Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2001!

In 2001 I started some genuine ‘study’ or ‘criticism’ with regards to Cinema, thanks to picking up a few Film modules in University. I say ‘genuine’, but what I really mean is ‘watched for more than mere entertainment’. This just happened to coincide with me fully branching out to watch everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately it meant I watched a tonne of crap and discussed those with an honest critical hat on. I have long abandoned any hope or desire to being any sort of critic – I just call it as I see it, and reserve in depth discussion for those films I love. Today’s list – I don’t love.

Valentine

A few years too late to both the post-Scream horror world and post ‘David Boreanez is hot’ landscape. This is a by the numbers, contrived 90s slasher with none of the smarts of the best of its genre, and few of the scares. I lay in bed watching this when it first aired on TV, and that was the absolute best place I could have been to view such a snoozer.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

It’s a British big screen comedy, so that’s one black mark. It’s a romantic comedy, so that’s another. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are doing their thing, so that’s two more. And there is nothing in the positive column.

Moulin Rouge

Your yearly musical, and really the first one to bring the Musical back to the big time. Perhaps its greatest travesty was ensuring that no matter where you went or what you did between 2001 and 2004, you were subjected to hearing that awful Lady Marmalade song – absolutely one of the most terrible creations in the history of music. The 70s version was bad enough, but throw in Aguilera’s uncomfortable gyrating and skin-tearing caterwauling and you have one of the purest torture instruments since the good old ‘grenade under foreskin’.

Jurassic Park III

The Lost World wasn’t amazing, but it still had ideas and felt like an adventure. Part 3 devolves into camp and converts a solid enough cast into a bunch of bumbling tools acting out an extended Scooby Doo episode, but without the sexual intrigue or fun.

Ghost World

It’s the movie that your annoying proto-hipster pseudo-friend wouldn’t stop harping on about because they thought it reflected them and their life (spoiler alert – it did; both are worthless). There’s one of these every year or so, and they’re never as good as what people claim they are. I probably got a couple of grins out of this, mainly because of Buscemi’s antics, but the whole ironic nerd-gazing anti-pity party tone in this sort of movie always irks me.

The Others

I wanted to like The Others as it claimed to be a throw-back to the good old atmospheric ghost stories of days of yore. And to a certain extent it is, except that you realize that that sort of movie with that sort of tone just doesn’t work anymore – we have progressed as a culture and as an audience to the point that films going for that tone and atmosphere need to bring something new to the table. Most of the movie hinges on a twist, which is glaringly obvious from round about the opening scene of the movie, and an atmosphere which always felt to me more detached and gloomy than foreboding and dread-inducing.

Zoolander

I have no clue why this was a hit at the time or why people still talk about it. Sure, I didn’t see it at the time and came to the party quite late (mainly because I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan), but when I did it confirmed everything I had anticipated – not funny, a chore to finish.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

I only watched this film for the first time last year, avoiding it and the novels all of these years. I had no desire to watch it upon release and then when my kids were born I thought it would be a great series to watch alongside them, given all the rave reviews and hype. So we watched it last year – wow, what a pile of crap. I appreciate the first in a series is all about creating a world and establishing characters – but the world depicting is bland and unimaginative, the characters are hackneyed and show no progress over those seen in something like The Worst Witch, and the central performances of the (then) child actors are uniformly terrible. I get that they’re child actors picking up this huge mantel, but man there is a monumental level of sucking here. The plot is very much ‘lonely boy realizes he’s special, and goes off to a new place to learn why he’s special’ but with no drama, no laughs, and no endgame. It has all but destroyed any desire I had of watching the others in the series, but more crucially, my kids have zero interest in pursuing it.

A Beautiful Mind

From Day One this looked and smelled like Oscar bait. From the late Seventies these Oscar Bait movies became increasingly prevalent. I almost never enjoy them, especially when they are Biographical in nature. Usually it’s because the biopics are based on people I don’t care about and whose life holds no great interest for me. It’s the same with  A Beautiful Mind – it’s by no means a bad film, it’s simply no different to me than a made for TV movie with a big name cast concerning a person and a story that I’m never going to care about.

Ocean’s Eleven

This one comes down to personal taste more than anything – though of course the same could be said for any entry. The fact is – I’m not a fan of the Rat Pack, at all; their movies, their music, the image – it’s all hateful to me. So when this was announced I was skeptical. It’s not the same as the 60’s outing, but it’s a similar enough exercise in style and dialogue and approach that this was never going to be for me. Credit to bringing together a cast like this, but the whole suit wearing, high life, wise-guy, shtick is to me what being hit in the face with a basketball is to toddlers.

I’m sure there are some favourites in there for any readers – feel free to tell me what I’m missing and add your picks of least favourite movies of 2001!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2001!

2001, Baybee! I had left school and started University and the world was my oyster – sitting mouth agape and waiting to be scraped asunder. As always, lets get the almosts out of the way: Brotherhood of The Wolf was the first Christophe Gans movie I ever saw. On my way to and from University in those days, the city centre HMV would always have 2 DVDs for 10 or 20 pounds and every so often they would include movies from the foreign section. I think that’s where I first picked this up and saw it. It’s one of those rare movies which mixes horror and martial arts action – but it’s also a serious historical drama too. Plus you get Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Philipe Nahon, and Mark Dacascos. Enemy At The Gates is just  great WWII movie which I came to quite late, one with a more unique premise which pits a couple of snipers against each other in Stalingrad, and the various interactions and relationships involved. It has a terrific cast too – Jude Law, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz,  Joseph Fiennes, Ron Perlman, and Bob Hoskins.

Spirited Away is another one I came to late – it took me a while to catch up to most of the Ghibli movies as I stopped caring about any animated stuff towards the end of the 90s. It’s one of Miyazaki’s best – of which he has a bunch of classics – and it has plenty of unique stuff you don’t usually see. Donnie Darko I got to see very early on some sort of screener, but I just thought it was an interesting, quirky movie. Once it became this ig cult hit I had to revisit it to see what I was missing. I still don’t rate it as highly as the superfans, but it’s undoubtedly a cool and interesting movie. Y Tu Mama Tambien is another example of me watching as much foreign cinema as I could at the time – sure, part of it was an excuse to get some non-porn sex all up in my eyes without feeling guilty about it, but I also discovered plenty of legitimate gems. At its heart it’s a coming of age film, set in Mexico, as well as being a road movie – two of my favourite sub genres, and has a fantastic trio of performances in Diego Luna, Gael Gabriel Garcia, and Maribel Verdu.

Monster’s Ball is not a good time. It’s grim, downbeat, and is one of those non-horror movies which I relate to Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer in look and tone. It is ugly and the colour is drained, and there are no easy answers or happy endings – it also has some career best performances featuring the likes of Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, and Peter Boyle. The Happiness Of The Katakuris was Takashi Miike at his peak of weirdness and output. It’s a zombie musical, sort of, with Miike merging the likes of The Sound Of Music, with something like Fawlty Towers. It is completely bizarre and you won’t have seen anything like it. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith attempting to close out his View Askew Universe by throwing as much fan service at the screen as possible – and as a fan, I am thankful.

10: The Majestic (US) Frank Darabont

I’m not sure what I was expecting of The Majestic. By the time I saw it, Carrey had been through a few flops or hits which I didn’t care for. The Majestic instantly appealed to me as it felt like a Twilight Zone episode, but one of the less horror focused ones. He stars as a man who has lost his memory and who stumbles into an all American patriotic town only for the residents there to recognise him as a lost, presumed dead, war hero. In actual fact, he was a jaded Hollywood writer up for Communism charges and it isn’t until he has become a part of this new town and helped restore their Ye Olde Cinema that his memories come back – all the while the Feds are looking for him since his disappearance. Normally, I shouldn’t like something like this due to the overt political nature of the film and the fact that it all drives towards an ‘America, fuck yeah’ climax, but it is so sweet and wholesome and charming, with all the 1950s ideals and Americana that I can’t help but enjoy it. Frank Darabont is a master at this stuff, and aside from sterling work from Carrey, Darabont brings his usual pals along for the ride – Laure Holden, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Bob Balaban, Martin Landau. I think I can ignore both my own cynicism and the sentimentality  is due to the fact that the politics here is not so gung-ho, but almost more Humanist in that it supports those small town, hard-working, respectful ideals which seem a million miles away now regardless of where you sit on a political spectrum.

9: Ichi The Killer (Japan) Takashi Miike

Another Miike film, and one of his most violent. Dispensing with such niceties as subtlty, as exemplified in Audition, Ichi The Killer is a balls out Yakuza WTF-fest as it follows a crying mummy’s boy assassin slicing and dicing his way through ranks of bad guys all while a Yakuza tough guy with a sad0-masochistic love for pain hopes to meet the guy so he can get his rocks off. The violence here ranges from Kill Bill levels of gushing to more extreme and stomach-churning skin torture which Miike would return to in his infamous Masters Of Horror episode Imprint. As with most of Miike’s work, you’ll be chuckling, gagging, and wondering what the hell is going on for most of it, but it’s all shot with such confidence and style that you charge along with it.

8: Session 9 (US) Brad Anderson

Session 9 is one of the most atmospheric horror movies, or any genre actually, ever. On top of that, it is an exercise in dread and mystery – two tools which so many films strive for but never get close to achieving. Much of this is down to sound work, to Anderson’s direction, and to the setting. It’s a shame still that this is not as widely known or acclaimed as the more well known and critically received horror movies, but it’s right up there with the best.

7: The Mummy Returns (US) Stephen Sommers

If I’m right, I saw this before I saw the first Mummy. I saw this at release with one of my besties from School (‘sup Leone), and she enjoyed it as much as I did. It was just an old fashioned Indiana Jones style adventure, fast moving, nifty effects for the time, and a likeable cast uttering plenty of quips. On the plus side, the villain of the piece is fairly sympathetic too. The effects don’t hold up as well today, but it’s still a fun, rip-roaring watch that I would choose over most big budget comic fare nowadays.

