The Entries

Acquarello

Peg Aloi

Michael J. Anderson

Geoff Andrew

Saul Austerlitz

Matt Bailey

Martyn Bamber

Mike Bartlett

Nicholas Butler

Peter Calder

Thomas Caldwell

Mark Campbell

Michael Campi

Michelle Carey

Gayatri Chatterjee

Doug Cummings

Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Rick Curnette

Adrian Danks

Brian Darr

John Demetry

Jorge Didaco

Babak Esfandiari

Kin Ferate

Acquarello

For me, 2003 turned out to be the year of the retrospective and special programming, beginning with “Film Comment Selects: 2003”, which was where I saw the first film to make my list, Michael Almereyda’s Happy Here and Now (2002), on January 2, 2003 – the day of the STS-107/Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) accident. The other films on the list may not have their viewing dates so indelibly marked in my memory, but their residual images – fearlessly bold (Elephant [Gus van Sant, 2003], Pretend [Julie Talen, 2003]), irreconcilably haunting (Pornography [Jan Jacob Kolski, 2003], Good Morning Night [Mario Bellocchio, 2003]), embracingly human (Since Otar Left [Julie Bertucelli, 2003], Raising Victor Vargas [Peter Sollett, 2002]), and painfully lucid (Camel(s) [Park Ki-young, 2002], Goodbye Dragon Inn [Tsai Ming-liang, 2003], Life on the Tracks [Ditsi Carolino, 2003]) – invariably remain.

Elephant

Since Otar Left
Goodbye Dragon Inn
Elephant
Life on the Tracks
Happy Here and Now
Pornography
Pretend
Raising Victor Vargas
Camel(s)
Good Morning Night

Honourable mentions: Angels in America (Mike Nichols, 2003), The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003) and Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2002).

Favourite retrospectives: New York Film Festival, “Yasujiro Ozu: A Centennial Celebration” (Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, New York) and “The Elegies of Aleksandr Sokurov” (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.).

Acquarello is a NASA Design Engineer and author of the Strictly Film School website.

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Peg Aloi

Here are my choices for 2003 (out of films released in the US throughout the year).

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Lone Scherfig, 2003)
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2003)
Lawless Heart (Neil Hunter & Tom Hunsinger, 2003)
Lilya 4-ever (Lucas Moodysson, 2003)
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (Shane Meadows, 2002)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
Navigators (Ken Loach, 2002)
The Triplets of Belleville
Open Hearts (Susanne Bier, 2002)
The Station Agent (Tom McCarthy, 2003)
Winged Migration (Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats & Jacques Perrin, 2001)
Strass (Vincent Lannoo, 2001)
All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002)

Honourable mentions:

Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002)
The Event (Thom Fitzgerald, 2003)
Bubba Ho-Tep (Don Coscarelli, 2002)
Thirteen (Catherine Hardwicke, 2003)
Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
Pieces of April (Peter Hedges, 2003)
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)

It generally seemed to be a year of very dark films; at times delightfully subversive, at other times faintly moralistic. Some artful violence that was often hard to watch. Some extremely fine acting, although with a few exceptions this was not a year for remarkable ensemble casts (I would point out Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, The Navigators, Open Hearts, The Station Agent, The Return of the King, All or Nothing, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, and The Lawless Heart for their fine ensemble acting). It seems to me there were many fine films on a smaller scale coming from the UK this year.

Peg Aloi is a freelance film critic (mostly for The Boston Phoenix) and a lecturer in the Department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, where she teaches courses on film history and theory, creative writing, and assorted topics including a seminar on Australian cinema.

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Michael J. Anderson

Au hasard Balthazar (re-release) (Robert Bresson, 1966)
Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)
Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003)
Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
The Son (Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne, 2002)
Friday Night (Claire Denis, 2003)
Spider (David Cronenberg, 2003)
Dolls (Takeshi Kitano, 2002)
The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002)
Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki, 2002)

Michael J. Anderson is 25 and living in New York, and is a graduate student in Cinema Studies at New York University.

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Geoff Andrew

Best films released in the UK during 2003:

The Son (the one film that stood head and shoulders above every other feature)
To Be and To Have (Nicolas Philibert, 2002)
Springtime in a Small Town (Tian Zhuangzhuang, 2002) / Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) / Solaris (Steven Soderbergh, 2002) (three remarkable remakes)
Lifeline (Víctor Erice, 2002) (Erice’s short in Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet [various directors, 2002]
Spider
Crimson Gold
(Jafar Panahi, 2003)
Intolerable Cruelty (Joel Coen, 2003)
Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003)
Waiting for Happiness (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2002)
The Man Without a Past
Le Chignon d’Olga
(Jérôme Bonnell, 2003) / Raising Victor Vargas / All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2002) (three very fine films about young love)

I also very much liked Mystic River and for the most part adored Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) but Charlie Kaufman really should sort out his last-act problem.

