Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Decade in Review: 2003 Top Ten

As you may have noticed, I will not be done with my Decade in Review until sometime into the new year. Hopefully we'll wrap up shortly after the Oscars; You know how distractingly all-consuming the Oscars can be! I hope you'll stay with it even though the rest of the media will move on any second now. They're always in such a rush. No stopping and smelling of the flowers. I've still got to update that "Actors of the Aughts" project for final compilation/statement. For now, let's move on to 2003. What follows is my original top ten list, based on films released in NYC in 2003. If I have anything new to say that'll be in red after the original text.

Special Mentions: The Cremaster Cycle and Angels in America
Most Underappreciated:
Hulk (Ang Lee), In the Cut (Jane Campion), Anything Else (Woody Allen), Charlies Angels: Full Throttle (McG) and Casa De Los Babys (John Sayles)
I stand by all of these but for Anything Else which I don't much care for. I was making lots of excuses for it because I was still hanging on to my fading then favorite writer/director. Now that Woody has recovered some of his lost mojo, I can happily let that one go.
Top Ten Runners Up: The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismaki), Elephant (Gus Van Sant), The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet), and Yossi & Jagger (Eytan Fox) which, if you don't count Return of the King, is the best homo movie of the year!

10 X2: X-Men United (Bryan Singer)
Tacit proof that sequels needn't be creatively dead retreads, inferior duplicates, or worthless blights on the cinemascape. X2 is so assured, exciting, breezy and fun that it is easily twice the film that the original was. Yet, for all of that...for its sheer popcorn enthusiasm, it is deceptively easy to dismiss. Only problem in doing so, though, is that it holds up. Multiple viewings and I'm still not bored. Chalk full of memorable imagery: Nightcrawler's attack, Wolverine's flash memories. Crackling dialogue and campy mutant "coming out" speeches sit comfortably along dead serious pleas for tolerance. Bravura action sequences, Magneto's escape, Wolverine vs. Deathstryke, and of course the attack on the Xavier's School. And that's not to even mention the pleasure of one of the year's best ensembles: Hugh Jackman continues to glow in the spotlight and thrill as Wolverine, that unlikely duo Sir Ian McKellen and Rebecca Romijn Stamos make the year's most deliciously naughty pair, Halle Berry is wisely pushed to the background, and Alan Cumming steps into my favorite X-man's shoes and doesn't disappoint as teleporting blue freak Nightcrawler.

My second or third favorite superhero flick ever. Spider-Man 2 is tops but Superman II is awesome, too. It's always the twos!

09 Peter Pan (P.J. Hogan)
Dec 7th, 2004 marks the the centennial of the first production of J.M. Barrie's play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up and though it may seem shocking to see in print, P.J. Hogan's new film is, I believe, the first major time since that a boy has been cast as the stubborn impish lad. Imagine that! It's the first simple unmistakable sign that director and co-screenwriter P.J. Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) understands the material in a way that others don't, particularly those famed Pan fetishists Steven Spielberg, who dropped the gooey atrocity of Hook on us, and Michael Jackson, who built the Neverland ranch and threatened publicly for years to make his own movie version of the Barrie classic starring: Himself!!! Whatever one can say about Michael Jackson, he was not a boy at the time but a full grown man. No business playing Peter Pan in other words.

So, I found it rather disorienting this Christmas when a faithful rendition of the Barrie work arrived, and most people collectively shrugged. One gets the sense that J.M. Barrie's classic is no longer widely read. That quite possibly and unfortunately, people have replaced the play and book with the watered down Disney animated film as the definitive Pan. (Which is about as accurate a representation as Ariel replacing the original Little Mermaid text.) What a loss. Like the most enduring fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, the actual story of Peter Pan is full of difficult truth, rough edges, and adult subtext. They're all here in this enchanting film.

