About A Year

By Collin Souter
Posted 01/15/03 23:16:59

By now you have read probably dozens of year-end Top-10 lists, so I’ll try to keep this interesting. Instead of starting off with 10 Best/10worst, I decided to mix things up a little. A couple weeks ago, my colleagues and I came up with a list of Bests in Alternative Categories. I have them listed here, with my choices. We’ll start with Best/Favorite fight scenes, gags, romantic moments, etc. of 2002, move onto other categories, Top 5 lists, Special Achievement Awards, Worst of the year, and finally, my Top 10 (plus 10 more) of 2002, so that way we can have a few laughs along the way as we look back at this amazing, banner year for movies.

(*--I realize “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” should win a lot of these, but I always like to look back a bit further to reflect on touches of genius in other great works of 2002)

Best/Funniest Gag: “jackass the movie”—Jousting into the convenient store
Best Use of Music: “Moonlight Mile” Title song at the jukebox (even though that song was never a single and a jukebox would never have it, but I digress)
Best Line of Dialogue / Favorite Line of Dialogue or Dialogue Exchange: “Dear Ndugu”
Best Dramatic Pause: “About Schmidt” Speech at the wedding party
Best Fight: Neil Patrick Harris vs. The Three Guards in “Undercover Brother”
Best Newcomer: “Fast Runner” Natar Ungalaaq (This guy deserves some recognition for what he went through)
The You Must Stop Making Movies Award: Director Kaos for “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever”
Worst Decision by an Actor: Roberto Benigni, a balding 47-year-old with in-growing facial hair playing “Pinocchio”…Not a good idea.
Worst Decision by an Actress: Catherine Keener “Death To Smoochy.” Didn’t she already play this part in “Being John Malkovich”?
Best Ensemble: “Adaptation”
Best Brainless Movie: (tie) “8-Legged Freaks” and “jackass the movie”
Worst "Smart" Film: “Tadpole”
Movie That Made You The Hungriest: “Monsoon Wedding” Only because I love Indian food.
Most Underrated (Critically): “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
Guiltiest Pleasure (Film you like/love that was ravaged by critics & audiences): “Tuck Everlasting”
Best Action Scene: Car factory chase in “Minority Report”
Most Romantic Scene: Declaration of love with a bed of marigolds in “Monsoon Wedding”
The "F. U." Award (Given to someone - director, actor, anyone - you'd like to get out of the movies permanently - based on a film released in 2001): Guy Ritchie for "Swept Away"
Best Cameo(s): Terrance Stamp as The Limey in “Full Frontal”
Sexiest Shot: Anna Paquin walking (or is it floating?) out of the dance floor in “25th Hour”

(My thanks to Erik Childress and James Laczkowski for those categories)

‘50s melodrama.
2. NARC ‘70s cop thrillers
3. UNDERCOVER BROTHER ‘70s blaxploitation
4. CHICAGO Old-fashioned Hollywood musical
5. COLLATERAL DAMAGE ‘80s Golan/Globus films

Best Actor: Jack Nicholson “About Schmidt”
Best Actress: Renee Zellweger “Chicago”
Best Supporting Actor: Dennis Quaid “Far From Heaven”
Best Supporting Actress: Emily Watson “Punch-Drunk Love”
Best Director: Spike Lee “25th Hour”
Best Cinematography: “Road To Perdition” (R.I.P. Conrad Hall)
Favorite Song: U2, The Hands That Built America, from “Gangs of New York”
Favorite Score: Jon Brion “Punch-Drunk Love”
Favorite soundtrack (score or otherwise, best CD, let’s say): “About A Boy”
Favorite moment that made you break down and cry: “About Schmidt” The very last shot.
Favorite Bad movie: “8 Women” I can’t tell. Were they serious?
Worst actor: Josh Hartnett “40 Days 40 Nights”
Worst actress: Christina Ricci “Pumpkin” (Ironic, since she’s in love with Josh Hartnett in real life)
Most overrated whatever (Picture, actor, director, etc.): "Gangs of New York"

Five Great Movies you’ve probably never heard of:
A great documentary about Jewish and Arab kids from different sects of life growing up within the Middle East conflict, and what happens when they all finally meet to talk over their differences. Anybody who thinks Michael Moore is the only documentarian who is making a difference should seek this one out.

2.El Bola Further proof that there is some truly exciting cinema coming out of Mexico.

3.Home Movie Chris Smith’s follow-up to “American Movie” finds five groups of people and the bizarre houses they own.

4.The Komediant Who knew a documentary about Yiddish theater could be so interesting?

5.Windego A strange, sometimes over-the-top horror movie that gets by mostly on atmosphere, but there is a good father-and-son bond here that makes the whole thing strangely affecting.

