Top 10 Movies of 2001

Number 10.  –  Hannibal

Ridley Scott had no chance in competing with The Silcence of the Lambs….so he did something different….And I think he did it good. This film could have been a disaster considering that the author of the novel series made the book that it was based on was tremendously horrible and Jodie Foster didn’t reprise her role as Clarice Starling, but had Julianne Moore to take her place. With all of the production and casting problems in mind, this film turned out better than what I expected. I like the film, for simply, realizing that it can never be Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs.” There was no way this sequel could ever live up to it’s Oscar winning predecessor. Scott knew this from the start. What he does here is craft a film that, yes acts as a sequel, but also acts as it’s own standalone story. “Hannibal” is so different in tone, style and narrative than “The Silence of the Lambs” that is practically forces you judge it on it’s own merits. (The presence of Julianne Moore alone dictates this.) The picture Scott has made is quietly thrilling, visually striking and very atmospheric. “Hannibal” is the definition of an elegant horror film. Where “The Silence of the Lambs” was a procedural thriller, “Hannibal” is a psychological horror film. Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and Ray Liotta are all very good here. The film also adds in a very dark sense of humor to the proceedings, finding it’s own way of incorporating the sense of macabre so important to the first film. Overall, I really like “Hannibal”, it’s engrossing, well made and a very interesting way of crafting a sequel.

Number 9.  –  Final Fantasy:
The Spirit Within

So what if this movie is nowhere close to the video game universe that it’s based on, the Final Fantasy video game series is an inconsistent franchise that always had different characters, setting, and storytelling from one installment after another. So why can’t the Spirit Within do the same? I consider this to be one of the more underrated films of the whole decade due to the fact that Square Soft stupidly made their own film studio and toss the “Final Fantasy” title on it just to make a sell; just like every other Goddam game in the series. Outside of the stupid decision to place Final Fantasy in the title, the film is gorgeous to watch. Most CGI film age terribly, but this film here feels like that it was made yesterday and some parts you couldn’t tell if it’s CGI or not. While the story leaves something lacking the technical achievement and voice acting is something to be marveled at. I feel that the movie is pretty underrated as I enjoyed it when it came out 10 years ago and recently having watched it again feel like it holds up well and is better than a lot of the stuff that passes for sci-fi these days. Honestly it deserved more success than it had. People aren’t willing to keep an open mind and enjoy things that are different or outside their box. Aspects of this movie were revolutionary and probably have a bigger influence than most realize.


Number 8.  –  Moulin Rogue!

Is it possible for a film to be simultaneously a genuine favourite and a guilty pleasure? All attempts to make sense of Baz Luhrmann’s musical through reason alone will come to nought, leading us to believe that it can only be enjoyed ironically. And yet the film is so unrelentingly joyous that you would need a heart of stone not to like it with a straight face (well, a grinning straight face at that). Even if you don’t like Moulin Rouge! as a story or an experience, you have to admit that there is something brilliant (or at least interesting) in Luhrmann’s central conceit. The film has two sources of inspiration: Luhrmann’s experience of a Bollywood film while working in India, and the rave and club culture of the 1990s. In creating this film Luhrmann set himself the modest task of trying to capture the high drama and comedy of Bollywood, while also showing how the Bohemian movement at the end of the 19th century mirrors the musical one at the end of the 20th. It’s an audacious task, but after Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet, we have come to expect nothing less. Moulin Rouge! is a masterpiece of the sublime and the ridiculous. Luhrmann’s marriage of lavish visuals and operatic storytelling is immensely striking, pulling you in a world that is so totally absurd that it makes total sense. It is simultaneously the guiltiest of guilty pleasures and the most genuine fun you’ve had in your entire life. It is the greatest musical of the noughties, and a triumph of epic proportions.

