Tom Jolliffe takes a look back 20 years to the film offerings of 2000…
I’ve got news for people older than 30. The year 2000 wasn’t a couple of years ago. Colour me quite shocked but apparently it’s not 2004? When did this happen? It is in fact 2020. This means people born this century could conceivably be 20 years old. Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself (and perhaps a few of our readers…sorry) I will take a look back at a turning point in history and indeed cinema.
1999 was gone. Y2K came and went. A slew of millennium set, end of day films that were largely shit, were now thankfully, mercifully, old hat. It only took a slightly slow, middle aged Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw himself on a sword and avert the apocalypse. Cheers Arnie. The Matrix marked perhaps the most iconic film that played out in that final year of the 20th century. What happened in the birth of the 21st century was that many a Matrix follower came about. That being said, in the year 2000, before Matrix fever had fully taken off following a good hearty video run, there were mercifully few Wire-fu Matrix knock offs. Films like Charlie’s Angels and the long forgotten Wesley Snipes techno thriller The Art of War certainly aped some of the action sequences, but the following year would see a longer run of tired Matrix riffing.
Looking back in fact, 2000 is a stronger year than I had first hazily recalled. There was generally a demise in cinematic quality in the late 90’s, leading into the first 5 years particularly of the new century. As a miserablist I’ll forever maintain that Hollywood cinema peaked in the 70’s and music died in the 90’s but still, things from 2005-2015 seemed to pick up a little (and subsequently have levelled off as Marvel/Disney furthers its chicken choking grip). 2000 had some epic turkeys it must be said. The aforementioned Charlies Angels, a dreadful film which somehow captured a moment and brought McG to attention (and made the kind of money Elizabeth Banks thinks female led action films won’t make in a male-lead world). Battlefield Earth was considered a Turkey of such epic proportions that it would never be out-turkeyed again (yet the years have been kind, not so much in re-appraisal, but in it being thoroughly out-turkeyed and forgotten…Cats, I’m looking at you).
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is 20 years old now. Shocking…it’s a great film and one that indeed opened doorways to the Western acceptance of Chinese action films on a wider level. That director Ang Lee had already established himself in American cinema obviously helped, whilst Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh already made the American bows too. Further, the film also benefited from The Matrix awakening a craving for Martial arts action (indeed courtesy of flavour of the subsequent decade Yeun Wu Ping). As far as English speaking cinema goers went, the early century saw a yearning and generosity in accepting foreign films. Add in Amores Perros, the stunning In The Mood For Love, Yi Yi and Cult Horror Battle Royale. Audiences seemed willing to read subtitles, sit through a different style and pace. In part, it could be that many of these films were a whole lot better than much of what Hollywood offered, but distributors seemed more open to World cinema too. Do modern audiences have the attention span for it now? The distributors don’t seem to think so (on a decent scale that is).
There were an array of films that have since become cult classics. American Psycho which still feels fresh and still manages to entertain on several levels is probably still one of the finest exponents of Christian Bale’s talents ever. That mix of horror, comedy and commentary works sizzlingly well in a film open to several interpretations. It’s still a personal favourite of mine, nestled somewhere within a disorganised and ever changing Top 100 (but with a placing all but forever assured). High Fidelity is still an effortlessly cool and enjoyable film and a reminder of a period where John Cusack was a great go to ‘charming every-man lead.’ School of Rock aside, there has also never been better use of Jack Black and his talents. Further, the soundtrack in High Fidelity, and that fervent passion for carefully curating music that flows from script to screen through the characters, is exceptional.
X-Men came about with a lot of fanfare and a lot of moaning. There was, believe it or not, a time when people thought Hugh Jackman was an awful choice for Wolverine. Okay, in the grand scheme I can appreciate that X-Men is a somewhat dated film now, particularly in comparison to some of the better modern Marvel films, although I’ll still say X2 and Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi), which both came pre-MCU are as good as anything the MCU have made. I saw that film a few days after seeing Snatch, a film that still has a cult following, and if The Matrix inspired lots of irksome followers, Snatch was duly guilty of inspiring a vast, unfathomable typhoon of grimly unimaginative British Gangster films. In fact, they still come out fairly regularly, but the first decade of his century you couldn’t move for Lock Stock/Snatch rip offs.
Big Oscar films like Almost Famous, Gladiator and Erin Brockovich (starring Eric Roberts’ sister) still hold up well. Gladiator might be a bit melodramatic in retrospect, coying and maudlin in places but it stands head and shoulders over most of the similar themed epics of the previous 30 years before it, and the decade of dross (like Troy, Kingdom of Heaven etc) that it inspired. Films like O Brother, Where Art Thou, a fine example of the Coen’s doing quirky absurdist comedy, and in a way they haven’t bettered since (in the likes of Hail, Caesar! or Burn After Reading), Memento (still Chris Nolan’s best film for me) and Requiem For A Dream have all maintained a cult following and were some of the strongest that year. Unbreakable some people love, and of course it has since been followed but M. Night Shyamalan’s follow up to The Sixth Sense always felt disappointing to me (and still does).
Family films were a weak affair with Jim Carrey barnstorming his way, perhaps a little tiresomely through a weak Grinch film, some average Disney in The Emperors New Groove and an even more average The Road To El Dorado. Chicken Run was the pick of the bunch for kids, who must have been bored stiff by cinematic offerings that year (Aardman aside).
Comedy fans, still chortling heartily I imagine from American Pie rejuvenating the teen debauchery comedy, weren’t offered much either. We had Dude Where’s My Car, which stretched the concept of its titular line over the course of a tiresome film. Big Momma’s House…(I need only say the title…do I need to go on?). Scary Movie began a franchise that has dated horribly. Billy Elliot was charming however, with a bit of subtle pathos added. Or you could have watched the almost unintentionally funny Mission impossible 2, which epic set pieces and impressive Cruise performed stunts aside was the most ego dripping self indulgent star vehicle of the early 00’s.
Oddly, and perhaps coinciding with the century turn, and impending year of 2001 (that the Clarke/Kubrick collaboration saw as a futuristic possibility of deep space travel) saw an odd pre-occupation with space. Red Planet, Space Cowboys, Battlefield Earth, Pitch Black (still an enjoyable slice of B fun, and Vin Diesel at his absolute pinnacle) and Supernova. Yes, there’s a lot of dross in space, Riddick’s first outing aside.
What do you think of the cinematic offerings in 2000? Which is your favourite? Are things better or worse now? Let us know in the comments below and on our twitter page @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.