COINCIDENCE!?! Yeah, probably
Murder By Numbers: 2 high school kids try to plot the perfect murder.
Released April 18, 2 days before the 3-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School.

Eight Legged Freaks: A toxic waste canister falls into a river, causing spiders to grow monsterously huge.
Released July 17, the same week officials decided that Nevada would be a good place to store gallons of toxic waste.

The Sum of All Fears: Tensions build as U.S. prepares for and suffers through nuclear annihilation.
Released May 31, the same weekend India and Pakistan have nukes pointed at one another.

Bowling For Columbine: Michael Moore’s scathing documentary about the gun culture in our society.
Released October 11, the same week a mysterious sniper starting gunning down people at random in D.C. (This event also caused the postponement of the thriller “Phone Booth.”)

Trapped: A wacky adventure about a couple who kidnap a child.
Released September 20, after a rash of horrifying kidnappings that took the country’s headlines by storm.

Chicago: A Cook County lawyer works his magic as he tries to prove a killer’s innocence.
Released December 27. A few weeks later, Cicero Town president Betty Lauren Malteese gets sent to the booby-hatch for insurance fraud. A week later, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all death row inmates. What does this have to do with the story in ‘Chicago’? I smell a sequel, that’s what.

1.Scooby-Doo I will see you all in Hell.

2.Pumpkin Imagine satire without a point, drama without motivation, romance without conviction and comedy without laughs. Throw in an awful performance by Christina Ricci (of whom I am a fan), and you have just one God-awful movie.

3.The Sweetest Thing The antithesis of feminism. You will not find smart women doing smart things. No, I’m afraid you will find only evil here.

4.Adventures of Pluto Nash So, who’s responsible for greenlighting this $100 million sci-fi comedy dead zone starring Eddie Murphy? Didn’t anybody tell Warner Brothers that we don’t live in the eighties anymore and this guy’s box office clout remains in question?

5.Rollerball Thank you Chris Klein for helping us laugh at love again.

6.Crossroads I thought they had re-released that cool 1985 Ralph Macchio movie. Imagine my disappointment. (Also, see comments for “The Sweetest Thing”)

7.Swept Away Can we just do away with Guy Ritchie already? This is one of those guys who will go down in pop culture history as “famous for being famous.”

8.Life or Something Like It Yup, Hollywood demonstrates once again that it knows nothing about life or anything like it. Starring Anjelina Jolie and Edward Burnes, two of the most annoying people on the planet.

9.Tadpole Ooooo, you made this movie in two weeks!?! Hey, guess what. IT SHOWS!! Try rehearsals next time. Or did they just film the rehearsals without discussing the script first?

10.Signs How ‘bout that ending? I had to go back a second time to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Surely, it couldn’t be THAT stupid and incompetent? No. No, it is. It wasn’t my imagination at all.

RUNNERS UP: Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, A Walk to Remember, 40 Days and 40 Nights, The Time Machine, Death To Smoochy, Enough, Bad Company, Collateral Damage, Showtime, Imposter, Men In Black II, Dragonfly, Swimfan, Ghost Ship, Extreme Ops, Pinocchio (I’m sure there are tons more, but that’s what I saw and I don’t feel the need to research this matter any further.)

Most Redundant Movie Poster: “Unfaithful” (From the director of ‘Fatal Attraction.’ Unfaithful)

Highest cliché-per-minute ratio: “Bad Company”

Winner of the who-knew-they-were-so-talented-that-they-should-have-their-own-movie award: (tie) The entertainment at Chuck-E-Cheese for “The Country Bears” and that Crocodile Hunter guy.

Winner of the “VELOCITY OF GARY* (*NOT HIS REAL NAME)” Special Achievement Award for Worst Title: “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever”

Worst Attempt At Starting A Franchise: “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever” (Are there more “Ballistic” movies out there waiting to be made?)

Most Inconsequential Movie of the Year: “Dragonfly”

Worst studio: Warner Brothers. (A Walk To Remember, Collateral Damage, Feardotcom, Scooby-Doo, Showtime, City By The Sea, Death To Smoochy, Ghost Ship, Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, Adventures of Pluto Nash, Two Weeks Notice, Analyze That)

Finally, My Top 10 of 2002:

1.25th Hour A longer review will be coming explaining why I found this to be the most important and profound movie of 2002. I can’t do it in one paragraph. Spike Lee’s deceptively simple morality play uses the Edward Norton character as a symbol for what happened to America pre and post 9/11, and where we can go from here. This does for post-9/11 angst what Tom Wolfe’s (not Brian DePalma’s) Bonfire of the Vanities did for ‘80s Wall Street Yuppie greed.

