Our favorite films of 2002

Contributors: John Banzon, Michael Buck, Barton Campbell, Paul B. Clark, Melissa B. Cummings, Martijn ter Haar, Haraldur Jóhannsson, Manny Knowles, Lisa Larkin, Kevin Lee, Lovell Mahan-Moutaw, Scott McGee, Mark Netter, Frank Ochieng, Ed Owens, Pat Padua, Moné Peterson, Rolando Recometa, Nathaniel Rogers, Shari L. Rosenblum, Roxy, Myron Santos, Howard Schumann, James Snapko, Greg Sorenson, Sasha Stone, Thea, and Josh Timmermann.
Greg Sorenson
Nine easy-to-find movies mingle with nine movies worth the hunt:
1. Spirited Away
(Hayao Miyazaki).
In a year of continued Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings hype, this is where the real magic was.
2. Tribute
(Kris Curry & Rich Fox).
-- A KISS act with a black Paul Stanley! Bitter resentment between "Davy" and "Mike" in the aftermath of a Monkees-act breakup! Spinal Tap meets Behind The Music in this documentary about tribute bands.

3. The Believer (Henry Bean).
Brutal, rich, and rewarding.
4. Hell House (George Ratliff).
A documentary about the annual Halloween spookhouse put on by a funadmentalist church in Texas made for the scariest movie of the year.
5. About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz).
One of the years earlier delights. I'm not qualified to say it was Hugh Grant's best work, but it didn't make me want to wring his neck, so that's something.
6. Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce).
Why this isn't getting more end-of-year attention is beyond me.
7-8. (tie) Happiness of the Katakuris (Takashi Miike) and Chaos (Hideo Nakata). Two strange visions, one aptly described as "The Sound of Music with a body count," the other a solid psychological thriller, from Japanese cult directors.
9. Lilo & Stitch
(Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders).
Disney gets it right for a change.
10. The Endurance (George Butler).
Simply one of the most amazing stories of the past century.
11. The Man Without A Past
(Aki Kaurismäki).
A Finnish Depression-era "forgotten man" film?

12. The Two Towers (Peter Jackson).
Too bad I was sick of hearing about it even before I saw it.
13. Bowling for Columbine
(Michael Moore).
See above comment.
14. The Independent (Stephen Kessler).
May Morty make another 472 films, all as good as Venus de Mofo or The Man in the Iron Lung.
15. Punch-Drunk Love
(Paul Thomas Anderson).
Will the P.T. Anderson and Adam Sandler audiences ever intersect again?
16. Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker).
Brisk and thoroughly engaging at 225 minutes.
Scotland, PA (Billy Morrissette).
Macbeth for laughs? Hell yes!
18. Spider-Man
(Sam Raimi).
The best comic-book movie is still Ghost World, but this one had so many opportunities to fall flat, yet didn't.

Best "bad" movie:
Blue Crush (John Stockwell)
Worst "good" movie:
Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary
Worst: Garmento, House of 1000 Corpses, Attack of the Clones, Hollywood Ending, Wendigo.

