Split Decisions: the Critics Speak

Befores and Afters

For me, as I am a cliché, the year came down to two weeks. I flew back from France to see a French movie, among other reasons: Band of Outsiders, which I had only seen in lousy video format. There's no call to praise the movie more, but it made every movie I saw this year look like a toy. It's a movie I had seen before, made when I was almost two, but I walked out of the theater transfigured, certain again that making art was worth doing and that people could do it, including me. It was just like seeing a first punk-rock show. It was September 8.

Thirteen days later I walked from the end of an antiwar march on the recruiting station in Times Square into the E-Walk, for the opening of Glitter. It's sort of genius how it's designed so that Mariah can seem to be the "star" without having to talk much. Otherwise, boy does that movie suck. But sitting there with a bunch of spirited Mariah Carey fans ("We love you, Mariah!" someone shouted when her huge image botched a line reading), well, it was as much a truth of my moviegoing life as Godard. There's something peculiar to trashy pop films in filled theaters, something about the audience's jovial, against-all-odds communality in response to the movie, neither cowed nor contemptuous, a real kind of being-with. Often I don't like the movies I see, but I always like sitting there in the dark. —Jane Dark

The most memorable cinematic experiences of 2001 conjured up the most indelible images and incredible reality of 2001. The Manhattan skyline, once a serene establishing shot, metamorphosed into a ticking time bomb in NYC-set cinema after September 11. Whether looming defiantly in Don't Say a Word or callously amputated in Zoolander, the painful presence or structured absence of the twin towers elicited gasps and grimaces from spectators suddenly wrenched out of the text and back onto ground zero. Fluffy concoctions like Serendipity and Sidewalks of New York were transformed into tense, unwitting suspense films. Like lost limbs still sending back signals to the brain, the spectacle always hit a raw nerve. —Thomas Doherty

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