Now that all the 2000 films have more or less been released to the general American public (though some got held off by a couple of months), I thought that, rather than compile a "Best of" list, I'd roast all the pretentious, forgettable releases that unfairly won critical praise and audience acclaim.
- Chocolat. How this dippy little movie got 5 Oscar nominations is beyond me - but not, apparently, beyond Miramax's budget for their Oscar campaign. In a better climate, this soft-serve piffle would have come and gone as it should. Even costar Judi Dench, nominated for Best Supporting Actress (again), was outraged that they wasted her nomination on such a trivial, charmless bit of fluff.
- George Washington. Critics all over the US hailed this as the best American independent film of the year - by far. Yet even the most fervent admirers of George Washington immediately compared it to Terrence Malick's classic Days of Heaven. Look, when you have that many people comparing your film to exactly one other film, it's pretty clear that your film isn't very original. Frankly, I don't fault George Washington for being unoriginal. But it is very uneven, and though it's a good try for first-timer David Gordon Green, it's hardly a landmark film.
- Almost Famous. The only reason I imagine critics love this film so much is that it is about a critic (albeit a music critic). But I found Cameron Crowe's feel-good love poem to his youthful self to be cloying, self-serving, and above all phony. Overwritten as only a beloved Hollywood writer/director could serve up, Almost Famous sports fine performances by Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson, but little else of note.
- Nurse Betty. This movie was awful! Yet so many people loved it! A wretched script, actors lost in a haze of bad character motivation and muddled direction, terrible music... I am so surprised so many smart people enjoyed this film. I'm at a loss.
- Quills. Cookie cutter art house fodder if ever there was one, you'd get the idea by watching Quills that the moment it got the green light, everybody was already planning it as an Oscar contender. Oscars should be given to films because of their merit, not simply because they were programmed to be Oscar contenders. Though filled with nice costumes and some good performances, its shallow "Daring Artist vs. Hypocritical Society" conceit has been overdone. Few will remember this film in two years' time.
- Billy Elliot. Offensively formulaic and predictable pap had audiences cheering, crying, whatever. Jamie Bell is fine as the scruffy lad who dances his way out of a miserable childhood, matched by Gary Lewis as his tough dad. The final 15 minutes of the film are also quite moving; I wish the whole film felt that real. But it was spoon-fed junk. I guess it's as they say - make a good film with a bad ending and people will think it's a bad film. Make a bad film with a good ending and people will think it's a good film.
- Traffic. I gave this a good review right after I saw it, but looking back after a couple of months, I confess that I was probably caught up in the hype. It just doesn't stay with you. You see it, say "wow", and forget about it. That's one thing if you're making The Grinch. Quite another when your film is about one of the most turbulent issues in America today: the drug war. It's a decent film, but not nearly as troubling or as effective as it should have been.
- Wonder Boys. Actually, I think this film wasn't much overrated by audiences, since nobody went to see it. But my employer Paramount sure pushed it as an Oscar contender - out of 12 films in the entire year, it's the only one that could have even half-seriously been nominated. It's a quirky little movie with quirky little performances. But "quirky" doesn't mean "great". I don't know what so many critics saw in it.
- High Fidelity. Seems like most people who loved this film were women who have crushes on John Cusack. Until this past year, I had no idea how many women had crushes on John Cusack. Go John Cusack! I read the book after seeing the film. The book is better. And it's not really that outstanding a book, either. Both have some pithy things to say about contemporary male behavior, stuff that I've been talking about for years but which heretofore hadn't really been picked up on (such as guys' obsessions with making lists - er...). But one of the better films of the year? No.