Film 2001 Year in Review

Film 2001 Year in Review
Due to a Hollywood system that keeps its premier releases until the end of the year for full Academy Award impact, there's no way 2001 can be properly assessed at the end of November. But these five films deserve better than to be buried under an avalanche of wizards and elves.

1. Memento

(Directed by Christopher Nolan)

Memento is a rare film that commands — no, demands your full attention, the story of a man (Guy Pearce) crippled by an inability to form new memories, who nonetheless persists on a quest to avenge his wife's death. Initially, the backwards storytelling device seems like a clever ploy to make the viewer rethink the beginning as the film concludes, à la The Sixth Sense, but repeat viewing (backwards or, on DVD, forwards) reveals a more existential meditation about the nature of guilt and the ghosts we can't shake, no matter what resolution we believe we've found. Stunning. -James Keast


2. Ghost World

(Directed by Terry Zwigoff)

Ghost World turns non-conformity into an art form unto itself. If North America is overstuffed with bland, kitschy, media-monopoly junk-culture (there's a shot of a main drag, with its gas stations and strip malls and high-tension wires that telescopes this cultural detritus into one compact image), then casting a genuinely discriminating eye upon it is the highest form of rebellion. Becky and Enid are like the trio of record store savants in High Fidelity, only they don't get a life-affirming epiphany at the end. With Becky lured into dull conformity, and Enid quietly whisking herself away to an uncertain future, Ghost World isn't just the funniest film of the year, it's also one of the most serious. -James Luscombe


3. Apocalypse Now Redux

(Directed by Francis Ford Coppola)

One of the greatest war films ever made reaffirms its legacy with a re-release 22 years after its initial dramatic impact. Re-cut to director Francis Ford Coppola's revisionist standards, Redux contains an additional 49 minutes of footage that serves to neither enhance nor harm the story of an insane Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) and the man sent to kill him (Martin Sheen), set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war. Apocalypse Now Redux's story, social commentary and philosophical musings remain intact, which allows it to remain as poignant and thoughtful as it was upon its initial release. -Chris Gramlich


4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

(Directed by John Cameron Mitchell)

A self-described post-punk, neo-glam rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is pure pleasure. Creator John Cameron Mitchell has taken his successful off-Broadway play about an East German transsexual rock singer's life and transformed it into a wonderful film. Mitchell's fantastic direction uses stick figure drawings and animation, dream and fantasy sequences, flashbacks, and music to relay Hedwig's tragicomic life story, and his performance in the title role is phenomenal. It's great and beyond rare to see a musical that actually has decent songs, with each phrase sung by Hedwig conjuring echoes of different ‘70s gender-bending rock icons. -Erin Oke


5. Moulin Rouge

(Directed by Baz Luhrmann)

This postmodern epic musical builds upon director Baz Luhrmann's previous lush and fantastical work, taking the elevated sensual state of those films to the furthest extreme possible. The visual spectacle of Moulin Rouge is opulent and enveloping, the choreography is outstanding, the performances are all remarkably good (augmented by the astounding fact that the actors did all of their own singing), and the music itself, a pastiche of reinvented contemporary pop tunes, is tremendously fun. This film is all about excess; it goes too far in every possible way and manages to succeed because of it. -Erin Oke


Runners Up

Monsters, Inc. (Directed by Peter Docter and David Silverman)

Waking Life (Directed by Richard Linklater)

Amelie (Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

In the Mood for Love (Directed by Wong Kar-Wai)

Amores Perros (Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Mulholland Drive (Directed by David Lynch)