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January 2, 2004


Top 10 Movies of 2003

Actually, there are 11 movies on the list (I had 9 in 2002, and 11 again in 2001. Obviously I am a wild, independent spirit that cannot be bound by the establishment's arbitrary rules.) 2003 wasn?t an especially knockout year for movies, but since there was a decent number of good ones, I thought I?d leave them all in.

Last year's list is here (bottom of the post); 2001's is here.

So here you go: Amy's Robot's Top 10 Movies of 2003:

Lost in Translation
Though it was probably over-hyped, no other movie this year prompted me to go back to the theater a week after my first viewing to watch it again. More atmospheric than anything else, this movie creates a sense of gentle melancholy and isolation, then offers hope in the form of unexpected personal connections. The two stars, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are both better than ever, which is a bigger deal for Bill Murray, but still. This movie also contains my favorite moment in any movie this year: the end of the karaoke scene cutting straight into the taxi ride home, with the moon shining over the bridges in Tokyo, and ?Sometimes? by My Bloody Valentine on the soundtrack. A sweet movie about feeling alone and alienated that was still often hilarious. Sofia Coppola got a lot of praise, but probably deserves even more recognition as a director with a great sense for comedy.

X-Men 2
The first one was a good set-up, but the sequel blew it out of the water: this one had better character development, amazing supporting characters (Brian Cox, Alan Cumming), some great details like the coming-out of Iceman and Magneto?s neat plastic prison, and more fleshed-out themes of self-actualization and sacrifice. The transformation of Dr. Jean Grey and her Phoenix powers was one of the best uses of a character this year. I can?t wait for Number 3, but it looks like we?ve got two more years to wait.

Kill Bill, Vol. 1
The most beautiful martial arts movie I?ve ever seen. All of Tarantino?s films to date have relied more on style than substance, but this movie was so freaking stylish that its total sense of coolness actually became substantive. Does anyone love movies more than Quentin Tarantino? I don?t think so. Unfortunately, the cutting of the single, long ?Kill Bill? movie into two segments killed the momentum that was building nicely through the first part. I also love the way The Bride seems to embody some element of each villain she kills?on February 20, we?ll find out if that trend continues in Volume 2.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
This series has set the new standard for great epic adventure movies. The battle scenes are, of course, wonderful, but there are some especially beautiful moments in this last installment too, like the aerial shots of the lighting of the alert fires along the mountaintops. And who can resist a bunch of hobbits bouncing around on a bed together? It?s good to have a mainstream movie where straight men can express their love for each other.

American Splendor
The best thing about this movie was all the jokes. Considering that Harvey Pekar is a cynical old humbug, frustrated with the world, the movie about his life was surprisingly hopeful and very funny. Everyone loved the creative structure and casting decisions, like having the real Pekar narrate the action of actor-Pekar (Paul Giamatti), but I was most impressed by the celebration of overt weirdness and all the peculiarities that make the people in Harvey Pekar?s world so compelling.

The Pirates of the Caribbean
No one expected this movie, based on a Disney World ride, and over two-and-a-half hours long, would be as awesome as it is. While there were some good performances and cool effects, there?s really only one reason I loved this movie: JOHNNY DEPP. A punked-out drag queen of a pirate, Johnny Depp was fascinating and hilarious, and actually out-hammed Geoffrey Rush. Also impressive was the use of every single pirate cliché ´hat there is.

In America
I am aware of how sentimental and mushy this movie sometimes is, and of all the glaring inconsistencies in time and place (especially in that first scene when the family drives through Times Square?but Jim Sheridan has said in interviews that these were intentional. Hm.) There were a few sloppy scenes that missed the mark and could have been cut. It?s saved by strong acting (especially the luminous and gutsy Samantha Morton) and a sense of familial tenderness and emotional sincerity.

There?s nothing as good as a really, really good documentary. The kids who go to the National Spelling Bee and their families make for a tightly constructed, incredibly tense and exciting story. Sometimes, just observing everyday people who are passionate about something, and noticing how different people can be from each other, makes for an amazing movie.

21 Grams
It?s intense and harrowing and dramatic, but what I particularly loved about this movie was what many critics didn?t like: the structure. When events in a movie are revealed out of order, the chronologically early events that are shown late in the movie have a sense of poignancy and wistfulness that they wouldn?t otherwise have. Another movie that makes great use of this is ?Betrayal,? which is told backwards. ?21 Grams? also has some of the best performances of the year, especially Naomi Watts, who goes through a character transformation as impressive as she did in ?Mulholland Drive.?

The Company
?The Company? is Robert Altman?s new movie about dancers in the Joffrey Ballet Company, that many fans of Robert Altman and film-types in general still haven?t heard much about. What?s great about this movie is the way it follow characters through different events and segments of their lives, and flows evenly from one moment to the next, from dancing to second job to boyfriend to family to home to Elvis Costello on the stereo. Successes and failures are all taken in stride, much as they are in real life. As far as I can tell, this movie is about all that goes into the artistic process: the overbearing artistic director, the hard-working dancers, the music, the wacky choreographers, and, most impressively, the violent storm that whips through the park as the dancers are performing outside. It?s an imperfect process, but its flaws are what make it great, just they are in the song that is repeated four times in the movie, ?My Funny Valentine.?

Freaky Friday
The best female performance of the year, no question, is Jamie Lee Curtis in ?Freaky Friday.? The mother-daughter dynamics are well-informed, and the ending is sweet and generous. Yes, it?s throwaway and fluffy, and totally predictable, but the movie is so warm and outrageous and hilarious that it just made it onto the list. The most energetic movie of the year, along with "School of Rock." -amy

I agree with Amy that this was a dismal year for movies. When crappy old Mystic River is being called "a masterpiece," you know something is wrong. Anyway, here's my list:

10. Nothing
9. X-2. Maybe the most layered super hero movie ever. Everything the Hulk was supposed to be, and wasn't. [original review]
8. Nothing
7. Nothing
6. Kill Bill. Would've been #1 if stupid-ass Weinstein hadn't made Quentin chop it into two pieces. Worst movie decision of the year, maybe the last 10 years. [original review]
5. Nothing
4. Nothing
3. Nothing
2. Nothing
1. Nothing

I liked School of Rock and Freaky Friday, but not enough to put them on any top 10 list. -adm

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 4:50 PM | #