While most of the nation’s film critics have announced their Top 10 best and worst movie lists for 2003, I’m releasing a different kind of year-end list called “Critic Doctor’s Top 10 Best & Worst Film Critics of 2003.”
There were a few movies that caught my undivided attention in 2003 including “Bringing Down the House,” “Gigli,” “Irreversible” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Dreamcatcher” and “Bruce Almighty” – for good and/or bad reasons. The movies had a profound affect on this year’s list – as you will soon read.
Taking this list too seriously would have been an impossible task, so I decided to mostly have fun with it. I based my decisions on looking back at my “Critic Doctor Is In!” columns, analyzing some critics’ Top 10 lists and anything else that left a lasting impression on me in 2003. All it takes is one very good or bad review for a film critic to end up on one of the lists. I did not include an “honorary mention” list because that would simply take up way too much space and I know I would forget someone.
The bottom line is that most critics I’ve read throughout the year (on both lists) are talented and knowledgable writers, but we can sure disagree on movies. Have fun reading my picks for the year!
— Critic Doctor
1) Nell Minow (The Movie Mom / Yahoo! Movies) – Of all reviews this year, the one that sticks in my mind is Nell Minow’s common-sense take on the movie “Bringing Down the House.” The movie certainly wasn’t my favorite, but because it was so misunderstood by many critics who called it racist – I couldn’t ignore the film. Nell was one of few who understood that the humor debunked racism by making the racist characters the butt of joke. With regard to this movie, Movie Mom is the epitome of that old saying, “A mother is always right.” Nell’s well-written reviews are also a useful resource for educating parents on movies.
2) Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) – Ebert has a way of making you laugh even when you want to club him over the head. He has significant and interesting things to say about movies – excluding, of course, his take on “Patch Adams” (1998) and “Erin Brockovich” (2000). My favorite Ebert review this year was on “Hulk” – recognizing the cleverness of the split-screen work and the quality in-depth story telling and overall quality of the film. Ebert’s legendary TV show is still amusing to watch as he debates co-host Richard Roeper weekly on “Ebert & Roeper” (Buena Vista TV). I also enjoy most of the movies Ebert hand-picks for his annual “Overlooked Film Festival” in Urbana, IL. I attend the event each year.
3) Neil Cavuto (foxnews.com) – I wouldn’t say Neil is a full-time critic, but he does discuss movies quite often on his TV show “Your World with Neil Cavuto” (Fox). This year I applaud his defense of the movie “Bruce Almighty” – taking on film critics who disliked this movie because it was “too religious, too goody, goody.” Uh, excuse me. Isn’t this movie about a guy who is temporarily granted the use of God’s power? Neil appropriately put Jan Stuart’s scathing “Newsday” review of the film in the media garbage where it belonged. Thanks, Neil!
4) James Berardinelli (reelviews.net) – When I set out to examine film reviews, James is one of the first critics I read. Even if I disagree with him, I know I’m getting an intelligent analysis of film. I liked James’ review of “Bringing Down the House” and he understood that it “lampoons racial stereotyping and intolerance” with it’s comedy. In his new book “Reel Views” (Justin Charles & Co.), Roger Ebert describes him as a “good writer” who is “literate, opinionated, well-informed”…and “familiar with film history.” I agree.
5) Holly McClure (crosswalk.com) – Holly’s review of “Bruce Almighty” was B-E-A-U-tiful! Overall, she has a very common-sense approach to reviewing films and this appeals to readers like me. Writing from a Christian perspective, she is not afraid to look outside the box with honesty and integrity with regard to filmmaking. Her guest appearances on FX’s former “The New Movie Show with Chris Gore” was a blast to watch. Holly also provides quality reviews to help parents decide what movies are best for their children to view.
6) Mark Ramsey (moviejuice.com) – Mark is the funniest film critic in existence today. When I click to moviejuice.com, I know I’m in for a smorgasbord of humor. This is one writer I definitely will enjoy reading even if I hate his review such as “Hulk.” It was funny, but sad. Mark made up for it with “Cold Mountain.” Check this guy out. He’s funny, folks!
7) Rob Blackwelder (splicedwire.com) – Rob Blackwelder’s reviews are filled with intelligence and wit. This year I especially liked his review on “28 Days” – calling it “scary, satisfying, ironic, uncanny and exponentially smarter than 99 percent of over-produced Hollywood horror.” He’s right! Blackwelder offers some of the most interesting online reviews and his passionate opinions resonate.
8) Mark Sells (filmthreat.com) – “Pirates of the Caribbean” is one of my favorite movies of 2003 and Mark wrote my favorite review of the movie. While some critics ought to walk-the-plank with their negative reviews, Mark’s review is the wind behind the sail – pushing us to the high seas. I also liked his positive take on “Terminator 3,” which means “I’ll be back” to read more of his writings in 2004.