Most ludicrously overrated release:

Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002); probably followed by Kill Bill: Volume 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003).

Best films seen on the festival circuit in 2003 but not released in UK (in no particular order):

Rotterdam
Gambling Gods and LSD (Peter Mettler, 2002)
Cowards Bend the Knee (Guy Maddin, 2003).

Cannes
The Best of Youth (Marco Tullio Giordana, 2003)
Uzak (Distant) (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2003)
American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, 2003)
Ce jour-la (Raúl Ruiz, 2003)
Mille Mois (Fawzi Bensaïdi, 2003)
Japanese Story (Sue Brooks, 2003)

Locarno
Il Dono (Michelangelo Frammatino, 2003)
Mister V (Emile Deleuze, 2003)
Free Radicals (Barbara Albert, 2003)
The Magic Gloves (Martin Rejtman, 2003)

Uzak

Morelia
Condor (Rodrigo Vazquez, 2003)
La Luna de Antonio (Diana Cardozo Benia, 2003) [short]

London
Basque Ball. The Skin Against the Stone (Julio Medem, 2003)
Milwaukee Minnesota (Alan Mindel, 2003)
The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)

Major new discovery: the three features of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (The Small Town [1998], Clouds of May [1999], Uzak) – almost (but not quite) as exciting as discovering the joys to be had from the films of Kiarostami.

Best “old” movie seen for the first time this year: Reconstruction by Theo Angelopoulos.

Best bits of film criticism: “Space and Place in Kiarostami”, by Stephen Bransford, Senses of Cinema Issue 29 Nov-Dec 2003, and, in terms of books, the recently published The Cinema of Terrence Malick, ed. Hannah Patterson, Wallflower Press.

Geoff Andrew is Senior Film Editor, Time Out magazine, and London Programmer, National Film Theatre, London.

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Saul Austerlitz

How I love making lists. Here goes:

An Injury to One (Travis Wilkerson, 2002)
Angels in America
Mystic River
Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz, 2002)
Lilya 4-ever
The Man Without a Past
Crimson Gold
Chihwaseon (Im Kwon-Taek, 2002)
Elephant
demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2003) / The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)

Honourable mentions: Uzak, Bus 174 (Jose Padilha & Felipe Lacerda, 2002), All the Real Girls, American Splendor, Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2001), The Station Agent, To Be and To Have, City of God (Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund, 2002), Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, 2003) Stevie (Steve James, 2002).

Saul Austerlitz is a freelance film critic in New York City.

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Matt Bailey

The Red Circle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970) (re-release)
Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Irreversible
Lilya 4-ever
Spider

Morvern Callar
Talk to Her
(Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Mon-Rak Transistor
(Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, 2001)
To Be and To Have

Matt Bailey has a MA in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the administrator of The Criterion Collection Forum.

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Martyn Bamber

Top five favourite films seen in the UK in 2003:

Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002) (straight-to-DVD release in the UK)
Catch Me if You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Hulk (Ang Lee, 2003)

Martyn Bamber is a writer and filmmaker based in the UK. He has profiled Joe Dante for the Senses of Cinema Great Directors critical database.

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Mike Bartlett

In no particular order:

Solaris

Solaris
Crimson Gold
Spirited Away
Master and Commander

To Be and To Have
Touching The Void (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
The Son
Adaptation
Dark Water
(Nakata Hideo, 2002)
The Skywalk Has Gone (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003)

Spirited Away was the hands-down best film of the year. Adaptation and The Son demonstrated some of the most exhilarating cinema in the last decade – until about halfway through when they both lost momentum.

All in all, I felt it was a lacklustre year for cinema with many films – In The Cut (Jane Campion, 2003), Lost In Translation, Lucas Belvaux’s Trilogy (2002) – being ridiculously overrated.

The most welcome surprises of the year were Soderbergh’s triumphant remake of Solaris; Peter Weir (perennially damned with faint praise) transforming an adventure blockbuster into an engrossing study of men at war; and Tsai Ming-liang’s wonderful short The Skywalk Has Gone.

Mike Bartlett, UK-based, subtitles films and TV programs for the hearing-impaired. Oh, and he loves movies!

