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by Michael Joshua Rowin
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke foresaw 2001 as an epochal historical moment that would bring about a new era of human ambition, technological advancement, and superhuman vision. While these two geniuses of their respective mediums failed to correctly predict the details, they were dead-on about the year as a landmark of profound and irrevocable change on the world stage, the arts, and in our very way of seeing and understanding reality. How apt, then, that Kubrick's brainchild, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, would be 2001's most profound and disturbing odyssey, fittingly experienced through the eyes of a robotic boy. As written and directed by Steven Speilberg—that towering icon of all that is excessive, arrested, commercial, and every so often transcendent and awe-inspiring about Hollywood filmmaking—A.I. fashioned Kubrick's dark myth about the destiny of human life in the electronic era into a chilling epic of seamlessly opulent special effects and disarming primal emotions. In the same year that further cemented the loud but empty blockbuster as a permanent benefactor of marketing over image-making, A.I. proved that spectacle and fantasy need not be complacent and coddling but personal, elegiac, philosophical, and subversive.
On the other side of the American film industry, iconoclastic art film legend David Lynch's hall of mirrors masterpiece Mulholland Dr. also welcomed in the millennium by self-reflexively dismantling genre expectations, transforming the Hollywood-set noir into a mysterious and noirish Hollywood set by masterfully unfolding an astounding series of temporal dislocations, narrative inversions, and raw nightmares of malformed identity and desire. Drawing upon film history while almost completely rewriting it, Lynch announced that while America's inoculating dream factory would likely continue its dominance over the imagination, at least someone (along with him: Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson, Wong Kar Wai) would be there to reorder and reevaluate what it can, and should, do.
Our senior film writers offer more thoughts on the decade at the movies, one year at a time.
Dec 31, 2009
In the first half of a two-part video essay on the decade at the movies, we return to the not-so-halcyon years 2000-2004. Plus, year-in-review snapshots from our senior film writers.
Dec 30, 2009