Tuesday, January 29, 2002
Top Ten Films Of 2001
By Kevin John
10. "Moulin Rouge": "'Like a Virgin?' 'Material Girl?' Those
songs weren't around at the turn of the century," scoffed my sister.
But how many of us can make distinctions between the zeitgeists of,
say, 1704 and 1784? "Moulin Rouge," then, is a pink-champagne time
capsule, the way the 20th century will be remembered. Well, at least
by the man responsible for the very worst single of the '90s.
9. "Legally Blonde": Fashion deb Elle Woods enters Harvard Law
School, introduces passion, aerobics and perm solution into the legal
process, and closes out the film with a speech countering Aristotle.
The hilarious screenplay of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith,
based on a novel by Amanda Brown, offers such a scandalous glimpse
into patriarchy's blind spots that the unfortunate
homosexuality-as-secret trial sequence seems like status quo
compensation as a result.
8. "Brother": Takeshi Kitano's best films sap bittersweet
lyricism from the existential angst of "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo
Garcia." Already over once it's begun, this one drives headlong into
sick, sour nihilistic terrain and somehow soothes your weary muscles
in the absurd process. Violence at its most meaningless;
meaninglessness at its most violent. Sheesh even the promo
goodies were suitably grotesque, e.g. a mug that becomes riddled with
bloody bullet holes when filled with coffee.
7. "Josie & The Pussycats": Next to "Election," the most
telling report on the burgeoning rift between Generation X and
Generation Why Not.
6. "In the Mood for Love": Desire refracted through Wong
Kar-wai's prismatic eye-piece until it attains an unbearable infinity.
5. "The Closet": Messagey queer films like "The Broken Hearts
Club" and the abysmal "But I'm a Cheerleader" attract their viewers
like a magnetic bulls-eye draws a steel arrow. This French comedy
slyly demonstrates that in order for homosexuality to truly matter in
mainstream cinema, it must create demand (as opposed to explanation
or affirmation) in the narrative economy, as befits any product of a
4."The Circle": Jafar Panahi's insurrection against the
hideous treatment of women in Iran plotted out as a camera pan which comes
inexorably, devastatingly full circle.
3."Mulholland Drive": The most ravishing plummet into the gulf
connecting plot to story since, damn, "Last Year at Marienbad." Still
holding out on what it bodes for lesbian representability, though.
2. "War Story": This half-hour world historic reclamation
project stars director John Baumgartner as Metly Moorville, a
Keaton-esque imp who falls in love with a soldier just about to ship
off to fight in WWI. Set in 1918, "War Story " meticulously recreates
silent movie style in an effort to resituate homosexuality in the
cinematic history that elided it (as an overt concern, that is).
Miraculously, Baumgartner walks as joyous a line as he talks. The
film succeeds as a marvelous entertainment as well as a brilliant
slice of queer theory, largely thanks to the agile slapstick of
Baumgartner himself. No other film on this list speaks so fervently
of a love for (and a disappointment with) cinema. All I could ask is
that the next installment rework "Sherlock Jr."
1. "A.I. Artificial Intelligence": Directed by Steven
Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, I insist, and the best film of either;
an enormously moving and provocative gene-splice that brings the
seam-ripped splendor of "Glen or Glenda?," "Track of the Cat," 'Crazy
in Alabama," "An Actor's Revenge," "The Hart of London" and "Some
Call It Loving" to the level of the Hollywood blockbuster. Unless my
deepest prayers get answered, we shall never see its like again.