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Nicholas Butler

The ten most original and engaging films for me of the year, including a few released in 2002 that never really made it to theatres until 2003:

City of God
Lost In Translation
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, 2002)
The Secret Lives of Dentists (Alan Rudolph, 2002)
The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003)
American Splendor
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2003)
Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003)

Honourable mentions: Party Monster (Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato, 2003), Swimming Pool (François Ozon, 2003), Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott, 2003), 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)

Most overrated: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Elephant, Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003).

Nicholas Butler is an English major with an emphasis on film studies and production at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.

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Peter Calder

City of God
The Pianist
Far From Heaven
Talk To Her
Mystic River
Spider
Bloody Sunday (Paul Greengrass, 2002)
25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2003)
Irreversible
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

Peter Calder is film critic for the New Zealand Herald and New Zealand correspondent for Variety.

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Thomas Caldwell

I have limited myself to films released theatrically in Australia between 1 January and 31 December 2003. Therefore films that were only shown at festivals or went direct to video, DVD or television are not included in this Top Ten.

Nevertheless the following films that were screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival would have all been contenders for my Top Ten had they been given a general release:

Resurrection of the Little Match Girl (Jang Sun-Woo, 2002)
Interstella 5555 (Kazuhisa Takenouchi, 2003)
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2002)
The Other Final (Johan Kramer, 2002)

I have also not included re-released films such as Director’s Cuts or Special Editions. This is mainly due to the fact that the following four films would have dominated too easily which would have been unfair to recent films:

The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
The Red Circle
Alien
(Ridley Scott, 1979)

The Top Ten:

Kill Bill: Volume 1
Lost In Translation
Russian Ark
Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
28 Days Later
Japanese Story
The Spanish Apartment (Cedric Klapisch, 2002)
Mystic River
The Hours (Stephen Daltry, 2002).
Spider

Naturally it is extremely difficult to narrow down all the films from this year into a Top Ten so I have given myself the indulgence of giving ten honourable mentions to films that reflected diversity, boldness and challenged narrative, genre and film style.

Undead

The Pianist
Far From Heaven
Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself
24 Hour Party People
(Michael Winterbottom, 2003)
Secretary (Steven Shainberg, 2002)
Undead (Michael and Peter Spierig, 2003)
Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001)
The Rules Of Attraction (Roger Avary, 2002)
In The Cut
Dogville
(Lars von Trier, 2003)

Thomas Caldwell is a freelance writer specialising in film criticism based in Melbourne, Australia. He is currently writing an educational book on film analysis that will be released mid-2004.

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Mark Campbell

I feel a bit depressed typing up this list – Aussieland really doesn’t have great distribution deals going with film. I’d like to say I’ve watched Marina de Van’s In My Skin, (2002) Assayas’ demonlover (2003), practically anything by Guy Maddin – but they haven’t been released here yet! Hell, we’re getting Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, 2003) round mid-2004 – in time for Christmas in July I suppose! Sigh.

Autofocus (Paul Schrader, 2002). Welcome back Paul Schrader! A meticulous study of addiction – and a movie with a heart. Schrader pulled off a very precarious juggling act there.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (McG, 2003). A joyous slab of pop art, and what a relief after some of the pompous drivel that was released in 2003; I’m thinking of Cold Mountain particularly. Though I do think Nicole’s hair and makeup people deserve an Oscar for Best Special Effects!

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (George Clooney, 2003). OK, so it did lift shamelessly from the Coens and Soderbergh, but there was enough going on to keep me satisfied and Sam Rockwell is dazzlingly beautrescent!

Femme Fatale. A welcome return to form for Brian De Palma; sure Antonio Banderas was a bit lame and the music was stinky (the Ravel lifts were particularly tawdry), but Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and 2003’s show-off model Rie Rasmussen were perfection!

Frida (Julie Taymor, 2002). Loved the casting of Ashley Judd as Tina Modotti. Now I just need to see someone make biopics with Uma Thurman as Lee Miller and Judy Davis as Djuna Barnes and I will be truly happy!

The Hours. Just to shift focus a bit, Toni Collette and Miranda Richardson were fantastic and sorely under-mentioned in the reviews (oh, and Stephen Dillane is a major babe!).

Kill Bill: Volume 1. Like Femme Fatale, Kill Bill revelled in the joy of cinema and that gave me such a rush I saw it twice. Bring on volume 2!

Lost In Translation. A love-letter to Bill Murray (which turned my head around, because I’d never really been a fan!).

Morvern Callar. Almost unbearably sad, but never-endingly moving.

