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2003: An Odd Year

Dirty Pretty Things
by Greg Muskewitz

I canít say Iím not glad to see 2003 go for good. In and out of the world of cinema, itís been an odd year (numerically as well as numerologically). Of course, the biggest event outside of cinemaís realm in my life has been being diagnosed with, and battling, cancer. It has meant that much of what I take pleasure doing most ó seeing and writing about films ó has been somewhat reduced from an average year. Between an aggressive chemotherapy plan, and then subsequent feelings of sickliness, it has taken a toll not only on the number of films I have seen within 2003ís calendar year, but also the regularity in which I can write about them. The effects of chemotherapy, on an individual basis, are going to be somewhat varied I hear, and from what Iíve seen, I have been on the luckier side of my reaction to it. But I cannot relate to anyone who has not gone through it themselves, the maddening frustration and inability to look at a paragraph without getting dizzy, to attempt to compose a sentence without focus, to try and organize your thoughts without concentration or creativity. And Iíve still got approximately six months of it to go.

****************************
2003: An Odd Year
Given the unusual year, Iíve also seen it necessary to make unusual measures with the yearís Top Ten.

I canít say Iím not glad to see 2003 go for good. In and out of the world of cinema, itís been an odd year (numerically as well as numerologically). Of course, the biggest event outside of cinemaís realm in my life has been being diagnosed with, and battling, cancer. It has meant that much of what I take pleasure doing most ó seeing and writing about films ó has been somewhat reduced from an average year. Between an aggressive chemotherapy plan, and then subsequent feelings of sickliness, it has taken a toll not only on the number of films I have seen within 2003ís calendar year, but also the regularity in which I can write about them. The effects of chemotherapy, on an individual basis, are going to be somewhat varied I hear, and from what Iíve seen, I have been on the luckier side of my reaction to it. But I cannot relate to anyone who has not gone through it themselves, the maddening frustration and inability to look at a paragraph without getting dizzy, to attempt to compose a sentence without focus, to try and organize your thoughts without concentration or creativity. And Iíve still got approximately six months of it to go.

One thing my scaled-back screening schedule has caused me to do, at times, is be more selective in what and when Iím seeing it. As I wrote earlier last year, it has afforded me an airtight alibi to skip out on a number of films I doubt would have been time well-spent. A year-end look at those titles includes: Just Married, Kangaroo Jack, National Security, Darkness Falls, Biker Boyz, Final Destination 2, Deliver Us from Eva, Daredevil, Old School, Cradle 2 the Grave, The Hunted, Willard, Boat Trip, A Man Apart, What a Girl Wants, Chasing Papi, Malibuís Most Wanted, It Runs in the Family, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd, Hollywood Homicide, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Gigli, Freddy vs. Jason, Grind, From Justin to Kelly, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde, The Order, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Beyond Borders, The Cat in the Hat, The Haunted Mansion, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Obviously, however, avoiding those has not been cause enough to avoid a Bottom Ten altogether. Here are ten movies that I would have rather been getting chemo than sitting through:

10. Uptown Girls (Boaz Yakin)
9. Gasoline (Monica Stambrini)
8. Blue Car (Karen Moncrieff)
7. O Fantasma (Jo„o Pedro Rodrigues)
6. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Donald Petrie)
5. Em & Me (Jim Langlois)
4. Cremaster 3 (Matthew Barney)
3. Die, Mommie, Die (Mark Rucker)
2. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (George Clooney)
1. Bad Boys II (Michael Bay)

The rest of the bottom of the barrel: Anger Management, Assisted Living, Camp, Dracula: Pages from a Virginís Diary, Gods and Generals, Jeepers Creepers 2, The Kiss, The Matrix Reloaded, Melvin Goes to Dinner, Passionada, Respiro, Te Amo, Under the Tuscan Sun, Underworld, and Veronica Guerin.

Given the unusual year, Iíve also seen it necessary to make unusual measures with the yearís Top Ten. I donít know why ten is the arbitrary number used as the standard for the list ó why not five? 20? 27 and an opening scene? ó but as itís also often referred to, is as the Ten Best List. Just as from one criticís list to the next, these lists are going to have both similarities and differences as apposite to the way a star-scale is applied. Ideally, one would use their list of four-star films (or equivalent of highest rating) to fill up the ten slots. Well, what do you do if you donít have ten films with four-stars? Some may consider combining films from too separate tiers too much difference. In the past, Iíve felt that as long as at least half of my list was composed of masterpieces, to step down for the subsequent five was still all right. Despite the separation of a rating, totaled, they still equal the ten best movies you have seen. I saw six films in 2003 that I could consider masterpieces, leaving four available slots to fill. I held off one masterpiece from my list in 2002 because I saw it in New York and had hoped to would play at a film festival in San Diego during 2003, to no avail. I also missed a local screening of another masterpiece during the last week of 2002, which when I saw it (twice in a row), it was too late to include on my list. And a third masterpiece, still to this day denied a release in San Diego, is something I caught as a rental, with its worthiness enough to recognize later rather than never at all. Which left one spot for a non-masterpiece, but so close in its brilliance, that it easily swallowed the place up. And so starting with that film, and working backwards:

2003ís Top Ten

10. Cinemania (Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak)
9. Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (Rodrigo Garcia)
8. On Guard (Le Bossu) (Philippe de Broca)
7. H-Story (Nobuhiro Suwa)
6. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)
5. Mystic River (Clint Eastwood)
4. American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini)
3. Ararat (Atom Egoyan)
2. Lilya 4-ever (Lukas Moodysson)
1. Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears)

Salutatorians: FranÁois Ozonís Swimming Pool, Niki Caroís Whale Rider, Cťdric Klapischís LíAuberge Espagnole, Phillip Noyceís The Quiet American, Patrice Leconteís Man on the Train, Catherine Hardwickeís Thirteen, John Saylesí Casa de los Babys, Peter Weirís Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Anthony Minghellaís Cold Mountain, Woody Allenís Anything Else, the Dardenne brothersí The Son, Jennifer Dworkinís Love and Diane, DaniŤle Thompsonís Jet Lag, Alejandro GonzŠles IŮŠrrituís 21 Grams, Sofia Coppolaís Lost in Translation, Richard Kwietniowskiís Owning Mahowny, Aki Kaurismškiís The Man without a Past, Costa-Gavrasí Amen, Caroline Linkís Nowhere in Africa, Roman Polanskiís The Pianist, and Peter Mullanís The Magdalene Sisters.

With that, the yearís a wrap, though it isnít one to be forgotten soon. A subsequent column entitled ďIn HindsightĒ will be completed shortly with my take on most of what I saw during 2003. Iím looking forward, and not just to the cinema, of an even and level year. Even, itís required to be; level may well only be wishful thinking.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=888
originally posted: 01/02/04 21:54:57
last updated: 01/31/04 14:13:45
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