The Best Films of the Decade: 2001
One step closer to 2010, and we're just starting the race towards the end of the decade here on Filmstalker. We've already looked at 2000, the first year in the decade we're just about to say goodbye too, and so this time round we're going to look at the year 2001, because that follows 2000. Get it? We'll stop when we get to 2009.
There's voting with each year too, and come the end I'll tally up the votes and see what was the best film of the decade. Simples. So what does 2001 hold? Did it have a wealth of great films, or wasn't it such a strong year? Read on to find out and get voting.
Let's leap straight in with the list of films that I've chosen for 2001, and it's quite a strong list.
A Beautiful Mind
Ron Howard directing is always a sign of a good film, and with Russell Crowe leading there's always a chance it could be good, especially as this film was following on from the previous year of Gladiator. He has a great supporting cast including Paul Bettany, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Adam Goldberg, Josh Lucas, and a strong writer in Akiva Goldsman.
All in all A Beautiful Mind looked set to be the biggest film of the year, but with the topics of mental problems and the mixing of reality and fantasy it isn't the most easily accessible for the average audience. It needed a little bit of thought and investment in the story and the characters, something that I love and think we need more of, but might hold it back from being the best of the year. Howard makes a superb film though and should be considered for the top spot.
Robert Altman directing a story from Julian Fellowes? Surely a dream film, and when you see that cast lined up behind it you have to drool - Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas (I'm drooling now!), Charles Dance, Jeremy Northam, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, Clive Owen, Derek Jacobi, Alan Bates, Richard E. Grant, Emily Watson, Tom Hollander, Kelly Macdonald,...tired yet? There's loads more too. However the story harks back to another era and the disconnect between people and classes in 1932. Another tough one for audiences and but it found it's niche, or rather Hollywood let it have its moment and the audience got a chance to enjoy something deliciously rich in writing and acting.
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor were a completely unlikely pairing for this film, and also for leading a musical, and let's chuck something else in there, a musical? It just didn't seem to add up too well, unless you factor in the name of Baz Luhrmann, and then things suddenly make sense. Add to that cast list are names like John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh and even Kylie. However it's the style and drama of the film that really drives it forward coupled with those great performances, it really brought back the idea of musicals into Hollywood, and we've been paying for that since!
This was the beginning, and it's really hard to praise a trilogy that is so closely tied in with the other episodes, but the beginning was magical, the first moment to see these characters and story come to life in a way that seemed so close to the book and how we'd imagined it. So often in adaptations of books they are up against it from the beginning, because we've imagined the story in a certain way, in our minds, and just no matter of cinematic magic can make it the same. However with the first episode of Lord of the Rings it hit us like a brick, Peter Jackson managed to do it, he captured out imaginations and put them right there on the screen.
This is about the performances and the writing. David Ayer provides the superb script and Antoine Fuqua, who can really deliver tension and suspense, does just that with Denzel Washington giving a performance that could be one of the best of his career, and going head to head with Ethan Hawke. Scott Glenn and Tom Berenger also star, but it's all about the two leads, and Washington nails the performance in a brilliantly written story that Fuqua captures perfectly. I love thrillers, and I love thrillers that deliver something different, and especially when a lead actor takes a chance and turns around a role. That's exactly what you get with Training Day.
Will Smith, now that boy can act. I thought that from Six Degrees of Separation, but it took Michael Mann and the role of a lifetime to bring that right out of him, playing the greatest boxer of all time is undoubtedly a lifetime opportunity. Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver and Jeffrey Wright all provide good support for him, but this really is a naked role for Smith, it's all about the acting and there's no hiding from it, and he delivers a superb performance. Add in Mann's superb styling and Ali could well be the film of the year.
I Am Sam
Talking about actors doing something emotionally open and exposed and Sean Penn gives such an amazing performance, really showing how deep he can get into a role. It's amazing and with the heart rendering story that would undoubtedly grab the critics, I Am Sam looked set to guarantee him awards. Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning, Dianne Wiest, Richard Schiff, Laura Dern back him up with this film. A worthy contender.
Wow, 2001 really treated us to big stars delivering huge, out there performances, and Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton treat us to another two, but really it was Berry that gained all the attention with her performance. This really caught the attention of the critics and the award panels alike.
There are some that will still scream from the roof tops that Monster's Inc. is the best Pixar film of the lot of them, and you know I'm inclined to agree with them. A host of voices that would make any film jealous - John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, John Ratzenberger m Frank Oz, Mary Gibbs – and a superbly written script that really captures the beauty of a Pixar film, the drama, the comedy, the real life, and the appeal for kids and adults interwoven seamlessly together. Magic.
A complete classic now, forget the tarnish of the silly sequel, let's remember that this film still stands alone and despite the oddities from Richard Kelly's script and direction, there are some truly amazing moments in the film. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a great performance and powers forward with some strong appearances behind him, from Mary McDonnell to Patrick Swayze. It's a classic film filled with uncertainty and power. I just wish I understood some of it a little better!
I think this is a hugely overlooked film, but to be honest I don't think that it's going to get the notice it deserves even here. Nicole Kidman delivers a great performance in this film from Alejandro Amenábar alongside Christopher Eccleston. The film is really clever, haunting in fact, and really sucks you in to a delivery of a great surprise, and that's also the unfortunate part of the film too, it doesn't seem so powerful on the second viewing, but it's superbly crafted, written and performed, but I think might really belong in the “almost made it” list, which follows.
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain aka Amélie, The Royal Tenenbaums, Mulholland Drive, Shrek, Aritificial Ingelligence: AI, Vanilla Sky, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Planet of the Apes, K-PAX, The Shipping News, The Devil's Backbone, and Session 9.
I actually think some of these don't really belong in even the almost ran list, and some might belong in the final voting list, I'm not entirely sure. If you're going to add one of them into the “Other” category in the voting then feel free, or you could vote for something that's not on the list at all.
Whatever you want to vote for, just make sure you vote for the film you think is the best of 2001, because before long we'll be onto 2002. If you've missed it, you can still catch, and possibly vote, the best of 2000.