Swimming Pool. Charlotte Rampling, what can I say – bellissima! Ozon reminds me of Chabrol – riffs on Hitchcock but holding the focus on intimate character study rather than traditional horror scenes.

I need to make special mention of Unfaithful (Adrian Lyne, 2002), which I saw on video in 2003. Who would have thought that Lyne could riff on a Chabrol film, and retain Chabrol’s characteristic restraint and intelligence? Bravo!

Mark Campbell is a librarian, part-time writer, and film buff.

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Michael Campi

Angel on the Right (Jamshed Usmonov, 2002)
The Best of Times (Chang Tso-chi, 2002)
Blissfully Yours
Blind Shaft
(Li Yang, 2003)
Crimson Gold
Dolls (Takeshi Kitano, 2002)
Drifters (Wang Xiaoshuai, 2003)
Far From Heaven
The Man Without a Past
Memories of Murder
(Bong Joon-Ho, 2003)
Mystic River
Oasis
(Lee Chang-dong, 2002)
Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
The Uncertainty Principle
(Manoel de Oliveira, 2002)
Uzak

2003 was a year of many personal dislocations, relocations and disjunctions.

Several of my best of 2002 found their way to local shores (e.g. Spider and Turning Gate [Hong Sang-Soo, 2002]). We are all experiencing new works outside the normal parameters of a twelve-month season so that comparisons between lists are becoming increasingly difficult and/or irrelevant.

Michael Campi has been under the spell of the cinema for half a century. He was involved with the film society movement, assisted with the former National Film Theatre of Australia and was a committee member of the Melbourne Film Festival in the 1970s. He feels as passionate about Beethoven and Mozart as Bresson and Mizoguchi.

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Michelle Carey

Time of the Wolf

Irreversible
Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003)
Lost In Translation
The Uncertainty Principle
Oui Non (Jon Jost, 2002)
demonlover
Crimson Gold
Ten
Blissfully Yours
Morvern Callar

Best re-release: The Red Circle

Goodbye: Marie Trintignant (au revoir tristesse), Stan Brakhage, Jean-Claude Biette, Leslie Cheung.

Jeanne Balibar moment of 2003: Paramour CD

Michelle Carey is Great Directors editor at Senses of Cinema.

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Gayatri Chatterjee

This is a list of films I have seen and loved in 2003. Some are made in 2002, but included here (we do not always get to see a year’s output the same year, so unless travelling our list is always one year old). But then again, I did not want to make the list too long, so have not included retrospectives, etc. I have seen some wonderful documentaries this year, for example, De l’autre coté (From the Other Side) (Chantal Akerman, 2002) and The Tale of the Night Fairies (Sohini Ghosh, India 2003). But non-fiction must form another list. I have also not included commercial releases; however, some of the films mentioned below have been or are going to be released in theatres.

Ira Madiyama (August Sun) (Prasanna Vithanage, 2003)
Dolls
Um Filme Falado (A Talking Picture) (Manoel de Oliviera, 2003)
Abouna (Our Father) (Mahamat-Saleh Haround, 2002)
Mathrubhoomi – a Nation Without Women (Manish Jha, 2003)
Carandiru (Hector Babenco, 2003)
Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) (Tareq Masud, 2002)
Osama (Siddiq Barmak, 2003)
The Man Without a Past
Russian Ark

Gayatri Chatterjee is an independent scholar working in film and cultural studies. She is the author of Mother India (2002) and of Awaara (1992), which was awarded the President’s Gold Medal for the Best Book on Cinema.

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Doug Cummings

The Son
Drifters
Bright Leaves (Ross McElwee, 2003)
Bus 174
To Be and To Have
Distant Lights (Lichter) (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2003)
In This World (Michael Winterbottom, 2003)
Springtime in a Small Town
The Station Agent
The Triplets of Belleville

Doug Cummings is a graphic artist in Los Angeles. He received a BA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona, moderates www.filmjourney.org, and is a co-founder of mastersofcinema.org and www.robert-bresson.com.

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Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Listed alphabetically, my Top Ten for 2003 contains three documentaries (Capturing the Friedmans, Man Made and Wildness) and one film (American Splendor), which draws on doco/biopic conventions. In a year when truly great, feature-length narrative films were scarce (especially from Australia), I was pleasantly surprised, and ultimately moved by the offerings of documentary filmmakers.

Alexandra’s Project (Rolf de Heer, 2003)
American Splendor
Capturing the Friedmans
City of God
In the Cut
Ken Park (Larry Clark and Edward Lachman, 2003)
Man Made: The Story of Two Men and a Baby (Emma Crimmings, 2003)
Morvern Callar
Wildness (Scott Millwood, 2003)
Willard (Glen Morgan, 2003

For annotations on each film, go to PopMatters, where my Top Ten was originally published.

