Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Top Ten 2003 Films

I've spent some time revising all of my aughts lists (my updated lists can be found HERE). Now that I'm on the John Owen/imdb system, I want to be consistent throughout the years. In doing so, I've lost The Son, 28 Days Later, and Dirty Pretty Things from my 2003 list. And unfortunately now, I like my list less, but at least it no longer mirrors Jeff's list (I probably would've gone with The Son as my number one film, too).

For a second there, I was worried that a 28 Days Later discussion would ensue, and I wouldn't even have it on my list. But thankfully there's Dogville to dominate everything.

10. All the Real Girls (Green)

It's no Your Highness, but it's still pretty good. In all seriousness, I feel that Shotgun Stories is a better low-budget, rural indie drama, but All the Real Girls presents an interesting story about a womanizer who seemingly changes his way after meeting the right girl. Oddly enough, Paul Schneider plays a similar character during the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation. Anyway, I'm a fan of Schneider, and he adds something likeable to a character that is normally repugnant. And as usual, a shout-out to Zooey Deschanel is needed...I love you. I would write more about this, but I'd have to see it again, first. Also, slightly sorry to say that it only made my list because those three aforementioned films were dropped.

9. Lost In Translation (S. Coppola)

After I saw this for the first time, I enjoyed it but was never crazy about it. Like All the Real Girls, it only makes my list because of the '02 films that were dropped. Sure the film is popular and SOME of  its fans are annoying to listen to, but I don't really understand the hate either. Infidelity is a negative word, and it's absolutely a nefarious act. For me, though, the Bill Murray/Scarlett Johansson relationship doesn't feel nefarious. It feels pure and genuine, and it's more about making a connection with someone who cares for you, and yes, pays attention to you. I can appreciate this film for demonstrating that love isn't always black and white. It can come in many forms and can be complicated at times. And yes, you're right, Jeff, Bill Murray was robbed!

8. Goodbye Lenin! (Becker)

The third and final "new addition that otherwise wouldn't have made it." This is a charming film about inevitable change/growth and wanting to preserve what we're used to and comfortable with. As we're all aware, the world is constantly changing and we can all relate to the feeling of not being able to always keep up with it. The performances are very good, the story is interesting...that's all I've got.

7. Elephant (Van Sant)

For me, the film represents a realistic and tactful approach to teens, high school, and the violence that potentially surrounds them. It's certainly one of the "must see" films from the year. Haunting is definitely fitting here, Jeff. You'd hope that events like Columbine and then even films like this would actually allow for political discourse on stricter gun control laws. I'm two seconds away from going on a political rant...better stop here.

6. Oldboy (Park)

As far as revenge films go, I love this movie, despite it being completely dark and twisted. The Skin I Live In reminded me of this one a bit, given the extreme lengths that one can go to in seeking revenge. It's partly a mystery/puzzle, but you aren't given a lot of the pieces until the last twenty minutes or so, but I found it to be very well paced. I'd like to watch this one again, but there are definite scenes that have stayed with me over the years. I love that big fight sequence in the building - very cool...hopefully my vague description does it justice.

5. Dogville (von Trier)

I'm late to the debate; I agree with Jeff (for once) about the humor/satire involved in the film.  I love the ending, even though I mostly don't advocate violence. Based on what the people of Dogville did to Grace, they deserve death; it's completely justified. If you're told to treat people the way you wanted to be treated, it should work the other way around, too. I especially love the transition from the shootings to the closing credits with "Young Americans" playing. Right then and there, the joke has been told. Whether you see this as an Anti-American parable or a more universal one about accepting others, there's an important message about the evils of xenophobia and ethnocentrism. And call me what you will, but I also enjoy the stage setting and the chalk-outlined homes...very fun and very Lars.

4. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Tarantino)

I prefer vol. 2, but this is still a lot of fun to watch. The fight sequences are perfectly choreographed and unique. The "bride" story is interesting/awesome, and it's great to see film about a woman who goes on a killing rampage in the name of revenge. Eh, that's all I got, but it's number four on my list, so you get it.

