Best Cinema 2000

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If Academy members were limited to Hollywood fare when filling out their ballots for the Best Picture of 2000, they might enter NONE OF THE ABOVE. It was that kind of year for mainstream films. Oh, some made money (Mission this, Perfect that), but few were as persuasive as their marketing campaigns. Comedy was often black guys in fat-woman drag, and you couldn't find an action film with a brain unless it starred Russell Crowe. So we looked elsewhere for our 10 Best. Honestly, we like a good Hollywood movie, and when we find one, we'll tell you. But there are wonderful films made all over: in Asia, Europe and independent America. Next time, check out a film like the ones here. The most satisfying movie adventure can be in choosing a film you never knew you'd love.

1 CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON In Ang Lee's martial-arts enthraller, two mature warriors (Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) are challenged and imperiled by a willful young beauty (Zhang Ziyi). A lovely melancholy anchors the buoyant fight scenes that exceed expectations even as they defy gravity. The result — magic, not trickery — should leave the viewer gasping, for breath and in awe.

2 YOU CAN COUNT ON ME A roughneck wanderer (Mark Ruffalo) drops in on his staid, small-town sister (Laura Linney) and incidentally makes a man of her overprotected son. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's film is a rueful, truthful study of heartland heartache.

3 GEORGE WASHINGTON Poor kids in rural North Carolina face a drab life and sudden death with varying degrees of grown-up perplexity, anger and idealism. From these convulsions of preadolescent yearning, auteur David Gordon Green, 25, weaves a rich, rapturous tapestry of images and emotions.

4 SUNSHINE Three generations of a Hungarian-Jewish family endure 20th-century tyrannies: imperialism, Nazism, Stalinism. Ralph Fiennes plays all three central victims in director Istvan Szabo's vast yet intimate tale of failed compromises, grim diminishments, brutal loss.

5 CHICKEN RUN "'The Great Escape' — with feathers" is how co-director Nick Park described this nifty comedy-adventure about a heroine hen spurring her balky brood to freedom. A triumph of stop-motion animation and a hymn to plucky sisterhood.

6 BEST IN SHOW Patient doggies and their frenzied owners compete for a top kennel-club prize in this wicked but unpatronizing comedy. Improvised by a maniacally alert cast under the supervision of director Christopher Guest, it is the year's most original and delirious laff riot.

7 THE COLOR OF PARADISE A blind boy with a consuming love of nature struggles to love a father who is blind to his son's gift for wonder. Majid Majidi's Iranian drama has enough incident for an action movie and the soul of a child who is himself a glorious force of nature.

8 NURSE BETTY Addled by her husband's vicious murder, a waitress (Renee Zellweger) hits the road for L.A. to embrace a more pleasing life inside her favorite soap opera. Director Neil LaBute's film is a hilarious, oddly touching meditation on fantasy and reality in media-mad America.

9 PROOF OF LIFE Isn't the phrase "intelligent thriller" an oxymoron? Not this season: a political-ransom action movie can also be a complex romantic triangle, with Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan and David Morse all excellent. It's 'Casablanca' with firepower.

10 EAST-WEST After World War II, a Russian-born doctor and his French wife accept an invitation to help rebuild the USSR — and enter into decades of police-state agony. Director Regis Wargnier's film is a great, gray epic of despair and survival.