WRITING: RANDI BERGMAN
The ‘90s officially ended in December, and by this, I mean RIP to celebrating the 20th anniversary of various moments of my favourite decade, from the innocuous to iconic. Yes, this is a big deal for me, but rather than wallow in the deep, existential crisis that is the passing of time, I’m choosing to forge ahead and embrace the grimy, yet shiny decade that followed: the ’00s, the aughts, the naughties, the ten years ruled by Paris Hilton… whatever you would prefer to call it. First up, I figured it was apropos to give praise to the best movies of 2000, most of which will make you feel really fucking ancient when you realize they are now 20 years old.
There are teen classics, like Center Stage. There are critically acclaimed #films, like American Psycho, that I for one didn’t actually see at the time. And then there are ones, like Our Lady of Assassins, that I had never heard of until working on this piece, which is why I enlisted some of my favourite Internet pals to pick their favourites (for the record, mine is Wonder Boys, an extremely underrated quirky masterpiece and my favourite Michael Douglas performance of all time).
Let’s just call this the People’s Choice Awards of nostalgia, or a Completely Unscientific Ranking of the best movies of 2000. Without further ado!
“When I was 16, puberty’s final swan song was leaving me with a bout of adolescent depression so strong I barely had the joie de vivre to slam my door and scream at my parents anymore. That same year I listened to Jewel’s “Foolish Games” single so many times in a row my grandma asked my mom if someone I knew died. At that time (1999 to be exact), depression still carried a relative stigma around it and teens were told they’d age out of their “moodiness.” Mercifully, at that age I eventually discovered Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, a memoir about depression and eventual stay at an institution. I was overwhelmed with relief when I pored over her words, finally feeling seen, finally feeling understood.
So, you can imagine my zeal when I found out that a movie starring my ultimate fave, Winona Ryder, was coming out in the new year. I still have a visceral memory of dragging my two best friends to the theatre and warning them beforehand (in the dramatic way only a teenager can) that I was probably going to cry, like a lot a lot, during the movie. In the end, I actually only teared up a little as I fell into a trance as I watched Ryder’s big brown eyes, anxiously smoking cigarettes, riling up the other patients and making out with her dirtbag boyfriend played by Jared Leto. The supporting cast was lifted by Brittany Murphy (RIP), Elisabeth Moss, Clea Duvall and of course Angelina Jolie in a now infamous breakout role which eventually won her an Oscar.
As an adult who has now dealt with adult depression, I can’t say the movie necessarily does justice to all of the complexities of mental illness but fuck, if it didn’t save my 16-year-old self from feeling like a sad weirdo.”
-Amil Niazi, freelance writer (@Amil)
“Where were you the first time you saw Center Stage? The first time you convinced yourself that maybe maybe Cooper Nielson was really a babe (when you knew it was Ilya Kulik. It was always Ilya Kulik), or when you began lying to yourself and believing that it was plausible for Jodie Sawyer to change her hair/makeup/costumes in a matter of seconds amidst the pandemonium of the Jamiroquai-soundtracked finale dance scene? Where were you when your standards for all movies forever were finally raised higher?
I was likely there, nearby, somewhere in your theatre. Having seen Center Stage four times on the big screen in my young, 14-year-old life, I was willing to travel anywhere (within my hometown) and justify doing anything (as long as I was allowed) to secure a spot in front of the greatest dance movie in the world. I wanted to be Jodie. I wanted to learn how to dance. I wanted men to dance-fight in a weird attempt to win my heart, and I wanted to say things like, “Just dance it” to friends struggling with their choreographed destinies.
But alas, I was merely a wee child from Cambridge, Ontario who couldn’t even touch her toes. Just a girl, standing in front of anybody who would listen, asking them if they’ve seen Center Stage. Just a weirdo in the computer room, downloading the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Higher Ground” to play on repeat in an attempt to learn the dance moves to it. (Often my Dad and Mom would ask, “What are you DOING in there?” They obviously couldn’t understand.) I had only the fantasy of what the arts world really looked like, which seemed so much cooler than my suburban dwellings. And damn it, without that fantasy I’d just be some tween at the movies, requesting the snack bar attendant please layer the butter, while hoping my new dELiA*s top was appropriate to play witness to such onscreen greatness.”
What Lies Beneath
“Most people see this film as a gut-dropping horror film. I see it as a great advertisement for the Vermont tourism board. Though it’s supposed to be Burlington, Robert Zemeckis’ psychosomatic bathtub horror was filmed on the shores of Lake Champlain. A horror backdrop is incredibly important, and production designers Rick Carter and Jim Teegarden knew it. So, they built the damn house—a 3,500 square foot Nantucket shingle—from scratch. Because of the bathtub murder (c’mon, you should have seen it by now), five separate sets were built to help cameras maneuver around Michelle Pfieffer’s watershed moment. After filming wrapped, the house was torn down because it didn’t pass local building codes.