3. A Mighty Wind (Guest)

Let the potential Christopher Guest battle begin - I actually prefer this film to Best In Show. Fred Willard is hysterical in both, so the difference/tie-breaker lies with Eugene Levy. Mitch is a great character, and I love those album cover jokes (I used the Calling It Quits one as my profile pic once). This film also allowed Guest, McKean, and Shearer to write some songs for us again. I really enjoy the soundtrack and the "serious" parts of the film that Brandon seems to dislike. For me, it provides more depth to the world that these characters inhabit.

2. Big Fish (Burton)

For all of the cynical films and/or revenge films this year, it's the heartfelt, sincere ones that scored more points with me. Big Fish is definitely up there when you talk about Tim Burton's best. It's easy to fall in love with the story, with a young Marion Cortillard, and with the relationship between Jessica Lange and Albert Finney. What you find on the screen is real emotion and love - the bathtub scene, for example. Also, the ending is beautiful and even as I sit here just thinking about it I'm beginning to feel a little emotional. Yes, the guy who cried for blood at the end of Dogville literally cried at the end of Big Fish. Aren't films great?

1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Jackson)

Not my favorite from the trilogy, but here it stands as my favorite from '03. Like the other two LOTR films, I saw this in the theater multiple times. This was my generation's Star Wars...even though my generation very much embraces and loves Star Wars...but you know what I mean. Seeing the entire trilogy play out on screen was a captivating, emotional ride. It was one hell of a journey and provided me with theater experiences that I'll never forget. Since I hadn't read the books, I remember trying to predict what would happen with my brothers and my friends (who also hadn't read the books). This film made 2003 a very exciting year, even if it wasn't a great one for film. Hats off to Peter Jackson for absolutely doing things the right way. And by that I mean shooting all three films back to back, and certainly with the casting. Here's hoping that The Hobbit films are just as good.

Honorable Mention: Mystic River, Cabin Fever

Haven't Seen: Finding Nemo, The Five Obstructions, 21 Grams, American Splendor, Monster, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Cooler, The Dreamers, Intolerable Cruelty, School of Rock.

Additional thoughts: I was 16-17 years old when these films came out; I didn't see Dogville, Oldboy, and Goodbye Lenin! until a few years ago. The rest, I saw in the theater or when they were released on DVD.

Like Jeff, I watched a lot of shitty films when I was a teen (like most, I imagine...unless your name is Brandon Musa). I can recall being a fan of Phone Booth when it came out. John should be more ashamed of that than of me being a mouthy atheist.

But, I am excited to finally announce that Jeff and I disagree on something: Elf. I'm with you, Brandon, I'm not a fan and I think it's overrated. The only thing I enjoy in it is Zooey Deschanel's voice/self. Otherwise, the film's forced cuteness is completely suffocating. The moment it hit the theater it was considered an instant holiday classic; seems you don't have to work too hard to achieve that these days. A shame, though, because it's got Bob Newhart and he's the shit.

Since Jeff referenced all the crap from this year, I wanted to throw another log on the fire - anyone remember seeing the A Man Apart trailer a million times in the theater? And in it, we were basically shown the entire movie. At least I was smart enough to relentlessly mock it when I was a teen.

Ben, I had to watch Thirteen for an on-line film class I took through Herkimer Community College. One thing that stuck with me was the feeling that I never wanted to have a teenage girl. I sort of maintain that if I do have a daughter someday, I'm putting her up for adoption the moment she turns 13. This film was no fun to watch. Good performances or not, it just was a sucky experience. Sorry again. Damn, we need a film to bring us together again real soon.


  1. I sobbed like a girl at the end of Big Fish when I saw it in the theater. Of course, I am a girl.

    I agree it's one of Burton's best, but it's also largely ignored.

    1. Ha, well, I suppose I tried to sob as boyishly as I could. And speaking of Burton's best, Adrienne, have you seen Ed Wood? Another one of my favorites.