The Year in Film

Top 10s of 2001

Looking at these individual and combined lists of the Top 10 films of 2001, several things can be concluded. The past year in film, while a good one, was maybe not a great one. Presented here are several solid lists of "good" movies, movies that deserve to be on lists and counted among the best of the year. Yet, noticeably absent is a sense of unbridled passion for one movie over another, obvious pecking orders, and the usually grueling process of ranking one movie over another.

Curiously, however, this seems to have resulted in a greater unanimity among the Chronicle film critics than has been seen in quite a while. The top film, Ghost World, appeared on five out of six reviewers' lists and came in with a higher combined point total than any Chronicle No. 1 movie has received in a number of years. Also, many of the same titles recur throughout the individual lists, and differ only in their numerical rankings.

Lists, in addition to providing insight about the year in film, also tell us something about the tastes of the individual reviewers. In this regard, we must offer this caveat emptor: None of the reviewers who weigh in below has seen all the eligible films (some won't even open in Austin until January or later), and each reviewer is haunted by a list of regrets for the movies not yet seen and the changes they might make if they were to compile their lists again six months from now.

So, take these declarations for what they're worth: summaries of a moment in time. They are tip sheets, indices of taste, suggestions of things to view, and, hopefully, fun to read. Next week you will put them out with your recycling and we'll all move on to the movies of 2002.

<i>Ghost World</i>
Ghost World

'The Austin Chronicle' Top 10 Films of 2001

1. Ghost World

2. Waking Life

3. Moulin Rouge

4. In the Bedroom

5. The Royal Tenenbaums

6. (tie) Amélie, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,

The Others

9. Memento

10. Amores Perros

The Year in Film

Marjorie Baumgarten

1. The Gleaners and I

This French documentary by the venerable Agnès Varda earns my No. 1 spot because it's the only movie that completely stole my heart from beginning to end.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Coming at this movie as neither a great fan of the books nor fantasy in general, I found myself thoroughly seduced and engaged.

3. Waking Life

Adventuresome technique, "affordable" budget, and inquisitive spirit make this experiment in cinema one of the most inspiring projects of the year.

4. Shrek

So much better than any cartoon actually needs to be to succeed, Shrek appeals to nearly all demographic groups through its wit, intelligence, and skill.

5. In the Bedroom

Rarely has grief been portrayed onscreen with such honesty and generosity of space -- and fortunately, this acting ensemble knew what to do with this gift.

6. Ghost World

If only for the shot of Thora Birch shuddering after squirting extra butter on a customer's popcorn, Ghost World wins this year's jackpot on the depiction of life's painful little moments.

7. The Royal Tenenbaums

While making a movie that's more focused and controlled than either of his previous outings, Wes Anderson has created a vivid family constellation that I can't shake from my daydreams.

8. The Others

It's the best haunted-house movie that's come along in many a decade.

9. The Man Who Wasn't There

From the luxuriant riches of its black-and-white cinematography to the perfect performance by Billy Bob Thornton, this movie shows the Coen Brothers as the mavericks they are.

10. A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard tackles wonderfully ineffable subject matter, and with an amazingly adroit assist by lead man Russell Crowe, finds brilliant ways to render the unknowable known.

The Year in Film

Steve Davis

1. Moulin Rouge

Overwhelming in its operatic fireworks, mesmerizing in its audacity.

2. The Others

An elegant ghost story with an impeccably refined terror.

3. In the Bedroom

The year's showcase for film acting and an auspicious directorial debut.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums

A sentimentally comic ode to family by an American original.

5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

A compelling pastiche of gender politics and Seventies glam rock.

6. Memento

A Rubik's Cube of a movie that requires your total attention.

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Grand-scale storytelling punctuated by moments of true emotion and feeling.

8. The Deep End

A gripping study of maternal love in the guise of contemporary film noir.

9. Amélie

Charming French whimsy that begins with a mysterious box.

10. Bandits

A surprisingly entertaining movie that fiddles with the Hollywood formula.

The Year in Film

Marrit Ingman

1. Moulin Rouge

Like lovers, movies should fling themselves headlong, passionately. This reckless opus has real heart, not gimmickry. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the 21st century.

2. Ghost World

Terry Zwigoff's quietly broody, resonant drama defies easy categorization, offering genuine emotional investment instead of the usual hipster irony.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The rare event movie for everyone, from fantasy geeks and fanboy cultists to your mother. Suspenseful, gorgeously realized, and satisfying.

4. Memento

What? Huh? Wonderful.

5. Sexy Beast

This slow-burn nail-biter is 10 times more agonizing than your typical lame-ass thriller and inestimably better.

6. In the Bedroom

The ending feels inauthentic, but the rest of this character-driven sleeper rings painfully true as a portrait of a family's grief.

7. Gosford Park

Not the sprung mystery multiplexers may wish for, but a sophisticated parlor farce with the deftly managed web of storylines Altman fans expect.

8. The Day I Became a Woman

The best movie nobody saw. This triptych of stories about Iranian women is unexpectedly complex, honest but often humorous.

9. Me You Them

Human beings just don't get any sexier than Regina Casé, the star of this warm and deeply human comedy imported from Brazil.

10. Calle 54

This polished and loving tribute to Latin jazz is easily the year's best music film, thanks to its beautifully filmed studio performances.