2. About Schmidt As Warren Schmidt, Nicholson—in the best performance of his career—conveys all the simplicity and frustration of a guy out of touch with America and trying to get back in. Schmidt represents the last of a generation who will put pen to paper in order to send a personal message, not to mention snail mail. We laugh when we hear those words “Dear Ndugu,” but in the end, the joke is on us. The last shot says it all. In this and many other subtle ways, “About Schmidt” becomes a most important movie, more so than it lets on. “About Schmidt” also puts Alexander Payne in the league of the finest American directors, including Wes and P.T. Anderson.

3. Bloody Sunday War movies have taken on a whole new kind of importance since 9-11, but none of them accomplished even a third of what “Bloody Sunday” did. The movie takes a microcosmic war and uses it to explain all wars, and every vital bit of information needed for us to understand everything involved in creating the conflict—from the idealism of the marchers to the senseless brute force of the British generals, and everything in between—comes across absolutely crystal clear. Unconventional, uncompromising and unforgiving. This movie gets under your skin without even trying.

4. Fast Runner A movie that best exemplifies the adventure that is filmmaking. No other movie swept me to another place the way this movie did. Combining a generational blood feud with the customs of the Inuit, this movie could best be described as “Nanook of the North” meets William Shakespeare, clearly made by people who will endure anything to make a movie. After what actor Natar Ungalaaq endured for what has to be the most uncomfortable chase scene ever filmed, every Hollywood actor who has ever demanded an extra million for taking their clothes off should be ashamed of themselves. “Fast Runner” is what great cinema is all about.

5. Last Orders Release dates be damned! Here in Chicago, this is a 2002 picture. A perfect movie. The best ensemble cast of the year under the direction of Fred Schepisi in a movie that conveys the warmth, the difficulty, the sadness and the joy of knowing a particular person all your life only to see them die. Even with its non-linear storytelling technique with multiple points of view, “Last Orders” manages to give the viewer of a sense of a life fully lived.

6. Punch-Drunk Love Upon second viewing, I was able to focus on Adam Sandler’s performance in P.T. Anderson’s romantic odyssey more than anything else. It’s a brilliant piece of work, a pure and sad depiction of a man who has completely lost touch of his inner harmony (hence the symbolic harmonium that bookends the movie). By far, the year’s best romantic comedy, certainly the most original, which is no surprise considering the source.

7. Y Tu Mama Tambien Alfonso Cuaron’s beautiful coming of age tale, despite being an obvious ode to “Jules and Jim,” felt so fresh, vital and original, no wonder it bypassed a limited-run and went straight to the multiplexes (Wait, did I just contradict myself?). Mixing sex, politics and sexual politics, “Y Tu Mama,” like the best road trips, has a life all its own. The realistic sex scenes don’t exist for sake of a cheap thrill, but as an important counterpart to the sad-but-true emotions these characters feel. Cuaron has become a master of the single-take shot without calling attention to it.

8. About A Boy I’m so happy to see this movie getting so much support from the critics. I’m guessing it’s because we feel a close connection to Hugh Grant’s character and that many of us have been in his shoes at one time or another. I bet each one of us thought we would be the only one to remember this movie at the end of the year. Yet, look at how many of us feel a kinship with this guy (it’s almost embarrassing). That, and the material is so fresh and dealt with so well by the Weitz brothers, that one can’t help but also remember that uplifting feeling when leaving the theater.

9. Minority Report I can’t remember the last time a piece of summer popcorn entertainment thrilled me to the point of reminding me what great movies are all about. Steven Spielberg went back to his “Raiders” days and turned out a brilliant, hypnotic and visually awesome futuristic thriller, one that Hitchcock might have directed if given the chance. This movie had it all: A good story, some good drama, a great sense of humor, thrills-a-plenty, smashing special effects, surprises and great performances. So, why didn’t more people go?

10. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart Maybe I have a bias because I’m a Wilco fan. Maybe I have a bias because I’m from Chicago. And maybe I have a bias because the state of the corporate music industry sickens me to no end. But guess what? Wilco’s plight made for great storytelling, Chicago has never looked better and Sam Jones first feature-length outing gave music fans a movie to cheer for. It ranks among the finest music documentaries ever made.

I Promised 10 more, didn’t I? Here Goes…

11. Adaptation One of the best ensemble movies of the year is also the hardest movie to describe. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have the Nicholas Cage I once knew and loved back with us again. Meryl Streep, after years of theatrical training and winning Academy Awards for important historical dramas, demonstrates that she has earned all those accolades for a reason: Nobody mimics a dial tone quite like she does. And Chris Cooper will be receiving some much-deserved awards for his portrayal as a backwoods orchid enthusiast. This is the only way I can talk about this movie in simple terms for the sake of one paragraph. For the rest, you’re on your own.

