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The Umpteen Best of 2003
by B.C. Edwards


Spellbound

Well it's that time of year again. Time to dust off those old Vivian Westwood's and parade up and down an ever increasing number of red carpets and claim that there are so many people who helped you to get where you are that you simply can't mention any of them aside from the studio executives who you've never actually met. Well, at least that's what I do during the winter months in Williamsburg. I mean, damn! It's freaking cold out there; whereas it's nice and warm in my imaginary awards ceremonies.

There's been a lot of bitching about how crappy this year was for movies, but I still managed to get my list of the best together. Let's start at the top.

Spellbound
Hands down the best movie of the year. If you didn't see it then I simply won't ever speak to you again.

Elephant
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I was wooed in by the fresh faced so-cute-they-could-only-be-real high school boys. And I'll admit it you're kind of right. They are damned beautiful, huh? All of that aside, Elephant is at the same time chilling and serene; totally believable and beautifully orchestrated. I guess plenty of people are going to say that it's too boring, or there's not enough resolution or it's too violent, but screw them all. This is a damn fine movie. And the boys are cute too.

Dirty Pretty Things
This rounds out the top three movies of the year. The style and intelligence of the film and brilliant acting on the part of Chiwetel Ejiofor far outweighs Audrey Tatou's horrific Turkish-come-british-but-still-just-french accent.

Laurel Canyon
This is easily the slowest movie of the year. While it's not exactly 'boring' it does posses many of the traits of that kind of film. Still an exquisite screenplay coupled with some stellar acting by a brilliant ensemble cast pretty much uses up all of the superlative words I'm allowed in an article. Sure, you might fall asleep watching it, but at least you'll fall asleep to something good.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
They're calling this the cinematic masterpiece of our generation. Ok, look: I'm a geek. I'll admit it. No question. While I didn't actually put on a pair of elf ears and a faux-mithril shirt for the premiers, I certainly empathized with those poor sexless souls who did. That all being said, this is by no means quite the movie that the critics are touting it as. Contrary to what the New York Times is suggesting I had exactly zero orgasms and the same number of religious epiphanies while watching it. However, The Return Of The King, is damn fine. I can't wait for the four and a half hour extended director's cut.

Triplets of Bellville
Sooooooo good. Assuming the Academy doesn't fuck up "Triplets" is the only movie that's got a chance of beating out Finding Nemo for best animated feature. There's no real way to describe this movie. It's not exactly for kids, but there's nothing specifically adult about it. There are virtually no words in the entire film, and there's even less sense. It's simply beautiful, and that is more than enough.

In America
Sure it's supposed to pull at your heart. But those little girls are just so dammed cute. This is a movie that has Oscar pretty much written all over it. What is so great about it is how despite that fact it's still a great movie. And I thought all the Irish ever did was drink.


Sweet Sixteen
I was totally going to review this movie over the summer but I was literally so depressed for like three weeks after seeing it that I couldn't claw my way out of the grim pit of Scottish Despair this film evoked to actually write anything about it. Ken Loach is in top form here, practically inventing a new form to depression and throwing it up on the screen. It's like watching a train wreck about to happen with all the delight of those devils on our shoulder. And then suddenly realizing at the moment of impact how truly awful and a sad tragedy can be. I never want to see this movie again, but everyone should see it once.

Capturing The Friedmans
This was possibly the most controversial movie of the year. Because of this, Andrew Jarecki has already guaranteed himself an Oscar nomination and Errol Morris' 'Fog of War' is the only real contender that might strip him of winning. But, all the controversy aside, Capturing the Friedmans is a gripping, perfectly edited movie which reveals layer after layer of complexity with such precise timing that you can't help but be on the edge of your seat. That and it has child molesters. And who doesn't love a child molester?


Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever
Maybe this is me admitting that this was actually a light year for movies, or maybe I'm just a sucker for gore, but Cabin Fever is still one of the most enjoyable, creepy, disgusting movies I've seen in years. Scary as hell and just as funny. That scene in the bathtub still gets to me when I try to shave.

Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself
This year's only real attempt at reviving the lost art of the black comedy. There are some truly beautiful and hilarious moments (mostly having to do with the titular character attempting the titular act) all of which culminates in something of a let down of a climax and conclusion. Still, Wilbur is pretty cute and I'm a sucker for an English accent.

28 Days Later
I saw this way back before it had five different endings. This is one of those movies that got too big for its britches. Back when it was premiering at Sundance everyone was all about this homage to the classic zombie flick. But now that it's made piles of money and had like six new endings tacked onto it (total blood transfusion… what the fuck!?) everyone hates it. Well go to hell everyone! I still think it's good.


There were lots of movies that almost made the list. Some of them were way fun or completely cool, or well written, or hilarious but not enough of those things at the same time. The runners up are: Chaos, X2, Finding Nemo, 21 Grahams, Kill Bill, Bad Santa, Don't Tempt Me, Cowboy Beebop, Lost In La Mancha, Raising Victor Vargas


The problem I have with these kinds of articles is that there's no way that anyone actually saw all the good movies in a given year (except maybe a real film critic, but who among us is one of those?). So you end up with either these totally lopsided lists or notes about movies that the writer has obviously not seen. So here are all the movies that I haven't seen yet that might have made it, and why I haven't gotten around to seeing them.

