|reflecting pool at Ground Zero courtesy|
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In the BedroomThis is certainly a melodramatic pick, but Todd Field's film is still one of the darkest, most moving looks at grief, mortality, and revenge in recent memory. In the Bedroom features Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek in fantastic performances, dealing with their son's (Nick Stahl) relationship with an older woman, played by Marissa Tomei. Unfortunately, Tomei's ex-husband (William Mapother) is a little angry and aggressive, which worries all involved and leads to a catastrophic event. Mutely photographed and gut-wrenching to deal with, the film sits on the shoulders of Spacek and Wilkinson, who were both nominated for Oscars, as well as Tomei (the film was also nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay). Field's film shows pain and anguish, but refuses to answer the questions we have on how to handle it.
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Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
I may be in the minority, but I still think this is the best of Peter Jackson's trilogy, mostly because it focuses more on the characters themselves, as opposed to the quest. You know the story: a band of travelers are sent on a journey to Mount Mordor to destroy the "one ring" so that the dark lord Sauron may lose control of Middle Earth. Starring a bevy of solid performers, including Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, and Viggo Mortensen, Fellowship of the Ring sets the stage for one of the most epic trilogies we may ever see. If you need me to explain more, then you were probably living under a rock for the last ten years. Or you are, in fact, ten years old. Even then, you've probably seen the films.
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MementoThe world was widely introduced to a young auteur named Christopher Nolan with Memento, a thriller starring Guy Pearce as a man suffering from short-term memory loss. Using notes he finds and tattoos, he makes it his mission to find out what happened to his wife, only to lead him to shocking results. Also starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, Nolan's second film uses broken narrative and film noir techniques to build a crazy, but fascinating mystery that broke new ground in terms of filmmaking, spawning countless imitators. Though many may try, none may ever match this independent gem that, while it may be a far cry from the blockbuster films Nolan makes now, Memento still may stand as his best.
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Mulholland Dr.Don't misinterpret this as a pretentious pick, though I would never tell myself that I love this David Lynch acid trip of a film. But, while I (and most others) still may be baffled by what exactly happened in Mulholland Dr., it has imprinted itself so deeply in my psyche that I can't ignore it. After all, a well-made film is supposed to do that, right? Centering around a young woman recovering from amnesia, this dream-fueled film set in Los Angeles starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring is the mother of all head-scratchers. Like I said, I can't entirely explain what it's about, but something about the film grabs a hold of your mind and twists it into a knot. The imagery is unforgettable, the plot is non-discernible, and David Lynch once again proves that he is a master of cinematic psychosis.
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Spirited AwayJapanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 masterpiece Spirited Away still stands as one of the greatest animated films ever made (that includes American animation, too). The story of a ten year old girl who wanders off from her family's new home in country and enters a fantastical world is visually stunning and surprisingly heartfelt. After Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs, she must venture into a fantasy world were animals become humans (and vice versa), witches rules, and she is forced to do slave labor at a bathhouse filled with mystical creatures. An unbelievably beautiful film about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself, Spirited Away is a coming-of-age story of the most sublime animation you may ever see.
Eleven years ago, this country was changed forever. Thankfully, we also have a laundry list of great films that came out in one of America's darkest hours to look back on fondly.
Other 2001 Films of Note
Black Hawk Down
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Royal Tenenbaums
Critically Acclaimed 2001 Films I Haven't Seen
Y Tu Mama Tambien