Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI's director and chief executive officer,
said the significant moments highlighted by the AFI jury reflected the
impact of culture, politics and commerce on the art of film and received
vigorous debate by panelists.
"I don't think anyone on the jury had ever thought about this before,"
Firstenberg recalled. "It was a very rich discussion--they engaged in a
very animated way."
She also acknowledged there was spirited discussion over which were
the top films of 2000, but in the end felt satisfied that the selections
represented a far-ranging cross section of genres, from sprawling
spectacles with cutting-edge technology to biting satire to riveting,
The selections marked the first time that the institute, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to preserving and honoring excellence in the
moving image, has entered the highly charged arena of selecting best
films of any given year.
The other films named to the AFI's Top 10 list included, in
alphabetical order, Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous," Julian Schnabel's
"Before Night Falls," Christopher Guest's "Best in Show," Ridley Scott's
"Gladiator," Stephen Frears' "High Fidelity," Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem
for a Dream," Curtis Hanson's "Wonder Boys" and Kenneth Lonergan's "You
Can Count on Me."
Firstenberg noted that the list embraces not only serious dramas, but
also comedies and spectacles. In the future, she added, the list could
very well include animation.
Firstenberg said that highly acclaimed films like "Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon" and "Billy Elliot" were not considered by the panel
because they did not fit the definition of being predominantly
American-made productions. Also missing were notable films like "Cast
Away," starring Tom Hanks, and "Thirteen Days," starring Kevin Costner,
but Firstenberg said that with about 250 films in competition, the jury
naturally had to drop some worthwhile movies.
Through these choices, the AFI hopes not only to honor the filmmaking
teams that collaborated on making these movies but also encourage the
public to see the films.
"That is the foremost objective--for people to say, 'I missed that
movie. I should go back and see it,' " Firstenberg said.
The Top 10 list and the five significant moments will allow the AFI to
compile a year-by-year chronicle that will eventually serve as a living
historical document of our times as they relate to the world of film.
The jury found, for example, that the proposed Time Warner-AOL merger
was "the business story of the year," in which a new-media giant agreed
to buy the world's largest traditional media company. The jury noted that
the planned marriage of Time Warner and America Online "marked the moment
when it became possible for the digital revolution to reach the masses--a
positive for the future that, nevertheless, for some raised concerns of
monopoly and cultural homogenization."
Also deemed noteworthy was the day last fall when studio chiefs and
studio marketing executives were called before Congress.
"In response to the Federal Trade Commission that cited movie studios,
video game makers and the music industry as marketing violent
entertainment to children under 17, senior executives from eight major
movie studios . . . testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on
Sept. 27, 2000. It was the first time that studio executives had been
called before Congress to defend the marketing of their films."
The AFI jury consisted of producer Tom Pollock, who chairs the AFI
board of directors; Newsweek film critic David Ansen; Wesleyan University
film scholar Jeanine Basinger; director and AFI trustee Bill Duke; film
preservationist-historian James C. Katz; Washington Post film critic Rita
Kempley; filmmaker, writer, producer and AFI trustee Michael Nesmith, who
starred in the 1960s TV series "The Monkees"; University of Texas film
scholar Thomas G. Schatz; UCLA film professor and AFI trustee Vivian
Sobchack; Anne Thompson, West Coast editor of Premiere magazine;
Oscar-winning producer Saul Zaentz ("The English Patient"); and
Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List").
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American Film Institute's Movies of the Year
(Films are listed in alphabetical order)
"Almost Famous"--The AFI jury said Cameron Crowe "directs with an
uncommon attention to detail of time, place and character, capturing how
deeply music affects us."
"Before Night Falls"--Panelists praised director Julian Schnabel for
his "sensual, lyrical and searing memorial to the late Cuban novelist and
poet Reinaldo Arenas," calling the biographical film a "moving testament
to artistic and sexual freedom."
"Best in Show"--With this film, the AFI jury said, Christopher Guest
and the ensemble cast "elevate the mock-documentary to new artistic
heights," adding that the film "raises comedy to the level of insight and
weaves a seamless narrative fabric from actors' improvisation around a
"Erin Brockovich"--Calling it a "finely crafted studio picture," the
AFI jury said Steven Soderbergh's film "goes beyond the familiar with
humor, texture and a fine attention to detail--an increasingly rare
"Gladiator"--This Ridley Scott film updates the traditional American
genre--the epic costume film--through cutting-edge technology, the AFI
jury stated, giving audiences "a new kind of spectacle for the new
"High Fidelity"--The jury said Stephen Frears' offbeat odyssey about a
thirtysomething record-store owner who knows everything about pop music
but nothing about life "effortlessly breaks the fourth wall and, rather
than shoe-horning its quirky characters into a tidy resolution, chooses a
"Requiem for a Dream"--The jury said Darren Aronofsky takes no
prisoners in his harrowing second film, "utilizing the language of cinema
to startling film effect" and condensing information through "multiple
points-of-view and propulsive editing."
"Traffic"--Soderbergh balances a complex narrative structure that
includes three separate stories and multiple outstanding performances,
the jury stated. The film "moves with clarity, space and intelligence
through a broad strata of American and Mexican society in this
uncompromising tale about the never-ending fight to win a war against
"Wonder Boys"--Calling it a "sophisticated, beautifully-written comedy
of manners," the jury said director Curtis Hanson displays "a sure
comic-satiric touch and draws remarkable performances from his ensemble,
particularly Michael Douglas" in this melancholy and funny
"You Can Count on Me"--Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan "surprises
time and again with his affecting story of a complicated, funny and
emotional sister/brother relationship," the jury stated, creating
heartbreaking characters in this underexplored thematic territory.