When I first saw the film, I think it gave me a heart murmur, but I mostly wondered why they would have a gravel driveway leading up to such a nice house.”
-Trey Taylor, pop culture writer and US editor at The Face (@treytylor)
“McG’s Charlie’s Angels… did somebody say masterpiece? Lucy Liu cracking the whip in black leather. Cameron Diaz’s Soul Train dance sequence. Drew Barrymore lifting her legs 90 degrees while seated with her hands tied behind her back. This film fires on all cylinders. There’s the cast: which includes the perfect conglomeration of high-brow/low brow stars including Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Crispin Glover, Tom Green, Matt LeBlanc and Luke Wilson. There’s the action sequences, hyper-stylized in a way that still feels ahead of its time some two decades later. But this movie is a testament to the likability and chemistry of its three leads. Sexy, funny, and kick-ass, this film managed to both make me gayer, but also make me question my sexuality at just how aroused I was at these three ladies. The sequel… happened, but the original truly is lightening in a bottle that I’m glad I got to drink from.”
-Evan Ross Katz, writer and editor (@evanrosskatz)
“I wanted to write about American Psycho, Mary Harron’s pitch perfect satire of ‘80s masculinity and yuppie culture, a paper thin slice of raspberry mousse cake adapted from Bret Easton’s Ellis’ overlong postmodernist book. Harron tweaks the book’s forthright misogyny by making Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman the film’s main fetishized object of consumption. Bale always felt smarmy to me in his good guy kid actor roles in movies like Newsies. Harron used Bale’s innate smarminess to great effect as Bateman, and this performance is probably responsible for landing him the role of Batman. I don’t know that American Psycho is my favourite movie of 2000 (I definitely watched High Fidelity more), but it has aged impeccably. Unfortunately, its themes of greed and materialism and the consolidation of wealth by the extreme upper class feel more relevant than ever! It’s also the last time he was ever funny (I blame Batman). Bro dudes having this movie in their dorm canon collection and not knowing that it’s satire is unfortunately, also, hilarious. Eat the rich AND listen to Phil Collins records that cost millions of dollars to be engineered in outer space.”
In the Mood for Love
“‘It is always too early or too late for love in a Wong Kar-wai film,” Roger Ebert wrote in his original review, “and his characters spend their days in yearnings and regrets.” Such is the case with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung’s lonely married neighbours of Wong Kar-Wai’s atmospheric In the Mood for Love. The drama about unrequited love is set in a Shanghainese community in 1962 Hong Kong, and the intimacy and sadness of their platonic longing is made breathtakingly beautiful and intensified with lush, saturated colour. Rooms are bathed in red and the story is framed with impressionistic lowered glances and glimpses of their lives—down corridors, around corners, refracted and reflected in mirrors, and shimmering slow motion scenes where they brush past one another in narrow spaces.
To create this haunting images Kar-Wai turned to his frequent creative collaborators the cinematographer Christopher Doyle and William Chang, the aesthetic genius who edited, art-directed, and costumed the movie. (They also worked together when the filmmaker was artistic director of the Met Costume Institute’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” with Chang styling the exhibition.) As a result there’s a seamless visual rhythm to the stylized dreamscape and layer upon layer of texture, from rooms lined in boldly printed wallpapers to Cheung’s deep wardrobe of patterned cheongsams. It’s so immersive and tactile that watching it, you also somehow feel part of it. It’s more like the emotional experience of a memory than a movie.”
“What do you get when you combine the sky-high expectations forced on Leonardo DiCaprio and his first project since declaring himself “King of the World” and Danny Boyle’s moody, maximalist direction? You get the misunderstood, unfairly-dismissed cult classic, The Beach.
Besides single-handedly making a generation want to up and move to Thailand in “search of themselves” (I speak from experience), The Beach was also a complex look at the notion of reinventing society and in the process, oneself, and the collateral damage that comes as a result of that journey toward paradise. Beyond the heady themes, this little gem of a movie also gave us the mainstream arrival of the otherwise otherworldly Tilda Swinton playing a villain that you can’t not be seduced by, laying the blueprint for a type of character that she carries throughout her career in films such as Snowpiercer, the Narnia trilogy, and Suspiria.
However, as a proud Madonna stan, it must be said that the single most iconic fact about The Beach is that the soundtrack features the timeless work of William Orbit (lead producer on the greatest album of all time, Ray of Light – sorry, I don’t make the rules) on the ubiquitous All Saint’s hit, ‘Pure Shores.'”
-Elie Chivi, writer and cultural connoisseur (@eliechivi)
“My favourite film of 2000 has to be Miss Congeniality – has Sandra Bullock ever been better than when playing the FBI superstar Gracie Hart? (Also WTF is that name about? Why not just call her Flowery McGirlyface). Hart is ridiculed by her co-workers for her lack of femininity and the fact she enjoys a steak, which, let’s face it, is evil, sexist and they should all burn in hell. But Hart has the last laugh when she gets roped into infiltrating the Miss United States pageant and it turns out that – Shock! Horror! – underneath her tracksuit and unibrow, she’s beautiful.