Sasha Stone
I went through 2002 with scant few films that were both moving and intellectually challenging. Usually, I knew exactly where the film was going and how it would end. If I'm lucky, I get entertained along the way. It is especially hard to concentrate on films without feeling that they respond, in some way, to what's happening in the world today. As we wait to see whether or not we're going to attack Iraq, we focus on films and the Oscars nonetheless. It makes us feel silly, yet we can't stop. Here are ten (well, eleven really) examples of films that moved, inspired and challenged my beleaguered brain. For them, I am grateful.
1. The Pianist (Roman Polanski).
Polanski's unflinching look at isolation and fear produced my single most profound and unshakable cinematic moment of the year. The entire film rests on Adrien Brody's shoulders -- we watch in horror as the smirk is slowly, systematically wiped off of his face. There wasn't a better drama released in 2002. Like most great films, it requires time and thinking to absorb, and consequently it probably won't get the Oscar attention it deserves.
2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki).
American filmmakers are incapable of making a film like Spirited Away. Our references are all shared. Rarely do animators here (with a few exceptions, of course) draw from a wholly original base. Hayou Miyazaki does. His paintings are dream landscapes; his characters are complex; his themes are powerful. He made not just the best animated film of the year but one of the best films. For that, he is in a category by himself.
3. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes).
Artful, spectacularly melodramatic, precise and assured - Todd Haynes is a director of real cinematic art, like Miyazaki -- every frame was carefully constructed, every line of dialogue had a purpose. He committed to his theme and he stuck it out to the last. Julianne Moore has never been better. Even though I was aware that Haynes was toying with me, I never ceased being moved by the film, caught up in the love story and the tragedy of the "perfect" family.
4. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese).
Yes, about a fourth of it is botched - yes, it has problems - but the good parts, the three quarters, are better than most any other film. Why? Because I count effort and accomplishment here - what a filmmaker is trying to do makes a difference to me - so I can't look at his film in any other way than to be awed by the enormous undertaking. He being Martin Scorsese. Yes, to a degree the film can't quite get out from under the pressure of being a year overdue, and all that Harvey Weinstein publicity (which is why critics seem to delight in taking the film apart, particularly in Los Angeles - god forbid they should be fooled by The Harvey) touting the Great Marty. Nonetheless, the film itself is a wild ride -- my favorite thing about it is how he tosses off the slang without explanation. Daniel Day-Lewis gives the year's best male performance (along with Adrien Brody).
5. Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener).
A wonderful, depressing look at us girls and the silliness we get wrapped in about our physical selves. Funny, perceptive, and all done with ease by Holofcener. Emily Mortimer ought to have been recognized for standing there, buck nekked, while Dermot Mulroney scrutinized her perfect/imperfect frame.
6. City of God (Kátia Lund & Fernando Meirelles).
They used non-actors, like in Rabbit-Proof Fence, for this film, though you'd never know it. The subject matter and brilliant direction grind against each other, as we are swept through decades at a time, following characters who either sink or swim in Rio, the "City of God." Unfortunately, because poverty offers no other kind of future, swimming means becoming a drug dealer or a hood. Our hero, Rocket, loves to take pictures, and that ultimately helps him out of the City.
7. Adaptation (Spike Jonze).
Ah, the joys of Charlie Kaufman and his sick and twisted mind. Strangely enough, the scenes in the film that are taken from Susan Orlean's novel are among the best in the film -- particularly since Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are in them. But the other half is also grand, with Nicolas Cage as the two sides of Kaufman's personality, trying to succeed in life, in love.
8. About Schmidt (Alexander Payne) and About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz).
Two films about lost men finding themselves. Both funny and sad. Jack Nicholson and Hugh Grant deliver their best work, especially so for Grant, who has been doing slapstick for so long I forgot he could really act.
9. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón).
Ah, the beauty of ignorance, the allure of young minds that live in the moment -- two horny teens convince a beautiful older woman to go on a road trip to the beach. But of course, it all reaches a point where everything changes -- it gets strikingly serious at the end and you realize you were lulled along, just like in life, only to realize there isn't anything funny about death.
10. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore).
Even if it's obvious, it still needed to be said. Except for the last part with Charlton Heston, it's a perfect film. It certainly is informative. Is it objective? Probably not. But someone has to get the message across, and no one can like Michael Moore.

Outstanding performances of the year:
Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid (Far From Heaven).
Diane Lane for surrendering herself fully (Unfaithful) .
Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer (Lovely & Amazing).
Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York).
Adrien Brody (The Pianist).
Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Nicolas Cage (Adaptation).
Jack Nicholson and Dermot Mulroney (About Schmidt)
Robin Williams (One Hour Photo)
Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah (Chicago)
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader (Secretary)
Eminem (8 Mile)

