In an annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year.
THE BEST OF THE REST OF 2001
Because of 9/11, remembering where I was in 2001 is easy. I was in my first ever year of elementary teaching after graduating from Saint Joseph’s College. I was in over my head for sure, but I figured teaching out as the years went on. As far as movies went, 2001 was the first year in about six that I didn’t write any kind of review in some capacity after two years of newspaper work in high school and four in college.
I had to grow up and be a career-minded adult. In 2001, I reverted back to being a just another fan. I wouldn’t write another review for nine years until starting Every Movie Has a Lesson. Looking back at many of these movies from 2001 (and beyond), I really wish I could have wrote about them in the moment. That would have been fun. I already charted by Top 20 from 2001. Here’s the best of the rest in different categories.
Shrek, The Mummy Returns, Rush Hour 2, Behind Enemy Lines
The then-revolutionary joke-fest that was Shrek missed my Top 20 by a coin toss with Legally Blonde. The references are dated today, but the effort and comedy is always appreciated. The two sequels here count as two cases of sequels that expand on the original thanks bigger budgets granted by success. As a pro wrestling fan in college, the appearance of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sold The Mummy Returns with ease. I never knew then (and still can’t believe it now) that Owen Wilson had the action bone in him that he did for Behind Enemy Lines.
Life as a House, The Tailor of Panama, Driven, *61, The Anniversary Party, Sexy Beast, Baby Boy, Made, The Score, Hardball
I remember Hardball being the first movie I saw after 9/11 and it was a soothing balm thanks to a ton of heart from Keanu Reeves. Sure, Life as a House can be sappy, yet that’s always my wheelhouse. Kevin Kline can do know wrong and carries Hayden Christensen through a very nice performance. I love how Pierce Brosnan is the anti-Bond in the intriguing and saucy The Tailor of Panama. In an era where Sly Stallone was overplaying his age in wild action, there’s a tautness to Driven I always liked above its Rotten Tomatoes score. The Anniversary Party (written and directed by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming) and Sexy Beast (where I discovered Ray Winstone and learned new love for Ben Kingsley) are two indies that struggled to get made then and would get lost more today. *61 counts more as a cable movie, but it’s a solid and non-sugarcoated baseball movie from Billy Crystal.
Evolution, Swordfish, Cats & Dogs, Jurassic Park III, American Pie 2, Summer Catch, Shallow Hal, Not Another Teen Movie, Pearl Harbor, Original Sin
When people ask me for blind spot comedy that’s just good, dumb fun, Ivan Reitman’s dopey and hilarious Evolution is always near the top of the list. Other than talking raptors, I don’t mind the entertainment value of Jurassic Park III. Sam Neill always makes it better. Shallow Hal makes the list because it’s the only place in a movie where I’ve seen my last name of “Shanahan” in a movie character. The unconventional rom-com ain’t bad either. I’m stepping forward also as a defender of Pearl Harbor. Yes, it’s way too much Michael Bay melodrama, but the spectacle sure dazzled me.
With light apology, the other theme in these listed guilty pleasures is hot chicks. I’m sorry, but those turned the head of 22-year-old me and little has changed at 42. The problematic-ness of American Pie doesn’t bother me and the jokes of Not Another Teen Movie work to lampoon that too. I’ll always jump to an thriller with erotic flavor, so Original Sin and, to a lesser degree, Swordfish, play (and pause) for me just fine.
Mulholland Drive, In the Bedroom, Moulin Rouge, Sweet November, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Ghost World, Wet Hot American Summer, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, K-PAX, The Man Who Wasn’t There
I can hear my highfalutin peers already after the first chapter of this retrospective when I didn’t rank or name David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The movie went over my head then and I fear it would still go over my head now. Still, it’s legacy of high respect calls for a rewatch (and probably an interpreter) someday. The same goes for never being much of a Coen brothers fan for The Man Who Wasn’t There. Likewise, the maturity of Ghost World and In the Bedroom were before my time in 2001. I owe those two another chance with renewed eyes.
The others listed for rewatches are more for second chances to see if they still hold up or if I dislike them less. Moulin Rouge was a loud barrage of nails on a chalkboard for me back then. I bet it would play better for me now. As time has gone by, I respect the cult following that has come to Wet Hot American Summer. I need to look again at what the fuss is about, because it missed me then. Lastly, as a romantic drama fan, I want to see if Sweet November and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin improve or shrink.
Donnie Darko, The Others, Dinner with Friends, Jeepers Creepers, Rock Star, Joy Ride, Waking Life, Sidewalks of New York, Iris, Gosford Park
The big glaring personal miss here is Donnie Darko. It wasn’t my cup of tea then and I need to fix that now. I think it’ll go over well. As many of my loyal readers now, I’m not a horror guy and never have been. Those kinds of things always get skipped, but I should circle around to the ones like The Others and Jeepers Creepers, that have stood their two-decade test of time. I’m a Mark Wahlberg hater, so I don’t have high hopes for the 9/11-sunk Rock Star. However, I am a Richard Linklater guy where Waking Life feels like a must. Iris was an Oscar winner for Jim Broadbent, where I should bow to that altar.
Hannibal, Blow, Joe Dirt, The Princess Diaries, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Zoolander, Serendipity, The Royal Tenenbaums, Kate & Leopold
This is the section where I’ll be a jerk about things that other people dig that I don’t. Wes Anderson movies are love-and-hate for me. I could probably put The Royal Tenenbaums on the rewatch list. Instead, it can sit here for now. I’ll grant the success of the likes of Joe Dirt, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Zoolander, but my taste in the comedy genre has changed more than anything else in 20 years. Normally, I’m a rom-com fan, but I find Serendipity and Kte and Leopold to be absolute messes and the kind of over-loved romantic comedies that create unattainable romantic expectations in real life. The jaw-dropping Hannibal was polarizing then and still is now.
Planet of the Apes, The Mexican, The Million Dollar Hotel, The Wedding Planner, Saving Silverman, Say It Isn’t So, Tomcats, Along Came a Spider, Freddy Got Fingered, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Town & Country, Doctor Dolittle 2, Pootie Tang, Rat Race, Bubble Boy, Corky Romano, Black Knight, Out Cold, The Wash, and many more.
As with any year, there’s always plenty of bad movies. 2001 had some all-time duds like Freddy Got Fingered, Pootie Tang, Doctor Dolitte 2, and Corky Romano. Boy, they sure tried to make every TV funnyman or Saturday Night Live cast member stud a movie star. It’s a wonder Will Ferrell survived because David Space, Martin Lawrence, Tom Green, Chris Kattan, and, for a time, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy sure didn’t.
My Cinephile Hissy Fit podcast partner Will Johnson tried to sell me on the value of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. I wouldn’t have it. That massive blockbuster dud and the Kiss the Girls follow-up Along Came a Spider count as my largest personal disappointments from 2001.