- Wonder Boys
- Yi Yi (A One And A Two)
- A Time For Drunken Horses
- The Taste Of Others
- In The Mood For Love
- Code Unknown
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Before Night Falls
- You Can Count On Me
After years of playing obnoxious males in the eighties (or the relics of them in the nineties), the great Michael Douglas experienced a wonderful reversal in Curtis Hanson’s excellent followup to his masterpiece L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys. As an English professor with a complicated love life and a bad case of writer’s block, Douglas wanders through the ridiculous comedy of his life observing as his students get themselves into scrapes, while his own attempt to work out his relationship with his married colleague (Frances McDormand) is an immaturity of its own kind. Douglas puts away all the self-righteous fury of past films and gives what is probably his most appealing and sympathetic performance.
It’s actually very rare to see the great Juliette Binoche in a performance that is not award worthy, and in 2000 she gave us two of them: one in which she charms and delights in her breezily beautiful way, and one in which she rivets with her insanely strong dramatic power. Chocolat is a sweet trifle that isn’t for all temperaments (though I enjoy its easy quality), and she gives it a hell of a lot more charisma than it necessarily deserves. It is in Michael Haneke’s Code Unknown that she truly amazes, however, going through scene after scene as a woman who endures living in Paris as a struggling actress while dealing with her relationship troubles as well as the mounting level of intolerance between cultures in the city of lights. It’s one of Haneke’s best films and one of her finest achievements as an actress.
Pretty much every award in this category went to Benicio Del Toro in 2000, playing a Mexican cop living with corruption in Steven Soderbergh’s epic Traffic, and deservedly so. He brings nothing but ecstatic power to his scenes, cajoling tourists with humour while handling crime with a lot of force and very little surprise.
Equally well chosen at the Academy Awards that year was the dark horse winner, Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner in Ed Harris’ excellent biopic Pollock. Harden’s career as a lively and memorable character actress had its best showcase in this film as the wife to the sullen and unreliable artist, who was his first big supporter and champion. When she also becomes the physical embodiment of post-war economic ambivalence (I wanna be a scrappy artist but I wanna have money), the couple are beset by problems that result in her constantly being the more vocal and temperamental of the two. Thanks to the skill that Harden is overwhelmingly gifted with, however, the performance never becomes a shouting marathon and instead she is charismatic, heartbreaking and beautiful throughout.