The Year of the Woman: Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Hysterical Blindness), Jill and Karen Sprecher, (13 Conversations About One Thing), Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity), first time in decades that two female-driven productions are up for Best Picture (The Hours, Chicago). The discovery of the brave and spectacular heroine: Chihiro in Spirited Away. Nia Vardalos and Rita Wilson slam-dunking My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Moné Peterson
Presented alphabetically, except for any films I may have forgotten, which won't be presented at all:
About a Boy
(Chris &
Paul Weitz).
Warm, funny adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. I cringed at the prospect of Hugh Grant playing the lead, but he was surprisingly good. Loses track around the end when it starts deviating from the novel, but the novel's ending wasn't much better. Great script, fine supporting cast.
Adaptation (Spike Jonze).
One great big chinese box of a movie, this had me thinking about the mechanics of creating art. Cage is astounding in the dual role of the Kaufman brothers. Brilliant and very funny.
(The Fast Runner)
(Zacharias Kunuk).
Stunning, complex film adaptation of an Inuit legend. The film's look and feel is unique, the setting so remote it doesn't seem part of our reality. Unprecedented filmmaking, and a testimony to the life of the people it portrays.
(Rob Marshall).
I knew nothing about the stage musical going in, but this adaptation couldn't have sold it any better. Great songs, great performances; it wisely never strays from it's stage origins, and in fact incorporates them, imaginatively so. I was humming the tunes when I left the theater. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese).
Big, ballsy, full-blown dramatic filmmaking with a fervent devotion to its subject matter. Daniel Day-Lewis's Bill Cutting is already one of my favorite cinematic characters. I give it four knife wounds.
Monster's Ball (Marc Forster)
An emotionally raw look at loss and redemption in the South. Halle Berry got all the attention, but Billy Bob Thornton is the one who holds the film together with a remarkably nuanced performance.
Punch-Drunk Love
(Paul Thomas Anderson).
Beautiful and strange, a story of a seemingly-doomed love affair that frays the edges of emotional tension; it's disturbing and exhilarating in equal measure. Gorgeously composed and photographed, with a remarkable performance from Adam Sandler.
(Steven Shainberg).
The story of a woman finding her place in this world through S&M. Nowhere near as salient as it sounds - this is a rather touching story. I suppose I can give this four knife wounds too, right? Ah, maybe not.
Spider-Man (Sam Raimi).
A rarity in these times, an action movie where the character moments are the highlight of the film. Wonderfully captures what was so compelling about the comic book Peter Parker and his circle of friends. Not a perfect film, but one filled with many small pleasures.
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki).
Loved it. A stewpot full of imagination gone wild, Miyazaki is the only prominent filmmaker out there doing honest-to-goodness fable. After the film, I drove a different path home half-hoping I would get lost. Magical.

Melissa B. Cummings
This year, it was difficult for me to put together my "Best of" list because I saw so many movies that were very, very good. But unfortunately none of them (not even The Two Towers) really made me jump out of my seat with excitement and say it was better than everything else I saw. Therefore, instead of ranking my list like I usually would, I just compiled the 10 movies I liked the best, and am not saying one was any better than another. So, in somewhat chronological order:
13 Conversations About One Thing
(Jill Sprecher).
There are many excellent performances in these intertwining stories about discovering, defining and creating happiness. The movie demonstrates how people perceive success and contentment, and how they often harbor resentment against those who seem to achieve it more easily. I found something I could relate to in almost all of the stories, and I thought it dealt with these personal issues in a unique way.
Signs (M. Night Shyamalan).
While not a perfect film, Signs is an interesting twist on the usual alien invasion tale. I felt that the film showed a realistic portrayal of how regular people might react if such an invasion took place. They didn't save the world, or even try to; they just dealt with the immediate danger in a way that anyone might. The movie just felt real, and I appreciated that.
Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener).
This is an honest, humorous and heart-breaking look at how neurotic women become regarding self-image and self-esteem. The movie does an excellent job of showing how, when it comes to self-image, we teach by example. The film is full of great performances, especially by Brenda Blethyn and Raven Goodwin, as her daughter.
Igby Goes Down (Burr Steers).
Another in the long line of sad, depressing, but ultimately satisfying movies of 2002. Kieran Culkin is excellent as the unhappy, unappreciated Igby, who has to deal with a self-absorbed mother, manic-depressive father and condescending brother, while simply trying to find some satisfaction in his own life. While not a completely original tale, I found the story and performances definitely worthwhile.
The Emperor's New Clothes (Alan Taylor).
A charming, funny movie that speculates what could have happened had Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile and tried to return to power. Ian Holm is wonderful as both the Emperor Napoleon and the look-alike who takes his place in captivity. While not by any means profound, this is a movie that just made me smile, and sometimes we need that.
Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird).
A fine ending to the Star Trek film saga, Nemesis can also be appreciated by those not necessarily experts on the Trek world. But as a fan myself, I really enjoyed this final chapter. The story was engaging, the special effects were great, and the entire Next Generation series was wrapped up nicely.
The Two Towers (Peter Jackson).
While I didn't find it as engaging as The Fellowship of the Ring, this installment was still a cinematic triumph. Jackson once again captured the essence of Tolkien's story, and took enormous care to put it up on the screen. Of course, Gollum and the battle of Helm's Deep were CGI masterpieces, but all of the little details - the costumes, sets, props - are what have really made the Lord of the Rings films stand out above the rest.
Chicago (Rob Marshall).
This movie was just plain fun, the way a movie musical should be. Musicals can go wrong in so many ways, but the film's direction and pacing were excellent - never choppy or dragging. While the leads were obviously not professional Broadway singers and dancers, it actually gave the film a more natural feeling (although it did take me a while to get used to Richard Gere hamming it up). The performances were all very good and the production numbers were fantastic. I hope Chicago's success inspires the production of more high-quality movie musicals.
About Schmidt (Alexander Payne).
Jack Nicholson gives a wonderful performance as a man who has spent his life doing what others expected of him, but comes to feel he has never made a difference in any of the lives he's touched. I found the film funny, sad and ultimately moving. The supporting cast was great, and Kathy Bates was excellent, as always. But Jack really deserves praise for his honest, touching performance.
The Lion King: IMAX version (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff).
While technically not from 2002 (since it is the exact same film that was released in 1994), it's still one of my all-time favorite animated films, and seeing it again on the (really) big screen was a lot of fun.