Dr Daniel Mudie Cunningham is a writer and lecturer specialising in screen cultures, art and design theory. Based in the Blue Mountains, Australia, Daniel recently completed his PhD on white trash cinema (University of Western Sydney).

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Rick Curnette

Here’s my Top Ten list, using international release dates, not domestic US dates:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Mystic River
Elephant
Dogville
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Lost In Translation
Angels in America (Mike Nichols, 2003)
All the Real Girls
Bad Santa
Shattered Glass (Billy Ray, 2003)

Rick Curnette is editor of The Film Journal.

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Adrian Danks

Dedicated to Stan Brakhage and Bill Van Wert

Best “new” films screening somewhere in Melbourne & Sydney:

Turning Gate

Friday Night
Turning Gate
Ten
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Capturing the Friedmans
Russian Ark
Raising Victor Vargas
Morvern Callar
American Splendor
Talk to Her

Bubbling under: Uzak, Divine Obsession (Volko Kamensky, 1999), Crimson Gold, Rocks (Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel & Heidi Wittlinger, 2001), The Cuckoo (Alexander Rogozhkin, 2003), In the Beginning was the Eye (Bady Minck, 2003), Stevie (Steve James, 2002), Love Letters from the War (Wain Fimeri, 2003), Hukkle (György Pálfi, 2002), Domestic Violence II (Frederick Wiseman, 2002), Free Fall (Private Hungary 10) (Péter Forgács, 1996), Far from Heaven, Lost In Translation, 24-Hour Party People, From the Other Side, Down with Love (Peyton Reed, 2003), MC5: A True Testimonial (David C. Thomas, 2002), Solaris, F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams (DeWitt Sage, 2002), The Brotherhood (Terry Carlyon, 2003), The Last Cigarette (Kevin Rafferty, 1999), and the fourth season of The Sopranos.

Worst “new” films of the year seen in any context:

Asakusa Kid (Shinozaki Makoto, 2002)
Intolerable Cruelty
House of Fools (Andrei Konchalovsky, 2001)
28 Days Later
Ballroom (Patrick Marie Bernard, Pierre Trividic, Xavier Brillat, 2002)
The Spanish Apartment
Floodhouse (Miro Bilbrough, 2003)
demonlover
The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2002)
Watermark (Georgina Willis, 2003)

Chinese Odyssey 2002 (Jeff Lau, 2002), Preservation (Sofya Gollan, 2003), Children of the Stork (Tony Gatlif, 1999), Ghost Paintings (James Clayden, 1986–2003), The Rage in Placid Lake (Tony McNamara, 2003), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2002), Secret Things (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2002), In America (Jim Sheridan, 2003), Marie-Jo & Her Two Loves (Robert Guédguian, 2001); La Vie Nouvelle (Philippe Grandrieux, 2002), The Finished People, The Man on the Train (Patrice Leconte, 2002), Marooned in Iraq (Bahman Ghobadi, 2003).

Plus the 3 worst “curated” programs of the year:

“For Openers: The Art of Film Titles” at MIFF (setting a new low in attractively conceptualised and completely bankrupt curated programming)

Fourth-rate Betty Boop program at the otherwise excellent MIAF

Completely miscalculated and pathetic value for money Ed Kuepper/Len Lye program at ACMI

Overrated & major disappointments:

Harvie Crumpet (Adam Elliot, 2003), Japanese Story, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002), School of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2003), Mystic River, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Amandla! A Revolution in 4-Part Harmony (Lee Hirsch, 2002), Destino (Dominique Monfery, 2003), Blissfully Yours, Springtime in a Small Town, All the Real Girls, Oasis, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Sex is Comedy (Catherine Breillat, 2002), The Good Girl (Miguel Arteta, 2002), Punch-Drunk Love, Chicago, The Hours, Bowling for Columbine, The Quiet American (Phillip Noyce, 2002).

