If you think Crouching Tiger is not the best film of 2000, she will kick your ass. And she might even if you agree. And she'll be sexy doing it.

My Top 20:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Almost Famous
  3. Traffic
  4. O Brother Where Art Thou
  5. Wonder Boys
  6. Thirteen Days
  7. High Fidelity
  8. The Virgin Suicides
  9. Billy Elliot
  10. Best in Show
  11. Chicken Run
  12. State and Main
  13. Unbreakable
  14. The Claim
  15. X-Men
  16. You Can Count on Me
  17. Nurse Betty
  18. Aimee and Jaguar
  19. Winter Sleepers
  20. The Widow of St. Pierre

Ten Reasons Why 2000 is a Great Year in Film

  1. I am a Golden God!”
  2. Every line uttered by William H. Macy in State and Main.
  3. Tiny Dancer
  4. The combination of performances by Frances McDormand in Wonder Boys and Almost Famous.
  5. Every scene involving Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove
  6. My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
  7. Every line uttered by Robert Downey Jr. in Wonder Boys.
  8. I will now sell five copies of the 3 EP’s by the Beta Band.”  High Fidelity
  9. Every line uttered by Fred Willard in Best in Show.
  10. The fight up in the trees in Crouching Tiger.  Or the fight in the tavern.  Or the one in the training center.  Or any moment in the film, really.

Ten Reasons Why 2000 is a Terrible Year in Film

  1. The top grossing film?  How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  2. What Planet Are You From – just about the worst film ever made by a great director.
  3. Battlefield Earth – winner of 9 Razzies.
  4. Ethan Hawke as the worst Hamlet in history.
  5. Every scene not involving Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove.
  6. I am terribly vexed.”
  7. The trailer for What Lies Beneath that gave away everything, because Robert Zemeckis claims that people don’t want to be surprised in a theater.
  8. The bouncing camerawork in Dancer in the Dark that almost made me vomit up Thanksgiving lunch.
  9. Well-made but unpleasant to watch films like Nurse Betty, Quills and The Gift.
  10. The Academy still doesn’t have a Best Animated category for Chicken Run to win.

Overall, it’s not really that great a year.  Only 11 films get **** and the acting isn’t as strong in most of the categories as in most other years.  I think the best acting is in the Supporting Actor category and that’s the one where all the awards basically ignored most of the best performances of the year.  And not a great year technically either, as evidenced by the fact that I only agree with more than two nominees at the Oscars in two technical categories: Editing and Makeup.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Gladiator
  • Best Director:  Steven Soderbergh  (Traffic  /  Erin Brockovich)
  • Best Actor:  Tom Hanks  (Cast Away)
  • Best Actress:  Julia Roberts  (Erin Brockovich)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Benicio Del Toro  (Traffic)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Frances McDormand  (Almost Famous  /  Wonder Boys)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Traffic
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Almost Famous
  • Best Cinematography:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Animated Film:  Chicken Run
  • Best Foreign Film:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

note:  For all four major awards (Picture, Director, the two Screenplay awards), the Consensus winner also wins the Oscar – the first time since 1993.  But Russell Crowe, who won the Consensus in 1999 and will again in 2001, wins the Oscar here when he doesn’t win the Consensus.

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Gladiator
  • Best Director:  Steven Soderbergh  (Traffic)
  • Best Actor:  Russell Crowe  (Gladiator)
  • Best Actress:  Julia Roberts  (Erin Brockovich)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Benicio Del Toro  (Traffic)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Marcia Gay Harden  (Pollack)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Traffic
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Almost Famous
  • Best Cinematography:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Foreign Film:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Critically acclaimed and Criterion collected.

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Yi Yi  -  #302  (#3)
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  -  #637  (#8)
  3. The Wind Will Carry Us  -  #682
  4. Requiem for a Dream  -  #779  (#43)
  5. Werckmeister Harmonies  -  #879  (#74)
  6. Dancer in the Dark  -  (#54)
  7. You Can Count on Me  -  (#67)
  8. The House of Mirth  -  (#87)
  9. Almost Famous  -  (#88)
  10. Traffic  -  (#105)

note:  Because so much of the focus for the Top 1000 is on classic films, because they have had a longer time to sink into the critical consciousness, they have a separate list called the Top 250 of the 2000′s.  The first number is for those films that actually make their Top 1000, the second number in parenthesis is for their rank in the Top 250 for the 21st Century.  The Wind Will Carry Us has no second number because it is a 1999 film that wasn’t released in the States until 2000.  And it’s not my list, so I can’t explain how Werckmeister Harmonies makes the Top 1000, but is behind Dancer in the Dark and You Can Count on Me on the Century List, when they didn’t make the Top 1000.

