David Rosse's Top 10 of 2000

1. PANIC (dir. Henry Bromell)

One year after Hollywood produced one of the great, revolutionary films of the decade (American Beauty), director Henry Bromell examines many of the same themes (mid-life crisis, dysfunction in the suburban family) but in a true "indie" spirit. All of the popular actors (William H. Macy, Donald Sutherland, Neve Campbell, Tracy Ullman) took on this project for its content, not its paycheck. Like last year's top favorite, the film paints a somber, darkly funny yet ultimately optimistic portrait of one "professional" man's triumph over his inner demons. Like American Beauty, this barely released film will become a black comedy classic.

2. BEST IN SHOW (dir. Christopher Guest)

The funniest mock documentary since This is Spinal Tap, which really comes as no surprise, since the film was co-written and directed by Nigel Tufnel himself. The film takes place at a National Dog Show in Philadelphia, but the film is really about the eccentric, appealing, and absolutely obsessed dog owners. Guest himself plays a character far removed from Nigel or Corky St. Clair (his character from Waiting for Guffman). As a likeable hillbilly owner of a bait and tackle shop who dreams of taking home the blue ribbon for his bloodhound, Guest is endlessly charming and funny. But once Fred Willard enters the picture, as a hopelessly confused co-host of the big event, he commits thievery and steals the film away from his talented co-stars (including Parker Posey, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy and Michael "David St. Hubbins" McKean).

3. ALMOST FAMOUS (dir. Cameron Crowe)

Writer/director Cameron Crowe adapted his memoirs of life as a Rolling Stone reporter, at age 15, for the big screen, and his comfort level with the material shows: It is his best film to date. Patrick Fugit makes a wonderful debut as Crowe's young protagonist and alter-ego, who leaves the over-protected home of his apple pie mom (played by Frances McDormand, in a role that could nab her another Oscar) and hits the road with Stillwater, an AM radio rock band that appears to be a merging of the Doobie Brothers, Three Dog Night and Lynryd Skynyrd. Goldie Hawn's chip-off-the-old-block daughter Kate Hudson makes her breakthrough as Penny Lane, a free-spirit who seems a lot older than her real age and becomes the fragile angel in the young reporter's life. But the film belongs to Billy Crudup, who plays Stillwater's lead guitarist as a party boy with a tender soul.

4. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

Director Aronofsky's follow-up to his David Lynchian debut pi is arguably the greatest anti-drug film ever filmed. Presenting a sad, unpleasant, frequently difficult-to-watch story about the downward spiral of three addicts (Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly contributing the bravest performances of their careers), Aronofsky constantly fills the screen with split-second edits of jarring images, so that the audience begins to experience (to a lesser degree, of course) the state-of-mind of the main characters. Marlon Wayans contributes an unexpectedly poignant performance as a caring (possibly too caring) drug buddy of Leto's. Not surprisingly, the film polarizes audiences, but those who enjoy challenging cinema should not miss it.

5. Tie: TRAFFIC and ERIN BROCKOVICH (dir. Steven Soderbergh)

Steven Soderbergh blew the Hollywood scene away in 1989 with his debut sex, lies and videotape. From 1990 to '98, the director kept a low profile directing ambitious, barely released movies like Kafka, King of the Hill and The Underneath, all receiving widely mixed reviews. In 1998, the director released the George Clooney crime caper Out of Sight, and has been on a winning streak ever since.
These two films, equally riveting and entertaining in different ways, examine contemporary social issues (the war on drugs, environmental contamination), boast stellar casts (Albert Finney appears in both, and may grab an Oscar nomination for Erin Brockovich), and use creative storytelling methods to suck us into their stories. Soderbergh will surely walk away with a Best Director nomination (the question is, for which movie; possibly both).

6. MEET THE PARENTS (dir. Jay Roach)

A movie with an unbeatably commercial premise (what if your future father-in-law is Travis Bickle?). Robert DeNiro proves that his hilarious comic timing in Midnight Run was no fluke, and Ben Stiller, playing the "schmiel" he does so well, conveys his nervousness around the film legend convincingly. The result is one of the funniest films on Stiller's growing resume'. The rest of the cast (including Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson and character actor James Rebhorn) clearly had a ball making this, and the Pet Performance of the Year (excluding any of the high-strung dogs from Best in Show) goes to DeNiro's amazing feline.

7. AMERICAN PSYCHO (dir. Mary Harron)

Harron's follow-up to I Shot Andy Warhol is this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' best-seller, which was lost on most audiences and critics, who viewed it as a traditional serial killer movie. It's really a black comedy about '80s apathy, greed and superficiality. Most of the killings seem to take place in the mind of its anti-hero, played with devilish charm by Briton Christian Bale. Alternately unsettling and hilarious, with on-target jabs at the elitist "Wall Street brat pack" of the late '80s.

8. CROUPIER (dir. Mike Hodges)

Made in 1998 and released in American art houses this year, Mike Hodges' intricate, character-based thriller was a comeback for the "underground" British director, who suffered a series of critical and financial bombs in the '80s and '90s (including Flash Gordon, A Prayer for the Dying and Black Rainbow). Clive Owen stars as the title character, a dealer in a posh London casino who gets mixed up in a bizarre robbery scam hatched by a mysterious South African woman. An intelligent thriller with intensely real performances.

9. CASTAWAY (dir. Robert Zemeckis)

Like Steven Soderbergh, Hollywood favorite Zemeckis released two ambitious projects this year. He shot What Lies Beneath, a cliché-ridden thriller featuring hammy performances from its superstar pairing of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer (which Zemeckis made as a "filler" picture) while waiting for his star Tom Hanks to lose an extreme amount of weight and grow his beard (ok, a "filler picture" is forgivable). Up until its overly sentimental final act, Castaway is an intriguing film, a virtual silent movie containing a bravura performance by Hanks. As they did with Forrest Gump six years ago, Zemeckis and Hanks got the world talking with a curious, unconventional project.

10. GHOST DOG-THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
Independent icon Jarmusch does it again, mixing movie elements (gangster film, urban drama, revenge drama and screwball comedy) in a style that no one else can replicate. Forrest Whitaker plays Ghost Dog, a faithful follower of Samurai who vows eternal allegiance to a mid-level mobster after the mobster saves his life. Only in a Jarmusch film could the hero send messages to the Mafia via carrier pigeon. Character actor Henry Silva (who plays a heavy in most pictures) is surprisingly hilarious as the Mafia kingpin.