6: Frailty (US/Germany/Italy) Bill Paxton

A terrific performance as actor and director by the late great Bill Paxton. Frailty is a mood piece with a lot in common with Session 9. It’s another film which presents its tone and atmosphere early, and nails it throughout. It’s a story told in flashback, as Matthew McConaughey relates to Powers Boothe his and his brother’s involvement in a serial killer case. Through flashbacks we see the boys’ childhood until the strict religious rule of their father, Bill Paxton, who thinks God has given him the power to kill demons (who happen to be disguised as humans). It twists and turns all over the place and even though it feels procedural at points, it remains swift and stylish and engaging similar to something like Zodiac. It’s another underseen film deserving of credit, made by a Hollywood legend who left us before his time.

5: Bully (US) Larry Clark

I’m not sure what it is about Clark’s movies that make them so damn watchable, when they always deal with thoroughly ugly characters in a grim, hopeless world. I’d go as far as saying Bully is his best film, and I think a large part of this is down to the excellent young cast who have rarely been better. In fact, it may be the performers in Clark’s movies, who give a realism to the sordid stories which make his films the sort of thing you can’t look away from even though you know you probably shouldn’t be bearing witness. Bully depicts the real life murder of Bobby Kent by his best friend and associates. Kent is played by Nick Stahl, and is portrayed as a gruesome, preppy, charming bully. He frequently abuses his best friend Marty (Brad Renfro) physically and mentally, while also indulging in a bit of the old rape with his girlfriend (Bijou Phillips). After years of this abuse, Marty is prompted by his girlfriend (Rachel Miner) to murder Bobby, an act which the group are ill-prepared for. The actual murder is a shambles – a literal bloody mess, and the group struggle to keep their lips shut. It’s not an easy watch – it takes no delight in showing how messy killing someone can be, and yet there are plenty of absurdly and darkly funny moments – maybe that’s just me. Michael Pitt and Leo Fitzpatrick show up, Clark once again has no issue showing the debauchery of criminal, forgotten youth, and he perfects the mindset of this hopeless teenage world which I saw plenty of around the same time. It’s a truly wonderful film, but absolutely not for everyone.

4: Visitor Q (Japan) Takashi Miike

From a film which isn’t for everyone, to a film which isn’t for anyone. Visitor Q is the film which the word ‘masterpiece’ was designed for, at least to the extent that people like me should use it. I think this is Miike’s best film – in a year which saw three of his movies make it onto my list post. I’m not sure who I can recommend it to – it begins with a man having sex with his own prostitute daughter as he attempts to make a documentary about modern Japanese youth. The film, literally, asks a number of questions – not the sort of questions anyone has ever asked of course, and then proceeds to answer them. We meet a rather dysfunctional family with a wild set of problems, and then they are infiltrated by a mysterious stranger – Q – who acts as observer and instigator. What follows are handheld digi-cam scenes of murder, sex with corpses, self harm, physical abuse, and lots of lactating. It’s a film unlike any other, and yet it’s ultimately hilarious, and oddly beautiful and affecting. I have no idea how Miike does these things so well, and why I love them so much.

3: Mulholland Drive (US/France) David Lynch

Is it David Lynch’s best film? There’s certainly an argument for that, but then he also has Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. In any case, it’s a near flawless film and hits that neat blend of Lynch weirdness and accessibility. It’s a twisting journey which ends up feeling more like an experience and once it takes its 2001 turn you’re already sold on the Naomi Watts character that you can’t help but go wherever Lynch takes you. It’s on my Decade list, so read more there.

2: The Fellowship Of The Ring (NZ/US): Peter Jackson

Again, it’s on my decade favourites list – check there for more.

1: Amelie (France/Germany) Jean Pierre Jeunet

And once again, it’s in my decade list.

Let us know your thoughts and favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2001

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

It has been another rough week – one of my friend’s sons was shot and killed in San Jose a couple of days ago. It’s hard to point fingers but it’s even harder to not feel angry at a world which allows such acts to take place. One of my picks is a film I remember him always watching as a kid.

As always, lets get the almosts out of the way: Brotherhood of The Wolf. Enemy At The Gates. Spirited Away. Donnie Darko. Y Tu Mama Tambien. Monster’s Ball. The Happiness Of The katakuris. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back

10: The Majestic (US) Frank Darabont

9: Ichi The Killer (Japan) Takashi Miike

8: Session 9 (US) Brad Anderson

7: The Mummy Returns (US) Stephen Sommers

6: Frailty (US/Germany/Italy) Bill Paxton

5: Bully (US) Larry Clark

4: Visitor Q (Japan) Takashi Miike

3: Mulholland Drive (US/France) David Lynch

2: The Fellowship Of The Ring (NZ/US): Peter Jackson

1: Amelie (France/Germany) Jean Pierre Jeunet

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One