Top 10 Films  (2000 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Gladiator
  2. Almost Famous
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  4. Traffic
  5. Erin Brockovich
  6. Billy Elliot
  7. Quills
  8. Yi Yi
  9. Chocolat
  10. Wonder Boys

note:  Gladiator does what no other film in history does – wins the five major awards groups (Oscar, PGA, BAFTA, Golden Globe, BFCA), but fails to win a single major critics award for Best Picture.  Chocolat becomes only the second film (after Secrets and Lies) since the BFCA began to not get a BFCA nomination but go on to earn an Oscar nomination.  Almost Famous and Billy Elliot become the first two films to earn nominations from the PGA, Globes, BAFTA and BFCA and fail to earn Oscar nominations.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Gladiator  -  2030
  2. Traffic  -  1921
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  -  1872
  4. Almost Famous  -  1703
  5. Erin Brockovich  -  1571
  6. Billy Elliot  -  970
  7. Chocolat  -  741
  8. Wonder Boys  -  738
  9. You Can Count on Me  -  644
  10. Quills  -  498

note:  Gladiator has the fewest points for a 1st place film since 1992.

God, people must have been desperate for some kind of family film at Christmas.

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas  -  $260.04 mil
  2. Cast Away  -  $233.63 mil
  3. Mission: Impossible II  -  $215.40 mil
  4. Gladiator  -  $187.70 mil
  5. What Women Want  -  $182.81 mil
  6. The Perfect Storm  -  $182.61 mil
  7. Meet the Parents  -  $166.24 mil
  8. X-Men  -  $157.29 mil
  9. Scary Movie  -  $157.01 mil
  10. What Lies Beneath  -  $155.46 mil

note:  Not a good year.  The first year since 1987 that I don’t give four stars to any film on the list and the first since 1990 that no film on the list earns at least a 75 on Metacritic.  It’s also the last year that no film makes $300 million.  I only saw four of these films in the theater: M:I II, Gladiator, X-Men and Scary Movie.

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. Mission: Impossible II -  $546.4 mil
  2. Gladiator  -  $457.6 mil
  3. Cast Away  -  $429.6 mil
  4. What Women Want  -  $374.1 mil
  5. Dinosaur  -  $349.8 mil
  6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas  -  $345.1 mil
  7. Meet the Parents  -  $330.4 mil
  8. The Perfect Storm  -  $328.7 mil
  9. X-Men  -  $296.3 mil
  10. What Lies Beneath  -  $291.4 mil

note:  Replacing Scary Movie with Dinosaur isn’t a huge leap up.  The 75.3% that the Grinch makes domestically is the highest, not only of the Top 10, but the Top 30.  It is the only film since 1989 (where these results begin on Box Office Mojo) to be the highest grossing film of the year in the United States and not make $100 million overseas.  In fact, it is the highest grossing film domestically all-time to not make $100 million overseas.  It makes slightly less than 24% of its worldwide gross overseas – the only film since 1990 to make less than 45% and one of only three (along with Toy Story and The Dark Knight) to make less than 50%.  It is also the only film since 1989 to finish #1 on the domestic list, but lower than #3 on the worldwide list.  No film in the Top 10 is its counterpoint, with M:I II and Dinosaur only making 60.6% of their gross overseas.  M:I II has the lowest gross for the #1 worldwide earner since 1995 and is the most recent #1 to earn less than $850 million worldwide.

Ebert Great Films:

  • Werckmaster Harmonies
  • Terrorist

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Director:  Ang Lee  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Actor:  Jamie Bell  (Billy Elliot)
  • Best Actress:  Laura Linney  (You Can Count on Me)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Bruce Greenwood  (Thirteen Days)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Zhang Ziyi  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Billy Elliot

Rock stars have kidnapped her son.

