Wrapping up '00:
You Can Count on Me
Kenneth Lonergan, 2000
#3, 2000 Skandies
I was looking forward to this one, because it was singled out to me as a
movie I might enjoy on the theory that its greatness lay in the script
and performances rather than in anything cinematic. And... it was okay.
It's about a sister and brother, orphaned as kids and now grown; the
sister still lives in their small northeastern town, working as a loan
officer at a local bank and raising her eight-year-old son on her own,
while the brother has become a drifter. He returns home for a handout,
and stays on as a self-appointed teacher of life lessons to his nephew.
Low-key family drama ensues. It felt like a TV show. Nothing wrong with
that per se but I wonder what the people who wrote things like "I'm not
educated enough to do justice to the brilliance of this film" saw in it.
Maybe they could relate to the situation more.
The House of Mirth
Edith Wharton and Terence Davies, 2000
#7, 2000 Skandies
I read The House of Mirth in grad school and liked it well enough;
even if I hadn't, I've taught the first chapter dozens of times for my
tutoring job and would have felt obligated to check this out for that
reason alone. But it turned out to be one of those "forty minutes and
back to the library" deals. I didn't believe for a moment that these were
humans saying stuff, rather than actors reciting lines almost phonetically.
What seems perfectly natural in print doesn't always translate into
speech — Google says that I've used the word "indeed" in 83
articles on my site, but I doubt I've said it aloud even once except to
make this observation — and this movie doesn't pass the
William Broyles Jr. and Robert Zemeckis, 2000
#12, 2000 Skandies
In junior high one of my teachers once showed a video that compared
19th-century fiction to 20th-century fiction thusly: the 19th-century
segment was a blowout action extravanganza with pirates and a shipwreck
and cannons firing and things, while the 20th-century segment was a
woman sitting on a park bench having an emotional epiphany in voiceover.
Cast Away tries to be both. The 19th-century stuff works well for
what it is, the 20th-century stuff less well.
Let me put it this way. There's a bit in which the main character,
stranded on an uninhabited island for years, needs a certain length of
rope for a raft. He's thirty feet short. "I know where there's thirty
feet of extra rope," he tells his volleyball friend, "but I'm not going
back up there." Cut to the summit of the island, where he grabs a length
of rope off a broken branch and hauls up a wooden dummy with a noose
around its neck. Chilling.
Then later he explains to the volleyball that he made a dummy to test
whether his neck would break before he hit the rocks below and that
the test failed. We knew that, but at least he doesn't feel the need
to explain why he felt the need for such a device.
Then later, after his rescue, he sits and explains to a human friend
why he felt the need for such a device.
I have an account on Criticker, a movie
recommendations site that asks you to rank films on a 0-to-100 scale. Here
are my top six:
96 Pleasantville (1998)
94 Three Colors: Red (1994)
88 The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
85 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
78 Groundhog Day (1993)
I have now watched 86 of the most films of the 2000s. The ones
that placed highest: Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind and Mulholland Dr.,
at 61 each. 61!
What the hell? Seriously, how can I not like anything? Roger Ebert should
be infinitely more jaded than I am and yet he seemingly has life-changing
experiences at the cinema three or four times a week. Do I need to have my
carotid artery explode in order for some of these movies to register as
anything better than "meh"? I am starting to become concerned that maybe
I've been suffering from some sort of low-grade depression for the past
several years and not recognized it. For most of my childhood and adolescence
I swung from dizzying highs to terrifying lows and thought that I had finally
settled into one of the creamy middles, but maybe I actually settled down
into a range a notch or two below halfway, and didn't realize it because I
accepted it as my new baseline. It would help to explain why I've found it
so fucking difficult to work on anything after being fairly prolific from
the time I graduated college up until around 2003.
Or, y'know, maybe the 2000s just sucked in this as in so many other respects.
Return to the Calendar page!