Film I still have no firm idea what I thought of:

Irreversible

Retrospectives:

The Red Circle and The Leopard at the Lumiere; the extraordinary tinted The Emperor Jones (Dudley Murphy, 1933), John Smith retrospective (especially Associations [1975], The Black Tower [1976] and The Girl Chewing Gum [1976]), Murnau retrospective (especially Tartuffe [1926] and the extraordinary fine-grained quality of the restored prints), Renoir retrospective, California Split (Robert Altman, 1974), The End of the World in 4 Seasons (Paul Driessen, 1995) and Seven Men from Now (Budd Boetticher, 1957) at the Melbourne Cinémathèque; Come Drink with Me (King Hu, 1966), The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000), and the Kiarostami retrospective (despite its limited ambitions and scope) at MIFF; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the Astor; Running Fence (David & Albert Mayles, 1978), 2 Spellbound (Les Leveque, 1999), Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 1976), Bluebeard (Jean Painlevé, 1937), Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1966), Immemory (Chris Marker, 1998), much of the “Remembered By” program, and the seasons of Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) and Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander MacKendrick, 1958) at ACMI; The Suspended Step of the Stork (Theo Angelopoulos, 1991) at the Sydney Film Festival; Swastika (Phillipe Mora, 1974) at the St. Kilda Film Festival; Louvre City (Nicolas Philibert, 1990) and Every Little Thing (Nicolas Philibert, 1996) at the French Film Festival.

DVDs of the Year:

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963), The Red Circle, Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection, The Killers (all three versions directed by Siodmak, Siegel and Tarkovsky), Giants and Toys (Yasuzo Masumura, 1958); The Queen of Spades (Thorold Dickinson, 1949), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Billy Wilder, 1970), Sunless (Chris Marker, 1982) / La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962); last, and most important of all, the remarkable double DVD set By Brakhage.

Adrian Danks is President and co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque, co-editor of Cteq: Annotations on Film, and Head of Cinema Studies at RMIT University, School of Applied Communication.

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Brian Darr

Living in San Francisco and watching movies in 2003 was an immensely pleasurable experience as usual, even if sometimes it feels like we’re six to 18 months behind the world’s “real” film centres (the grass is always greener…). The best part is visiting the multitudinous excellent film festivals; nearly half these films were viewed during the San Francisco Film Society’s International Film Festival in April, and another was found at NAATA’s excellent festival in March. It seems that when a festival is not in town, my interests are usually pulled more strongly toward nearby repertory theatres than toward theatres showing recent releases. As a consequence, this list has had little opportunity to change since May, though I did find a few films released here in 2003’s second half that are worth mentioning along with the best of the festival films.

I continued my efforts to keep abreast of Thai cinema, and its rewards proved greater than ever. Of the three years I’ve spent in San Francisco since returning from Chiang Mai, 2003 had by far the strongest array of Thai film going opportunities here. No fewer than 12 Thai productions and co-productions found local premieres at various festivals, including the top film on my list, Blissfully Yours, a mischievous examination of life on the edge of society’s structures. It’s exciting and somewhat unexpected to see evidence of a burgeoning Thai art cinema, as the films that originally hooked me on Thai cinema were exciting in the way they applied new perspectives to familiar genres like comedies (6ixtynin9 [Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 1999]), gangster pics (Bangkok Dangerous [Danny & Oxide Pang, 2000]), and westerns (Fah Talai Jone [Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000]).

Here’s a list of 12 favourites. Eligible films had their first San Francisco public screening during 2003.

Blissfully Yours
Ten
The Death of Klinghoffer (Peggy Woolcock, 2003)

The Son

The Son
Elephant

I-San Special (Mingmongkol Sonakul, 2002)
The Pianist
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Les Triplettes de Belleville
Oasis
25th Hour
Sex is Comedy

As for the worst? Again, it was an early-year release that sealed it up; I was very glad not to have seen anything nearly as badly botched as The Life of David Gale (Alan Parker, 2003) during the rest of 2003.

Brian Darr is a grocery clerk, student, and avid film something-or-other.

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John Demetry

After seeing My Life On Ice (Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau, 2002) – the year’s other video masterpiece – I feel certain that this is a valid, true reflection of my enthusiasms over new ideas and visions at the movies in 2003. Each good-to-great film responds in unique, special ways to contemporary (social, personal) spiritual needs, while the bad ones exploit them. This list is tight.

