hristmas Dinner ended at about 8:45pm—the Moet Chandon Brut Imperial is drained and talk turns to the best films of 2000. It is a short but brutal Hann family discussion among Leonie, Gareth, and Howard, the consensus being that there were very few really good films in the year and we shouldn’t spend too much time talking about them. The list is also complicated by the fact that some of the chosen few were probably released in North America in 1999 but only reached Scotland in 2000. Even more problematic, one of the best films is a re-release of A Clockwork Orange (1971) and another is the University Film Club presentation of the Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (1982/1993).
The year 2000 is generally so bad that it almost justifies the claim that they don’t make films like they used to. That High Noon and Casablanca are both featured on British mainstream terrestrial television on Christmas Day just reinforces this feeling. But, with the family’s new goodies—a DVD player and a copy of Casablanca that makes all the most quotable parts instantly accessible—even the BBC is destined to lose out in the Obsessive Evening Viewing Stakes. It, along with all the other channels that make up the “best” TV selection in world, has already failed to keep the family away from the ritual Christmas afternoon walk in Dumfries and Galloway’s Southern Upland forests, where the sun blazed down on the frozen earth and turned the tree tops a golden brown on the high ridges, a scene reminiscent of Ride the High Country (USA 1962) without the Guns in the Afternoon (GB 1962).
However, back to the 1999-2000 Top Ten Movies, from people who think that Top Ten Lists are more useful for what they tell you about the compilers, than what they say about any of the listed movies. The below are listed in no particular order.
A word on process: to achieve a rating from the family, each movie has to obtain at least two votes. This is a bit harsh on Gareth, who, living in Edinburgh, has seen a number of movies that filmically-challenged Dumfries (where the rest of us are located) has not screened. This means that some of his favourites are not included.
American Beauty (1999)
For having the nerve to give away the ending at the start whilst really not giving away the ending at the start! Also for superb ensemble playing and some wonderful visual jokes.
The Rat Catcher (1999)
Scotland’s answer to Kes (1969), but much darker and with less humour.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Dark and mystical atmosphere, excellent performances, a wonderfully acerbic comment on parasitic individuals in a go-getting capitalist society.
Cider House Rules (1999)
This movie is probably out of time for audiences in the U.S. and Canada, but it appeals to anyone with half a heart and a wish to make the world better for those who are worse off. In other words, it appeals to members of the “flog them and hang them” school. And from a chauvinistic viewpoint, there’s good Brit performance from Michael Caine.
The Beach (2000)
I’m not sure why we all voted for this. It seems like another American super-stud, saviour-of-society number, but it’s saved by its violent resolution and ambiguity. Pity about the movie desecrating the location.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
This is not one I voted for, because I feel it fails to show how the noble Erin (played by Julia Roberts) also (allegedly) exploited the people she is shown representing in the film and, therefore, did not put her heroics into a remotely realistic political-economic context. Still, it does raise the issue of pollution in USA. Given the recent, somewhat flawed, elevation of the Governor of probably the most polluted state in USA and that country’s failure to meet greenhouse emission targets, we may well see more movies on the general theme.
High Fidelity (2000)
Gareth didn’t vote for this because he hadn’t seen it, which was because he didn’t like the book by Nick Hornby. It seems that the decision to move the film from England to US worked. Probably a financial decision anyway. Very quirky, great music; predictable, but therefore emotionally satisfying plot.
House of Mirth (2000)
Despite only having two votes, this is probably Howard and Leonie’s Film of the Year. It centers on a stunning, seemingly Brechtian performance by Gillian Anderson who shows her Lily Bart failing to operate within the constraints of a male-dominated, elitist, and constricting society, in 1905 New York City. Great use of Glasgow locations. Wonderful period atmosphere. Extremely rewarding, but the conclusion is tragic.
The above eight movies, plus A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner are our Top Ten Movies seen at the cinema during 2000. Purists among the readers will wish to know why no directors are credited. My primary reason is that I vehemently believe in the reality of movie-making as a corporate activity, driven by finances. Hence, I wish to indulge myself by refusing to name directors and thus give credence to the idea that they are the primary creative forces—admittedly, a romantic individualist notion if ever there was one. Also, still in keeping with my belief, I couldn’t be bothered to check the spellings of their names as it would keep me from partying.
Have a riveting, movie-filled 2001, and let’s hope that this time next year, there will be a lot more interesting movies to write about. If there are, I might even be happy to credit the directors.