One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 2001 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 2001.
2001 featured the first film in what would become one of the great movie trilogies of all time. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
Training Day — 8 points
Moulin Rouge! — 8 points
The Royal Tenenbaums — 6 points
Wet Hot American Summer — 5 points
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — 4 points
Ocean’s Eleven— 4 points
Monsters Inc. — 4 points
The One — 4 points
The Fast and the Furious — 2 points
A Beautiful Mind — 2 points
Donnie Darko — 2 points
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back — 2 points
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius — 2 points
The Mummy Returns — 2 points
Ghost World — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 2001, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
9 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada at No. 2
Andrew Riche: Ben Stiller was already a household name by the time he did his third directorial effort after 1994’s Reality Bites and 1996’s The Cable Guy. Unlike the previous two films, this one was based on a character concocted by Stiller and the late Drake Sather for a comedy skit when Stiller was hosting the VH1 Fashion Awards in 1996 and ’97. Derek Zoolander was a comedic amalgam of beautiful but egotistical and simple-minded male models whose obsession with celebrity trumps all that everyday life nonsense. Stiller went back to that well with a screenplay assisted by John Hamburg and decided to direct himself as the title character in a movie with a plot that bears similarity to the darker Bret Easton Ellis novel Glamorama.
Loaded with familiar faces in cameos and small roles along with other “Frat Pack” fraternity members, Zoolander is a male model whose megastardom winds up being trumped by a new face in Hansel, played with precision by Owen Wilson. Zoolander and Hansel soon discover with the help of journalist Matilda Jeffries (played by Stiller’s real life wife Christine Taylor) that Zoolander is the centerpiece in a maniacal plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. “But why male models,” you ask? Well, that is the same question that the dim-witted Zoolander asks himself as he tries to foil the plans of fashion mogul and crazy hair guy Jacobim Mugatu, played by Will Ferrell. Ferrell is dynamite in one of his first leading roles as the swetshop-loving villain who loves his fluffy cat more than his henchwoman Katinka, played by action movie badass Milla Jovovich.
While there were certainly reservations about stretching the character too thin and the bad timing for the movie’s release (17 days after 9/11) damaged its initial success, the movie has become a cult classic with tons of memorable quotes and constantly churning in-jokes, like Zoolander’s heartbreaking inability to turn left on the fashion runway and the male model duo’s failed attempt to get data from inside a computer. I will never listen to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” the same way again thanks to the film’s hilarious brainwashing scene. You quickly realize how short-sighted but loveable the main character is when he intends to create the “Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Do Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.” Stiller has learned to do other stuff good himself by sitting in the director’s chair five times, and Zoolander is his best one yet.
12 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche and Steve Wille at No. 1
Steve Wille: As I sat down to write this summary, I thought about whether any actors or actresses had ever captured my attention as much as Audrey Tautou in Amélie. The answer is a resounding “no.” Tautou plays the title character, a down on her luck waitress looking for love in this French film. It seems like the pitch for a bad romantic comedy on NBC, but the screenplay by Guillame Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the imagery placed on the screen combines with Tautou’s beauty and charisma to make a masterpiece.
The character of Amélie moves from pain to a combination of hope and a tinge of mischief as she encounters various inhabitants of Paris. She lifts other downtrodden characters’ spirits as she finds her way, eventually leading to her own sense of joy and well-being. Though it sounds schmaltzy, it’s really a brilliant, quirky comedy, a cheery contrast to Jeunet’s previous works, the incredibly dark comedy Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Tautou would continue making great French films (A Very Long Engagement is another personal favorite) before briefly finding mainstream American success in the adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.
13 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 2
Kati Price: Shrek is an animated comedy by Dreamworks. Shrek tells the story of an ogre who goes on a quest to get his swamp back after being filled with the land’s fairy-tale creatures. One of these creatures is a talking donkey. Shrek and Donkey set out to ask Lord Farquaad to clear out the fairy tale creatures. Lord Farquaad sends them out to bring him Princess Fiona, who later turns out to be cursed. She and Shrek fall in love, which forever turns her into an ogre as well.
This movie has some of the best voice work ever. With a cast including Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow, this cartoon is hilarious for all ages. There isn’t much to criticize in this film. It is just a fun family film. But beware, there are a few bad words as well as quite a few innuendoes that may not be appropriate for all ages.
Shrek is the first in a series of movies following these characters and in my opinion is the best of them. It is a very quotable movie which is one thing I look for in a good movie. Not to mention the fun singalong bit at the end of the film. The score is nice as well. The script is fantastic, although I imagine there was quite a bit of ad lib gong on. The cast is really what makes the movie though.
I am glad this film made the list. It is just such a fun movie. If you haven’t watched it because it’s animated, reconsider. If you have seen it, you have probably seen it more than once. So go rewatch it and join along!