In America
Together (Chen Kaige, 2003)
Porn Theater (Jacques Nolot, 2003)
My Life On Ice
The Company (Robert Altman, 2003)
Intolerable Cruelty
The Good Thief (Neil Jordan, 2003)
Peter Pan (P.J. Hogan, 2003)
Phone Booth
Stuck On You (Peter & Bobby Farrelly, 2003)

Special mention:

Baltimore/Paradise Omeros (gallery installations)
Come Into My World (music video)
Warming by the Devil’s Fire (Charles Burnett, 2003) (television documentary)

Runners-up (alphabetical):

Biker Boyz (Reggie Rock Bythewood, 2003)
The Cat In the Hat (Bo Welch, 2003)
Confusion of Genders (Ilhan Duran Cohen, 2003)
El Bonaerense (Pablo Trapero, 2003)
Gigli (Martin Brest, 2003)
The Lizzie Maguire Movie (Jim Fall, 2003)
Marci X (Richard Benjamin, 2003)
Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003)
The Rundown (Peter Berg, 2003)
Willard

Worst:

Spider
Identity (James Mangold, 2003)
Daredevil (Mark Steven Johnson, 2003)
The Matrix: Regurgitated and The Matrix: Revulsions
Elephant

John Demetry is film critic for gaytoday.com.

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Jorge Didaco

The highlights (in no particular order):

Coming and Going (João César Monteiro, 2003). Monteiro’s final film is a cohesive testament to one of the most personal and radical oeuvres in modern cinema with his tight control of time and space – long, static takes; repetitions – his musings and verbal diatribes on the usual subjects of death, solitude, sex and economical misery and his memorable gestural idiosyncrasies. Subversive cinema of the highest order. We were lucky to see an almost complete retrospective of his work along with other important retrospectives that included Vera Chytilová (Fruit of Paradise [1969]), Kiju Yoshida (Onimaru [1988]), Roberto Rossellini (The Flowers of St. Francis [1950]), Derek Jarman (Sebastiane [1976]) and the master of Necro-Realism himself, Yevgeni Yufit (Silver Heads [1998]).

Aro Tolbukhin: In the Mind of a Killer

Shadow of the Earth (Taïeb Louhichi, 1982). The most stunning revelation of the year, rendering its themes of settlement and dislocation, tradition and rupture within a society on the cusp of disappearance ravaged by war and economical deprivation with startling accuracy. It was a year I (re)discovered African cinema (both Maghrebian and sub-Saharan): The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1999), Yeelen (Souleymane Cissé), Les Folles Années du Twist (Mahmoud Zemmouri, 1983), Machaho (Belkacem Hadjadj, 1986), La Ville (Yousry Nasrallah, 2000).

Aro Tolbukhin: In the Mind of a Killer (Agustín Villaronga, Isaac-Pierre Racine & Lydia Zimmermann, 2002). Villaronga and his co-directors employ all sorts of narrative tactics to enter the mind of a killer: real interviews, mockumentary techniques and recreation of life events in a constantly surprising tapestry, with strong Buñuel overtones. Other revelatory visions of Spanish-speaking cinema: Cows (Julio Medem, 1992), The City and the Dogs (Francisco J. Lombardi, 1985), Últimos Días de la Víctima (Adolfo Aristarain, 1982), A Time to Die (Jorge Alí Triana, 1985).

Touched in the Head (Jacques Doillon, 1974). Doillon’s first solo feature is the missing link between the Nouvelle Vague (especially Truffaut and Rivette), the franc-tireurs (Garrel, Eustache), his own generation (Jacquot, Téchiné) and the next (Assayas). A film of extreme simplicity. Other French delicacies savoured throughout the year: Up, Down, Fragile (Jacques Rivette, 1995), The Lady and the Duke (Eric Rohmer, 2001), Cold Water (Olivier Assayas, 1994), The Disenchanted (Benoît Jacquot, 1990), The Captive (Chantal Akerman, 2000), The Milk of Human Kindness (Dominique Cabrera, 2001), Far Away (André Téchiné, 2001), I Hate Love (Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, 1997), The Killing of Santa Claus (Christian-Jaque, 1941), The Shadow Army (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969), Police (Maurice Pialat, 1985), Blame It on Voltaire (Abdelatif Kechiche, 2000), Glowing Eyes (Jacques Nolot, 2002).

Mystic River. Most powerful moment of the year: Laura Linney’s final, prophetic speech, one which would make the Angela Lansbury of The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962) cringe with fear; it is the Great White Mother revisited. A brilliant film. Other strong current and recent releases: The Man Without a Past, Open Hearts, Spider, Abjad (Abolfazl Jalili, 2003), Dolls, Hollywood Hong-Kong (Fruit Chan, 2001), Ten, Spirited Away, Cowboy Bebop (Shinichirô Watanabe, 2001), Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002), Far From Heaven, Basic (John McTiernan, 2003), The Council of Egypt (Emidio Greco, 2002), Investigating Sex (Alan Rudolph, 2001).

