Every single movie I saw in 2003
I’m a fucking mark. Seriously. For all of my pretense, and for all of my copies of The New Yorker and The Northwestern Chronicle, I look over my list of box office excursions and realize I fell for all of Hollywood’s mind games. I had to see the Matrix movies. If I liked American Pie I would love its latest sequel.
So I never got around to Finding Nemo, and I missed most of the movies that were nominated for Golden Globes. But of the 33 movies I saw, a healthy dozen were worth my money. And the rest … were the rest. Here they are in ascending order of ruling.
33. Bad Boys II
It’s hard to judge this leaky anal cyst of a movie without pondering how much it cost. $130 million. $40 million of marketing. Now, I go to a university with a pretty good film program, and I’ve met people with solid scripts or concepts. And I break into a cold sweat thinking of how many of their lives could have been changed – how much art could have been unleashed upon a grateful world – with the money Michael Bay used to portray two rats fucking as Martin Lawrence watched. Bad Boys II proved once again that a.)Martin Lawrence is incapable of being funny, b.)rape isn’t funny, c.)after a point, exploding cars can be boring, d.)gay-bashing can be funny, but not when Will Smith does it.
Get this – an annoying Frenchman falls in love, and then his girlfriend is raped, and he and her ex go looking for the killer! It’s a Lifetime Original Movie with the rape scene shown in full, stupid dialogue about “fucking,” and it’s all edited backwords. But the soundtrack (by Daft Punk) was cool.
31. Cradle 2 the Grave
A mind-numblingly dull kung fu bottom-feeder, with a plot slightly less intelligent than the average mission on Grand Theft Auto III. Jet Li’s green card obviously came with a provision barring him from making decent movies – everything he touches turns to suck. DMX’s 5-year old daughter stealing a van. The face-off in the ring of fire. All of the idiotic prison scenes. The DMX scooter chase. Jesus.
30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The original movie worked because the actors were unknown and the filming was gritty, so it seemed like an unfolding nightmare. This is a glossy groanfest with a kidnapped baby thrown in to give it a more human touch. And it’s set in the 1970s, but one of the doomed kids wears cargo pants.
29. Tears of the Sun
Endless Bruce Willis war movie about Nigeria.
Actually, there’s something compelling about a movie that doesn’t contain a single original idea or line of dialogue. Wait – the villain did get caught for having a busted tailight. So that’s new.
27. 2 Fast 2 Furious
Mediocre action with some fun set pieces and scenery-chewing performances. Even from Paul Walker.
26. Head of State
There were some surprisingly good jokes in this satire of blacks in American politics. I liked the travelling b-boy narrator – I didn’t like the obvious, ghettoed-out campaign that Chris Rock undertook when he decided to prove something to himself. The terrible to fun gag ratio was 2-1.
25. The Matrix Reloaded
And so the Wachowski brothers reveal that they only had one good idea, and proceed to bluff their way through the first of two generic sci-fi actioners. This one was the worst, thanks to the insultingly trite “philosophical” speeches that. Never. Ended.
I credit the studio for keeping an Act III plot twist completely concealed throughout the ad campaign. I also credit them with a stupid ending that marred a pretty cool mystery.
It made the mistakes that Spider-Man and the X-movies didn’t – it treated the comic book characters like comic book characters, and made their decisions stupid, always geared toward whatever would inspire a fight scene. This gave us the immortal Michael Clarke Duncan moment when, given the choice between blowing Ben Affleck away by siccing his guards on him or taking him on in a fist fight, takes off his jacket and says: “I’m from the Bronx. You wouldn’t understand.” And there was the part when Colin Farrell caught a stack of broken stained glass.
22. Phone Booth
Not bad, but the worst episode of 24 blows it the hell away.
21. Pirates of the Caribbean
A silly family movie that was oversold to adults like me, who watched Keira Knightly spar with an undead monkey and said, “huh?”
20. Dark Blue
Kurt Russell and Brendan Gleeson really drained every ounce out of a mediocre cop thriller script. Hell, they found emotions that weren’t there in the first place. The result was like really kickass community theater.
19. The Hulk
Fine acting and a great buildup ruined by stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid action scenes. See Hulk punch a mutant dog! See Hulk wrestle with an electrical Nick Nolte!
