2000 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Saturday, July 25, 2020

2000 Leaman Awards

*Last Updated 8/14/2022  

2000 Films Seen: 85
Number of Films with A or A+ Grade: 6
Key Films Missed: n/a

Brief Summary: Not as talked about as 1999, but the year 2000 is a sneaky good candidate for the best year of film offering genre classics (superhero, animation, martial arts, swords and sandals, etc.) categories that all managed to transcend their often shallow genres to become substantial and universal. 

Not a "best of" list or a "favorite" list - but a list of the films and sequences (action, drama, comedy, & musical) that I think represent the best the year had to offer. So think of it as a strange mixture of favorite, best, and defining. Once you get to the top ten films, it definitely becomes more defined as a Top Ten list of the year. The number one film is my favorite of the year. 

25. Requiem for a Dream (B)
24. The Family Man (B)
23. Remember the Titans (B)
22. The Endurance (B)
21. Shanghai Noon (B)
20. The Patriot (B)
19. The Contender (B)
18. Pollock (B)
17. Snatch (B)
16. Finding Forrester (B)
15. Billy Elliot (B+)
14. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (B+)
13. Chicken Run (B+)
12. Miss Congeniality (B+)
11. Meet the Parents (B+
THE TOP TEN
10. Traffic (A-) 
9. Almost Famous (A-)
8. Erin Brockovich (A-)
7. Tigerland (A-)
6. The Emperor's New Groove (A)

5. Thirteen Days (A)

4. Cast Away (A)

3. Gladiator (A)

2. Unbreakable (A)

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (A)


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Opening: Roman Army vs. German Barbarians" -Gladiator
  • "Finale: Escaping with the Virus, Motorcycles, & Beach Fights" -Mission: Impossible 2 (Commentary)
  • "Martin Ambushes a Redcoat Group to Rescue His Son" -The Patriot 
The Great:
  • "Weapon Fight Extravaganza: Yu Lien vs. Jen" -Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • "Coliseum Fight: Hannibal's Barbarian Horde vs. the Legionnaires" -Gladiator
The Best: "Across the Rooftops: Yu Lien Chases the Sword Thief" -Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 
Commentary: It’s rare that I find myself near tears by an action sequence. On paper, no one would think this would be a candidate for an all-time sequence. It’s mostly about plot conflict (someone steals a sword) and introducing characters and their abilities to the audience. However, the way in which the director Ang Lee brings together all of the various elements (writing, cinematography, acting, themes, choreography, art direction, score, etc.) of this sequence never fails to move me greatly. First, the sequence takes great pains to give us a wonderful geography lesson of the imperial city of Peking – it’s a big city packed densely with tall walls, courtyards, alleyways, and tiled rooftops. Yu Shi Lien, played by Michelle Yeoh, has arrived with the green destiny sword – the sword of the famous warrior Li Mu Bai, played by Chow Yun Fat. After the descent of night, a thief dressed in black is glimpsed by a security guard. The glimpse leads him into the room where the green destiny is kept. The thief has stolen the sword, taken out the guard, and makes their way onto the rooftops. The guard raises the alarm and everyone stirs. Lanterns are brought out to examine the rooftops. In a glorious wide shot above the city, we see the layout of several courtyards with guards holding glowing orange lanterns up to the roofs in their fruitless search. Yu Shi Lien comes out from the noise and joins the search on the rooftops and quickly comes across the thief expecting to take them out quickly and retrieve the sword. All the while, the musical score has burst into a rousing drumbeat. After an initial burst of fighting, Yu Shi Lien learns that the thief is well trained. In fact, the thief does a particular move that alerts Lien to training from an exclusive location – Wudan mountain. This is your first glimpse that this fight is about more than dynamic action – it’s an embodiment of the two different ways these women are fighting how their culture has defined the narrow paths women can take. Yu Shi Lien yearns for marriage but is held back by the custom of waiting for the male to take charge – leading her to an older age with love that cannot (or has not) been expressed. The thief, whom we discover is Governor Yu’s daughter Jen, in a breakout role by Ziyi Zhang, is frustrated that she is being married off to someone she does not love. She has been secretly trained by her handmaiden, the Jade Fox, in specialized martial arts that society deemed were solely for men – this is the Wudan move that gave her away to Yu Shi Lien. These women are “crouching tigers, hidden dragons” – people whose great powers are kept in the dark and not fully realized/actualized. Despite both feeling frustrated and held back by their society, Jen represents someone breaking the code to Yu Shi Lien – someone who should accept her role and place like she has. This is why the decision to stick to a wuxia action style (warriors who have superhuman like abilities – like the ability to glide or come close to flight) makes so much sense thematically. The chase that breaks out over the rooftops between these two women isn’t just great action – the flight of Jen as the thief and Yu Shi Lien’s constant attempt to bring her to the ground is such a perfect embodiment of “The Dreamer” vs. “The Realist”. Over and over again in this fight, Jen tries to escape not by running, but by flying up the walls, getting to the rooftops, and Yu Shi Lien drags her back down. There are two shots here that always take my breathe away. First, there’s a moment when they are jumping/gliding from rooftop to rooftop that the camera is kind of over Yu Shi Lien’s shoulder and it feels hand-held and on a wire at the same time. It’s just one of the most beautiful moments where the viewer can practically feel the weightlessness these characters are experiencing. The second shot is when Yu Shi Lien runs up the side of a massive wall over the top of Jen running up the wall below her and drags her back down to the ground. It’s all done with impeccable wire work and looks so good and embodies the thematic fight between these women so beautifully – it feels like a dramatic punch. Once Yu Shi Lien is able to bring Jen down to the ground their fight turns from hand to hand work into a back and forth of acrobatic kicks. The athleticism, quickness, and grace on display is awesome here. Ultimately, Yu Shi Lien gets the upper hand and is able to kind of grasp Jen’s two wrists together to hold her down – in a kind of handcuff move (again with the symbolism) until Jen’s secret boyfriend gets involved, distracts Yu Shi Lien and Jen gets away in one of the longest and cleanest wire moves I’ve ever seen. Yes, martial arts legend Yuen Woo Ping choreographed this, the film is based on a novel, but the director Ang Lee is able to take those elements and put it into one of the most stunning and moving action sequences ever. I just can’t get enough of this one.



FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Getting the inspiration for his dance/reading aloud his mum's letter/learning from the instructor" –Billy Elliot
  • "Billy Defiantly Dances in front of his Father in the Gym" –Billy Elliot
  • "Billy's Dad Breaks the Scab Line to get Money for Billy" –Billy Elliot
  • “Seth Makes his First Closing” –Boiler Room
  • “Seth Won’t Give Up His Dad to the Staties” –Boiler Room
  • “Jen Makes the Jump From a Mountain” –Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • “History is Changed: Sullivan is Saved from a Fire” -Frequency
  • “Who Will Carry Him/Coming Home” –Gladiator
  • “Deceptive Prisoner Exchange with Cornwallis” -The Patriot
  • “Taking on the Big Rogue Wave” -The Perfect Storm
  • "Taking the Television/Mom Will You Come Out?" –Requiem for a Dream
  • "Concluding Sequence: Our Four Leads Have Met Their Shameful Ends" –Requiem for a Dream
  • “Quarantine/Blockade Showdown” -Thirteen Days
  • “Stevenson Defends the U.S. in the United Nations” –Thirteen Days
  • “The President Hears of the Second Letter Sent by Khrushchev and Presses to War” –Thirteen Days
  • “Lifting Weights to Find a Max” -Unbreakable
  • “Immobilized in a Quickly Filling Tub” -What Lies Beneath
  • “Prof. Tripp hears the story of his heart” –Wonder Boys 
The Great:
  • “The FedEx plane goes down” -Cast Away
  • “Making Fire and Making a Friend” -Cast Away
  • “Li Mu Bai fights in the bamboo trees” -Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • “My Name Is…” -Gladiator
  • “The Vampire Finally Feeds to the Director’s Direction” -Shadow of the Vampire
  • “Looking for and Finding Your Daughter Strung Out” -Traffic
The Best: “From Train Station Revelation to Heroic Rescue” -Unbreakable 
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
Not a category I kept good track of - One of the toughest TBH
The Very Good:
  • “Dinner with the Family” -Meet the Parents
  • “Victor Transforms Ms. Hart into Ms. Freebush” -Miss Congeniality
  • "Drunk Together in the Tub" -Shanghai Noon
The Great:
  • n/a
The Best: “Barbecue at Kevin’s House” -Meet the Parents
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • n/a
The Great:
  • "Man of Constant Sorrow" -O Brother Where Art Thou?
The Best: "Tiny Dancer" -Almost Famous
Commentary: n/a