Number 7.  –  Black Hawk Down

An American helicopter is shot down during a raid on a Somali warlord in Mogadishu leading to a desperate rescue mission faced with overwhelming opposition. In Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott has created one of the most realistic war movies ever made. You really feel like you’re in the thick of an urban warzone and the excellent ensemble cast make for very believable protagonists. It’s usually a fine line between respect for the bravery of the fighting man and macho, gung ho bullshit, but Scott stays on the right side by focussing on the loyalty between comrades fighting for each others lives rather than the usual “God And Country” crap that many war films fall back on. It laso concentrates on the fact that despite what the propaganda machine may have us believe, modern warfare is, as ever, concerned with the brutal, harrowing deaths of many young men as the film has a lot more in common with The Alamo or Zulu than Jarhead or The Hurt Locker. It takes a lot of stylistic cues from Apocalypse Now making for artful visuals that are attractive without ever compromising the visceral realism of combat and despite a rather dry opening full of military jargon and diagrams, as the situation gets more desperate and the fighting more intense, it gets better and better. It’s true the film doesn’t really explore the political context of the conflict and the Somali side of the story is largely ignored, but what is presented on film is executed to perfection. One of the best modern war films around.

Number 6.  –  Donnie Darko

A wickedly smart, savvy supernatural thriller from the mind of one-hit wonderkid Richard Kelly about a mentally disturbed boy (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is harassed by a demonic bunny rabbit who says the end of the world is coming in 28 days. This has been heralded by many as a phenomenal film, attaining a cult following over the years, and it lives up to its reputation with a plot designed by an absolute genius of a writer and director in Kelly. Gyllenhaal’s perfect performance is the major driving force behind this film, being that his character is brutally honest in addition to being severely troubled and confused, which makes him a character that is easy to empathize with. The end of the film is a head-scratcher to be sure, but once you figure out all the nitty, gritty details, it is hard not to be in awe of how creative it is. Probably one of my favorite films to watch again and gain, it is hard not to love its subversive take on 80’s culture and the basic family structure in addition to its insane storytelling. ‘Donnie Darko’ is a film full of such potency and intrigue that it keeps you glued. The plot never lets up, the acting is solid all around, and the soundtrack is immaculate. Following in the similar steps of ‘Fight Club’, the film creates an atmosphere and tone so unique that it begs for a cult following.

A.I.

Number 5.  –  A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

A project originally started by director Stanley Kubrick, but never completed due to his death in 1999, and taken over by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg would craft this film based on notes that Kubrick left behind and was able to make a captivating, engaging picture that enthralled the viewer. The film has some striking visuals and wonderful acting along with a richly detailed storyline that grabs your attention from start to finish due to its intricate concept. Spielberg manages to make a fine picture here, and it’s very interesting what he does with the material of another director, who unfortunately never got to make the film. However, with that being said, Spielberg manages to make something that is well constructed, entertaining, and thought provoking and memorable. As well as solid direction from Spielberg, he has a talented cast to work with, which only enhances the film’s experience. A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a wonderful Sci Fi picture that displays a stunning amount of creativity and wonderful ideas. The film deals with an interesting subject, one that makes you ask questions, and that’s what keeps you involved in the film. The fact that it makes you think with its concept is the key factor to the film’s entertainment factor. The best way I would describe the film is a spider web of thought, a film that just amps up its ideas to make them standout more due to its intricate plot and direction. Fans of the genre will surely enjoy this riveting picture, and I must admit, I didn’t expect to enjoy the film the way I did, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result. Upon watching the film you must ask yourself, how this film would have turned out if Stanley Kubrick would have had the opportunity to direct it if he hadn’t died. Who know how much more ambitious the film would have been. Nonetheless, Spielberg managed to create something quite entertaining, captivating and memorable. A.I Artificial Intelligence is a worthwhile viewing experience that is enthralling right up to the final shot.