18. Bruce Almighty
A terrific high concept – Jim Carrey with the powers of the Judeo-Christian God! A so-so execution, with some really lamentable life lessons from Morgan Freeman and a homeless guy, who is, of course, also God.
17. American Wedding
What a disappointment. The second Pie had constructed a sweet, cute love story for Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan. This movie just didn’t fully utilize what the first two movies had lying around. Some wonderful moments (Eugene Levy giving Alyson sex advice, Sean William Scott hitting on men) were dragged down by stupid character motivations and a lame new character played by January Jones. If Jones’ character had been stronger, this would have been a top-tenner.
16. The Matrix Revolutions
Taken out of context, this was a fun b-movie – the kind of thing John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper would make if Joel Silver gave them enormous novelty checks. Huggamah buggamah was the dialogue awful, though.
15. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Far better than it should have been, considering it was basically “Terminator 2: Oh man, we didn’t save the world this time.”
14. Bad Santa
The worst Terry Zwigoff production by a country mile – listless and sometimes dull. But if you lie back and let it sink in, there’s some magic in Billy Bob Thornton’s curses and vomiting.
13. The Weather Underground
The only documentary I saw was way, way too light on its brain-addled subjects, but I have to give credit to its narrative flow and recreation of the mood of radicals in the 1960s.
12. Shattered Glass
For such a boring crime, as movies go, Billy Ray fashioned a compelling, funny little epic. Hayden Christiansen really gave one of the performances of the year – you pity the little shit, even as he drags down his friends and coworkers with his lies.
11. Freddy vs. Jason
The best slasher pic since A Nightmare on Elm Street. You could argue that the filmmakers matched the ambitions of Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino in making exactly the picture they wanted and exactly the picture fans had spent years yearning for.
10. American Splendor
I saw it on a date, like About Schmidt and Adaptation. Movies about depressive guys who strive for better things and are never really happy … they click with me.
9. Love Actually
Like Preston Sturges on meth. At this point in the list, I’m remembering moments and images that stuck with me for days after I saw these movies. Love Actually is extremely funny, and packed with stuff that Ali McGraw would sell her teeth to act.
8. School of Rock
For every 20 shitty losers-overcome-the-odds movies, there’s one winner. This is the Slap Shot of our time.
7. Kill Bill Vol. 1
I really, really didn’t get into the opening scenes with Vivica A. Gox. Not at all. But the movie gets going after that and really puts other revenge movies to shame. And the animated sequence is better than anything in The Animatrix.
6. Bubba Ho-Tep
You know a movie is kicking when it features Ossie Davis as John Kennedy, dyed black by the government to cover up a conspiracy, and most critics don’t even mention it. This was seriously fun – one of the few movies I saw that made me think, halfway though, how mad I was that it was going to end eventually.
5. 28 Days Later
Danny Boyle understands why the George Romero horror movies worked. They weren’t about monsters. They were about what makes people want to create and preserve societies. I loved almost everything about this movie.
4. X2: X-Men United
Forget the “best comic book movie ever” talk. Bryan Singer and crew absolutely understand what makes the X-Men concept work, and they beautifully handled every character (especially Pyro, Mystique and Jean Grey) to drive the themes home. And stuff blows up real good.
3. A Mighty Wind
This, and the next two movies, were the only ones that drove my fellow moviegoers to tears. I look for that sort of thing. When a movie makes a gambit to tug my emotions, if it’s working, I see if it’s working for someone else. And the final concert scene really affected the people around me both times I saw A Mighty Wind. It’s not the funniest Christopher Guest movie, but it’s the only one that does that.
2. Lost in Translation
It makes your favorite romantic comedy look like garbage.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Can we just admit this is the best epic fantasy ever filmed? It does no good to deny it. For the past two years, there’s been nothing like the Rings films. Each one is packed with moments that stick with you. The Matrix had the initial Trinity camera-swing and Keanu’s acrobatic bullet dodge. Rings has Boromir fighting through the hail of arrows, the Balrog, the Ents, and pretty much everything Legolas ever did. And I never liked the scouring of the Shire in the first place.