Hogan's new Pan movie boasts the best Wendy performance I can recall (courtesy of the young and obviously talented Rachel Hurd Wood), the nastiest --and therefore most accurate -- Tinkerbell you'll ever see (mimed to fine effect by French hottie Ludivine Sagnier), and terrific cinematography courtesy of Donald McAlpine (Moulin Rouge!). Oh, the cleverness of this production. Perhaps this year's upcoming J.M. Barrie biopic, starring the great Johnny Depp, will remind folks of Pan's classic status, and turn people back to this unduly dismissed film.

Unfortunately the JM Barrie biopic that followed (Finding Neverland) was a dull snoozer. It did nothing for the reputation of this still undervalued family film.

08 The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand)
Though I have yet to see The Decline of the American Empire, writer/director Denys Arcand's sequel to that 80s international hit felt like a family reunion nonetheless. It's not entirely pleasant, of course. Neither are family reunions. As critics have remarked, some of the characters are nearly monstrous in their selfishness, egotism and bitter regret. But this is also why, in the end, the film works. It feels honest. Its cynical undercurrent -liberalism is dying or already dead and these lefties are dinosaurs - is painful, but also arguably true in the global spread of uncompassionate capitalism. But the human face Arcand still locates in the love between Capitalist son and Liberal father thankfully transcends politics. Invasions has an impressive grasp of how political idealogies both power and limit us.

Somehow, briefly loving this movie this movie never convinced me to watch its predecessor and I almost never think of it. If I could redo the list I'd move it out and raise one of the runners up into the top ten. But which?

07 The Company (Robert Altman)
One of the most relaxed intuitive films I can recall seeing. It seems instinctually to be looking at its subject, the world of the Joffrey ballet, from just the right angle at all times. And yet for all this precision it never breaks a sweat. It's smartly lensed by cinematographer Andrew Dunn, gorgeously edited by Geraldine Peroni, and all masterfully guided by that supremely confident auteur Robert Altman, who makes it his own. Who needs a traditional plot when in the hands of a master?

You may have heard that this was Neve Campbell's pet project for some years. Some pet projects are worth the effort. First, she had the good sense to hire Altman, who has always had a way with community as protagonist. And then, bucking star convention, she showed an even more impressive lack of vanity. She slips comfortably into the film's dancing ensemble, showing off her considerable skills while never unbalancing the film with showboating. I suspect it goes without saying but it's easily the best thing she's ever contributed to the cinema or television.

06 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski)
I know next to nothing about ships and seafaring ways but I do know what an anchor is for. No ship can do without it. Dropped from its holding place within any waterborne structure it will stop its ship from veering dangerously off course by weighing it down. An anchor then, even when employed figuratively, implies the element which keeps any vessel in place. As in "that plot structure really anchored the film by allowing the drama to unfold in unexpected but sturdy ways" or "The actress's intimate and perceptive performance anchored the film to reality -when the plot holes threatened to do it in" or some such...

What Johnny Depp is to Pirates is the polar opposite of an anchor. But, never worry, this ship is still safe. One of the world's most gifted actors seems to be, to borrow from Peter Pan, spreading pixie dust across an entire film. There will be no traditional course for this bloated movie ship. It is soaring now, like some wild-eyed adventurer, up into the heavens. It defies reality and the conventional mediocrity of its origins. One has no idea where it's going --to ruin? to the exalted rare realms of classic adventures like Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Adventures of Robin Hood? No matter. The journey is the reward. When you've got the Performance of the Year steering your course, who needs the dead weight of anchors? Wherever this ship is taking you -- go, man, go!

I wish this had been in my Best Picture nominees (the top five). It never gets old. I don't need to ever see either sequel ever again but my love for the original is undiminished. Whenever it's on I end up watching.

05 Raising Victor Vargas (Peter Sollett)
Apart from In America, this is the most warmhearted picture of the year. It glows with the dedication and communal love and effort of its amateur cast (all giving professional level performances) and its debuting writer/director. To call the man in question, Peter Sollett, "one-to-watch" would be an understatement. That 'glow' of which I spoke is also given literal visual form by ace up-and-coming cinematographer Tim Orr (All the Real Girls, George Washington). Vargas is a deeply pleasurable, funny, and humane look at a struggling Dominican family on the Lower East Side and their wannabe Casanova, Victor (Victor Razuk), who spars continually with his religious Grandmother, hilariously played by Altagracia Guzman. See it.

04 thirteen (Catherine Hardwicke)
"Zen Chicken" is this divisive film's most seemingly random bit -- the unhappy makeshift family gathers giggling around a bird that never loses his balance, no matter which way he's tipped or turned. This scene became, as the year progressed and the film grew in my heart, my favorite moment. The film's detractors will tell you that it is too histrionic, unhinged, and immature to qualify for the awards it is intermittently courting. It's not that these claims are false, just that they're misdirected. The ragged hormonal surges of adolescence, the hysteria of teenage whims and social constructions pulse strongly and appropriately, I'd add, (credit to the film's director and co-screenwriter Catherine Hardwicke) through the film. Its jittery, confused and angry moodshifts (embodied by Evan Rachel Wood) are always threatening to topple the whole affair into tabloid sensationalism. And there, in the same overcrowded movie house is the deep fierce reserve of tough maternal love (in the form of Holly Hunter) which could also in lesser hands topple the film in the other direction into After School Special messaging. In the meeting of these two spectacular performances the film transcends both tabloid exploitative "the kids are not all right" indie zeal and After School Special tough love messaging. This film is special. This film has balance. It's a Zen Chicken.

Thirteen deserved more accolades than it got, I'm 100% certain. But I may have gone a wee bit overboard in my love. Still... tis a pity that it was Keisha Castle-Hughes that became the youngest Best Actress nominee ever when Evan Rachel Wood was right there on view, running circles around actresses twice her age.

03 Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
What else is there to say? It's so distinctive and perceptively modulated that the very not-at-all-universal particulars of the situation (i.e. the ennui of a has-been still wealthy movie star and the boredom of a privileged young girl) melt away to get at the universal feeling of dislocation. The perplexing condition of being lost in your own skin is a great movie subject but undoubtedly hard to film. Credit goes to Ms. Coppola herself as writer/ director, the terrific and essential chemistry between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson and Lance Acord the cinematographer, for helping us to see a major metropolis in the same way the characters would be seeing it.

Everyone does want to be found. I imagine a good deal of the love this film has encountered, is that in an artistic sense, Coppola's sophomore effort probably found a lot of unsuspecting audiences members. If you've been previously lost in the multiplex with no one and nothing speaking to you, this could be your film.

02 Kill Bill, Vol. I (Quentin Tarantino)
So potent is this film's movie-movie force (it's tough to imagine a stronger blend of cinematography, editing, musical / structural invention, and overall cinematic chutzpah) that I was briefly tempted to place it in the #1 spot. But then, why punish the year's best film for being only a third of its true self and simultaneously reward half of this motion picture? Didn't make sense. So the number #2 spot it gets.

blood-red is the new black

It's too early to say, with authority, if Kill Bill is all it seems cracked up to be, but I await Volume 2 with great excitement. I suspect we're looking at a subversively violent masterpiece. I don't currently believe that the film is as lacking in morality and self-critique as its enemies do. I suspect the overall circular vengeance motif will cause its anti-heroine much pain in Volume 2. But I'll keep an open mind should it fail to deliver. The final verdict awaits. But regardless, Tarantino really needs to work more. Cinema is in his blood. So much so that he can dump gallons of it onscreen visually and still keep on swinging like it's only a flesh wound. This movie's heart, thanks to Thurman's great range as "The Bride", is still beating furiously despite copious amounts of blood lost.

So... Vol II did not live up to my rather naive dreams about some sort of revenge auto-critique. I must have been confusing vengeance-loving Tarantino with another filmmaker. Er... But I still love Vol I and I'll always cherish the Elle Driver bits in Vol II

01 Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson)
Gandalf the White is our sage guide throughout the great trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. One of his most famous quotes is "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that's given you" I think it's safe to say that this film's director, producer, writer, and driving force Peter Jackson chose well.

One can quibble with minor bits and pieces of each film. The Fellowship of the Ring was, after all, all beginning, no resolution. The Two Towers had awkward middle structural three-fold problems and The Return of the King is repetitive given the six hours of films we've already seen covering the Middle Earth war. The film's much maligned ending (from the strange not altogether wise choice to alter the Mount Doom finale all the way to the multiple fadeouts) has been sufficiently covered elsewhere.

But why bother with petty quibbling when the whole is this magnificent? Behold the cinema's first great fantasy epic. The film that gets both spectacle and intimacy right. Here is a filmmaker that understands that special effects and CGI are only another tool of filmmaking -not an end point. They're there to advance a narrative, deepen a characterization, and show us the fully realized world of the film. Then consider the cast -- every major role inhabited by an actor totally there and committed to serve the vision. And finally, breathe a final sigh of relief: Behold a genre series that, upon its conclusion, didn't prove itself a massive letdown for its loyal audience.

Peter Jackson "You bow to no one."

And that's that. Jackson's subsequent work has disheartened me but he'll always have this spectacular trilogy and the nearly peerless Heavenly Creatures.
What were your favorites of 2003? Films I didn't mention here that made waves were
In America, City of God, Freaky Friday, 21 Grams, Elf, Monster, Something's Gotta Give and a whole school of movies with literal waves or soggy titles like Mystic River, Master and Commander, Whale Rider, Seabiscuit, Finding Nemo and Big Fish.


Anonymous said...

American Splendor.

Andrew K. said...

Peter Pan was underrated. I'm a bit surprised you didn't like Mystic River. As someone who hates Clint Eastwood more than you do, it's my favourite of his films.

OT. It wouldn't make my list of favourites, but I'm always felt that Le Divorce deserved more than the pitiable 37% it holds on Rotten Tomatoes. What are your thoughts on it?

Anonymous said...

Nat, you are my new favourite person because of the things you said about Thirteen. Just sayin'

I'm pretty sure our top 5s are the same, albeit in a different order. Niice.

Anonymous said...

Or, top 4 rather. Finding Nemo for life.

Unknown said...

Honorable Mentions: Triplets of Belleville, LotR: tRofK, The Station Agent, Spellbound, The Barbarian Invasions

10. Capturing the Friedmans
9. Mystic River
8. Girl With A Pearl Earring
7. Elephant
6. Lost in Translation
5. City of God
4. My Flesh and Blood
3. Monster
2. The Fog of War
1. 21 Grams

Amir said...

my top three is exactly the same as you! in exactly the same order too!
but you didn't mention my next two,
i would go
1-the return of the king
2-kill bill vol. 1
3-lost in translation
5-big fish

you know, in a list of the favorites of the decade though, i don't separate the LOTR trilogy or kill bills.
i have both series in my top 20, each taking one spot. i mostly view them as one view.

Anonymous said...

For me, I was blown away by 'Capturing the Friedmans' and really enjoyed 'Lost in Translation'. Both of these films have made it into my DVD collection.

Robert said...

Many great movies that year. Very interesting and unique list. I'm throwing out love for (recognizing possible release date differences):

The Fog of War, The Best of Youth, The Station Agent, All the Real Girls, American Splendor, and Stevie.

Seeking Amy said...

Lost in Translation
Kill Bill Vol 1.
Big Fish
City of God
Finding Nemo
House of Sand and Fog
Girl With a Pearl Earring
The Station Agent
Millenium Actress

I was so excited for American Splendor but I have feeling it was just not for me. I can't really think of anything in particulary I disliked but I just did not enjoy it. 2003 was such a weak year as whole.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure which ones count for 2003 in your list, but...


Big Fish


The Barbarian Invasions
Finding Nemo
Mystic River
21 Grams

Marcelo - Brazil

Michael W. said...

I didn't get the extreme Return of the King love in 03'. I don't get it now. And I will never get it. I remeber actually being angry about all the awards it got when there were so many great pictures that year!

Fellowship was the best picture of 2001 and deserved the awards that RotK got. Oh well. Som things you never learn to understand :-D

10. A Mighty Wind
9. The Barbarian Invasions
8. American Splendor
7. Master and Commander
6. Elephant
5. 21 Grams
4. Finding Nemo
3. In America
2. Lost in Translation
1. Mystic River

James Colon said...

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS was probably the best overall film that year, for me. In terms of narrative films, I think I'd still go with MYSTIC RIVER, though LOST IN TRANSLATION has proven itself to have more "re-watch-ability" over the years since. It's just the power that hits me every time I see it, I think it's Clint's best film. Other ones I loved:

Big Fish
21 Grams
American Splendor
Kill Bill

notanotherblog said...

Assuming you've seen Kill Bill 2, I'd say that is Tarantino's best movie so far. The final act with Bill just broke my heart. As I say, there's Kill Bill 1 fans and Kill Bill 2 fans, there's Pulp Fiction fans and there's Jackie Brown fans.

Anyway, if they count as 2003 movies, Cold Mountain and Dogville. Motherfucking Dogville. Yeah!

notanotherblog said...

P.s. I applaud the shoutout for Thirteen. Exaggeration, but it's probably what Kazan would have done if he was alive and making a movie about a teenager.

And I hope Hollywood blesses Evan Rachel Wood.

Branden said...

Top Ten of 2003

1. House of Sand and Fog
2. City of God
3. 21 Grams
4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
5. Finding Nemo
6. The Station Agent
7. Lost In Translation
8. Whale Rider
9. Mystic River
10. Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Deborah said...

I missed a lot of important movies of 2003, and hated The Hulk and Kill Bill Vol. 1. (To answer Andrew's query, I also hated Le Divorce.)

The surprise, in reviewing my movies of that year, is The Company. I actually gave it a poor rating after viewing it, but I remember it fondly; it stays with me.

1. The Station Agent
Nothing really compares to this. It is exquisite and remains a favorite.
2. Normal (TV)
Can I count made-for-TV? This is so perfect and still makes me cry. I cry DESCRIBING it.
3. Monster
4. The Cooler
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
6. Girl with a Pearl Earring
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
8. Warren Zevon: Keep Me in Your Heart (2003) (TV)
9. X2 (2003) 9
10. Capturing the Friedmans

If made-for-TV don't count, I get two more!

11. The Company
12. How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass

Lost in Translation, Intolerable Cruelty, Finding Nemo, Cold Mountain, Something's Gotta Give, Frazetta: Painting with Fire.

S.W.A.T., Scary Movie 3 (sue me, I laughed)

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

The ONLY one of these films I saw was "Lost in Translation" and it's still a winner!

Lev Lewis said...

No love for "demonlover"?

Trent said...

I was originally thinking this was a terrible year. In compiling this list, however, I realized that I love a lot of movies from 2003 (release dates for a few of them are sketchy, but I tried my best)...I just wasn't on the same page as Oscar, with a few exceptions

1. Capturing the Friedmans
2. The Magdalene Sisters
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1
4. House of Sand and Fog
5. Lilja 4 Ever
6. Monster
7. Pieces of April
8. Lost in Translation
9. 21 Grams
10. Spellbound

Honorable Mentions:
Station Agent, Laurel Canyon, Swimming Pool, My Life Without Me, Mystic River

Wayne B said...

This was the first year I made a personal top ten list and my choices were

Top 5: Finding Nemo, Kill Bill Vol.1 (#1), Lord of the Rings: ROTK, Lost in Translation and The Station Agent.

#6-10: 28 Days Later..., City of God, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, thirteen, X2: X-Men United.

What's the deal with "Dirty Pretty Things?" decided to put in the 2002 category

Scott said...

