Friday, January 3, 2003

Spotlight on 2002's
movies shines on
the filmmakers

Star-bulletin Staff And News Services

A new breed of directors and writers emerged and blossomed last year, giving us a new mainstream of ambitious filmmaking. In addition to the veteran directors -- Martin Scorsese ("Gangs of New York") and Steven Spielberg ("Minority Report" and "Catch Me if You Can") -- moviegoers found a new generation of directors such as Todd Haynes ("Far from Heaven"), P.T. Anderson ("Punch-Drunk Love") and Miguel Arteta ("The Good Girl"), to name a few. These directors, all in their early 30s to mid-40s, share a trait of self- consciousness, but they seem to have overcome that smirky glibness that so often accompanies it. Their films are impressively, even dauntingly smart but also, to a surprising degree, earnestly and deeply felt.

Tom Hanks may be proud to see his movie "Road to Perdition" on one of the Top 10 lists below, but he must be even prouder to have been part of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," this year's sleeper hit, which didn't make any of the following lists.

The lists reflect movies that critics feel will be talked about in the years to come. They are from David Germain (Associated Press movie writer) and Christy Lemire (Associated Press entertainment writer).

David Germain's Top 10


"Bowling for Columbine"

"Gangs of New York"

"Bloody Sunday"

"Sunshine State"

"Road to Perdition"



"Ash Wednesday"

"Monsoon Wedding"

Christy Lemire's Top 10

"Far from Heaven"

"About Schmidt"

"Catch Me if You Can"

"Road to Perdition"

"25th Hour"

"Talk to Her"


"Minority Report"


"Read My Lips"

David Germain's Top 10 | Christy Lemire's Top 10

Meryl Streep plays New York writer Susan Orlean in "Adaptation."

David Germain’s best

Associated Press

1. "Adaptation" >> "Being John Malkovich" writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze succeed splendidly in creating a film about absolutely everything. Their tall tale of an insecure screenwriter is a spot-on rendering of artist self-loathing, and through cryptic philosophizing becomes a universal story on adapting to life. Nicolas Cage is at his best since "Leaving Las Vegas," with great support from Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper.

2. "Bowling for Columbine" >> Say what you will about the heart-on-his-sleeve subjectivity of Michael Moore, the world's lucky to have such a provocateur. This documentary is equal parts entertainment and incitement to truly meaningful thought. Hilarious and horrific, it deconstructs the yahoo mentality of a pistol-packing nation and hammers home the point that with unalienable rights come implicit responsibilities.

Leonardo DiCaprio has two movies on the lists -- "Gangs of New York," above; and "Catch Me if You Can," in which he co-stars with Tom Hanks. Also, Martin Scorsese, director of "Gangs of New York," could be an Oscar nominee.

3. "Gangs of New York" >> Part masterpiece, part mess. Martin Scorsese's long-delayed epic shows the warts of compromise from his editing fight with distributor Miramax. Offsetting the film's occasional choppiness is dazzling imagery in the re-creation of a dim chapter in 1860s history. Daniel Day-Lewis gives the year's finest performance as a buoyantly ruthless gang leader, stealing the picture from top-billed Leonardo DiCaprio.

James Nesbitt stars as Ivan Cooper in Paul Greengrass' impassioned melodrama "Bloody Sunday."

4. "Bloody Sunday" >> Narrative filmmaking doesn't get more realistic than this dramatization of the 1972 massacre of unarmed protesters by British soldiers in Northern Ireland. Eschewing phony foreshadowing, director Paul Greengrass captures a day in the life gone horribly wrong, the end result all the more grave and shocking for the film's documentary style, which presents events large and small with equal focus.

5. "Sunshine State" >> This is not one of John Sayles' best films, yet it's still among the year's class acts. Writer-director Sayles brilliantly weaves a mosaic of personal lives at odds with big, bad corporate interests in a decaying Florida coastal resort. The cast of characters led by Edie Falco and Angela Bassett are a rarity in American movies these days: When they talk, they actually have something to say.

6. "Road to Perdition" >> Here's one where Tom Hanks actually has little to say, and he speaks volumes in doing so. Hanks' Depression-era hit man is one of modern cinema's most forlorn figures, mutely honor-bound to a mission of revenge against a beloved mentor (Paul Newman in a sublime supporting role). As with "American Beauty," British director Sam Mendes' outsider's eye enriches another distinctly American tale.

Salma Hayek plays Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor's film "Frida." Taymor captures the color and vibrancy of Kahlo's portraits and creates one of the most visually imaginative movies of the year.

7. "Frida" >> This vivid biopic of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is the year's most visually inventive film. Director Julie Taymor (Broadway's "The Lion King") crafts a living, breathing portrait of Kahlo's life with Diego Rivera and her surreal inner vision. Salma Hayek, who labored for years to get the film made, could be this year's Halle Berry, establishing herself as a pretty face with Oscar-worthy acting chops.

8. "Insomnia" >> How refreshing to find a U.S. remake of a foreign film (Norwegian, in this case) that improves on the source. Director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to "Memento" is a troubling tale of a big-city cop (Al Pacino) out of his element, tormented by guilt, a killer (Robin Williams) and Alaska's relentless midnight sun. Pacino and Williams combine for a riveting, original cat-and-mouse tandem.

