We have not yet completed Holidayfest ’21, because my life continues to be very busy and also I was traveling over the holiday. Thus it now continues into, um, the 12 Days of Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or various other holidays you may be celebrating. If you are not in the mood for more Christmas-themed movies, do not fret, because starting on New Year’s we will be featuring ten days of movies from 2001, which will be newly eligible for entry into Movie Valhalla.
In my opinion, 2001 is one of the best of the modern movie years in the aggregate. From quick survey of subsequent years in the movies, I’d say that 2007 is the next year that would even come close. 2001 was also, for better or worse, the year that the modern franchise movie was here to stay. It was the year that the first films of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises hit theaters, to much fanfare, and also the year of the first Fast & Furious film, to much, much less fanfare. If you’d like to follow along with us, we’ll be visiting all these and much more after the new year:
- Moulin Rouge! (dir: Baz Luhrmann) – A bombastic, frantic musical about the overwhelming power of love, set in early 1900s Paris, which somehow works in both “Like a Virgin” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” among many, many other repurposed modern hits. Stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman as the star-crossed lovers, but I would argue Jim Broadbent is the MVP.
- The Fast and the Furious (dir: Rob Cohen) – The humble beginnings of perhaps the unlikeliest ultra-action franchise of all time, which somehow evolved out of this minor hit in which cop Paul Walker goes undercover to prevent a street-racing Vin Diesel from… stealing DVD players?
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (dir: Peter Jackson) – Jackson’s massive three-movie adaptation of Tolkien’s fantasy epic has become, collectively, probably the movie I love the most. All of my dogs are named after Lord of the Rings characters, if you want to know where I’m coming from here.
- Mulholland Drive (dir: David Lynch) – The most recent film on the 2012 Sight & Sound Top 100 list, it was later named the top film of the 21st Century by the BBC. This might cause you to underestimate just how inscrutable David Lynch can be when he lets loose a little. Many movies are about mysteries, but in this case the mystery is the movie itself.
- Spirited Away (dir: Hayao Miyazaki) – Still a kids movie, though darker than most American cartoons, this story about a young girl whose parents get turned into pigs by an evil witch was surprisingly successful in the US and caused a rekindling of interest in the works of the great Japanese animator Miyazaki.
- The Royal Tenenbaums (dir: Wes Anderson) – Not the first Wes Anderson movie, but probably the one that made him as much a household name as any modern director, with an all-star cast of Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, both Luke and Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Murray, and many others, playing a mostly fallen elite New York family and their various significant others and hangers-on.
- Donnie Darko (dir: Richard Kelly) – The second weirdest movie on our list was hardly seen at all on its initial release but has since become a crazy cult hit from which many movie fans can quote plenty of lines. A young Jake Gyllenhaal (his sister played by his real-life sister Maggie) appears as the titular sullen teen in 1980s suburbia who keeps seeing a freaky giant bunny, or may have time traveled, or may be severely mentally ill… or maybe those aren’t mutually exclusive.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (dir: Chris Columbus) – The first of eight total movies to be made out of one of the most successful book franchises of all time, about an English boy who discovers that he is a Wizard and goes to Wizard school with his Wizard friends. Not the best of the series, for sure, but it is the one in which all the lead actors who would become famous off of this look like tiny babies.
- Lagaan (dir: Ashutosh Gowariker) – For something completely different, this is a nearly four-hour Bollywood musical about Cricket. It seems crazy, but… I liked this movie when I first saw it and I think I like it even better watching it today, even though it is about the furthest thing from subtle you can imagine. I’m serious when I say that even if this does not sound like something you’d watch in a million years you really should consider it.
- A Beautiful Mind (dir: Ron Howard) – This drama from Hollywood hitmaker Ron Howard stars Russell Crowe as real-life mathematician John Nash, whose troubled genius and social awkwardness hide real psychological problems. It became one of the least-deserved Best Picture winners of modern times, in my opinion, but that’s not really the movie’s fault, and in fact I think I was more interested in it than I was expecting to be.
We look forward to seeing you in the Year 2001!