Lost In Translation
I really have no excuse for not seeing this movie. It's tops on my Netflix queue, however. That counts for something, doesn't it?

Pirates of the Caribbean
Doesn't Johnny Depp look just a tad too tan? Besides, I have a moral opposition to films based on amusement park rides. Except for Back to the Future, that is; and maybe the Swiss Family Robinsons. Those movies rocked.

Human Stain & Something's Got To Give
Anthony Hopkins and Jack Nicholson are way too old. They are at this point in their life where any movie they're in is automatically gold. Personally I'm just waiting for one of them to have a stroke on screen and have all the critics claim it's just a brilliant piece of acting.

Master And Commander: The Far side of the world
Personally I'm still pissed off at Russell Crowe for being in A Beautiful Mind. That's pretty much the only reason I haven't seen this movie. Regardless everyone says this is an exceptionally fun adventure movie without too many Saving Private Ryan-esque melodramatic moments. Whatever, it's nothing but a lot of guys stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no women for months and months, that's enough for me. I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually.

Big Fish
Doesn't Tim Burton kind of suck major ass these days. If anyone can name a good movie he's made since Edward Scissorhands I'll give them a nickel.

School Of Rock
This movie looks terrible. Everyone says it's really cute, however, and touching, and clever, and funny. That's what they said about Sister Act, though. I hate that movie.

City Of God
This is everyone's favorite foreign language film. Technically it opened last year, but it's still in theatres so I think it qualifies. I mean who wouldn't love a movie about street kids in Rio? At least I think it's Rio, it might be Mexico City, but I don't think so. Rio is way more bad ass.

Manic
This past spring I got an e-mail from someone who I haven't spoken to in about three years, I think I went to college with him, but I'm not sure. Anyway he claims this is the best movie he's seen in like an eon. As far as I'm concerned, any movie that evokes the sending out of personal e-mails to people he didn't know in an effort to garner it an audience deserves some kind of praise.

The Company
This is Robert Altman's latest movie. As far as I can tell Altman, in a previous life, must have earned some truly terrible karma. No matter how good a movie of his will be he'll never win anything for it. Not ever. This is his Greek hell, you see. He has to attend every Oscar ceremony for the rest of eternity just so he can watch the Ron Howard's of the world rack up win after win.

The Whale Rider
I always thought this was that movie about Eskimos. Turns out that one was called The Fast Runner, which I also didn't see. I don't have a clue what this is about. Riding whales, I'd imagine. Pretty fucking interesting, eh?

Fog Of War
I have no real excuse for not seeing this yet. I get a pretty major hard on for Errol Morris movies and I guess I'm saving myself for video so I don't embarrass myself in the theatres. Oh Errol, oh! Interview baby! Uhhhhh. INTERVIEW.

Last Samurai
I'm still pissed off at Tom Cruise for not coming out of the closet. And the poster for this movie is so terrible: him on that horse in that plastic samurai get up that looks way too much like a Halloween costume. Please Tom, get real.

Dogville
Lars Von Trier has pretty much given up on his whole Dogme principles of film making. I guess his simpler style of film making proved far too difficult to actually produce anything good. It's kind of like when you found out that William Faulkner had his mother do his laundry while he lived at Walden. It makes all of his work feel somehow dirty and fake.

Seabiscuit
I have this thing about horses. I find them boring. Sorry

House of Sand and Fog
Unless Ben Kingsley kills Jennifer Connnelly I'm simply not interested.


And of course I wouldn't be my bitchy, bitchy self if I didn't complain about the crap that poured out of the cinematic engine this year.

Home Rooms
So there were three movies made about school shootings which were all released about three months apart: Elephant (see above), Zero Day (which I didn't see) and this travesty. It has all the compassion and high school realism of The Breakfast Club set against a faux dramatic back drop and immolated with a stomach wrenching series of pointless plot twists. There is something horrifically offensive about how this movie deals with the subject of school massacres, like it was written and directed by a really concerned but totally oblivious member of the PTA.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman
I'm so glad I finally got to see this movie. I mean there's no way that it can be as bad as they say it is, right? Oh man! There is so much to this movie that, beyond sucking, simply doesn't make any sense; like total denial of physical law. And the twist. Oh what a twist! It's like a knife in the side. Bravo! Bravo!

The Cat In The Hat
OK so I didn't actually see this movie. But if I had, I'm not sure I would never, ever have forgiven myself. Neither would you.

Dark Blue
Not too much to say about this except, ugh. Whose idea was this? When will they die?

View From The Top
While this movie was truly terrible (probably the worst I saw all year), I do need to make a pretty severe apology. In my review I said that Mark Ruffalo acted so poorly that I figured he must have been drinking at least a fifth of bourbon a day. Turns out that shortly before shooting the film he had surgery to remove a brain tumor and his slurred speech was a result of the operation. Umm…. Oops. My bad. Sorry man; I loved you in You Can Count On Me. Please stop suing the magazine.

So that about wraps it up. What a year though. We laughed, we cried; usually both at very inappropriate moments. What more can you ask for? Let's hope the Oscars give us some nice fodder.

--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | January 2004 | Issue 46
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