Friday, March 10, 2017

Best of the Best: 2000

This poster would be perfect without their faces.

Year: 2000
Movie: Unbreakable
Game: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Album: Demons & Wizards by Demons and Wizards
Song: Do Not Resuscitate by Testament (or 3 Days in Darkness by Testament) put it mildly, 2000 was an interesting year. It was the turn of the millennium. There was a big "Y2K" scare trumped up by news outlets and various businesses, making people think that some sort of glitch in computers' dating systems, was going to cause the entire modern world to just crash. Spoilers, that didn't happen. I even remember gathering some friends together that New Years' Eve ('99), so that we'd be together just in case shit went down, and then it didn't. It was another NYE just like any other. 2000 was the last half of my senior year of high school. I took my first couple of college classes to finish out credits I needed to graduate. I briefly worked my first (and only) fast food job that summer. I went to my first real concert (not just a local band), to see Anthrax and Megadeth live. I started the first chapter in my post-high-school, technically adult life. I started my first full college semester in the fall. Oh yeah, I also had my first real girlfriend. And that turned into a mess all it's own that is better not gotten into. I briefly gained an old friend back, lost a couple others. It was a very up and down year, that, due to said girlfriend, put simply, didn't end well.

BUT, as ever, there was always various mediums of entertainment there for me. On the film front, 2000 was actually still a pretty solid year for movies. I still went to see many. Though I for some reason also quite possible racked up a lifetime high score for most shitty movies I've ever bothered to see in theater in a single year. Movies such as Scream 3, Hollow Man, The Cell, What Lies Beneath, two very "MEH" films about missions to Mars, Leonardo DiCaprio's The Beach, Final Destination, etc. I suppose I should have known not to go see most of those crap-tacular horror films. I also saw Battlefield Earth, which while not GREAT, I surprisingly didn't hate as much as most seemed to.

Don Bluth's Last film for many, many years.

On the GOOD movie front, there was a lot to like. There were dumb but fun movies like Little Nicky, Dude Where's My Car?, The 6th Day and Ready to Rumble. There were some great martial arts/action films, like Romeo Must Die and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the latter of which I was really blown away by. I went to see it multiple times. It was full of not only amazing fight scenes, but also a gorgeous, haunting soundtrack, beautiful visuals, and deep philosophy. That one was honestly a very close runner-up for my "movie of 2000". There were other really strong films, like the Dennis Quaid film Frequency, and of course the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator. 2000 also marked the last year, as seen above, that a Don Bluth directed film would come out in theaters. He had a grand, epic concept, and wanted to do a serious, science fiction animated film, and in all honesty, it was pretty good, but as Hollywood is often wont to do, it was terribly mis-marketed, and thus really failed to find a big audience. The financial failure of the film caused Bluth, arguably the greatest animation director of all time (this side of Walt Disney and Hayao Miyazaki, of course), to tap out, and got out of the film business, which made me very sad.

But, as already long since spoiled by the first image of this article, while there were a few very strong candidates to consider, my "Movie of 2000", hands-down, was M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable. I had already become a fan of Night's work, as many did, due to his big hit from the previous year, The Sixth Sense. But this movie, for me, topped that one in every way. His strength as a director, to me, was obviously smaller scale stories, based strongly around character growth. He unfortunately became known for "twists" in his movies, to the point that people expected them, and got disappointed when some of his later films stopped having them, as if he was obligated to continue the same trick over and over. Some of his most recent films, also sadly, have not been up to par, mainly, I feel, because of his attempt to do bigger budget, large-scale "Hollywood" style pictures. I think he's still a great director, or can be, he just needs to scale it back down, and get back to the style of films he was best at. But to me, for my movie-going dollar, Unbreakable represents him at his very best. A heartfelt, even heart-rending story about an ordinary man, experiencing marriage and family troubles, unsure and unfulfilled with his place in life, a very strong drama all around, but wrapped in a wonderfully powerful and haunting "real life" look at the metaphors and themes found in superhero comic books. The movie addressed the core essence of comics so well, I thought, and even the "twist" at the end, to me, was more powerful on a narrative level, than any other he has done. This was his finest work, it remains my favorite film of his, and honestly, I'd probably put it somewhere in my Top 30 or 40 films of all time, easily. And trust me, that's a tough list to suss out.