12. Spirited Away Yes, this movie is on crack, but it’s really good crack. Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fable, like his predecessor “Princess Mononoke,” raised the bar for smart, animated entertainment. A strange, beautiful nightmare with images that will not be soon forgotten.

13. Chicago A great musical that puts “Moulin Rouge” to shame, if for no other reason that it has characters worth caring about as well as a restrained visual style. While the movie has plenty of glitz and flair, everything has been perfectly edited so that we may enjoy the musical numbers as well as all the emotion put into them. With her raspy baby-doll voice, Zellweger disappears brilliantly into the role of Roxie Hart, giving the best performance of her career so far. Few movies this year felt as alive as this one.

14. Lilo & Stitch Disney’s best animated movie since “The Lion King.” A big surprise, seeing as how Disney has been in a strange transition period over the past few years, and with mediocre results. “Lilo & Stitch” finds the studio and its artists back in high form with this beautiful, bizarre and moving tale that plays like “Gremlins” in reverse, with two of the most engaging lead characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across in an animated feature.

15. Talk To Her A strange and profound work from Pedro Almadovar that conveys the importance of dialogue between men and women. Alternately bizarre and touching, sad and hilarious, thought-provoking and moving. The silent movie sequence will no doubt be the most discussed and laughed about scene for years to come.

16. Bowling For Columbine We need movies such as these to remind us of how much there is out there to be angry about and that we still possess the power to change it. Nowadays as we try to return to normalcy after 9-11, Michael Moore holds up a mirror to show us what normalcy really means…and it’s not pretty. Although repeat viewings of this movie have left me more and more frustrated at Moore’s ethics, I can’t deny the way I felt after the first time I saw it. I think it’s worth noting.

17. Rabbit-Proof Fence A brilliant work of cinema from, oddly enough, Phillip Noyce (“Patriot Games”). A great “true story” movie that actually makes you want to pick up a history book and learn more, unlike, say, “Gangs of New York,” which just makes you want to see missing footage.

18. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers More exciting, more involving, more edge-of-your-seat than the first, the “Lord of the Rings” saga looks like it will be the fantasy epic series against which all others will be judged. I consider LOTR to be one movie with “The Two Towers” just being the second act (which is why I won’t give it the full 4 stars, or 5, depending on where you read this). So far, so good.

19. Far From Heaven I think I admired this movie’s sincerity as a salute to Douglas Sirk more than I was actually moved by it, but certain things can’t be denied: It’s beautiful, the cast couldn’t possibly be better, the atmosphere is perfectly rendered and the movie hits every bulls-eye. I could say more, but I’m planning on a second viewing.

20. Frailty A good book-end to “25th Hour.” A terrific Gothic horror movie from Bill Paxton, “Frailty” is also a potent allegory on what truly makes a terrorist do what he/she does. Desperately sad and scary as hell all at once.

RUNNERS-UP: The Count of Monte Cristo, Monsoon Wedding, Panic Room, Changing Lanes, Insomnia, Late Marriage, The Rookie, Lovely and Amazing, Tuck Everlasting, Possession, One-Hour Photo, The Good Girl, Real Women Have Curves, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, El Bola, Personal Velocity, Moonlight Mile

AND THESE WEREN’T BAD EITHER: The Ice Age, Stolen Summer, Spider-Man, Metropolis, The Sum of All Fears, Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Road To Perdition, Read My Lips, Eight Legged Freaks, The Kid Stays In the Picture, Undisputed, Barbershop, Secretary, The Ring, jackass the movie, 8 Mile, The Salton Sea, 24-Hour Party People, Frida, Catch Me If You Can, The Hours, Comedian, The Pianist, Nicholas Nickleby, Undercover Brother

I REALLY WANTED TO LIKE THESE, BUT…: Kissing Jessica Stein, Murder By Numbers, The Cat’s Meow, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, Cherish, The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, The Mothman Prophecies, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Reign of Fire, K-19: The Widowmaker, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Souls, Blood Work, Simone, The Banger Sisters, CQ, Solaris, Wes Craven Presents They, Gangs of New York

YOU LIKE ‘EM? FINE, YOU CAN HAVE ‘EM: We Were Soldiers, Unfaithful, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Windtalkers, Orange County, The Bourne Identity, Resident Evil, Full Frontal, The Four Feathers, Femme Fatale, Igby Goes Down, Antwone Fisher, Evelyn, Treasure Planet, Morvern Callar

So…as Phillip Seymour Hoffman would say (in “Punch-Drunk Love”): That’s that!

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