Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

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Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

" I’ve got a government job to abuse "
— John Travolta, Face/Off

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Movie-wise, 2000 was a disappointment. The whole year came and went without Movie Habit giving out a single four-star review. A few movies came close; contributor Matt Anderson nearly gave The Grinch four stars, but reconsidered just before the review was posted. Marty Mapes was inclined to give the highest rating to American Psycho, but between seeing the movie and writing the review, it faded down a notch or two.

Patrick Fugit and Christian Bale in the Top Ten Movies of 2000So there were no obvious “best movies” of 2000. The ordering of this list seems even less important than it did in the past. In some sense, you can treat these all as “co-winners.”

Here’s Movie Habit’s list (compiled by Marty Mapes and Matt Anderson). We hope it does more for you than just rehash the year in movies. Hopefully you’ll re-evaluate some films you didn’t appreciate the first time around. Maybe you’ll even learn about some good movies that you missed. We hope you are surprised with at least one film on this list, and we hope there’s at least one you haven’t seen yet.

Here they are:

10. Boiler Room, Ben Younger

Because it introduces a never-before-seen world to the movies, and because it is smart and exciting.

A Boiler Room is a chop shop for stockbrokers, a shady firm that cons people out of money using the stock market as bait. Giovanni Ribisi plays Seth, a smart young Jewish kid who makes a good living running an illegal casino in his apartment. Seth’s friend brings a high roller, a man who has made millions in a boiler room. He tells Seth that if he wants to make the really big bucks, he should join them. Seth agrees and is introduced to life as a gray-market stockbroker. The tension and pacing of Boiler Room are fast and exciting, like a good thriller, and the setting is exotic and original.

9. State and Main, David Mamet

Because of the impressive cast and the enjoyable screwball-comic chaos.

State and Main is a delightful screwball comedy, lightweight and fast-paced. The production crew of a feature film invades the small town of Waterford, Vermont, bringing its cell phones, strange tastes, and chaotic energy with it. The comedy centers largely around William H. Macy as the director. Depending on who he’s talking to, Macy becomes mentor, boss, cheerleader, big sister, or chum. The timid screenwriter (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) tries to survive the chaos of film production. He realizes he can probably relate to the tonwspeople better than his Hollywood co-workers.

8. Dancer in the Dark, Lars von Trier

Because of Björk’s breakout performance and her dark, haunting, interesting music.

Eccentric director Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves) has always loved Hollywood musicals. With Dancer in the Dark, he finally gets to direct one. Icelandic pop star Björk gives an outstanding debut performance as the mousy and quiet girl Selma, who is losing her sight. She saves every penny from her factory job for an operation for her son. But the fates fight against simple Selma. Like Emily Watson’s character in Breaking the Waves, Selma is too trusting and too naive for her own good. The musical numbers all take place in Selma’s head. The music is often derived from her environment — the rhythm of the hydraulic machinery or of a lonely train clacking across a bridge — and Björk’s heavy, rhythmic music fits the film’s sad tone perfectly.

7. Titan A.E., Don Bluth and Gary Goldman

Blasting off to Titan A.E.Because it was one of the most visually stunning films of the year, because the hero’s story is timeless, and because it’s a cartoon that doesn’t pander to childish tastes.

Like Star Wars, Titan A.E. is an ancient story told in a new way. The reluctant, everyman hero is Cale, voiced by Matt Damon. Cale is one of the last refugees from Earth before it was destroyed. Now an evil race of aliens wants to kill Cale to keep him from seeking revenge. Titan A.E. is a feast for the eyes. Cale visits many different worlds, and each is rendered in breathtaking, loving detail. A troupe of interesting (and not annoying) sidekicks, voiced by Janeane Garofalo, Bill Pullman, and Drew Barrymore, rounds out Cale’s crew. Admittedly imperfect, Titan A.E. is still an outstanding movie, unfairly overlooked at the box office.

6. High Fidelity

John Cusack in High FidelityBecause it was an unabashed tribute to the power and importance of rock’n’roll.

High Fidelity is that rare combination of drama and comedy that pulls all the right strings. John Cusack plays Rob Gordon, a record shop owner going through a pre-midlife crisis. The movie features a terrific performance from Jack Black as a music geek with nothing better to do but show up to work everyday at Rob’s shop. Black provides the best shot at thespian turned singer since Jennifer Lopez. Surrounding the funny bits at the record store is a drama about Rob’s life and loves that provides a lot of punch. The movie rings true on all counts and was a very pleasant — and overlooked — surprise.

5. Traffic

Dennis Quaid faces heavy TrafficBecause of its interesting, intertwining, thematically connected stories, and for its unflinching look at the cocaine trade.

The drug war is a tough, complex issue, and Traffic actually cuts to the heart of many aspects of it. Its five stories portray the issue from the many points of view including users, pushers, distributors, DEA agents, Mexican police, and even the U.S. Drug Czar. The film is very engaging, and in fact it has so much momentum that it stumbles a little toward the end when it tries to slow down. But a little stumble was not enough to keep Traffic out of the top five.

4. Pitch Black

Because it is a sleek, straightforward action/horror/thriller; it knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be and it never compromises.

Pitch Black is surprisingly good for such an obvious b-movie. Usually in this type of movie, bad writing or trite cliches spoil the story, just so the producers can sell an extra scene of gore, sex, or fright. But Pitch Black is relentless in its integrity; it’s lean and mean and it doesn’t waste time being anything other than a horror/thriller. Ironically, if Pitch Black had been more popular, it might not have made this list. Instead, it’s a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered.

3. Meet the Parents

Meet Robert De NiroBecause even comedies can be done extremely well.

A thousand jokes are set up in Meet the Parents and director Jay Roach only has time to pay off 500. If laughter is a reaction to the unexpected, then Roach’s formula works very well because you never know exactly which joke will come next. Ben Stiller is one of the funniest funny men of our times. His schtick is to take mounds of abuse and keep coming back for more. In Meet the Parents he’s willing to put up with anything to be able to marry the girl of his dreams. In this case, "anything" is his future father-in-law, an ex-CIA interrogations specialist who’s overprotective of his daughter. Meet the Parents deserves a spot on this list, not just because of the quantity of laughs, but because the structure of the comedy is so solid and so well crafted that it doesn’t have to resort to inferior, cheap laughs.

1 (tie). American Psycho

Christian Bale, American PsychoBecause the vicious satire of the 80s was so astute, and because Christian Bale made such a convincing conflicted psychopath.

Greed, superficiality, and selfishness. These are the traits we associate with the 1980s. American Psycho features Christian Bale as Patrick Batemean, a powerful, important yuppie on the outside, and an insecure, frightened boy on the inside. The tension between the two Patrick Batemans leads him commit random murders as a way to assure himself of his power. Horrible as that is, American Psycho is not a horror film. It doesn’t aim to frighten or gross out its audiences. Instead, it is a social satire, a character study, and a dark comedy. And a darn good one at that.

1 (tie). Almost Famous

Patrick Fugit is Almost FamousBecause it was the movie with the most heart.

Almost Famous is a quasi-autobiographical account of writer/director Cameron Crowe’s experience as a teenage reporter for Rolling Stone. Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, a teenager whose mom (Frances McDormand) is overly protective and extremely conservative (she even celebrates Christmas in September - when it isn’t being commercialized). The movie follows William as he tries to get a key interview with Stillwater, an up-and-coming band that might tear itself apart before making it big. The movie uses a circus of colorful characters to capture the delusional, unreal world of living on the road touring with a rock band. It also has underlying themes that touch on topics ranging from dedication and honesty to love and friendship. Those elements give this heartfelt movie extra depth.