Top 10 Movies of 2003
Most movie critics might say 2003 wasnít a terribly
good year for cinema, but Iím not most movie critics. 2003 was
a stupendous year for me. Usually I have to wait until the fall
to get to the great stuff, but I was satiated early with the likes
Pages from a Virginís Diary, Raising Victor Vargas and
Speaking of Spellbound, it was one of
the best years for documentaries ever. Along with Spellbound, my
include Fog of War, My Architect and Winged Migration.
I was cooler on Capturing the Friedmans and Bus 174,
but both documentaries are among the most critically lauded fiction
or nonfiction films
of the year. And I havenít even seen The Revolution Will Not
Be Televised, Stevie or The Weather Underground.
was a year of surprises. There was Pirates of the Caribbean,
a Jerry Bruckheimer movie that didnít suck, and Shanghai Knights,
a sequel vastly superior to the original (though both Matrix sequels
blew chunks). What
wasnít a surprise is that Miramax continued to keep terrific movies
locked away in their vault. They threatened to release both Shaolin
Soccer and Hero, but neither ultimately made it into
It was a terrific year for family films. Pixar
may be a tad overrated, but they consistently put out quality work.
year, they gave us Finding
Nemo, one of their better efforts, thanks in no small part
to a surprisingly good Ellen DeGeneres. Indie filmmaker Richard
outî in a good way in making a boisterous Jack Black vehicle, School
of Rock. Will Ferrell stood out in Elf, and while not
ostensibly family fare, Spellbound should be seen by the
whole family. One anti-family film deserves mention here — Terry
Zwigoffís Bad Santa,
which skewers all conventional Christmas fare.
And so: here are my favorite 10 movies commercially
released in the United States in the 2003 calendar year.
1. The Lord of the Rings — The Return of
Realized with greater panache and visual fidelity than could ever be imagined,
this is a case in which the movie is better than the book.
in Translation. Capturing all
the romantic angst of two lonely-heart Americans in Tokyo, Sofia
is observant and bittersweet. Bill Murray and
Scarlett Johansson deserve any and all plaudits they get during
Victor Vargas. The best pure romantic comedy to come along
in a long while, Raising Victor Vargas is tender and perceptive.
It also happens to be director Peter Sollettís first feature. American
independent film is not dead yet.
Who knew a spelling bee could be this edge-of-the-seat
not to mention
laugh-out-loud hilarious? Everyone has to have a favorite
kid to root for. Mine was poor, insecure April.
Pages from a Virgin’s Diary.
As good as any of the silent films Guy Maddin pays homage to; maybe even better.
Also, Gustav Mahler rocks.
Gate Crossing. A love triangle with a lesbian twist presented with
quiet beauty. With just this film, Yee Chin-Yen becomes Taiwanís most promising filmmaker.
Fog of War. This gets the inadvertently pertinent award.
Errol Morris began this project shortly before 9/11, but his documentary
on Robert McNamara could hardly be more timely.
Hong Kong action returns with all the incredulous stunts, eye-popping
and heady emotional melodrama that comes with the territory.
Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao and Karen Mok are the sexy trio who make Charlieís
Angels look like rank amateurs.
If youíve ever found yourself alienated in a foreign country and then found camaraderie
in peers you met there, you will recognize yourself in this
movie. And if you like Barcelona, this becomes a must-see.
Glass. Wow, Hayden Christensen can act! We already knew
Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny and Melanie Lynsky could. The movie
is a bit too
but in a year of Jayson Blair and the news media simply not being up
Glass is strikingly poignant.
Honorable mention goes to Shanghai
Knights, Elephant, Bad Santa, The Son, Elf, X2, Pistol
School of Rock, Mystic River and Finding