Very nice to mention Peter Pan, which I thought was great (and actually I liked Finding Neverland too). My other top choices for the year would include Lost in Translation, Triplets of Belleville, Elephant, The Company, Dogville, The Station Agent, The Shape of Things, 28 Days Later, and Northfork.

Anonymous said...

City of God
Kitchen Stories
Kill Bill
Lost in Translation
The Station Agent
Return of the King
Intolerable Cruelty
Cold Mountain (for the soundtrack more than anything)

steve said...

House of Sand and Fog for sure, as a few others have mentioned

a quietly brilliant film, reflecting everything the country was going through in the wake of 9/11

DPD said...

01. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola)
02. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)
03. Elephant (Gus Van Sant)
04. The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
05. Oldboy (Chan-Wook Park)

06. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton)
07. American Splendor (Shari S.Berman & Robert Pulcini)
08. The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand)
09. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (Peter Jackson)
10. Good Bye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker)

Honorable Mentions:
The Triplets Of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet);
Capturing The Friedmans (Andre Jarecki);
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk);
Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (Peter Weir);
Memories Of Murder (Joon-Ho Bong)

Kyle said...

American Splendor and 28 Days Later have infinite re-watch value for me, as well as Lost in Translation.

Beto said...

My life without me, anybody?

Nick said...

MY TOP 10!!!!!

10. Camp
9. Thirteen
8. Die, Mommie, Die!
7. Monster
6. Angels in America
5. Kill Bill, vol. 1
4. Finding Nemo
3. Facing Window
2. Elephant
1. Dogville

Hilary Swank said...

How can one make a top 5 of 2003? I don't even think Pieces of April makes my top 10 and it still hurts to leave it out =P

The year was easily the best for film this decade. I'm also glad to see you're not one of those thirteen haters who act like the stuff in the movie never happens in real life.

Henry said...

Oh! What a list! I'm so glad Hulk gets some (small) recognition. That was an underrated movie from this year and people didn't know it at the time. The release of The Incredible Hulk only made me appreciate Ang Lee's version more.

Surprised Finding Nemo isn't on the list. Lost in Translation should have been higher (truly one of the best experiences I've ever had at a theater); I'd watch Pirates more too if the TV broadcasts weren't these huge blocks with tons of commercials; I love that X2 got notice, though I still have problems with its pacing; LOTR needs no more words, though I actually think I've appreciated the multiple endings now that I see them coming.

One movie egregiously left off the list? The Last Samurai.

amir_uk said...

In all, perhaps the weakest year of the decade for film?...

I need to rewatch thirteen. I've only seen it the once (during its theatrical run) and didn't much care for it at the time. But my tastes have matured since then...

amir_uk said...

Also, Nathaniel, do you now wish you could have Lost in Translation and Kill Bill 1 swap places?

Andrea said...

2003 was the best year for me. My favorites from that year are endlessly rewatchable - not a year of great art, perhaps, but definitely a year of great popcorn films. Seabiscuit, Mystic River, LOTR, Kill Bill, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually, even flicks like the Italian Job and Bruce Almighty - all now seen regularly on TV.

And two of my endlessly rewatchable favorites - Master and Commander ("we do not have time for your damn hobbies, sir!") and Lost in Translation. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Thirteen's on the list. Also, I find it interesting you like Vol. 1 better than Vol. 2. I think Kill Bill Vol. 2 might be his second best film, next to Inglorious Basterds. However, City of God and In America are the best of the year for me.


@LEV... i can't even remember when DEMONLOVER came out -- and can't even remember if i saw it then or on DVD the following year -- but I know I didn't love it quite as much as I love it now back then.

@JON... we have very different Tarantino tastes then. I think his two best films are Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Vol. 1.

@HENRY... Finding Nemo is kind of anomaly for me in that i wasn't wild about it at all and I'm usually right with the public in loving Pixar. That said, I do like it. It's not like CARSZZZZZ or anything.