Mark Netter
Iin rough order, along with a memorable moment from each:
1. The Pianist
(Roman Polanski).
A deceptively concise movie that masks its large scale. On the one hand an irrefutable and heretofore unrealized portrait of the Nazi Holocaust in Warsaw by survivor Roman Polanski; on the other, a fascinating, meditative puzzle about internal and external devastation, and the relationship of art to survival. With its procession of relentless, increasingly claustrophobic eliminations of freedoms, this late career triumph actually stands in some strange way as an illuminating sequel to the director's 1968 hit, Rosemary's Baby.
Indelible scene: Szpilman climbs over a wall…into a world of monumental ruin.
2. 24 Hour Party People
(Michael Winterbottom).
A wildly enjoyable paean to a musical era not so long ago and an epicenter not so likely: post-industrial Manchester in the 1980's. Director Winterbottom, with elated DV production techniques, captures the feeling of youthful invention and naïve exuberance en masse. It features a game cast of young British comics along with cameos by the actual personages, and a hilarious standout performance by Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum in The Two Towers) as legendary kamikaze record producer Martin Hannett. Indelible scene: Tony reveals the Factory contract to Virgin Records.

3. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón).
Cuarón put Hollywood to shame by successfully filling the screen with more tangible life than any slew of studio pictures put together. An irreverent road movie, a portrait of Mexico at the millennium, it earns its stripes with a wistful coda that exposes the entire story as the passing from youthful exuberance to rueful experience, and the humanity we discard along the way.
Indelible scene: On the diving boards, when the mention of Salma Hayek does the trick.

4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki).
An animated trip-fest from the great Miyazaki, jammed with visual references to everything from Japanese folklore to John Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland illustrations. A huge treasure trove that invites repeated viewings, making it the perfect DVD for children, especially when, as a parent, you're going to be watching with your kid.
Indelible scene: The mysterious train ride over water.
5. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes)
A remarkable triumph of revisionist mimesis, at the juncture where history and film study (specifically that of Douglas Sirk's "weepies") meet. By telling us with such formal precision that things were not what they seemed both in life and film in 1950's America, Haynes opens the door onto similar questions for our own day and age, at a time when cultural (and political) assumptions go just as unquestioned. Julianne Moore seems to have delivered a touchstone performance, but equally impressive is Dennis Quaid's maturation with this role. The scenes of his clandestine homosexual awakening are a revelation, all the more so for the somewhat ambiguous morality with which Haynes paints them.
Indelible scene: First visit to a 1950's gay bar.
6. Adaptation (Spike Jonze).
It may be a bit "inside" for non-writers or those outside the movie industry, but Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, and their A-list cast provide more guiltless belly-laughs than any other picture this year. Meryl Streep once again proves that her technical success as a dramatic actress only belies her inestimable comic chops. Extra points for getting her to loop the most outrageous line of her career.
Indelible scene: Hollywood, California. Five billion years ago.

7. Gangs of New York
(Martin Scorsese).
There's an old saying that every great director eventually becomes a great art director. On the side of Martin Scorsese's epic is a fresh and vivid recreation of a time and place rarely (ever?) experienced on celluloid, a strongly political and revisionist directorial point of view, and our collective love for a great man of cinema. Going against it are some thematic and casting imbalances. If perfection were a pre-requisite for 10 best lists, Gangs might not make the cut; however, it does for breathtaking moments of visual magnificence.
Indelible scene:
Kicking open the wooden door onto snowy Five Points, circa 1846, atmosphere ripe with imminent bloodshed.
8. Catch Me If You Can
(Steven Spielberg).
While Spielberg's triumph of good humor and fluidity is being seen by many as a departure, it actually harkens back to his first theatrical feature, The Sugarland Express. With the box office shortcomings of that film, another tale of outlaws on the run, Spielberg claimed to have learned a lesson about downer endings, and virtually all of Spielberg's subsequent films have ended on some sort of positive spin. Here Spielberg makes sure to send us home smiling, but along the way includes enough pain, specifically the effects of divorce on a teenage boy, that he may have made his most autobiographical film yet. Supporting that theory is a breezy style harkening back to the 1960's French New Wave of his hero, director Francois Truffaut, as well as a sort of "graduation" ending set in 1974, the same year that Spielberg made that first feature.
Indelible scene: The charming, hilarious pas de deux between underage con man Leonardo DiCaprio and the stealth prostitute played by the stunning (and future Oscar winner) Jennifer Garner.

9. Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener).
As with her 1996 Walking and Talking, which also showcased the divine Catherine Keener, Holofcener crafts a vigorous female-centric view of the world. It's a welcome, distinct counterpoint to the dominant male movie culture, an all-too-rare missive from the other side. Her theme is feminine self-image, and while steadfastly refusing to tie up all the loose ends, she and her note-perfect cast create a catalog of pitfalls, both societal and self-imposed, in any modern woman's quest to embody those elusive qualities of the title.
Indelible scene: Struggling actress (Emily Mortimer) asks successful television actor (Dermot Mulroney) to enumerate her physical flaws.
10. Auto Focus (Paul Schrader) Underrated and readily despicable, Schrader gives his critics an easy opening, as usual. Per his custom, his cinematic vision is a one-way ticket to damnation, without the usual narrative reversals and other pleasures we've come to expect even from so-called "arthouse" fare. For those who can endure it, Schrader's scathing portrait of obsessive sexual narcissism and its relationship to celebrity boasts a detail-rich recreation of the mid-1960's through the 1970's, two stunningly Brechtian performances (Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe, not to ignore the terrific supporting cast), and a black humor so mordant that it curdles before our eyes in the final reel.
Indelible scene: Bob Crane (Kinnear) and shutterbug buddy John Carpenter (Dafoe) masturbate together to a video replay of one of their sexual conquests.

Revival of the Year:
Diary of a Lost Girl: G.W. Pabst's 1929 follow-up to Pandora's Box, and the second of his legendary collaborations with enduring silent film icon Louise Brooks features an even better lead performance. Although subject to censorship in its production, Pabst was nonetheless able to construct an entirely modern film in every way - shot selection, acting, morality. One warning: viewing may lead to an unbridled obsession with the timelessly beguiling Miss Brooks.

Special mention:
The Wire (feature quality 13-part HBO series), David Simon's riveting depiction of why we're losing the war on drugs, featuring flawless performances on both sides of the law and an increasingly suspenseful narrative that plays like a gem-sharp noir novel.

Guilty pleasure:

Resident Evil (Paul W. S. Anderson), a legitimate translation of classic videogame to genre picture, it plays like George Romero meets Alfred Hitchcock.

Lisa Larkin
In no particular order:
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki).
Many have compared this unfavorably to other Miyazaki classics such as My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, but I loved Spirited Away as much as I have loved any Miyazaki film. The Bathhouse of the Gods is such a wonderfully exotic locale, what's not to like? I'm basing my opinion on the Japanese language version (I haven't seen the Disney dub).
Adaptation (Spike Jonze).
I come down on the side of not minding the twist in the third act. Great script, great performances all around. Nicolas Cage is forgiven for City of Angels, but I didn't see Captain Corelli's Mandolin, so he may still have some bad karma to work off.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (Christophe Gans).
Written by Gans and Stéphane Cabel. To me this film represents what I think Baz Luhrmann was aiming for with Moulin Rouge. I didn't like Moulin Rouge, but I liked this. In spite of the plot meandering, it was just so much more fun to watch.
Secretary (Steven Shainberg).
A light-hearted sadomasochistic love story. Who would have thought? The performances of the two leads carry this one.
Read My Lips (Jacques Audiard).
Again, the actors made me willing to overlook certain problems with the story. I can't wait for this to come out on DVD so I can see it again.
Cherish (Finn Taylor).
Another one with story problems but engaging leads. I hope Robin Tunney gets better work. but she's costarring with Matthew Perry in something, which can't be a good sign.
Enigma (Michael Apted).
You can have your lame XXX action extravaganzas - give me a talky codebreaking spy thriller any day. Kate Winslet is an appropriately plucky heroine, but Jeremy Northam steals the movie as a snide spymaster.

