The Best and Worst Films of 2003

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My summary of the best and worst of the movies of 2003 can be found here, for your reading pleasure.

Over at the message board, the conversation turned to how few of the films most people had seen. I hope that at least in some cases, my praise of the best films will inspire people to see them. If you click on the Amazon.com link at the bottom of each review, you’ll be able to see if it’s out on DVD, and if it is, you can head down to your Blockbuster or your Netflix or whatever and rent it.

(I suppose I could have provided an extra service by finding out first which films on my list were available on home video and indicated it in the article, but I think you’ll agree that would have been too much work for a lazy person such as myself.)

Sometimes people complain about critics’ top 10 lists, and how so many of the films are artsy-fartsy movies that nobody saw, the implication being that if they did poorly at the box office, it must be because they’re the sort of movies that only critics like.

Let’s look at the 2003 box office. The top 10 highest-grossing films are, in order: “Finding Nemo,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” “X2,” “Elf,” “Terminator 3,” “Bad Boys II” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

First, note that two of those, “Finding Nemo” and “LOTR,” are on my list, and on the lists of most critics in the country. A third one, “Elf,” made my honorable mention list.

The remaining seven are good films (except “Bad Boys II”) … but how many people would call any of them their FAVORITE film of the year? Both “Matrix” films made a shload of money, but did anyone LOVE them?

I think even for normal people (i.e., not critics), the films that entertain us are not necessarily the films that touch our hearts or change our lives. The reason critics have so many artsy films on their lists is that, as critics, they get to see more movies than most folks, so the pool from which they choose their favorites is larger.

“Spellbound” and “Raising Victor Vargas,” to name just two, played in limited release (that is, on maybe 100 screens at a time, rather than 4,000) and hence had a smaller audience. But I guarantee if you sought them out and watched them, you’d enjoy them.

Which goes back to my original point. Critics give their lists as honest appraisals of what they believe to be the best films of the year, whether they were financial hits or not. If some of the titles are obscure, all the better, because everyone likes to root for the underdog. I’d be very happy if, at my recommendation, someone watched a little-known movie on my list and wound up liking it as much as I did.

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