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 say-it-aloud test.

Cast Away
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)
86 Taxi Driver (1976)
85 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
78 Groundhog Day (1993)

I have now watched 86 of the most acclaimed 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.

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