Not amazing, but very fun.

Moving away from movies, on the games front, 2000 was far less prolific. At least to me. As mentioned before, I did not own a Playstation, nor a Sega Dreamcast. Though at one point I had intended to try and get a Dreamcast, which would have been the only Sega system I had ever owned at that point. But then the really neat looking 3D Castlevania game that had been in development for it got cancelled, and my interest in owning one eventually waned. Which is just as well, because, alas, Sega was not long for this world as a console maker (the officially gave up on the Dreamcast in 2001, after less than 3 years of being on the market, and went "third party", which led to the insanity of seeing Sega games on Nintendo consoles). The newest system I owned was just the Nintendo 64, and by 2000, there really weren't that many great games coming out for it anymore. At least to me. I was not into Banjo-Tooie (one of the worst game titles of all time), nor Zelda: Majora's Mask (I tried, but seriously, fuck that resetting-time mechanic). There were neat titles like Mickey's Speedway USA, WWF No Mercy and Paper Mario. Perfect Dark was okay, but the main thing I liked about Goldeneye 007 wasn't the single player, but rather playing the multiplayer with my friends. PD had the opposite thing going on, where the single player was more interesting, but the multiplayer, at least to me, wasn't as good.

So the game I picked as my GOTY for 2000, was HAL Laboratory's Kirby 64. It was the first "3D" Kirby, or rather, the first to feature polygonal graphics, instead of 2D sprites. That was a trend that everything in that PS1/N64 generation followed, which made me very sad as a gamer, because they had barely begun to scratch the surface of just how impressive 2D gaming could be, when most companies suddenly abandoned it for the new craze of polygons and "3D" gameplay. Kirby on N64 however was kind of a compromise, because it featured (for the time) fairly impressive 3D graphics, but gameplay that was for the most part still very much traditional 2D Kirby fare. The game featured a new element in the ability to "fuse" two different powers, to make additional powers. Not really revolutionary, but a neat added wrinkle to the design. I think the game was a tad short, it could have used at least one more world. But all in all, I still had a lot of fun with it, so it was likely my fav. game from that year.

Still like this cover.

So, now that I've gone and talked about the Year 2000 far more than I had intended to, I guess I'll wrap it up by talking a bit about music. There weren't an over-abundance of new albums that year that I really loved. Metallica dropped a new song for the fifth year in a row, "I Disappear", which was featured in the credits of Mission Impossible 2. Green Day came out with their new album "Warning", which I bought and liked, and it had some very good songs on it, though I didn't love it as much as the previous album "Nimrod". I had gotten into the group Apocalyptica back in 1998, which is a Finnish quartet of cello players, who originally got famous covering Metallica songs as instrumental cello versions, which is how I came to know them. They too put out a new album, "Cult", in 2000, and it had some good music on it, featuring for the first time mostly new original works by the band themselves. But when it comes to "best album of the year", for me, it was "Demons & Wizards". D&W was a side project that I had been highly anticipating, a collaboration between the prime players of two of my new favorite bands of the time, Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. To be specific, it featured the lead songwriter and guitarist of IE Jon Schaffer, and the lead singer of BG Hansi Kurch. It was a really great combo, for my money, and featured some really strong songs, including the explosive album opener "Heaven Denies".

As for song of the year.....well, I was listening to a lot of stuff around then, but one that I listened to a lot, both because I liked it, and also because I was by varying degrees at times in a very dark mindset, listening to the '99 Testament album "The Gathering". It had many strong, dark, angry songs that fit that mood, but the two songs that really "spoke" to me, were "Do Not Resuscitate" and "3 Days in Darkness". The first dealt with, as you might imagine, life becoming too much to bear, and just wanting out. A feeling and mindset I'm sad to say that I've been able to relate too far too many times in my life. The second, about the infamous "Mayan Calendar" prediction that the world would end in the year 2012, complete with a really bad ass instrumental outro that really did sound like the world was ending. So yeah. There's that. All in all, 2000 was another major year for me as a person, and in many ways, much like 1995, was a milestone year, because once again, my life would never be the same afterwards.

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