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Wednesday, January 01, 2003

My Movies of the Year
I saw 72 movies in 2002 (counting only theater viewings), well, 71 actually, since I saw one—24 Hour Party People—twice. Being an anal type, I have a list right here [taps it with a Shakespearean flourish] that tells me they broke down as follows: 25 U.S. movies, 13 U.K. films, and 33 non-U.K. foreign.

Since this is the time of year for lists, here’s my top 10 or so. (Some of them may not have been officially released in 2002, but I considered movies that came to Seattle during the year or that I saw as new releases in other cities.) As I typed out the list, I noticed that emotionality is what I craved this year—perhaps in reaction to all the closed-down emotionally unresponsive or emotionally random characters in several big Hollywood movies, though I also had a soft spot for restrained movies that were internally consistent.

1. Lucía y el Sexo/Sex and Lucía: I’m stunned that Julio Medem’s masterpiece has made so few year-end best-of lists. Medem’s the great auteur of the age—a brilliant, cerebral director who makes movies with unparalleled emotional impact. This gorgeous, meditative, smart movie was by far the best thing I saw this year. My viewing at SIFF was my second sitting—I also saw it in Madrid in 2001—and it held up magnificently.
2. 24 Hour Party People: Another two-timer. I’m sure there were personal resonances in this one, since I grew up in Manchester watching Tony Wilson on Granada Reports and have strong, clear memories of staying up late on schoolnights to watch So It Goes (as I recall, it was a Thursday night show and came on just before the Bea Arthur classic Maude), especially as I much preferred the first half of the movie that dealt with events I remember and bands I knew well. A great evocation of a time, a place, and a person. It reminded me why music can be so transformative.
3. Italian for Beginners: I held off on seeing this one for a long time—I just didn’t fancy a Dogma 95 travelog, but I’m glad I eventually made time for it (in Port Townsend, when I’d seen every other movie in town). It was another emotionally convincing—and moving—film, that really benefited from the D95 vow of chastity.
4. Sweet Dreams: A quirky Slovenian boy’s coming-of-age movie set in the 1950s. At this point, seven months after I saw it, I don’t remember too many details of plot and personalities, but I do remember being moved and amused and won over by the teenage hero who wants only a record player and perhaps a little love.
5. Hable Con Ella/Talk to Her: I love Almodóvar, and there were scenes in this movie that blew me away, but overall my rating was a mere B+. I was curiously unmoved by the film where Pedro broke the tear barrier for his male characters, and I resented what struck me the first time around (I plan to see it again now that it’s finally arrived in Seattle) as petty swats at Julio Medem. And while I love Fele Martinez and Paz Vega, I hated, hated, hated the shrinking man mini-movie.
6. Monsoon Wedding: I wasn’t mad about the last 15-20 minutes, but the broad cast of characters, the complex portrayal of family connections, and the overwhelming sense of joy made for great cinema.
7. Eight Women: Yes it was camp and corny, but there was some wonderful acting amid all the showy excess. I saw Isabelle Huppert in some stinkers this year (Merci Pour le Chocolat, anyone?), but her handling of the bitter, twisted-haired sister was just right. And the rolling-around make-out scene between Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant was the year’s hottest, bar none.
8. Y Tu Mamá También: Raunchy and hormonal and emotionally complex. Quite a feat. Maribel Verdú has that apparently (but not really) empty-headed older woman breaking in young boys thing down—check out Carreteras Secundarias for another example of the genre. (The young man she “tutors” in that movie is Fernando Ramallo, the blond one in Nico and Dani.)
9. El Hijo de la Novia/Son of the Bride: A sweet Argentine movie about a selfish fortysomething guy, his commonsensical girlfriend, his wise old pa, and his ma, who has Alzheimer’s.
10. Real Women Have Curves: A great family drama with an incredible debut performance by America Ferrera. At times so true to life it seems incredible it ever made it to the big screen.
10. Between Two Women: In contrast with some of the other emotion-fests that I liked this year, this film is a beautifully controlled portrayal of a woman recognizing her boundaries, weighing her options, and choosing love and fulfillment. Barbara Marten holds the movie together with a brilliant performance

Honorable Mentions:
Elling: Sappy, sentimental award-bait, yes. But funny and moving and well-acted too.
Birthday Girl: For Nicole Kidman’s brilliant acting achievement alone. I haven’t seen The Hours yet, but it’s hard for me to believe that she could do a better job than she did in this movie just by cementing on a fake proboscis.
Das Experiment: A movie littered with McGuffins that are probably just discarded plot lines, but well worth seeing for Moritz Bleibtrau’s acting job.
Punch-Drunk Love: P.T. Anderson is an annoying mofo, but he’s an inspired, creative filmmaker, so much as it pains me to do so, I give him points for effort. (There’s no Oscar for mise-en-scène, though, as I hope Todd Haynes discovers in March.)
Rabbit-Proof Fence: Another movie that wins praise for restraint and an outstanding discovery in Everlyn Sampi as Molly, the leader of the three girls who trek 1,500 miles across Australia to return to their families.

Movies I'm Sorry I Missed:
I missed these on their way through Seattle, so I'll have to hope they score Oscar noms so they'll get a second run. Otherwise, I'll have to settle for DVD, which is a very bad second-best.
Ararat: Despite Felicia's Journey, I have no doubt Atom Egoyan is a movie genius
All or Nothing: I've never doubted Mike Leigh's artistic genius.
Bloody Sunday: It looks excellent, but it played one week at a distant cinema.

Movie Event of the Year:
Positive: Harold's Home Movies at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
Negative: The closing of the Broadway Market cinema. Now there are just two movie theaters (plus the quirky Little Theater) in my neighborhood, and since the Egyptian stopped being a repertory cinema, the same movies stay for months on end (or so it seems).

Worst Movie of the Year:
Biggie and Tupac: Nick Broomfield seems to think people watch documentaries to see the director bumbling around. There's a real story about murder and police corruption here, a story that's been effectively delineated in several books, but does Nick bother to do research or try to tell the story in a convincing manner? God no, that would be way too much effort. Execrable. (Sorry, I can't bring myself to link to it.)