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Film

Favorite Films of 2003

I’m creating my annual movie lists retroactively. See all of them.

We’re now deep into an era that was, at least for me, dominated by DVDs. I seemed to get a new one or two every birthday and Christmas, and rented aplenty from Family Video or Blockbuster. My movie collection has changed a lot since then, but I’ve never stopped collecting physical media.

On top of more frequent moviegoing as a freshman going on sophomore, I also started paying more attention to the Oscars. Part of this was printing out a ballot to track the guesses of my friends and classmates. My claim to infamy: being the only person to predict an upset Best Picture win for Lost in Translation—this in the year of the 11-win sweep by Return of the King. I was glad to be wrong.

On to the list.

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

My friend and fellow LOTR nerd Tim and I were in the same high school chemistry class, and we spent the entire fall semester counting down the days until this movie premiered. All the haters who complain about the multiple endings are fools of a Took. See also: my Top 5 Lord of the Rings moments and other appreciations.

2. Finding Nemo

Not unlike the LOTR trilogy, this film—#6 in my Pixar rankings—is a journey. I haven’t watched it since becoming a father, so I wonder if and how my feelings about it will change with a rewatch.

3. School of Rock

Wrote about this a while back.

4. Matchstick Men

I don’t think I’d seen many con movies at the time, so this one made a strong impression. Nic Cage is the perfect balance of quirk and cool, and Sam Rockwell shines as usual in a wiry supporting role.

5. Kill Bill Vol. 1

Hard to decide whether I like Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 more, though the fact that Vol. 2 didn’t crack my 2004 list perhaps makes the case for me.

6. Ghosts of the Abyss

Sought out this documentary during my recent Titanic kick. It follows James Cameron and the crew of his deep-sea diving expedition in 2001 to explore the remains of the Titanic shipwreck. Haunting, beautiful stuff, in a way that’s different from Cameron’s other Titanic movie.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

A rollicking and only occasionally ridiculous adventure, and the rare adaptation success that Hollywood has been chasing and failing to reproduce ever since.

8. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

This seems to have acquired a reputation as an under-appreciated masterpiece. It’s quite good, and I’d definitely watch a sequel, but I’ll leave it at that.

9. A Mighty Wind

Third-rate Christopher Guest joint (literally—after Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show) with a five-star soundtrack.

10. Runaway Jury

The idea of a gun manufacturer being held criminally liable for a mass shooting seems quaint these days. Not quaint: Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman going mano a mano. I miss Gene Hackman in movies.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Big Fish
  • Bruce Almighty
  • Capturing the Friedmans
  • The Italian Job
  • The Fog of War
  • The Matrix Reloaded
  • Phone Booth
  • The Recruit
  • X2: X-Men United

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