Negative Space

Flashback: The Year in Movies

This was the worst year in the 85-year history of Hollywood. —Gerald Peary

Frankly, I prefer a year where you mention a title and get a drink thrown in your face. —Dennis Dermody

This was only a terrible year for movies in the sense that most critics determined their sample group based on what Variety calls the "number of engagements." —Rob Nelson

Nondistribution is less of a problem than underfinanced promotion. How many good movies were released this year that sank for lack of a competitive advertising budget? Critics don't help—they're too allied with the media conglomerates (and too fond of Hollywood hype). This pretty good year for movies was also the year of the disappearing movie. The most imaginative and thought-provoking films left town as quickly and quietly as they arrived: L'Humanité, Time Regained, The Little Thief, Orphans, Beau Travail. Critics never mourned their passing, even though it meant strong movie culture was passing, too. —Armond White

Sending moviegoers off to be emotionally raped at Dancer in the Dark is a betrayal, not just of the audience but of the movies themselves. Hapless at everything except its sadism, Lars von Trier's "dark" musical (now, there's an original idea) shows no sense of color, rhythm, or movement—the elements that might be considered the minimum requirement for the genre. Flaunting its incompetence, Dancer in the Dark is designed to make the very idea of competence seem hopelessly retrograde. —Charles Taylor

Lars von Trier's religious allegory as modern musical works best in its most spirited moments of Bergman-esque audacity, restoring near forgotten notions of theatricality to film artistry. —Gregory Solman

The controversy over Dancer in the Dark (a/k/a Breaking More Waves) beat the film itself, as does the soundtrack album. I much prefer The Idiots—the best episode of The Tom Green Show ever made, as well as an elaborate autocritique of von Trier and the Dogma crew's bad faith. —Steve Erickson

It was amazing how many reviewers bought into the hype surrounding von Trier and Dogma when reviewing the disgracefully manipulative Dancer in the Dark. As for the mealymouthed attacks on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they smacked of a snobbish intellectual resistance to a film designed to please mainstream as much as art-house audiences. —Graham Fuller

Don't forget to celebrate the small victory of the New York Film Critics Circle's near shutout of Crouching Tiger—the silly, unimaginative film that still proves the culture's lack of interest in Foreign Language Art Movies. Ang Lee's only success was in showing how the blockbuster mentality has taken over all film culture. Lee's imitation of Hong Kong cinema is the sincerest form of flattening. —Armond White

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is made with a level of craft, passion (more than many people are willing to acknowledge), and respect for the tradition of the wu xia pian that I would never have expected from the guy who made The Ice Storm. All the comments about it being a pale, diluted rip-off of "real" Hong Kong movies are delusional. I love King Hu, but he rarely had acting this good or nuanced. —Kent Jones

Crouching Tiger can safely be enjoyed without necessarily agreeing with the crowds of those same dilettantes who wouldn't know Peking Opera Blues from The Blues Brothers, and who cannot get over how much international influence The Matrix has had. —Michael Atkinson

Neo-neo-realism is lighting up world cinema from Argentina to Turkey to Taiwan, and we're stuck with what seems like the only fiction cinema incapable of making convincing films about ordinary people. This was supposedly the raison d'être of the Amerindie movement, but instead we get timid melodramas and aimless rural geekfests passed off as authentic slices of everyday life. Leaving aside Jim McKay's plangent Our Song, the only jolts of social reality I got last year were accompanied by subtitles. —Paul Arthur

George Washington gave me more hope for the future of American movies than anything I've seen in a long, long time. For a 25-year-old to make something like this—as opposed to another caper comedy of lightly worn sociopathy, "edgy" rats in an urban trap melodrama, or brutally honest seriocomic "relationship" movie—with these kinds of flaws and these kinds of virtues, is pretty significant. And cause for celebration. —Kent Jones

In a year when the DV explosion furthered the trend toward visual indifference in American independent films—a fellow critic noted that Chuck & Buck "looked like it was shot through a dirty sponge"—I suspect at least part of my rapture over George Washington was its insistence on going the opposite direction. On the other hand, if we must have visual indifference, may it be in the service of films as astutely observed and impeccably performed as You Can Count on Me. —Scott Tobias

One thing Time Code's "revolutionary new look at motion picture storytelling" proves definitively: Digital video looks much better at one-fourth the size. —Rob Nelson

Pola X's river of blood counts among the three visual epiphanies in 2000 (others were in The House of Mirth and Mission to Mars). And I know Kubrick is spinning in his grave that he never matched it. —Armond White

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