BEST DIRECTOR
Nominees: 
  • Ang Lee Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Ridley Scott Gladiator
  • M. Night Shyamalan Unbreakable
  • Steven Soderbergh Traffic
  • Robert Zemeckis Cast Away
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLE
Nominees: 
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Gladiator
  • Thirteen Days
  • Traffic
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees: 
  • Javier Bardem Before Night Falls
  • Jeff Bridges The Contender
  • Russell Crowe Gladiator
  • Colin Farrell Tigerland
  • Albert Finney Erin Brockovich
  • Tom Hanks Cast Away
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman Almost Famous
  • Ed Harris Pollock
  • Samuel L. Jackson Unbreakable
  • Joaquin Phoenix Gladiator
Commentary: n/a


BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees: 
  • Sandra Bullock Miss Congeniality
  • Ellen Burstyn Requiem for a Dream
  • Jennifer Connelly Requiem for a Dream
  • Marcia Gay Harden Pollock
  • Connie Nielsen Gladiator
  • Julia Roberts Erin Brockovich
  • Julie Walters Billy Elliot
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones Traffic
  • Michelle Yeoh Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Ziyi Zhang Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE SCREENPLAY
(original or adapted)
Nominees: 
  • Almost Famous
  • Cast Away
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Erin Brockovich
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Pollock
  • Thirteen Days
  • Tigerland
  • Traffic
  • Unbreakable
Commentary: n/a


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees: 
  • Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey
  • The Endurance
  • Michael Jordan to the Max
Commentary: n/a


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: 
  • Chicken Run
  • Dinosaur
  • The Emperor's New Groove
Commentary: n/a

BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees: 
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Thirteen Days
  • Tigerland
  • Traffic
  • Unbreakable
Commentary: n/a


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees: 
  • Cast Away
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Unbreakable
Commentary: n/a


BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees: 
  • The Cell
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • The Patriot
Commentary: n/a


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees: 
  • The Cell
  • Gladiator
  • Hollow Man
  • The Perfect Storm
  • X-Men
Commentary: n/a


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees: 
  • Chocolat
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • Thirteen Days
  • Unbreakable
Commentary: n/a


BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees: 
  • Cast Away
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • The Perfect Storm
  • U-571
Commentary: n/a


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees: 
  • The Cell
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Quills
Commentary: n/a


BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees: 
  • The Cell
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Gladiator
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • X-Men
Commentary: n/a

BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees: 
  • Gone in Sixty Seconds
  • The Replacements
  • Scary Movie 
Commentary: n/a


MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees: 
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • The Emperor's New Groove
  • Tigerland
Commentary: n/a


MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM
Nominees: 
  • Frequency
  • Nurse Betty
  • What Lies Beneath
Commentary: n/a


MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees: 
  • Miss Congeniality
  • Thirteen Days
  • Tigerland
Commentary: n/a


MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees: 
  • Battle Royale
  • Chocolat
  • Nurse Betty
Commentary: n/a


WORST FILM
Nominees: 
  • The Art of War
  • Bring it On
  • Loser
  • Nutty Professor 2: The Krumps
  • Road Trip
Commentary: n/a


BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Nominees:
  • Steven Soderbergh: Erin Brockovich Traffic
Commentary: n/a


ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Anna Faris Scary Movie
Commentary: n/a


THE END!


"Maximus: What we do in life echoes in eternity." -Gladiator

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