@AMIR ... i think it's either 2003 or 2006 for the weakest year of the decade cinematically speaking.

@WAYNE ... i never saw Dirty Pretty Things. It's probably one of my most glaring "misses" since so many people rave about it

@HENRY... i h-a-t-e Last Samurai. Zwick movies make me crazy.

Steolicious said...

My Favs:
01. House of Sand and Fog
02. Lost in Translation
03. Tie: City of God & The Magdalena Sisters
04. Elephant
05. Finding Nemo
06. Mystic River
07. Big Fish
08. Kill Bill: Vol. I
09. 28 Days Later
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Dylan said...

My favourite film of this year is Holes. Yes, the Disney western film. People call me crazy for even having it in my top ten, but it never gets old, it's nostalgic but never sappy, and the overlapping story arcs are breathtaking for a family film. And Paticia deserved the Oscar, goddamnit! :P

R-Co said...

I totally agree with you Thirteen. I though Evan Rachel Wood was astonishing.

I'd whack 21 Grams in there for certain as well.

Ben said...

My favorites.... (in order)

Lost in Translation-one of the best of the decade
City of God (I know the year is questionable)
American Splendor
Mystic River
In America
The Return of the King
Finding Nemo
The Fog of War
Cold Mountain (despite Renee!)

I agree that 2003 is one of the weaker years in memory.


R-CO... so many 13 fans coming outta the woodwork.

i am decidedly NOT a fan of 21 Grams though. Those number movies are so uneven ;)

Anonymous said...

top 5

lost in translation
kill bill vol.1
28 days later
house of sand and fog

performances: uma, zooey deschanel . all the real girls, bill murray and scar jo., johnny depp . pirates, holly hunter . 13, albert finney . big fish

cameos: anna faris . lost in translation, natalie portman . cold mountain, sonny chiba . kill bill vol 1

breakthrough: evan rachel wood, naomie harris, keira knightley, cillian murphy, romain duris and paul schneider

honorable mentions: x2, return of the king, finding nemo, the triplets of belleville and bad santa

guilty pleasures: school of rock, down with love and final destination 2


par3182 said...

1. american splendor
2. spellbound
3. in this world
4. pirates of the caribbean: the curse of the black pearl
5. city of god
6. a mighty wind

Unknown said...

There's no denying that time has proven Evan Rachel Wood a better actress than Keisha Castle Hughes (Wood has actually maintained an acting career well into young adulthood, while the whale-riding wunderkind never really came back to dry land.

A quickie cameo in "Revenge of the Sith" notwithstanding, Hughes's acting career almost certainly peaked with her prepubescent Oscar nod, as "The Nativity Story" was nothing special (except for the actress herself, who was perhaps inspired by playing a teen mom and quickly became one herself) and "The Vintner's Luck" seems unlikely to take flight after its hideous reception in Toronto.

That said...
Get your ass to the nearest "Whale Rider" DVD pronto, fool! Sure, I liked the movie enough to snatch up a copy from a Blockbuster bargain bin a few years back, but it remained on the shelf and had largely faded into memory (along with "Thirteen," which seems to be a strangely apt euphemism for Catherine Hardwicke's directorial immaturity in all her subsequent films...just sayin').

I dusted "Whale Rider" off last month and gave it another go. Do yourself a favor and do the same; Maybe it's because I was 19 in 2003 and perhaps couldn't appreciate the film's subtle density and richly textured storytelling. And Keisha Castle Hughes may never blossom into anything resembling the actual actress Evan Rachel Wood, but she's the best kind of one-hit wonder. Plus she rides a fucking WHALE!

kent said...

2003 just reminded me how competitive and exciting the best actress category was this year. i remember there had been no general consensus leading up to the nominees.

Daniel Armour said...

1-Return Of The King
3-Kill Bill: Volume One
4-Finding Nemo
5-American Wedding (Hey, I love the American Pie films).

