Brent Bozman

Hayden Childs

McChesney Duntz

William Ham

Dana Knowles

Gary Mairs

Leonard Pierce

Michael Tomczyszyn

Scott Von Doviak

The Algonquin Kids’ Table: 2003 Top Ten Lists


Top 10 Movies of 2003

Most movie critics might say 2003 wasnít a terribly good year for cinema, but Iím not most movie critics. 2003 was a stupendous year for me. Usually I have to wait until the fall to get to the great stuff, but I was satiated early with the likes of Dracula: Pages from a Virginís Diary, Raising Victor Vargas and Spellbound.

Speaking of Spellbound, it was one of the best years for documentaries ever. Along with Spellbound, my favorites include Fog of War, My Architect and Winged Migration. I was cooler on Capturing the Friedmans and Bus 174, but both documentaries are among the most critically lauded fiction or nonfiction films of the year. And I havenít even seen The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Stevie or The Weather Underground.

2003 was a year of surprises. There was Pirates of the Caribbean, a Jerry Bruckheimer movie that didnít suck, and Shanghai Knights, a sequel vastly superior to the original (though both Matrix sequels blew chunks). What wasnít a surprise is that Miramax continued to keep terrific movies locked away in their vault. They threatened to release both Shaolin Soccer and Hero, but neither ultimately made it into theaters.

It was a terrific year for family films. Pixar may be a tad overrated, but they consistently put out quality work. This year, they gave us Finding Nemo, one of their better efforts, thanks in no small part to a surprisingly good Ellen DeGeneres. Indie filmmaker Richard Linklater ìsold outî in a good way in making a boisterous Jack Black vehicle, School of Rock. Will Ferrell stood out in Elf, and while not ostensibly family fare, Spellbound should be seen by the whole family. One anti-family film deserves mention here — Terry Zwigoffís Bad Santa, which skewers all conventional Christmas fare.

And so: here are my favorite 10 movies commercially released in the United States in the 2003 calendar year.

1. The Lord of the Rings — The Return of the King. Realized with greater panache and visual fidelity than could ever be imagined, this is a case in which the movie is better than the book.

2. Lost in Translation. Capturing all the romantic angst of two lonely-heart Americans in Tokyo, Sofia Coppola’s film is observant and bittersweet. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson deserve any and all plaudits they get during this awards season.

3. Raising Victor Vargas. The best pure romantic comedy to come along in a long while, Raising Victor Vargas is tender and perceptive. It also happens to be director Peter Sollettís first feature. American independent film is not dead yet.

4. Spellbound. Who knew a spelling bee could be this edge-of-the-seat thrilling, not to mention laugh-out-loud hilarious? Everyone has to have a favorite kid to root for. Mine was poor, insecure April.

5. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary. As good as any of the silent films Guy Maddin pays homage to; maybe even better. Also, Gustav Mahler rocks.

6. Blue Gate Crossing. A love triangle with a lesbian twist presented with quiet beauty. With just this film, Yee Chin-Yen becomes Taiwanís most promising filmmaker.

7. The Fog of War. This gets the inadvertently pertinent award. Errol Morris began this project shortly before 9/11, but his documentary on Robert McNamara could hardly be more timely.

8. So Close. Hong Kong action returns with all the incredulous stunts, eye-popping grace, and heady emotional melodrama that comes with the territory. Shu Qi, Vicki Zhao and Karen Mok are the sexy trio who make Charlieís Angels look like rank amateurs.

9. LíAuberge Espagnole. If youíve ever found yourself alienated in a foreign country and then found camaraderie in peers you met there, you will recognize yourself in this movie. And if you like Barcelona, this becomes a must-see.

10. Shattered Glass. Wow, Hayden Christensen can act! We already knew Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny and Melanie Lynsky could. The movie is a bit too self-congratulatory, but in a year of Jayson Blair and the news media simply not being up to snuff, Shattered Glass is strikingly poignant.

Honorable mention goes to Shanghai Knights, Elephant, Bad Santa, The Son, Elf, X2, Pistol Opera, School of Rock, Mystic River and Finding Nemo.