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December 29, 2003

Top Films of 2003

Here's my loose take on the best films of the year, a bit ideosyncratic (12 films), some could be added and others could fall off in favor of others, but here's my list in somewhat the order of best on down:

Dirty Pretty Things- Possibly the best film of 2003, yet it received almost no media attention and few props from end of the year lists. But a wonderful meditation on the heartbreaking stories and choices of illegal refugees in London's multiracial underground of immigrants.

City of God- Harsh, brutal and eyeopening story of Brazilian street children. Unforgettable.

Raising Victor Vargas- A "teen film" but one where the family takes center stage and the relationship is tender and awkward in a way that rings true. One of a crop of teen films this year (Better Luck Tomorrow, Bend it Like Beckman, Whale Rider) that found new pastures beyond white suburbia.

American Splendor- Flat out enjoyable performances and an innovative structure that broke the "fourth wall" in a way that seemed unforced and useful to the plot. Wins out against all the superhero movies for best comic book turned into a film.

Mystic River- Dark and wrenching with a lead role for Sean Penn that should net him the Oscar if there is any justice.

Return of the King- As much a tribute to the whole series, which this installment brought to a worthy climax and end. Seeing the "making of" bits on the extended DVDs just gave me greater appreciation of Peter Jackson's accomplishment.

Pirates of the Caribbean- Just a flat out enjoyable film with a star turn by Johhny Depp that you just can't believe Disney let him get away with.

Lost in Translation- Well-deserved praise for Sophia Coppola's direction and Bill Murray's role, although it's a film I admired more than I loved, but I still have to give it praise for featuring something beyond conventional Hollywood emotional relationships.

In the Cut- A film disliked by most critics, but one I thought gave Meg Ryan a wonderful turn as a woman barely anchored to her own life-- creating the neediness that pulls her into the darkness of the film's entanglements.

The Weather Underground- A deep and complex documentary about the fringe of the 60s generation, a film that engages in the internal emotional struggle of the participants, the regrets, the rethinking and even those who have no apologies.

Finding Nemo- The Pixar folks just keep the entertainment coming, with wonderful voiced performances all around.

Freaky Friday- Not a damn bit of innovation in the story, but solid writing and great performances, especially by Jamie Lee Curtis, so a special award for the best studio comedy done right. (Okay, add in School of Rock to share this award.)

Feel free to add your thoughts or disagreements.

BTW Spoilers in the comments discussing Mystic River.

Posted by Nathan at December 29, 2003 09:08 AM