What kind of year has it been? I think a pretty good one. Not exhilarating, like last year, but with too many happy surprises from too many places--studios, indie outfits, countries with sagging film industries, great directors, OK directors--to call the worst ever. Remember the '80s? I'd rather not. J. Hoberman is right about Traffic: Even if you don't think it's a masterpiece, wouldn't you rather have the Academy recognize a film like this than American Beauty or Out of Africa or Forrest Gump or Titanic or As Good As It Gets, etc.?
I looked over a list of the movies I saw this year (I've missed a few), and along with my eight best (which I listed on Wednesday), here are the ones I enjoyed:
Almost Famous, American Psycho, Beau Travail, Beautiful People, Best in Show, Billy Elliot, Black and White, BoilerRoom, Bring It On, The Carriers Are Waiting, Cast Away, Charlie's Angels, Chuck &Buck, Croupier, Dark Days, Dr. T and the Women, Drowning Mona, The Emperor's NewGroove, Eyes of Tammy Faye, Girl on the Bridge, Girlfight,Grass, Groove,I'm the One That I Want,Joe Gould's Secret, Judy Berlin, Legend of Drunken Master, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Love and Basketball, Love and Sex, Meand Isaac Newton, Me, Myself & Irene, Meet the Parents, Mission to Mars, Not OneLess, TheOriginal Kings of Comedy, Paragraph 175,Pollock, Quills,Ratcatcher, Requiem for a Dream,Set Me Free, State and Main,Sunshine, The Tao of Steve,Time Code,A Time for Drunken Horses,Two Family House, U-571, The Way of the Gun, What LiesBeneath, What Planet Are You From?,What's Cooking?, Wonder Boys, X-Men, The Yards. Some of these I liked more than others; and no, I'm not prepared to make the case again for such flops as Drowning Mona or What Planet Are You From? (I had fun at both; others didn't.) The point is: It's a healthy crop.
I've enjoyed this year's "Movie Club" more than any other, which is only partially due to all the cough syrup with codeine I've been ingesting. I know I've ruffled some feathers, so let me close by thanking each of you personally.
Roger Ebert: You're a good sport about being teased, and you have the wisdom not to take the bait when I put some of your best films on my worst-of-the-year list. More to the point, we're lucky to have a Mayor of Movie Criticville who's constantly searching for ways to bring microbrewed movies (I like that better than "Category A," don't you?) to thirsty audiences and who's always ruminating aloud about the future of a medium that most of us cover only film by film, week by week.
Sarah Kerr: Thanks for introducing the theme of bloated somberness (extended by Tony to cover adolescent self-consciousness); for being good-natured but firm re: Soderbergh; for reminding us that we're supposed to be looking at the Big Picture; and for the great writing here and at Vogue. I'll never look at Russell Crowe without thinking of Richard Burton, hangovers, and--come to think of it--bloated somberness again.
J. Hoberman: I don't think I've ever thanked you enough for your generosity to me in those early days at the Voice. (I hope you don't regret it.) Thanks for that and for "making your taste coherent." Please, let's do this again--I've missed it.
A.O. Scott: I've sucked up to you enough for one week. Go back to your "Book Club."
Next week in Slate, I get to write about Traffic and Before Night Falls and other odds and ends of the past week and year. Still waiting for a call from those House of Mirth publicists. ...