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:  Almost Famous
  • Best Director:  Cameron Crowe  (Almost Famous)
  • Best Actor:  Michael Douglas  (Wonder Boys)
  • Best Actress:  Renee Zelwegger  (Nurse Betty)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Bruce Greenwood  (Almost Famous)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Frances McDormand  (Almost Famous)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Wonder Boys
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Almost Famous

The best (and hottest) supporting actress of the year: Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Director:  Ang Lee  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Actor:  Michael Douglas  (Wonder Boys)
  • Best Actress:  Laura Linney  (You Can Count on Me)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Bruce Greenwood  (Thirteen Days)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Zhang Ziyi  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Almost Famous
  • Best Editing:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Original Score:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Cinematography:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Sound:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Art Direction:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Visual Effects:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Sound Editing:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Costume Design:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Makeup:  How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Best Original Song:  “A Love Before Time”  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Animated Film:  Chicken Run
  • Best Foreign Film:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

note:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sets a new Nighthawk record with 14 awards.

Like this was gonna be any other film.

Top 5 Foreign Films:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Amores Perros
  3. The Princess and the Warrior
  4. Faithless
  5. The Widow of St. Pierre

As always, these are the films eligible for Best Foreign Film.  Crouching Tiger, of course, was nominated and won the award – the third time a film was simultaneously nominated for Foreign Film and Best Picture (all winning the former and losing the latter).  Amores Perros was also nominated.  The other three weren’t submitted, although at least The Widow of St. Pierre was passed up for The Taste of Others, which earned a nomination (undeservedly).  My #6 Foreign film was also nominated – Divided We Fall, from the Czech Republic.  I am prepared for the inevitable onslaught when people look at realize that In the Mood for Love (which was submitted but not nominated) has been passed up by me.  But, clearly, it did not work for me (or the Academy), though it has overwhelming critical acclaim.  But, as a result, it’s the first time in a while that no submitted (but not nominated) film earns ***.5 or **** from me, so the category of “Best Foreign Film Submitted but Not Nominated” isn’t in the Oscar list below.  The other two Foreign films that earn ***.5 from me with 2000 release dates in their home countries are Under the Sand and The Road Home (more Zhang Ziyi!).

Don't have it? Then your music collection is sadly incomplete.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Almost Famous *
  • Best Line (dramatic):  “The only true currency in this world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”  (Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous)
  • Best Line (comedic):  “Of course I’m home.  I’m always home.  I’m uncool.”  (Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous)
  • Worst Line:  “It vexes me.  I am terribly vexed.”  (Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator)
  • Best Opening:  High Fidelity
  • Best Ending:  High Fidelity
  • Best Scene:  the fight in the trees in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous
  • Best Use of a Song II:  “Most of the Time” in High Fidelity
  • Best Soundtrack:  High Fidelity **
  • Best Ensemble:  Almost Famous
  • Funniest Film:  O Brother Where Art Thou
  • Best Subtle Touch in a Film:  That they made Forrester’s one novel a Modern Library book in Finding Forrester
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Requiem for a Dream
  • Worst Film:  What Planet Are You From ***
  • Worst Film I Saw in the Theater:  The Replacements  (I blame Veronica for this one)
  • Worst Sequel:  102 Dalmations
  • Sexiest Performance:  Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Me, Myself and Irene (but only the scenes with the sons)
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  All three angels in Charlie’s Angels
  • Read the Play, SKIP the Film:  Hamlet
  • Best Teaser:  Chicken Run
  • Best Trailer:  High Fidelity
  • Best Early Teaser:  The Lord of the Rings
  • Best Tag-line:  “On June 23rd, a chicken will rise.”  (Chicken Run)
  • Best End Titles:  High Fidelity
  • Star of the Year:  Frances McDormand  (Wonder Boys and Almost Famous)
  • Coolest Performance:  Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Cameo:  Bruce Springsteen in High Fidelity
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Nathasha Gregson Wagner in High Fidelity
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  Patrick Warburton in The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Best Reaction to a Film:  John Ramirez coming out of Almost Famous:  “Can you imagine being the Rolling Stone fact check girl?  ‘Hunter, what is this shit?’ “

* – I pulled 5 DVD’s from our case: Almost Famous, Wonder Boys, Crouching Tiger, High Fidelity and O Brother Where Art Thou and told Veronica that I had to pick one for this category.  She said, “I still have to go with Almost Famous.”

**  -  This was very close over O Brother Where Art Thou.

*** – I feel I should point out that I haven’t actually seen Battlefield Earth.

Film History:  The first teaser for The Lord of the Rings is released on 27 April, receiving 1.7 million hits in its first 24 hours (four of which were mine).  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon becomes the first (and to date, only) Foreign Film to gross $100 million in the States.  Dancer in the Dark wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  You Can Count on Me and Girlfight share the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Magnolia wins the Golden Bear in Berlin.  Crouching Tiger wins Best Picture and Director at the Independent Spirits.  Battlefield Earth sweeps the Razzies, winning 7, including Picture, Director and Actor; it would later win two retrospective awards and set a record with 9 (since broken).  X-Men kicks off the Marvel film franchise.  Time-Warner merges with AOL.  Sir Alec Guinness dies on 5 August.  Hedy Lamarr dies in January, John Gielgud in May, Walter Matthau in July and Jason Robards in December.

Academy Awards:  Gladiator becomes the first film since 1949 to win Best Picture without winning Director or Screenplay; like Braveheart, it loses Best Original Screenplay to a film not nominated for Best Picture (Almost Famous), the only two times this has ever happened.  Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sets a record for nominations for a Foreign Film with 10 (and ties Fanny and Alexander with 4 Oscars); it is also the first Foreign Film winner from Asia since the introduction of the competitive award (and the first one not from Europe since 1985).  Steven Soderbergh becomes the first director nominated twice for Best Director since 1938.  Traffic becomes the first film since Jaws to win all of its nominations except Picture; it is also the first film since 1951 to win Director and Screenplay but not Picture.  Mexico earns its first Foreign Film nomination since 1975.

This year was completely maddening.  Rather than hand all the Oscars to Crouching Tiger (or Traffic), Best Picture went to Gladiator.  Only one of my four acting Nighthawk winners was even nominated (Linney).  None of my top 5 Best Actor nominees was nominated (Michael Douglas, John Cusack, Jamie Bell, George Clooney, Chow Yun-Fat).  They went with the rather standard performances in Chocolat for Actress and Supporting Actress rather than the outstanding ones in Crouching Tiger.  They totally bought into the Miramax marketing machine and nominated Chocolat for Best Picture rather than Almost Famous.  They thought the script for Gladiator was more worthy of a nomination than Best in Show or Nurse Betty and that Joaquin Phoenix (who was actually pretty good in Quills) deserved a nomination more than Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp or Robert Downey Jr.  The following films all received Oscar nominations: The Patriot, U-571, Meet the Parents and 102 Dalmations.  The following films received no Oscar nominations: Chicken Run, High Fidelity, Best in Show, Thirteen Days, Nurse Betty, Virgin Suicides and The Claim.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Picture for Gladiator
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Gladiator
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Supporting Actor for Bruce Greenwood in Thirteen Days
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  102 Dalmations
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Thirteen Days
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Actor  (the only time that none of my top 5 were nominated)
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Makeup, Foreign Film

Golden Globes:  For the first time since 1983, only one film is nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay: Traffic.  Unlike the only two previous times this has happened (1971, 1983), Traffic fails to win Best Picture (though it does win Best Screenplay).  For the first time since 1991, the four major awards go to four different films (Gladiator wins Picture – Drama, Almost Famous wins Picture – Comedy, Crouching Tiger wins Director, Traffic wins Screenplay).  Four films win two awards each: Gladiator (Picture – Drama, Score), Almost Famous (Picture – Comedy, Supporting Actress), Crouching Tiger (Director, Foreign) and Traffic (Screenplay, Supporting Actor), but for the first time in five years, no film wins more than two awards.  Chocolat becomes the sixth film to lose Best Picture – Comedy at the Globes but get nominated at the Oscars while the winner (Almost Famous) isn’t.  Gladiator, Erin Brockovich and Sunshine are nominated for Picture – Drama and Director, but not Screenplay.  Crouching Tiger wins Director, but isn’t nominated for Screenplay, and as a Foreign Film isn’t eligible for Picture.  Wonder Boys is nominated for Picture – Drama and Screenplay (even though it’s a Comedy) while You Can Count on Me and Quills are nominated for Screenplay but not for Picture.

Awards:  Like the previous few years, there isn’t much consensus.  Only one film manages to win more than one Best Picture award: Almost Famous (Boston and Chicago).  The other awards go to Traffic (New York), Crouching Tiger (LA), Yi Yi (National Society of Film Critics) and Quills (National Board of Review).  Traffic does win three Supporting Actor awards and five Best Director awards, though it shares four of them with Erin Brockovich (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, NBR), which seems to say more that the critics were acknowledging Soderbergh’s double whammy then the individual directing.  Almost Famous gets big wins in Boston (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actress) and Chicago (Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actress), but only gets one more Supporting Actress award from the other four groups.  Crouching Tiger covers every group but the NSFC, winning Picture (LA), Cinematography (NY, LA, Boston, Chicago), Foreign Film (Boston, Chicago, NBR), Score (LA, Chicago) and Art Direction (LA).

For the first time since the PGA began in 1989 (and only time other than 2004), four different films win the PGA, DGA and the two WGA awards (Gladiator, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Traffic, You Can Count on Me).  Almost Famous joins Being John Malkovich as the only two films in history to earn PGA, DGA, WGA and SAG Ensemble nominations but not a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.  Gladiator becomes the first film to not earn a WGA nomination but go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars since 1984 (possibly the only eligible film to ever do so).  It is the first film since 1985 to win the Oscar while not winning either the DGA or WGA.  In spite of this, Gladiator has the most points (495) and most awards (5), though Almost Famous beats it with 13 nominations to Gladiator‘s 12.  At the DGA, something happens for the first time (though it will happen again in 2008 and 2011): four of the films end up nominated for Picture and Director at the Oscars while the final film (Almost Famous) is nominated for neither.  For the first time, we get category confusion between SAG and the Oscars, as Benicio Del Toro wins Best Actor for Traffic.  For the fourth year in a row, and 6th time in 7 years, the WGA and Oscars disagree on one of the Screenplay winners (in this case, Almost Famous, which wins the Oscar and You Can Count on Me, which wins the WGA).

The Broadcast Film Critics Association adds Cinematography and Art Direction (which they then drop the next year and don’t reinstate until 2009).  Gladiator wins Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix, whose award is also shared by Quills and The Yards), Cinematography, Score and Art Direction.  It earns 370 points (a record that will stand until 2004), 6 nominations (a record that will stand until 2003) and 6 awards (a record that still stands).  The other Best Picture nominees are Traffic (winner of Director and Adapted Screenplay), Erin Brockovich (shares Director and wins Actress), Almost Famous (wins Original Screenplay and Supporting Actress), Wonder Boys (ties Traffic for Best Adapted Screenplay and shares Frances McDormand’s award for Supporting Actress), Crouching Tiger (wins Foreign Film), Quills, Billy Elliot, Cast Away, Thirteen Days and You Can Count on Me.

A number of things repeat at the BAFTAs.  For the second year in a row: 1 – The Oscar winner for Best Picture earns 14 nominations and wins Best Picture (American Beauty, Gladiator), 2 – Four different films win Picture, Director and the two Screenplay awards (Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Traffic, Almost Famous), 3 – a Foreign Film wins Best Director (Talk to Her, Crouching Tiger).  Gladiator and Crouching Tiger both win 4 awards out of 14 nominations.  Billy Elliot wins Best British Film and Actor (and earns Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations) with 11 total nominations.  Almost Famous and Erin Brockovich are the final two Picture nominees, with Traffic getting a Director nomination and winning Adapted Screenplay without earning a Picture nomination.  Chocolat, which earns 8 nominations (Picture not among them) fails to win any awards.