9. "Ash Wednesday" >> After a sharp downward spiral since his commendable debut with "The Brothers McMullen," Edward Burns scraps romantic territory for a stark crime drama that marks a career high point. Writer-director Burns brings understated grace to his role as an ex-mob enforcer reluctantly drawn back to gangster life to save his brother (Elijah Wood), and the dialogue crackles with poetic naturalism.

10. "Monsoon Wedding" >> Mira Nair's big fat Punjabi wedding was 2002's real nuptial feast, no disrespect to its blockbuster Greek cousin. Nair fashions a kaleidoscope of costumes and colors as old ways clash with new during preparations for a traditional Indian matrimonial bash. The action seamlessly moves from domestic comedy to farce to heavy drama, and Mychael Danna's score is movie music at its most joyous.

Julianne Moore may get an Oscar nomination for best actress for her performance in "Far from Heaven," which also stars Dennis Quaid. Writer-director Todd Haynes may also receive a nomination for best director.

Christy Lemire’s best

Associated Press

1. "Far from Heaven" >> This would still have been one of the year's best films based solely on its exquisite cinematography and production design. Add an Oscar-worthy performance from Julianne Moore, and writer-director Todd Haynes' keenly observant script, and you have a movie that's nearly flawless. Haynes' loving homage to the Technicolor female-driven melodramas of the 1950s looks and feels so authentic, it will make you forget you're watching a new movie.

Jack Nicholson stars as Warren Schmidt, a retired actuary who goes on the road in a Winnebago in search of a new life, in "About Schmidt." Although the film opens today here, it opened earlier in other states and made it on to one of the Top 10 movie lists for 2002.

2. "About Schmidt" >> Jack Nicholson should earn his 12th Oscar nomination for the most surprising, understated performance of his career, as a retired widower who goes on a road trip toward self-discovery. Every piece fits together perfectly in co-writer and director Alexander Payne's lovingly satirical look at Middle America, from the tiniest details to the solid supporting performances.

3. "Catch Me if You Can" -- The most flat-out fun movie of the year, it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: It's a giddy cat-and-mouse game between two extremely talented players, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, with director Steven Spielberg serving as referee. (It's the perfect light counterpoint to Spielberg's heavier "Minority Report," No. 8 on this list.) The star power shines blindingly on the screen and behind the camera.

Tom Hanks also two movies on the lists -- "Road to Perdition," and co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio, "Catch Me if You Can." Hanks, above, plays an FBI agent chasing after Frank W. Abagnale Jr., played by DiCaprio. Sam Mendes, director of "Road to Perdition," could be an Oscar nominee.

4. "Road to Perdition" >> Director Sam Mendes has crafted a nearly perfect film -- stunning in its simplicity, beautifully shot and edited, with deeply felt performances from Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and newcomer Tyler Hoechlin. And the cinematography from Conrad L. Hall is just as much a star. The tale of Irish gangsters in Depression-era Chicago is relentlessly somber, yet poetic in the possibility of redemption.

5. "25th Hour" >> Spike Lee's best film since "Malcolm X," maybe even since "Do the Right Thing." He takes a potentially preachy topic -- a drug dealer's last day before a seven-year prison term -- and infuses it with disarming realism. It's also the first movie to realistically depict New York City months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Insightful and darkly funny, with stellar performances by Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper.

6. "Talk to Her" >> Pedro Almodóvar's best film ever, showing the Spanish filmmaker at the height of his abilities. The story of two men who are in love with women in comas is haunting and complex, full of longing and hope and striking visual imagery. It will stay with you long after you've watched it.

7. "Frida" >> This biopic about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is one of the most visually imaginative movies of the year -- director Julie Taymor practically brings Kahlo's paintings to life. And like Kahlo's portraits, "Frida" is vibrant and colorful, sometimes horrific, always strikingly direct. Salma Hayek embodies the role and should get an Oscar nomination.

Tom Cruise, top, as a detective on the run, struggles with a helmeted policeman in "Minority Report." Its director, Steven Spielberg, also directed "Catch Me if You Can," another movie on Christy Lemire's Top 10 list.

8. "Minority Report" >> Steven Spielberg goes dark in this story of a futuristic society in which crimes are preconceived and prevented. It's a thrilling sensory overload, a detailed, fully realized world that's repeatedly surprising, though it weakens a bit at the end. Using his obvious star power, Tom Cruise plays the straight man among several standout supporting performances.

9. "Tadpole" >> A delightfully low-budget story -- shot in 14 days on hand-held digital video for a couple hundred thousand dollars -- about a 15-year-old boarding school student who harbors a crush on his stepmother and ends up having a fling with her best friend. Newcomer Aaron Stanford is charming and a real find, and a sly Bebe Neuwirth showcases her flawless comic timing.

10. "Read My Lips" >> Gorgeous, sexy French noir about a lonely, hearing-impaired receptionist who teams up with an ex-con to undermine a heist, and finds an unlikely soul mate. The movie starts out as an office comedy and seamlessly turns into a stylish thriller, keeping you on your toes the whole time.

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