexual experimentation.

With: Yuliya Mayarchuk, Jarno Berardi, Francesca Nunzi, Max Parodi, Mauro Lorenz, Leila Carli, Vittorio Attene
Screenplay: Tinto Brass, Carla Cipriani, Nicolaj Pennestri, Silvia Rossi, Massimiliano Zanin
Cinematography: Massimo Di Venanzo
Music: Pino Donaggio
Country of Origin: Italy
US Distributor: Cult Epics

Premiere: 28 January 2000 (Italy)
US Premiere: 30 May 2006 (DVD Premiere)

Sordid Lives - dir. Del Shores

With: Beth Grant, Delta Burke, Ann Walker, Leslie Jordan, Bonnie Bedelia, Beau Bridges, Kirk Geiger, Olivia Newton-John, Newell Alexander, Rosemary Alexander
Screenplay: Del Shores, based on his play
Cinematography: Max Civon
Music: George S. Clinton
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: here! Films

Premiere: 2000 May 25 (Toronto InsideOut Lesbian and Gay Film Festival)
US Premiere: 31 May 2000 (Seattle International Film Festival)

Awards: Outstanding Soundtrack (L.A. Outfest); Best Feature Film, Best Actor - Leslie Jordan (New York International Independent Film & Video Festival); Best Feature (Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival)

Faites comme si je n'étais pas là [Pretend I'm Not Here] - dir. Olivier Jahan

With: Jérémie Renier, Aurore Clément, Sami Bouajila, Alexia Stresi, Nathalie Richard, Emma de Caunes, Johan Leysen, Ouassini Embarek, Bouli Lanners
Screenplay: Olivier Jahan, Michael C. Pouzol
Cinematography: Gilles Porte
Music: Cyril Moisson
Country of Origin: France
US Distributor: N/A

Premiere: 2000 June (Avignon Film Festival)
US Premiere: N/A

101 Reykjavík - dir. Baltasar Kormákur

With: Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Victoria Abril, Hanna María Karlsdóttir, Þrúður Vilhjálmsdóttir, Baltasar Kormákur
Screenplay: Baltasar Kormákur, based on the novel by Hallgrímur Helgason
Cinematography: Peter Steuger
Music: Damon Albarn, Einar Örn Benediktsson
Country of Origin: Iceland/Denmark/France/Norway/Germany
US Distributor: Wellspring

Premiere: 1 June 2000 (Iceland)
US Premiere: 25 July 2001 (New York City)

Awards: Discovery Award (Toronto International Film Festival); Best Screenplay, Best Sound - Kjartan Kjartansson (Edda Awards, Iceland)

Mysterious Object at Noon - dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Cinematography: Prasong Klimborron, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Country of Origin: Thailand
US Distributor: Plexifilm

Premiere: 2000 October 2 (Vancouver International Film Festival)
US Premiere: 2001 June 23 (New York City)

Dayereh [The Circle] - dir. Jafar Panahi

With: Nargess Mamizadeh, Maryiam Palvin Almani, Mojgan Faramarzi, Elham Saboktakin, Solmaz Panahi, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Fatemeh Naghavi, Monir Arab
Screenplay: Kambuzia Partovi
Cinematography: Bahram Badakshani
Country of Origin: Iran/Switzerland/Italy
US Distributor: Fox Lorber

Premiere: 6 September 2000 (Venice FIlm Festival)
US Premiere: 1 March 2000 (International Film Series)

Awards: Golden Lion (Venice); Freedom of Expression Award (National Board of Review)

O Fantasma - dir. João Pedro Rodrigues

With: Ricardo Meneses, Beatriz Torcato, Andre Barbosa, Eurico Vieria, Joaquim Oliveira, Florindo Lourenço
Screenplay: Alexandre Melo, José Neves, Paulo Rebelo, João Pedro Rodrigues
Cinematography: Rui Poças
Country of Origin: Portugal
US Distributor: Picture This!

Premiere: 8 September 2000 (Venice Film Festival)
US Premiere: 2001 June 2 (Seattle International Film Festival)

Awards: Best Feature (New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival)


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to see Cheeky! on your list. I have wanted to see a Tinto Brass movie but they all seem like cable soft-core porn. Are there any of his movies that are actually good (also, I like my soft-core movies to have a lot of lovely manlyness, does Tinto ignore the mens?).

reassurance said...

I think Salon Kitty is absolutely wonderful; it stars both Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger (who also starred in Visconti's The Damned together). As for the rest of his work, I haven't seen a whole lot, but I doubt many of them are anything like cable soft-porn. I remember reading somewhere that Mr. Brass uses a lot of prosthetic erections in his films, so I would think the Euro flesh on display would be a bit more liberal than late-night cable in the US.

Cheeky! isn't amazing; it just does what it's trying to do. Well. And its sexuality is refreshingly. It's playful as opposed to being damning or analytical.

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