Look, there’s a lot about this film that doesn’t hold up, including the fact that as a white, thin, straight woman, Hart’s problems are actually pretty negligible. But that still doesn’t stop this movie from being hilarious and heart-warming, while also gifting us a Michael Caine performance that far surpasses any of his work in the Batman films. And if I still haven’t managed to convince you on the merits of this classic then maybe the fact that Miss Congeniality is Chandler Bing’s favourite film, will?”
-Elizabeth Sankey, director of Romantic Comedy (@romcommovie)
Our Lady of Assassins
“A tale of inter-generational gay love, nostalgia and gang violence set in 1990s Medellín, Colombia, Fernando Vallejo’s novel, Our Lady of the Assassins, was brought to the big screen in brutal, sexy style by director Barbet Schroeder. Controversial for its depictions of an older gay man with teenage lovers, it’s like the millennial version of Call Me By Your Name, but with actual stakes. I remember feeling alternately heartbroken and turned on watching the film, as every doomed character never stopped seeking love even as they courted death.”
“I often wonder who I’d be if Almost Famous didn’t exist. Every year during high school, I’d watch Almost Famous on my birthday as a way to manifest my own future as a music journalist. I wanted to be as cool as Penny Lane and as ambitious as William Miller. But the film’s combination of its coming-of-age premise, its lens on the intricacies of fandom and its unforgettable soundtrack has made it a beloved nostalgia-watch for audiences beyond aspiring music journalists.
Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film was necessary watching for my formative years — I credit it as the movie that made me realize I wanted to be a music journalist. Plus, Penny Lane gave me years of style inspiration.”
-Ilana Kaplan, culture writer and editor, Rolling Stone, GQ, ELLE (@lanikaps)
Isn’t She Great
“Growing up, Bette Midler was my one and only. And bad, old white woman opinions on Twitter aside, she still is. I spent a lot of time as a pre-teen devouring her movies playing on the Family Channel (RIP) long after I should’ve been in bed. I was always drawn to her campy, charismatic, self-absorbed comedy. In 2000, she starred in Isn’t She Great alongside Nathan Lane, David Hyde Pierce, Amanda Peet, and Stockard Channing (!!), a Jacqueline Susann biopic that plays like a Ryan Murphy fever dream. It was panned by critics and audiences alike but as the only theatrically released film about a woman who deserves several movies about her, there is a lot to love. With pink typewriters, leopard print outfits, and extremely good lines like, “If they tell you you have no talent, that it’s never going to happen for you, that you’re just some loud, crude, pushy little nothing in a tight dress and too much makeup, you tell ‘em, ‘Hey! Just look at Jacqueline Susann!’” I have no choice but to hold the mostly forgotten Isn’t She Great extremely close to my heart.”
Bring It On
“I don’t know who I was trying to kid when I was 17 years old but Bring It On was a huge part of my queer awakening. Each and every single day, I would trudge home from school, feeling frustrated, alone and mostly misunderstood. I would lock myself in my bedroom for an hour and 38 minutes, with my trusty Bring it On DVD and for that brief moment, feel seen.
While it’s true that Kristen Dunst (a.k.a. Torrance Shipman) was the main character leading the the Toros to their potential sixth consecutive national title, the character I was interested in most was Eliza Dushku’s Missy.
Before Missy, I’d never seen anyone (in any film) look like her and dress like her: tomboyish while still somehow feminine. It was a moment of recognition, as it was the same way I looked and acted, and although the cheer squad eventually went on to call Missy an “uber dyke,” it started to answer a lot of questions for me, mentally and emotionally. Missy’s character made me recognize just who the fuck I was. Yeah, looking back on it all now, there was a lot of shitty queerbaiting. But I’m glad I had a film like that to help me through high school.”
-Amanda (Ama) Scriver, fat, loud and shouty writer as seen on the Internet. (@amascriver)
“I was 10 when Erin Brockovich came out and it, no joke, rocked me to my core. I became obsessed with Erin’s story and how she (and a knockout Julia Roberts in a part that would show the world she’s more than just a Pretty Woman) defied expectations and still managed to succeed. I spoke about it for my sixth grade speech competition (I did not win) and did a science fair project on water in Ontario, which included testing a sample from Walkerton.
As an adult, I still find Erin Brockovich remarkably effective and, thanks to Steven Soderburgh’s direction, pretty badass. I continue to admire Erin’s commitment to her leopard-forward look and refusal to accept less than she deserves financially and emotionally. An icon for the undervalued, Erin reminds me that in order to stand up for others you need to also be prepared to stand up for yourself.”