9) Nick Digilio (WGN Radio 720) – I despised Nick’s opinion on the movie “Bringing Down the House,” but he made up for it with his positive commentary on “Dreamcatcher.” Very few critics like the movie (just check out the critical consensus sites like “Critics.com,” “RottenTomatoes.com,” or “Metacritic.com”). It’s mind-boggling! Digilio’s Chicago-based “Nick at Night” weekend radio show is very entertaining and I tune it in via the web at wgnradio.com. Bottom line: His movie commentary is fun and interesting – whether I agree or disagree.
10) Scott Weinberg (efilmcritic.com) – This year Scott rocked with his negative review on “Gigli.” While some critics (i.e., Joe Baltake – sacbee.com) cried that this movie was treated unfairly because so many in the critical community hated it, Scott stepped up to the plate and proclaimed the movie is “as awful as everyone’s been saying.”
1: Earl Dittman (Wireless Magazine) – Dittman was under the media microscope in 2003 because of his elusive film reviews. He likes all movies and the studios quote him in ads for incredibly bad films like “Boat Trip”, “View From the Top,” “The Core,” etc. Yet no one can find his published reviews (I’ve yet to find “Wireless Magazine”). Earl agreed to let me interview him and bring forth an honest and fair assessment of his opinions and the publications for which he writes. This is forthcoming. Until then, Dittman will remain on my worst list until he can produce for me at least one copy of a publication where his film reviews appear. Just one copy, Earl! Let’s talk.
2: David Poland (thehotbutton.com) – David had the worst things to say about quality movies such as “Seabiscuit,” “Daredevil,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Cold Mountain.” “Paycheck” and “Dreamcatcher.” He also included the repulsive “Irreversible” on his best list and then excluded “Finding Nemo.” Where is Bruce the shark when you need him!
3 & 4: Matthew Ross (indiewire.com) & John Waters (artforum.com) – both critics listed the useless, disturbing movie “Irreversible” in the #1 position on their best of 2003 list. Number one! This is the worst movie of the year, folks – far worse than even “Gigli.” The film’s story is pointless – period. Welcome to critic hell, gentleman.
5: Erik Childress (hollywoodbitchslap.com) – Childress’ extensive “Critic Watch” report keeps track of critics (like Earl Dittman) who are quoted frequently in movie ads and it’s an impressive piece of work. However, Erik is on my worst critic list for his whacked commentary on the movie “Bringing Down the House.” His review inaccurately describes a scene involving “shampoo” and “hair” – claiming the dialogue was racist. You still don’t get it, Erik. I bet Earl Dittman liked it!
6: Peter Sobczynski (criticdoctor.com) – This pains me greatly (Critic Doctor’s own in-house critic!), but Peter joins Erik Childress in producing the most ridiculous commentary on “Bringing Down the House.” Peter even disliked “Bruce Almighty” and listed “Road Kill” (oops!) I mean “Kill Bill Vol. 1” as his #1 movie pick for 2003. Peter did include “Finding Nemo” on his best list, but even that’s not enough to pull him above water. Sorry, Pete.
7: Lou Lumineck (nypost.com) – Lou called the “Hulk” CGI character “downright silly looking” and said it was worse than Jar Jar Binks from “Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.” That nausea inducing Jar Jar Binks is nothing like the Hulk character. You’re making me angry, Lou, and you won’t like me when I’m angry. Why? Now you’re on my worst list of 2003.
8: Harry Knowles (Ain’t It Cool News.com) – I liked Harry’s 2002 review of “Spiderman” because he wrote it with the passion and excitement of a child. The problem is that all of Harry’s reviews are juvenile and this gets to be irritating. Now I like reading Harry’s opinion from time to time, but I rarely read his stuff because he rambles and rambles – and then rambles more. Example: Harry’s recent review of “Kill Bill Vol. 1” is 3,182 words. His review should have been titled “Over-Kill Bill Vol. 3182.” Please, Harry. Put down the crayon! Write leaner reviews.
9: Steven Rae (Philadelphia Inquirer) – Rae produced the most boring “worst of 2003” list I read this year. His top 5 worst list has “Gigli” in all five spots. C’mon, Steve! You’re a film critic. Surely you can find four other undesirable movies such as “Irreversible,” “Bad Boys 2,” “Gerry,” “The Core,” “View From The Top,” etc. Good grief.
10: Leonard Maltin (Hot Ticket TV) – Leonard Maltin is, of course, one of the most legendary and recognizable film critics living today and millions have read “Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide” and watch his syndicated “Hot Ticket” TV show. So how did he manage to get on my worst list? Hint: He has something in common with Peter Sobczynski and Erik Childress. Nuff said.