Best Director:  It’s an odd year.  Steven Soderbergh won five of the six critics awards, but only the Chicago Film Critics cited Traffic, while the rest cited both Traffic and Erin Brockovich.  It seemed like he was being congratulated for the entire year, rather than just Traffic.  But then the awards groups kept nominating him for both films.  Supposedly, after 1938, the Oscars instituted a rule that kept a director from being nominated twice in one year, which would explain one nomination for directors who had two Best Picture nominees (e.g. Victor Fleming in 1939, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, Herbert Ross in 1977).  But no one said anything about the rule being revoked, so many people were expecting one nomination for Soderbergh at the Oscars, when he in fact, got both.  He then actually won the Oscar, where he had actually been losing many of the awards groups to Ang Lee.  Overall, Soderbergh, because of the awards for both films, crushes at the Consensus, with the five critics awards, the Oscar, the Satellite (plus extra noms at both) and double nominations at the DGA, BAFTA and Globes.  Ang Lee comes in a distant second for Crouching Tiger, winning the DGA, BAFTA, Globe, Indie and earning Oscar and Satellite noms.  They’re followed by Ridley Scott for Gladiator (DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, Satellite noms), Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous (BSFC win, DGA and Satellite noms) and Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot (DGA and BAFTA noms).

Personally, I think Ang Lee absolutely deserved to win.  Soderbergh is my #2 for Traffic, but I don’t think his direction of Erin Brockovich even deserved to be in the conversation.  My other nominees are Crowe, the Coen Brothers for O Brother Where Art Thou and Sofia Coppola for The Virgin Suicides (a marvelous debut).  My 6 through 10 are Roger Donaldson for Thirteen Days, Curtis Hanson for Wonder Boys, Daldry, Michael Winterbottom for The Claim and M. Night Shyamalan for Unbreakable (the final great job before the sharp plummet).

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Traffic easily wins the Consensus Award, sweeping all five awards groups (Oscars, WGA, Globes, BAFTA, BFCA).  Wonder Boys picks up one critics award (Boston) while earning Oscar, WGA, Globe and BAFTA noms.  It’s followed by Crouching Tiger and Chocolat (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms), then O Brother (Oscar, BAFTA noms).  My own list gives the award to Crouching Tiger, followed by Wonder Boys, Traffic, O Brother and WGA and BAFTA nominee High Fidelity.  My next five included three overlooked but great scripts, Thirteen Days, The Virgin Suicides and The Claim, followed by Quills (Globe nom) and Chocolat.

Best Original Screenplay:  Almost Famous wins the closest Consensus race for Original Screenplay since 1992.  It wins the Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA, BSFC and CFC and earns WGA and Globe nominations.  In a close second is You Can Count on Me, winning the WGA, NYFC, LAFC and NSFC as well as earning Oscar and Globe noms.  Relegated to also-rans are Erin Brockovich and Billy Elliot (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms) as well as Gladiator (Oscar and BAFTA noms).  I look at the list and don’t have Gladiator or Erin Brockovich anywhere near my Top 10, let alone Top 5.  Almost Famous is my winner, followed by the final WGA nominee, Best in Show, as well as Billy Elliot, You Can Count on Me and Nurse Betty.  My 6 through 10 are the unheralded solid original scripts for 2000: State and Main, Chicken Run, Unbreakable, Sunshine and Chuck & Buck.  This is, overall, a sub-par year between two great years.  Almost Famous is the only one of my Top 5 that would make the Top 8 in either 1999 or 2001.

Best Actor:  Not a single one of my top 5 performances was nominated for an Oscar.  Only one of them even made the Consensus list.  I’m at a loss to explain it.  The Consensus list goes thus: Tom Hanks for Cast Away (NYFC, CFC, Globe wins, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA noms), Russell Crowe for Gladiator (Oscar, BFCA wins, SAG, BAFTA, Globe noms), Javier Bardem for When Night Falls (NSFC, NBR wins, Oscar, Globe noms), Geoffrey Rush for Quills (SAG, Oscar, Globe, BAFTA noms) and Michael Douglas for Wonder Boys (LAFC win, BAFTA, Globe noms).  Now, there’s not a whole lot of consensus.  The critics were fairly split and Benicio Del Toro won Best Actor at SAG for his supporting role in Traffic.  And to be fair, they are all good performances.  In fact, my 6 through 10 are Rush, Ralph Fiennes for Sunshine, Hanks, Bardem and Crowe.  And Michael Douglas is my winner.  But, of course, Douglas wasn’t nominated for the Oscar.  And there are still my #2 through #5: John Cusack in High Fidelity (Globe – Comedy nom), Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot (SAG nom, BAFTA win), George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou (Globe – Comedy win) and Chow Yun-Fut in Crouching Tiger.