Even though I saw quite a few films more than once that year, 2003 as a film year was kind of 'meh' for me. It wasn't godawful like 2004 but it didn't soar to the heights of 2002 or 2007. Still, it produced three of my Top Fifty Favorite Films of all-time (1, 2 & 3) and two that are in my Top Twenty (1 & 2), so that's gotta count for something.

Kurtis O said...

With Return of the King, Angels in America, The Barbarian Invasions, Lost in Translation, 21 Grams, City of God, Monster, The Station Agent, House of Sand and Fog, Kill Bill and Mystic River, 2003 was an incredible year for movies. For the first two alone, it was best year of the decade.

Chris Na Taraja said...

That Peter Pan was the best ever put to film

Alex said...

For me, 2003 was all about ANGELS IN AMERICA. All about it. Period. Best thing filmed this decade, in my personal opinion.

1. Angels in America
2. Lost in Translation
3. Mystic River
4. The Station Agent
5. Monster
6. In America
7. Thirteen
8. Pirates of the Caribbean
9. Finding Nemo
10. A Mighty Wind

Director: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
Actor: Bill Murray (Lost in Translation)
Actress: Charlize Theron (Monster)
S. Actor: Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America)
S. Actress: Mary-Louise Parker (Angels in America)
Original Screenplay: The Station Agent
Adapted Screenplay: Angels in America

notanotherblog said...

P.p.s. Dogville, Cold Mountain, Kill Bill I, 21 Grams, Thirteen, Lost In Translation, Big Fish, Elephant.

Bryan said...

I'm so happy to see the love for thirteen! Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter are wonderful, and I also liked the other young actress, something Reed perhaps? I was wondering, Nate: why do you think Wood didn't garner enough support to nab a nom from Oscar (whether you think it would have been deserving or not)?


Bryan... at the time i blamed it on Evan's character being unlikeable whereas Keisha's is just huggable. When it comes to child performances they've never really gone for the realistically disturbing. They only dig the dangerous highwire performances if they're in the right genres or by very acclaimed actors.

Alex said...

I don't think that's always the case. Anna Paquin gets a little disturbing towards the end of The Piano. God, I love that performance...

adam k. said...

It was indeed surprising and disappointing when Evan Rachel Wood was supplanted at the last minute by Keisha.

Remember Sigourney Weaver at the accouncement? "Hold on to your hats!"

I still can't believe one actual supporting performance (Morton) and one perf campaigned as supporting (Keisha) somehow beat out the incendiary work of Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood.

I still think it had a lot to do with the fact that there was just too much dark and disturbing work by lead actresses that year. AMPAS doesn't mind it in small doses, but they couldn't have 4 of the 5 nominees be dark, depressing, violent, atypical, or otherwise uncuddly characters. And since Theron and Watts were pretty locked in (Watts due mostly to her past snub), the two less oscary roles were replaced by the über-heartwarming Keisha and Samantha.

It's like you could feel them grasping wildly for the heartwarming... they'll even raid the supporting bin if they have to! Meh.

Emily said...

So many good movies in 2003...maybe that's why Master & Commander doesn't get much attention? I've read almost all of the books in the series and this movie just nailed it. It's a great film in its own right, too - crackling with energy, with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany giving fantastic, layered performances.

adri said...

It seems like I saw a lot of light-hearted movies that year. (I still want to see "Goodbye, Lenin", which I missed).

1) Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2) Kill Bill: vol.1
3) Something's Got to Give
4) Down With Love
5) Freaky Friday
6) Love Actually
7) Master and Commander
8) Shattered Glass
9) X2: X-Men United
10) What a Girl Wants

I also liked Japanese Story, Veronica Guerin, Lost in Translation, Intolerable Cruelty, Cold Mountain, Code 46, Bright Young Things.

RC said...

Gotta say, sad to see In America & City of God not make your list.


RC -- i was mostly agnostic leaning positive on both of those although I totally get why other people truly love them... which is way easier to deal with than those movies wherein you scratch your head about the intense love people feel for them.