29 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Nick Duke at No. 1
Aaron George: When you buy the Memento DVD, which you absolutely should, you have the option to watch the entire film in the proper chronological order. If you’ve done this, you’ve come to the same realization that I have — Christopher Nolan is a god damned genius for telling this story in the wonderfully complex way he did. The decision to cut this one out of order was an inspired fit for a film about short term memory loss. It’s challenging and engaging in ways that we wish more movies were.
Performances across the board are solid. Carrie Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano make you forget they shared scenes in The Matrix for a few moments as they carry the load in selling Leonard’s condition to us. Guy Pearce is absolutely fabulous as our memory deprived friend and he succeeds in not only eliciting pity from us but also a certain amount of loathing as we learn what he needs to do to keep himself sane.
This film gives you the right information in the right time and the fact that you have to piece so much of it together for yourself enhances the viewing experience by about a thousand hundred million. You’re on the edge of your seat from the moment we start to search for Teddy, and Pearce and Nolan do a masterful job of whirling this thing to its amazing conclusion in a way that is succinct and flooring.
In the end, we should have known after this one that Christopher Nolan was destined to never direct a bad film (to date). While not the popular choice, for me this is his masterpiece. See it now. Just don’t muck around with the DVD.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
31 points, ranked by 8 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Glenn Butler: Many things come to feel inevitable that were once deemed impossible. At the time of writing, a few scant months before the premiere of the third film based on The Hobbit, it’s strange to consider what a risk the first live-action film based on The Lord of the Rings really was. JRR Tolkien sold the film rights to several of his novels on the assumption that the story would be like a demon of the ancient world, a foe beyond any Hollywood screenwriter, and for decades he was seemingly proven right. Tolkien went to great lengths to steep nearly every aspect of his fantasy world in intricate detail, from his invented languages to the poetry & songs characters are apt to break into to the extensive historical background of the various landmarks and the cultures that created them, all the way back to his variant on the creation myth. This is, understandably, a daunting story to adapt, and it’s to the credit of screenwriters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens that they walked a very fine line: include too little detail and only the hardcore fans will be able to follow what’s going on (otherwise known as The Folly of Dune); include too much detail and only the hardcore fans will care. (This was another Folly of Dune. There are kind of a lot of those.) The Lord of the Rings already had a large cult following, but The Fellowship of the Ring, as the first film, was appointed the task of using that following as a takeoff point to larger mainstream success. (Not all of the True Fans were willing to come along, most notoriously Christopher Tolkien. Such is the nature of True Fans.) At the time of its opening, the quest stood upon the edge of a knife; stray but a little and it would fall, to the ruin of all. The other two films, already filmed (mostly), would be filled in with the cheapest effects imaginable and rushed into the straight-to-video dustbin of history, and The Lord of the Rings would go solemnly back on the shelf.
Obviously that didn’t happen; Fellowship was tremendously successful both critically and financially, launching the film franchise into the stratosphere. It’s interesting to consider why. It starts with the tough choices of what to cut, which characters to collapse together, how to manage the intimidating amount of exposition necessary to bring the audience up to speed. Thanks to the meticulous dialogue construction and production design, a happy medium was found in which what is necessary to understand the main story is explicitly said, but there are hints of the larger world laid everywhere. Every culture in the story has its own set of aesthetic and linguistic signifiers; aided by the intricate production design by Alan Lee & John Howe, the gorgeous landcapes of New Zealand, the props & miniatures by Richard Taylor’s team at the Weta Workshop, the emergence of Weta Digital as a visual effects powerhouse, and the score by Howard Shore that used a complex web of themes in a style not often seen any more, every aspect of the film gestures toward the backstories and relationships of the characters inhabiting the world of Middle-earth. The fantastic special features produced for the Extended Edition DVD of Fellowship give some alluring glimpses into the staggering amount of thought and preparation and dedication that went into making all of this happen. And of course the cast has a big responsibility in all of this, and Fellowship employed masters like Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, and John Rhys-Davies, along with actors like Elijah Wood and Sean Astin that you may not necessarily expect to find in high fantasy.
While being the first of three films leaves Fellowship without a traditional climax and finale, it has a clear emotional journey: after a thrilling summary of the history of the Ring, we are properly introduced to everyday life in Middle-earth through a warm, homey first act set in the company of the Hobbits. Of all the races and factions in the story, the Hobbits are the most like those of us who aren’t actually epic heroes — rather than embarking on sword-and-sorcery adventures with immortal beings, they prefer the comfort of home and the epicurean delights of fresh bread and well-aged cheese — but the larger tale draws some of them into itself, just as we as the audience must be drawn in. Frodo, our point-of-view character for most of the film, must be the one to carry the Ring, a self-aware weapon of immense power, because only a lowly Hobbit is meek enough to resist its lure. By the end of the film, this lure has fractured the Fellowship assembled to protect Frodo’s journey to destroy the Ring, scattering its members to their own adventures, while Frodo is accompanied only by his gardener. There’s a grand backstory, there are dazzling visuals, there are many battle scenes along the way, but the heart of The Fellowship of the Ring is: when you’re needed to protect the good in the world, you step up. Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
That does it for 2001. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 2002!