Best Actress:  Julia Roberts easily wins the Consensus, taking home two critics (LAFC, NBR) and then sweeping the five awards groups (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globes, BFCA).  She’s followed by Laura Linney for You Can Count on Me (NYFC, NSFC wins, SAG, Oscar, Globe noms), Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream (BSFC, CFC wins, SAG, Oscar, Globe noms), Juliette Binoche for Chocolat (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe noms) and Joan Allen for The Contender (SAG, Oscar, Globe noms).  I’m at considerable odds with that list.  My own list starts with Linney, then goes with Renee Zelwegger for Nurse Betty (who won the Globe – Comedy over Binoche), BAFTA nominee Michelle Yeoh for Crouching Tiger, Globe nominee Bjork for Dancer in the Dark (a Drama nominee, which is completely inexplicable since the film is a God damn musical) and Roberts.  I know many will gripe over my exclusion of Burstyn (who is my #6), but I always thought her role was too much over the top and didn’t have any of the subtlety of Linney or Zelwegger’s performances.  The rest of my second half are Allen, Maria Schrader (one half of Aimee and Jaguar), Cate Blanchett in The Gift and Juliane Kohler (the other half of Aimee and Jaguar).

Best Supporting Actor:  Benicio Del Toro easily wins the Consensus, taking home three critics awards (NYFC, NSFC, CFC) as well as SAG, Oscar, the Globe and the BAFTA (though, he actually wins for lead at SAG).  He’s followed by Joaquin Phoenix (NBR and BFCA winner, SAG, Oscar, Globe, BAFTA nominee).  I must admit I am at a loss to explain this, for while the first award also cited Quills and the second one cited Quills and The Yards, the rest are for his stunningly bad performance in Gladiator.  The other Consensus nominees are Albert Finney for Erin Brockovich (SAG winner, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe nominee), Willem DaFoe for Shadow of the Vampire (LAFC award, SAG, Oscar, Globe nominee) and Jeff Bridges for The Contender (SAG, Oscar, Globe nominee).  The list baffles me.  Del Toro was great and DaFoe just misses my nominee list, but Finney and Bridges are just okay and Phoenix, good in Quills, is just awful in Gladiator.  My own list is almost completely ignored, in spite of brilliant performances: Bruce Greenwood as JFK in Thirteen Days, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, Del Toro, Steven Culp as RFK in Thirteen Days and Robert Downey Jr in Wonder Boys.  My 6 through 10 don’t get a whole lot of awards attention either: DaFoe, Dylan Baker as Robert McNamara in Thirteen Days, Fred Willard for his hilarious, yet painful performance in Best in Show (BSFC winner), Morgan Freeman for his assassin with a heart in Nurse Betty and Mark Ruffalo for his brother without much of one in You Can Count on Me.

Best Supporting Actress:  Frances McDormand wins the Consensus, with three critics wins (LA, Boston, Chicago), the BFCA and noms from SAG, Oscars, Globes and BAFTA.  I’m torn, because she’s my #2 of the year (for Almost Famous) and my #5 of the year (for Wonder Boys).  She’s followed in the Consensus in a three-way tie by Judi Dench in Chocolat (SAG win, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe noms), which blows my mind since it’s not nearly as good a performance as many she had done in recent years, Julie Walters in Billy Elliot (BAFTA wins, SAG, Oscar and Globe noms) and Kate Hudson in Almost Famous (Globe win, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA (in the lead category) noms).  The fifth Consensus nominee is Marcia Gay Harden who won the NYFC and the Oscar for Pollack but go no other awards attention.  My own list is Zhang Ziyi for Crouching Tiger (BAFTA nom), McDormand, Walters, Hudson and McDormand again.  Harden is my #6, though she gets a Nighthawk nomination because of the two noms for McDormand.  The rest of my list is a big drop down in quality: Samantha Morten in Jesus’ Son, Kate Winslet in Quills, Sarah Polley in The Claim and, finally, Dench.

The world pulls back from the brink.

Under-appreciated Film of 2000:

Thirteen Days  (dir. Roger Donaldson)

My best friend and I emerged from the theater a little shaken.  “Imagine where we would be,” he said, “if that bastard hadn’t shot Bobby.”  And not just Bobby.  Watching this film again, I am reminded of The Queen.  I remember leaving The Queen and thinking, what could Tony Blair have done as a leader in the free world if he hadn’t gotten himself embroiled in the whole Iraq mess?  Well, you’ll watch this and think, what could Robert McNamara have done if he hadn’t gotten so bogged down with Vietnam?

