Nitpicking in Reverse

While there was plenty to criticize about the year's big releases, 2000 shone nonetheless for its subtle surprises

8. Longing Lovers: Waking the Dead and Wonderland (romantic runners-up: The Closer You Get, Beautiful People, East Is East)

It was a great year for love stories, especially unlikely ones like Keith Gordon's solemn, intense portrait of loss, and Michael Winterbottom's blithe romp with lovelorn Londoners. Since this category was unusually rich, do yourself the favor of checking out the lovely honorable mentions.

9. Mortal Missions: Himalaya and Pitch Black

Samuel L. Jackson got the Shaft
Dirck Halstead
Samuel L. Jackson got the Shaft
Samuel L. Jackson got the Shaft
Dirck Halstead
Samuel L. Jackson got the Shaft

Director Eric Valli's powerful mythic journey through the mountains of Nepal bowed last year as an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film. This year, it's received scanty viewings in this country, but it is well worth seeking out. Vin Diesel battling a bunch of yucky aliens may seem more like guilty pleasure, but a surprising morality play twists this quest into a level high above B.

10. Yearning Youths: Almost Famous and Billy Elliot

"Rock stars have kidnapped my son!" declares Frances McDormand in Cameron Crowe's semiautobiographical story of his curiously spent youth as a teenage music critic, and the journey offers more human insight from tour buses and hotel suites than seems possible. Pretty much the year's brightest star, however, was Jamie Bell transforming his little cosmic dancer into a global beacon. Enormous kudos to Stephen Daldry for his fine film.

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