Ladybug Ladybug (Frank Perry, 1963). This “small” film, by one of the most underrated directors ever, reminded me, in a world shattered by unspeakable acts of violence and hatred, fear and pain are already installed on ALL sides. Other visions of Hell: Kippur (Amos Gitai, 2000), The Secret Invasion (Roger Corman, 1964), War Hunt (Denis Sanders, 1962), Between Heaven and Hell (Richard Fleischer, 1956), Ivan’s Childhood (Andrei Tarkovsky, 19620, The Murderers Are Among Us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946).

Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003). Equal parts Hawksian and revisionist, this sensitively directed western has one of the most excitingly choreographed duels of recent memory. Two other extraordinary westerns seen for the first time: Hombre (Martin Ritt, 1967) and the lyrical, poetic The Hired Hand (Peter Fonda, 1971).

Mademoiselle (Tony Richardson, 1966). A forgotten masterpiece; visually splendid (in fact the film is almost silent) with a primal, elemental, fearless performance by Moreau to match. Other notable visions of the past: That Sinking Feeling (Bill Forsyth, 1979), Himmo, King of Jerusalem (Amos Guttman, 1987), Elektra (Michael Cacoyannis, 1962), Repentance (Tengiz Abuladze, 1987), The Trout (Joseph Losey, 1982), A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971), Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971), My Dinner With Andre (Louis Malle, 1981), The Devil and Daniel Webster (William Dieterle, 1941), Night of the Eagle (Sidney Hayers, 1962), Allegro Non Troppo (Bruno Bozzetto, 1977), Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman, 1967), A Child is Waiting (John Cassavetes, 1963), Town Without Pity (Gottfried Reinhardt, 1961), A Stolen Life (Curtis Bernhardt, 1946), Human Desire (Fritz Lang, 1954)…

Mango Yellow (Cláudio Assis, 2002). “…Inner time yellow. Old, discoloured, sick.” Brazil seen through the magnifying lens of a new talent. Other important titles from Brazilian cinema: The Conspirators (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1972), The Prophet of Hunger (Maurice Capovila, 1970), Aqueles Dois (Sergio Amon, 1985), Cabaret Mineiro (Carlos Alberto Prates Correia, 1980), Bang Bang (Andrea Tonacci, 1971), Seja o Que Deus Quiser (Murilo Salles, 2002), A Agonia (Júlio Bressane, 1976).

What’s the Matter with Helen? (Curtis Harrington, 1971) This is what we movie lovers live for; a film with inventiveness in each frame and a cast that reinvents the word “eccentricity”. Other sublime oddities and even a guilty pleasure: The Last Minute (Stephen Norrington, 2001), Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968), Red Garters (George Marshall, 1954), Love and Passion (Tinto Brass, 1987), The Apple (Menahem Golan, 1980); and we finally saw here in Brazil a film by Takashi Miike; it was the indescribable Gozu (2003); needless to say I was dumbfounded, speechless!!

Jorge Didaco is a Brazil-based teacher and writer in theatre, performance and film.

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Babak Esfandiari

Seen at the Bytowne, my favourite theatre in Ottawa, Canada:

The Barbarian Invasions.. In this “sequel” to his The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Arcand depicts a bleak world, where love, sometimes from the unlikeliest sources, is our only saviour. A sensitive social commentary, a modern discourse on death and Arcand’s Gallic sense of humour make this my favourite movie of the year, by far.

Lost In Translation. Subtlety (a Japanese art?) is the key here, as what does not happen and what is left unsaid is just as interesting. The photography and the soundtrack contribute immensely to the beauty of the movie.

Capturing the Friedmans. This is a documentary about an alleged child molester, and the effect that his capture has on his family. The important word here is “alleged”… The interviews and real home videos become powerful tools of what turns out to be a thriller, making the viewer change his mind with each new revelation. In a way, this movie could have also been called Elephant, except that this time the viewer is also in the dark.

Babak Esfandiari is a professor in the Systems and Computer Engineering Department of Carleton University.

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Kin Ferate

The Red Circle
Lost In Translation
Irreversible
Old School (Todd Phillips, 2003)
Finding Nemo
800 Bullets (Alex De La Iglesia, 2002)
Angels in America
Ten
Dogville
All the Real Girls
Elephant
28 Days Later
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Swimming Pool
Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2001) (released in the US in 2003)
Zatôichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003)
Bay of Angels (Jacques Demy, 1962) (released in the US, finally, in 2003)
Capturing the Friedmans
Catching Out (Sarah George, 2003)
Down With Love

KinMarcus Ferate is a writer, low-budget filmmaker, waiter, father, and all-around film geek living in Seattle, Washington.

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