The most famous line from the Cuban Missile Crisis is “we went eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked.”  And we can be thankful for that, because nuclear armageddon seemed right around the corner, and it would have made Einstein’s prediction true: “I do not know how the Third World war will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth – rocks.”  What it came down to was the presence of several men in the right positions of government.  What difference does it make, many people argue, with each presidential election, the parties are both corrupt, the whole system is corrupt, who cares who we vote for.  Well, in October of 1962, we had John F. Kennedy, we had Robert F. Kennedy, we had Robert McNamara, we had Adlai Stevenson (we also had Kenny O’Donnell, who the story uses as the focal point, partially because O’Donnell’s son was one of the producers involved – that most of the part played by O’Donnell in the film was actually lived out by Ted Sorenson does not make what happened any less frightening or any less true).  Those were the right men at the right time.  Looking at the other men who could have been President in 1962, at Nixon, or LBJ, or Stevenson (who played his part here just right, but would not have been suited for the top role) or Kefauver or Rockefeller, it brings to mind the question if any of them would have been strong enough to withstand the pressure from the Soviets on one side and the military on the other.  We went right to that line in the sand, right to the brink, and then we were able to pull away.

That is the history of it.  And that is what is presented in Thirteen Days, one hell of a film about those events.  It is expertly directed (by an Australian, no less) and excellently made.  And what was the reward?  A $34 million box office haul (or, a little less than The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas), a nomination for Best Picture from the Broadcast Film Critics and a nomination from the Makeup Guild.  And not a god damn lesson learned from the administration just entering the White House at the time about how much power diplomacy can have when used properly, that an invasion and war aren’t the answers.

The central role in the film is Kenny O’Donnell, played by Kevin Costner.  O’Donnell, as the Appointments Secretary, and de facto Chief of Staff, gives us an inside presence at the vital meetings and allows us to step back and watch how the Kennedys worked in the situation.  Costner is solid (his accent isn’t great, because his accents are never all that great, but the mention on the IMDb that it’s historically bad and often mocked in Boston is completely and utter crap).  But it’s the supporting performers, the ones who didn’t get any awards attention at all that are the key to the film.  There is Steven Culp, who seems like a living, breathing version of Bobby Kennedy.  There is Dylan Baker, in one of his best performances, as Robert McNamara (he has an amazing scene where he seems to single-handedly keep us out of war, and explains to an admiral, “This isn’t a blockade.  It’s a way of communicating to Kruschev.”).  But, at the heart of the film, is the absolutely amazing performance by Bruce Greenwood as John Kennedy.  Much like Anthony Hopkins in Nixon, he doesn’t look as much like the President, but he absolutely feels like him, has the voice inflections perfect, the calm collectiveness, and the Irish anger, just beneath the surface (and even some humor – there are two great interactions with O’Donnell – one when O’Donnell eats his toast (“I was eating that.”  “No you weren’t.”  “I was.  Bastard.”) and one when he remarks on what a day it has been and O’Donnell reminds him of when they went down to LBJ’s ranch and had to dress up like cowboys and hunt out of the back of a pick-up truck (“That was a bad day,” the President remarks).).

Thirteen Days misses out on several Nighthawk Awards, finishing in sixth place in Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Editing.  But Greenwood wins my award for Best Supporting Actor and Culp also earns a nomination (and Baker finishes just outside the top 5).  It is a perfectly constructed film, one that is almost entirely made up of people talking, but that never drags at all, always keeps us on the edge of our seats, even though we know what the conclusion is going to be.

The film seemed to be ignored when it was released.  Perhaps it was that those who lived through it didn’t want to be reminded of it.  Perhaps the younger generations didn’t care about what seemed to them like a history lesson.  But it was vital history lesson and one which should be looked back upon, and often.  It’s rare that we get a history lesson that is so true to history and so entertaining and well-made all at the same time.  And you had to know this film would have special relevance to me.  My own e-mail signature is a line from Bobby himself, delivered in a speech on April 5, 1968, one which we all do well to remember:

“But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

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