The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman).
A spy thriller with more action, and nicely done. Now, if Doug Liman would direct a Bond film with Clive Owen starring, that would be about the only thing that could ever draw me back to the Bond franchise. Too bad it'll never happen.
The Two Towers
(Peter Jackson)
I could have done with fewer Arwen interludes and dwarf tossing jokes (one dwarf tossing joke is one too many), but it didn't disappoint. and Gollum was simply amazing. I look forward to the extended cut DVD, which will hopefully flesh out the scenes that seemed rushed in the theatrical version.
About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz).
Like Greg, I didn't want to wring Hugh Grant's neck, and that's saying something. The more unlikeable he is, the more I like him. A very charming film that will hopefully do better on video than it did theatrically. Possession (Neil LaBute).
I haven't read the A.S Byatt novel. From what I hear, those who have are disappointed in the film, but I enjoyed it for much the same reasons I enjoyed Enigma. It's a talky movie mystery.
From the San Diego Asian film festival:
My Sassy Girl (Jae-young Kwak).
Aan utterly charming Korean romantic comedy, which unfortunately isn't likely to be released here anytime soon since the remake rights were sold - to Madonna (the horror! the horror!)
Waterboys (Shinobu Yaguchi).
A breezy Japanese comedy about a male synchronized swim team. Naoto Takenaka (Rampo) is a hoot as their coach, a dolphin trainer by day.

Rolando Recometa
Warning: this list does not include My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
1. City of God (Kátia Lund & Fernando Meirelles).
Cinema doesn't get more shocking or exhilarating. Next to this Brazilian crime epic, Scorsese's Gangs of New York looks like a trip to Disney World. Come to think of it, Miramax, which produced GoNY, is owned by Disney.
2. Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón).
A funny, sexy, vibrant, sexy, poignant, sexy, insightful and very sexy coming-of-age movie.
3. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore).
Whether you agree with the movie's politics or not is irrelevant. Michael Moore's documentary about America's gun culture is the year's most relevant. And the most entertaining, too.
4. 25th Hour (Spike Lee).
Not to be confused with that Oscarbait about three women and a schnoz. A Spike Lee movie without a Spike Lee cameo is an added bonus. But it also happens to be the only Spike Lee movie that moved me to tears (the opening credits alone broke my heart).
5. About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz).
A Hugh Grant movie for those who can't stand Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant wears the same expressions in every movie, but the blinking and stuttering are used to stellar effect this time.
Scott McGee
In no particular order:
The Two Towers (Peter Jackson).
I'm not a Tolkien nut, but I did thoroughly enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring, and rooted for it at the last Oscars. But I did not fully expect to be bowled over by The Two Towers. An astounding feat of CGI serving a strong story, as opposed to a Forcefully-weak story serving as an excuse for "cutting-edge" CGI (hello, George Lucas). The battle scenes recall and surpass the Babylonian gate climax from Intolerance, the sweep of Lawrence of Arabia, and the muddy, bloody viciousness of just about every Kurosawa samurai piece. I'm all tingly.
The restored Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927).
Saw a clip of the work in progress at the Pordenone Silent Film Fest back in '99, and I was agog then. Seeing the finished film was a huge slice 'o' heaven.
Minority Report (Steven Spielberg).
I frankly thought this was one of Spielberg's most daring works, like A.I., but more accesible for, well, most of us. While the blending of film noir and sci-fi isn't new, Spielberg doesn't make the composite too arty, like Ridley does a bit too much in Blade Runner. I did think the ending was a bit of a copout, though.
Narc (Joe Carnahan).
Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. Reason enough to see this film.
The Rookie (John Lee Hancock).
Dennis Quaid, Hollywood's most underrated, underappreciated actor (second only to perhaps Jeff Bridges), giving a lovely performance in a simple little movie.
Spider-Man (Sam Raimi).
I was looking very forward to this release, and I was not disappointed. Tired of angst-ridden multimillionaires playing superheroes, audiences seemed to respond to this gangly kid dealing with something larger than high school pressure and impending adulthood. The CGI was a little squirrely in some cases, but seeing Spidey swinging around the Capital of the World is a rush. Other highlights: G.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. The very last song on the end credits. And Kirsten Dunst in the rain...
Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg).
I love Tom Hanks.
Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes).
I love Tom Hanks, but I love Paul Newman, gangster pictures, and Conrad Hall even more.
The Sum of All Fears (Phil Alden Robinson).
Uncomfortably close to reality. Not crazy about Ben Affleck, but I bought him as a green Jack Ryan.
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