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Top 10 Films of 2003

Ok folks, sorry for the extended hiatus but I'm gonna try to do my best to keep up with you all this coming year (maybe I'll have more chance of sticking that that resolution than my usual ones of losing weight and giving up drinking). I'm gonna start this year by taking a look back at 2003 and picking my fave ten films of those 12 months. As usual, they're in no particular order, but these are the flicks that really cranked my handle in the last year!

Kill Bill Vol 1

Ouch! That Tarantino certainly knows how to make a comeback. A real film buff's movie that works on every level. Either you can pick out the references to QT's influences (in nearly every scene!) or just sit back and enjoy the bloodletting. With some of the most graphic violence seen on screen in many a year, old Quentin really pinned his hat to mast as an action director. Let's hope he makes good on his promise to snag the directing job on a Bond film sometime soon. Can you imagine......?!

Finding Nemo

I'll put my hands up right now and admit that I am a cartoon fan. Now, I deliberately didn't use the words 'animation' fan because that entails all sorts of anorak-like activities that I can well do without. But, the truth is, I don't see a need to apologise for thinking 'The Lion King' is an absolute work of art. Let's not forget, either, that Disney's 'Beauty and The Beast' was nominated for Best Picture Oscar not all that long ago. However, both of those movies pale into insignificance beside this year's true gem of a movie. 'Finding Nemo' had everything you could ever wish for in a trip to the multiplex - action, drama, humour and wonderful characterization. And no need for any of those schmaltzy songs that so often ruin the fun!

Cabin Fever

Maybe I needed to add this one in to redress the balance. Yes, I'm a sucker for great animation... but I'm also a real horror hound whenever I get the chance. I'd been looking forward to this for a while now and wasn't disappointed when it finally came around in the summer. Eli Roth's debut really harked back to the early days of home video horror. 'Cabin Fever' evoked memories of classics such as 'Evil Dead' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' whilst firmly retaining its own distinct identity. Whilst 'Freddy vs. Jason' may have made a bigger box office, 'Cabin Fever' certainly confirms the direction the horror needs to go in.

Gangs Of New York

What can you say about this movie? It only just qualifies having been released in the first week of 2003 and it was a good while before any other movie came along to contend with it. Martin Scorcese once again proves his visionary status by finally delivering his labour of love to the screen. Over thirty years in the making, 'Gangs...' could well have been made by someone like Sergio Leone, so painstakingly was the period reproduced. A true spectacle to see on the big screen with every single performance hitting the mark, it's a criminal shame that it was so overlooked at this year's Oscar's.

Identity

A guilty pleasure, maybe. A neat and tidy little tale with echoes of Agatha Christie as ten strangers find themselves stranded in a motel, only to find a murderer is among them. Boosted on first viewing by a fantastically improbable twist, subsequent viewings aren't quite as satisfying a other 'twist-based' thrillers (Usual Suspects, Sixth Sense, etc), but the ensemble performances are of a high enough calibre to make it one of my faves of the year.

Pirates of The Caribbean

Say what you will about Jerry Bruckheimer but the man certainly knows a thing or two about making a blockbuster. With the ghost of 'Cutthroat Island' still fresh in Hollywood's memory, most onlookers thought it was an act of near madness to try and resurrect the Pirate movie. Bruckheimer knew better though and by enlisting the services of Johnny Depp (who gave probably the best performance of the year here - don't expect any awards though!), the white-hot Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, went on to make by far the most enjoyable popcorn movie in recent memory. And followed it up with the best DVD release of the year too!

City Of God

Another early release in the year, Fernando Meirelles' incendiary look at life in slums of Rio De Janeiro. It's roller coaster ride takes us on a trip through thirty years of growing up in one of the poorest parts of the world - and the lengths people will go to, in order to escape it. Imagine if Tarantino had made 'Goodfellas' instead of 'Pulp Fiction' and set it in Brazil.... got the idea? Good - now go and rent it and see one of the finest films of this (or any other) year.

Irreversible

This was a hard choice to put on the list. Gaspar No's tale of revenge made the headlines earlier this year for it's unflinching portrayal of rape and retribution. Shot in 'Memento'-style reverse order, it tells the story of a young couple whose life is torn apart when the female is raped. Her boyfriend and brother decide to take revenge into their own hands and the consequences are far more horrifying than could ever have been expected. Not an easy watch, for sure, but the power this film has to stick in your mind weeks and months after viewing ensures it makes the list.
 

Mystic River

Proof, as if it were needed, that Clint Eastwood is as much at home behind the camera as he is in front of it.  'Mystic River' took Dennis Lehane's multi-layered crime novel and turned it into one of the year's best performance-based movies. Telling the story of three childhood friends who are reunited in tragic circumstances, Eastwood manages to tease career best performances out of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. Expect at least two of those names to be on some of the Oscar shortlists.

Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Finally, we reach the end of the journey. A truly epic movie that transcended all expectations, no matter how high they may have been.  It's hard to think of the three movies as separate features, so cohesively has Peter Jackson put them together, this is truly one of the best movies of all time. I'm not going to say any more about it, because enough has been written already - suffice to say that I expect it to take every major award come February and deservedly so.

Well that's the list - I hope at least some of you agree with me. On a side note, I would like to say that I hope my contributions to the site will be much more regular this year - thanks for your patience!

 

Sean G