The Year in Film

Kimberley Jones

1. Amélie

It feels like falling in love.

2. Ghost World

Black comic sublimeness about that itchy, vulnerable place in between high school and whatever comes after.

3. The Others

A spare, chilly spook show in which Kidman channels Kelly and comes out with a grace all her own.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson make-believes a world of majestic, impish dysfunction carefully dogeared from the pages of The New Yorker. A melancholy almost-masterpiece.

5. Amores Perros

Alejandro González Iñárritu's searing, stunning feature film debut vaults the "it's a dog-eat-dog world" maxim to its most anguished conclusion.

6. Waking Life

Does Richard Linklater dream in color? Do you have to ask?

7. In the Bedroom

A remarkable debut from Todd Field that cuts to the very core of love, loss, and retribution.

8. Gosford Park

A British class comedy that filters Altman's usual saber-toothed sensibilities through the rumply whodunnit charm of an Agatha Christie.

9. Vertical Ray of the Sun

Ang Hung Tran's gorgeously filmed family drama is proof that Chekhov translates into any language.

10. Black Hawk Down

Unsentimental, unforgiving portrait of modern-day warfare that bleeds a truer red, white, and blue than the star-spangled hokum of Pearl Harbor or The Majestic.

The Year in Film

Marc Savlov

1. Amores Perros

Flat-out knocked the wind out of me when I saw it in the theatre, then did the exact same thing last week on DVD. Nihilism as romance, or vice versa. Harrowing, just like the real thing.

2. Amélie

It's caused a cultural backlash back home in France, but this ooey-goey bonbon o' joy goes down like a throatful of pink honey, and Pixy Stix star Tautou is straight out of a fairy tale.

3. Waking Life

Any film that features those two great motormouths of our time -- Timothy "Speed" Levitch and Alex Jones -- is all right in my book. Yay, Bob Sabiston! Boo, Earthlink!

4. Ghost World

Even though my friend told me that I reminded her of Steve Buscemi's schlemieleon Seymour, damn her eyes, I still think it's the best comic-to-film adaptation ever made.

5. Moulin Rouge

If only the real world operated this way, we'd never have to go to movies in the first place. More tragic magic than any one film has a right to offer, and the luminescent Nicole Kidman to boot.

6. Black Hawk Down

Relentless, visceral, and horrifying in a way that few war films have ever managed, this should serve as a warning to the Men in Charge of Things right now. Hell in a handbasket all over the screen.

7. The Royal Tenenbaums

It lacks the angry spark of Rushmore (just barely), but nonetheless achieves something else: sublime familial dysfunction taken to a whole new, weird level. Owen Wilson's epic schnozz continues to impress and amaze.

8. Spy Kids

Absolutely no surprise coming from a guy who names his kids Rocket and Racer. Brilliant kid-happy fun.

9. The Devil's Backbone

Third time's the charm, obviously. Hypnotic, dreamlike poetry that gets better and better the more times you revisit Del Toro's blanched and dusty ghost world.

10. The Others

Alejandro Amenábar's follow-up to Abre los Ojos is the best ghost story of the past 20 years, no contest, and adeptly tackles the dual themes of loss and love with perfect, spooky panache.

The Year in Film

Russell Smith

1. Ghost World

Acerbic, disturbing, hilarious, open-hearted, and ruthlessly satirical, with subtle undertones of magical realism. One of the more memorable outsiders' manifestos produced by an American artist.

2. Waking Life

An intoxicatingly original challenge to open ourselves up to -- as a late pop mystic would have it -- the life within us and without us.

3. Memento

Too-clever-by-half crime drama that nonetheless sets its hook early and consistently engages the mind and imagination. Formal experimentation at its most satisfying.

4. Sexy Beast

Reckless, bizarre, hyperkinetic, blithely grotesque -- and a stone rush to watch. Fabulous bookend performances by Ben Kingsley and Ray Winston.

5. Tape

Taut, brilliantly acted piece of claustrophobic (it all happens in a single grungy motel room) drama-comedy. Recommended for fans of prime Albee and Shepard.

6. With a Friend Like Harry ...

Perverse, understated French suspense thriller will scratch Chabrol, Hitchcock aficionados right where it itches.

7. Under the Sand

A meditation on the persistence of love underscored with discreet supernatural undertones. One that will haunt your thoughts long afterward.

8. Spy Kids

Suddenly those vasectomy-reversal ads look compelling ... If you don't have kids, get some, the better to justify repeated consumption of this exemplary children's entertainment.

9. The Score

An intelligent, quietly engrossing old-school heist drama that will (I predict) be cited in coming years as a minor classic of the genre.

10. The Deep End

Tilda Swinton, who in a just world would own at least as many Oscars as oh, say ... Mira Sorvino, is characteristically brilliant in this sublime suspense-thriller.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Screens
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Matt Frank builds the perfect monster

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2020

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Richard Whittaker, March 15, 2013

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
This Job Will Change Your Life
This Job Will Change Your Life
Former staff reflect on the zigs and zags of life post-Chronicle

Sept. 3, 2021

Nomadland
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10, Ghost World, The Gleaners and I, Agnès Varda, Ghost World, Waking Life, Moulin Rouge, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Amélie, Memento, The Others, In the Bedroom, Sexy Beast, Gosford Park, The Day I Became a Wom

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle