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Spring '00 in Review

Opening Commentary: For those unacquainted with the Hollywood system, there are unwritten rules about the season.  Winter/Fall is where studios release most of their award worthy films (usually dramas), Summer is the time for big budget high-grossing films (usually action/adventures), and Spring is the dumping point for the films that are unreleasable in the other months (usually comedies).  There are exceptions to the rules of course (The Matrix was out in the Spring last year; Jakob the Liar made its bow in the Winter) but for the most part, the studios follow these rules.

Since I chose to skip a few films so for this year, things may look a little better than last year. In fact, 35% of 1999's Spring films were recomendable as compared to 63% this year. Since this is the Spring, there have been a few films seen this year that actually count as 1999 releases, films like The War Zone, Sweet and Lowdown, and Topsy-Turvy. Those films are not eligable for anything here. In the body of this week's column, I shall analyze the season by genre as well as my own personal awards for the season. Then in the closing section, I shall order the 32 films that I saw between 1 January to 30 April in order of worth.



Action/Adventure

One of the most striking aspects of this year so far is the large miss (as in hit or miss) factor for renowned directors (and one great cinematographer trying to direct) making action films. Andrzej Bartkowiak's Romeo Must Die, Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Hill's Supernova (credited to the pseudonymn Thomas Lee), John Frankenheimer's Reindeer Games, and Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars all failed to entertain. Not even such dramas with some action (William Friedkin's Rules of Engagement, Stephan Elliot's Eye of the Beholder, and Danny Boyle's The Beach) were pretty bad.

Still there was some silver lining, mostly from tongue-in-cheek genre films. Hence the reason I have little to complain about from Wes Craven's Scream 3, Mary Harron's American Psycho, Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate, and Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, all of whom normally make dramas and comedies (with the exception of Wes "Where in the world did Music of the Heart come from" Craven). The only enjoyable true-to-the-word action film was U-571, and it had its own helping of flaws.

Best: American Psycho followed by Scream 3
Worst: Supernova edging out Reindeer Games


Drama

It is weird being this stout on a film this early, but, for me, Wonder Boys stands as this year's Fargo, an incredible film from the early months of the year. I would be highly surprised if the Curtis Hanson film does not make my top ten at the end of the year.

There were many other fine dramas this past Spring: Love & Basketball, Boiler Room, Frequency, Black and White, and My Dog Skip. Still, little can make up for the disappointement called Rules of Engagement.

Best: Wonder Boys followed by Boiler Room
Worst: The Beach edging out Rules of Engagement


Documentary

Without a doubt the best documentaries I saw this season were American Movie and Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. but both film count as 1999 releases, so the only 2000 documentary in the running here is Beyond the Mat. At least it was recommended.

Best: Beyond the Mat


Foreign Language Film

Just shoot me, I did not see a single 2000 foreign film. At least I can say that I saw All About My Mother, but, of course, that counts as a 1999 film.


Comedy

Steven Soderbergh constantly gives me something to praise, and I am indebted to him for it. His latest film, surprisingly soon after last year's underseen The Limey, was Erin Brockovich, a smart and sassy film that proved the independent film values can work in a Hollywood film.

I was also take aback by Stephen Frears' High Fidelity and Edward Norton's Keeping the Faith, not to mention a few other slight delights. This is not to say that this year's comedies have been seemless, I could do without ever thinking about Nick Gomez' Drowning Mona and Mike Nichols' What Planet Are You From? again.

Best: Erin Brockovich followed by High Fidelity

Worst: What Planet Are You From? edging out Drowning Mona



Accolades

I'm simply going to reuse the categories from the annual Golden Brando awards while adding a worse category for each (hence no Ed Wood Humanitarian award this time around).

Best Sound: U-571
Worst: Supernova
Best Sound Effects Editing: U-571
Worst: Supernova
Best Visual Effects: Final Destination
Worst: Supernova
Best Original Song: "Things Have Changed" (Wonder Boys)
Worst: "Any Given Sunday" (Any Given Sunday)
Best Comedic Score: High Fidelity (Carter Burwell)
Worst: Drowning Mona
Best Dramatic Score: Wonder Boys (Christopher Young)
Worst: Mission to Mars
Best Film Editing: Wonder Boys
Worst: Supernova
Best Makeup: American Psycho
Worst: Supernova
Best Cinematography: Wonder Boys (Dante Spinotti)
Worst: Supernova
Best Costume Design: Gossip
Worst: Drowning Mona
Best Art Direction: The Ninth Gate
Worst: Drowning Mona
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich)
Worst: Lou Diamond Phillips (Supernova)
Best Supporting Actress: Katie Holmes (Wonder Boys)
Worst: Robin Tunney (Supernova)
Best Actor: Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys)
Worst: Casey Affleck (Drowning Mona)
Best Actress: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)
Worst: Angela Bassett (Supernova)
Best Comedic Acting Ensemble: High Fidelity
Worst: Drowning Mona
Best Dramatic Acting Ensemble: Wonder Boys
Worst: Supernova
Best Original Screenplay: Erin Brockovich (Susannah Grant)
Worst: Supernova
Best Adapted Screenplay: Wonder Boys (Steven Kloves)
Worst: Eye of the Beholder
Best Director: Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys)
Worst: Thomas Lee (Supernova)
Best Picture: Wonder Boys
Worst: Supernova



Blatant Opinion: As the dust clears, 32 2000 films were seen for the first time between 1 January and 30 April.  In addition are multiple viewings like two of American Psycho, two of Wonder Boys, and seven of Scream 3.  So here it is, the complete listing of 2000 Spring films with ratings:


1 Wonder Boys ( A / **** )
2 Erin Brockovich ( B+ / ***1/2 )
3 American Psycho ( B+ / ***1/2 )
4 High Fidelity ( B+ / ***1/2 )
5 Scream 3 ( B+ / ***1/2 )
6 Boiler Room ( B / *** )
7 Black and White ( B / *** )
8 My Dog Skip ( B / *** )
9 Frequency ( B / *** )
10 Love and Basketball ( B / *** )
11 Ninth Gate, The ( B / *** )
12 Keeping the Faith ( B / *** )
13 Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai ( B / *** )
14 Beyond the Mat ( B / *** )
15 Where the Money Is ( B / *** )
16 Final Destination ( B- / *** )
17 U-571 ( B- / *** )
18 Whole Nine Yards, The ( B- / *** )
19 Road to El Dorado, The ( B- / *** )
20 28 Days ( B- / *** )

-------END OF RECOMMENDED FILMS-------

21 Gossip ( C / ** )
22 Next Best Thing, The ( C / ** )
23 Rules of Engagement ( C / ** )
24 Skulls, The ( C- / ** )
25 Eye of the Beholder ( C- / ** )
26 Beach, The ( C- / ** )
27 Romeo Must Die ( C- / ** )
28 Drowning Mona ( C- / ** )
29 Mission to Mars ( D+ / *1/2 )
30 What Planet Are You From? ( D / * )
31 Reindeer Games ( D / * )
32 Supernova ( F / NO STARS )


Analysis by:
David Perry
2000, Cinema-Scene.com

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