In case you give a s**t, here’s our Best and Worst list of 2003. While other outlets treat their own lists as law, we like to think of our own as simply a chance to prattle off what we thought ruled and sucked last year. So have fun going through the list. I know we did.
BEST FILMS OF 2003
1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Despite Peter Jackson’s reluctance to cut the leash on this final chapter in his master trilogy, resulting in a Captain Linger ending that wears out its welcome long before the credits start rolling, this is still our number one pick for best picture of the year. Anybody surprised?
2. LOST IN TRANSLATION
Deservedly, a great deal of the press Sofia Coppola’s film has gotten has focused on the superb quality of her writing and direction. For my money, though, the real triumph here is Bill Murray’s. There isn’t another American screen actor who could have given this performance, not one who so deftly could have navigated the razor’s edge separating the wiseacre and the wise.
3. CITY OF GOD
Criminally underrated gangster thriller taking place in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. This is the first movie that’s come along that truly deserves its comparison to “Goodfellas.”
Different story, different characters, same “Empire Strikes Back” feeling. These “X-Men” movies are turning out to be the best comic book films ever made.
5. OPEN RANGE
An exhilarating fusion of new and old Hollywood that proves there’s still life left in one of the movies’ oldest forms. Good for Kevin Costner: In a year cluttered with dumb action films, sequels and remakes, the struggling actor-director bucked the trends and put himself back in the saddle again.
6. IN AMERICA
Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical account of an Irish family’s search for a fresh start in the wake of a tragedy offers one of the most affecting studies of the immigrant experience ever put on film. And so much more.
7. ZERO DAY
This Columbine inspired drama puts Gus Van Sant’s stinkbomb “Elephant” to shame. Amazing performances by relative unknowns Andre Keuck and Calvin Robertson really make this one sting days after seeing it.
8. THE DANCER UPSTAIRS
In his directorial debut, John Malkovich does an impressive job of juggling political, dramatic and comic story elements. Hypnotically unhurried, atmospheric and rich in shrewdly observed detail, this is a first effort that’s first rate. Made before September 11, the picture offers a study of the psychology of terror which, unfortunately, couldn’t be more relevant today.
9. 21 GRAMS
Sean Penn gave two remarkable performances this year and the more remarkable of the two can be found in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s dazzling experiment in space-time origami. Also starring Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro, this is a picture that’s haunting, profound and acted with unparalleled artistry.
Love it or hate it, a movie that has had such a strong effect on every single person that’s seen it deserves to be on everyone’s best of 2003 list.
WORST FILMS OF 2003
1. DR. SEUSS’ THE CAT IN THE HAT
After this and the almost-as-awful “Grinch” movie, it’s obvious studios won’t be happy until they’ve made the Lorax a hip-hop forest pimp. Let the symbolic skull-f*****g of Theodore Geisel continue.
2. DOWN WITH LOVE
Peyton Reed’s colossally awful homage to the comedies of Doris Day and Rock Hudson wasn’t about comedy or characters. It was all about the retro sets, Technicolor palette and period outfits. This wasn’t a movie. It was art direction run amok!
3. GIGLI – Ben and J-Lo’s bunker buster wasn’t quite the year’s worst one but it came pretty damn close. Poorly written, directed and performed, the picture’s frequently in poor taste as well, playing one character’s disability for easy laughs. It’s one thing to choose a title that’s unpronounceable. Another to make a movie that’s unspeakable.
4. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE REMAKE
Movie audiences fell for the old name recognition trick just like Michael Bay had planned. Today’s movie audiences also sing along to dog food commercials.
5. MY BOSS’S DAUGHTER
Frightful, non-funny one joke lame-o-rama about a hapless housesitter which, itself, sat on the Miramax shelf for two years before being dusted off for release this fall. The scariest thing about the film? The fact that it was directed by “Airplane!”‘s David Zucker.
6. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Fox releasing this to theaters was like an eighth grader turning in his s**t streaked undies as his class science project. Inexcusable and downright rude.
7. THE ORDER
In his latest, Heath Ledger travels to Rome to investigate the mysterious death of a fellow priest and winds up drawn into a vortex of supernatural evil and second rate special effects. A better title for this one: Holy Crap.
8. THE HAUNTED MANSION
Fortunately for the House of Mouse, Disney geeks will gobble up anything the studio serves them and then gladly ask for more. Everyone else knew to stay as far away from this turd as possible.
It didn’t take Oscar winner Halle Berry long to get the hang of doing what Oscar winners do. Namely taking advantage of their heightened bankability to get rich cranking out quickly forgotten clunkers. “Gothika” was released in late November and I’ve forgotten what it was even about already.
10. TEARS OF THE SUN
War can be hell. In the case of Antoine (“Training Day”) Fuqua’s latest, it was also dull, pointless, surprise-free and altogether un-“Saving Private Ryan” -like. That Bruce Willis reported for duty was no great surprise. That a filmmaker as promising as Fuqua squandered time and talent on “Tears of the Sun” is nothing short of a crying shame.
Get the Best of the Best and the Worst of the Worst in part two of FILM THREAT’S BEST & WORST OF 2003>>>