1-1Number 4.  –  Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki’s take on the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ concept is another bizarre but charmingly enchanting classic that went on to become one of the highest-grossing Japanese films of all time. Stunningly vibrant animation, a mysterious spirit world that bursts with imagination and wonder, memorable characters, subtle dark undertones (examination of human greed and the anxiety of moving into a new home), and a great score by Joe Hisaishi. A delightful and sincere masterpiece for people of all ages. Quite simply, Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” is a triumphant, fantastical, masterclass. Not only is his hand drawn animation as gorgeously refined and refreshing as ever, but his storytelling incorporates everything from the mythical to the magical, taking us on a truly breathtaking visual and intelligent journey. As his later film “Ponyo” would channel the likes of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, here, Miyazaki has undoubtedly crafted his version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” and it’s in this similar realm of imagination that he is able to flourish. We are introduced to a myriad of fantastical figures from Gods, Spirits and Witches to a Sea Dragon, an enormous baby and strange little coal miners, known as “Sootballs”. Despite the rich hand drawn animation, though, it’s not all played for fun. It’s a rights-of-passage tale about the progression of a child to adulthood while finding the time to comment on the economic downturn of Japan and the increasing loss of it’s culture to the western world. It’s this very complexity that makes this Miyazaki’s near masterpiece.

Number 3.  –  A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is such a sad and powerful film. It epitomises the impact that mental illness can have on a family. John’s illness puts both him and his wife in danger, for example when John nearly drowns his son as he believes that Charles is watching the baby. John is hospitalized for his schizophrenia and put on medication, but the medication leaves him feeling lifeless, lethargic and impotent so he refuses to take it and he begins to relapse. He begins to have more public outbursts at the university in which he works in. The film is heartbreaking to watch and it really makes you feel so much for John. It can be so difficult to recover from a mental illness, if ever. I suffer from mental illness myself and it’s so hard to get better an it never fully goes away. John learns to live with his schizophrenia over time by ignoring his hallucinations. I liked that the film made John’s hallucinations real for the audience as it helped to depict what the mind of a schizophrenic is like and how real these hallucinations are. The film had some really strong performances from the rest of the cast including Jennifer Connelly. A Beautiful Mind is also a love story in a way as it focuses on the relationship between John and his wife Alicia who stands by him. Jennifer Connelly is phenomenal and really the best I’ve seen her. The only thing I didn’t like about the film was that it was misleading about true events that occured in John Nash’s life such as how his hallucinations started. In the film, John’s hallucinations start at grad school whilst in reality they started later. In real life John and Alicia divorced, but remarried several years later. The film does not portray this. According to film makers it was not meant to be a literal representation.

1-1Number 2.  –  Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

This film (based off from the anime series with the same title) basically captures everything that I love about this anime and even doubles the awesomeness to a truly spectacular action noir! What made Cowboy Bebop so great is that it abandons the traditions of anime cliches (like over the top expressions) and made a style that film makers from countries out of Japan to be appealing to the masses. I met people who despises anime to actually gave Cowboy Bebop a major acceptation and you need to watch the show to understand the reason why and compare it to other animes to see how different Bebop really is. As for the movie however, you don’t have to know anything about the show to get into the movie because it basically just shows you what the characters normally do on the show (catching bounties dead or alive) and abandons the story arcs from the show in order for it to be its own movie. Unlike some of the other encounters that Spike and the gang faced before, the main antagonist is Vincent who is a survivor on a chemical warfare and he wants to set that loose on mankind. It up to our heroes to capture him since there’s a huge bounty on his head and also save mankind. Without a doubt, this movie offered the best soundtrack, atmosphere, and action that not only the series ever had, but never been seen in animation or film in general. I never seen such an animated film to be so riveting. If you’re not a fan of the show, you can jump into this movie and right after you finish the film I guarantee that you will get into the show. So many movies based on a tv show requires you to be a fan of the show first then watch the movie, but in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, it basically just shows you what the show’s about without forced exposition. I loved that there’s no inconsistency between this movie and the show and I loved how well written and animated this show really is. It’s times like this that I wished that there was at least one more Cowboy Bebop movie. Without a doubt, Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door is the best animated movie based on an Animated series and I’ll continue to watch more for some inspiration!

Number 1.  –  The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been on of literature’s most important fantasy novel series and it has been decades of hearing book worms saying it was unfilmable, because the world and storytelling can’t be told with the limitations of movies. Even the Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of Fellowship/Towers couldn’t capture the essence of the story told by J.R.R. Tolken. That is until Peter Jackson was chosen to direct a highly ambitious film series. This is around the time where cinema has reached a new level that it can do so many things that we weren’t able to do years ago now that we have the technology in hand. Plus, Peter Jackson had a lot of cheesy horror films in his filmography that made it look like a disaster was waiting to ruin the Lord of the Rings name. This is the challenge Peter Jackson was left with in creating the first in his Lord of the Rings trilogy: the collective imagination of literally millions of fans, each one filled with different intricacies and opinions concerning characters, settings, basically everything involved in production design and being a director in general. With such a burden weighing on Jackson’s shoulders, no one would have blamed him if he simply curled into the fontal position.

lord_of_the_rings_the_fellowship_of_the_ring_ver1

Even the synopsis above comes laden with backstory and explanation. What is a Hobbit? What is a Sauron? Who is Frodo? All these questions can mean that the film can become bogged down with explaining what the exact properties of Hobbit’s feet are that they are able to never wear shoes or how exactly the Ringwraiths are able to survive at all. It is a credit to the script that none of this is explained, nor does it feel necessary to be explained. Even for a newcomer to Middle Earth, the escapist factor of the world onscreen is enough to dismiss any disbelief or need to find out how exactly shadow and flame combine to be a Balrog. Not only this, but the script also does a fantastic job of cutting out everything unnecessary in order to keep the storytelling lean. It also manages, while trimming the extra weight, to keep the feeling of wonder that the books are so known for. Many book adaptations can end up being driven by the story alone, allowing no time for the more emotional moments between characters and forgetting entirely to establish connections between them. Not so here, as every member of the fellowship is allowed their moment on the screen, from Boromir to Gimli, and all of them have their own distinct personality.

As a stand alone film, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life. Not only were you grasp in the stratosphere known as Middle Earth, but the audience is fully engaged with what the characters are doing and their relationship towards each other. Though the fellowship of the ring would separate their adventure to Mount Mordor, having them together with charm and witty conversations it just made the first installment of the trilogy stand out more above the rest. Gandalf looks so God-like as he contorts his hobbit friends and does his best to protect them from getting killed or let evil overcome them. At the same time, you has some of the most intimidating villains ever seen on screen from the orcs, nine black riders, and even the ring & eye of Sorron puts you on the edge of your seat. Because the conflict is so intense and the antagonists are so damn scary, it really shows that Jackson really was the perfect director for this ambitious project. If you’re able to make the audience weep for Gandalf as he says “Fly You Fools” before he dies, you really accomplished something. Jackson’s camera is rarely still, sweeping through the incredible locations and swirling around his characters in a beautifully choreographed dance. Every single shot counts for something and the bare minimum is obviously never enough in Jackson’s mind. This is the more beautifully photographed of the three, despite the grandeur and spectacle of the Return of the King. Rohan storming the armies of Mordor is all very well but it’s scenes like the Wraiths attacking the four all but helpless Hobbits on Weathertop which leave the most lasting impressions. Jackson’s versatility is also on full display here as he moves through the autumn shades of Rivendell to the cold stone of Moria to the eerie blue-green of Lothlorien, every setting is perfectly captured by Jackson’s lens. And does he know how to bring the fight scenes.

Easily the best movie of 2001 and one of the best all time. Lord of The Rings is absolutley the best fantasy epic of all time, but I still have a soft spot for Fellowship. It’s one of those things that creates a life changing experience makes it  welcoming to rematch it and memorize it like a biblical piece of work. Great acting, fantastic special affects, masterful script, pretty much one of the 5 most perfect movies I’ve ever seen. He took enormous steps in this movie. Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellan also pulled of fantastic performances. It’s the complete immersion in the world of Middle Earth which makes this film so incredible. Despite the film’s runtime being close to 3 hours long, even longer in the extended version, it never feels taxing to sit and soak up the breathtaking surrounds. Where some films can feel like a chore at two hours, it’s almost impossible to keep from loading the next film instantly after finishing the first one thanks to the incredible power to entrance the film holds. The combination of flawless production design from props to locations along with the beautifully crafted story and faultless direction makes this film one of the greatest of all time.

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