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The 10 Best Films of 2002

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire December 27, 2002 at 2:0AM

The 10 Best Films of 2002
0

The 10 Best Films of 2002

by indieWIRE Staff and Contributors





A scene from "Russian Ark"

Photo courtesy of Wellspring



(indieWIRE: 12.27.02) -- Every year, indieWIRE asks it staff and regular contributors to submit their picks for the 10 best theatrical releases of the past 12 months. This year's contributors were: editors Brian Brooks, Eugene Hernandez, Wendy Mitchell, Matthew Ross, and Erin Torneo and contributors Peter Brunette, Eddie Cockrell, Howard Feinstein, Scott Foundas, Brandon Judell, Anthony Kaufman, and David Sterritt and Mikita Brottman. And the winners are...

Brian Brooks, indieWIRE Associate Editor

"The Fast Runner" (Anarjuat)

A brilliant film displaying human frailties, intrigue, jealousies, and shortcomings are not lost on the top of the world. The film is beautiful, unique and long, but when it ended, I hadn't noticed that nearly three hours had passed.

"Bowling for Columbine"

The film all of America needs to see. Still, the truth doesn't have to be entirely harsh. Great humor and a fab cartoon to boot! (I'm glad I voted)

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

Three hotties on a hormone-filled road trip to the beach. Beyond the obvious appeal, it's a great reminder of how to be young.

"Far From Heaven"

The opposite of how to be young, this film is a beautiful flashback to an age when freedom and individuality were only propaganda slogans. Great acting and costuming. Another daiquiri, please!!

"Talk to Her"

Almodovar once again captures the sublime in human relationships. Two men form an unlikely relationship through their affection for an unconscious woman. Even more bizarre is the stroll through a vagina.

"Lilo and Stitch"

Imagine Disney dreaming up heroines coming from a dysfunctional family complete with social services and a host of outcasts. Bravo! Dark humor, great animation, and finally an acknowledgment that all happy families aren't nuclear.

"Spellbound"

Absolutely captivating! I was on the edge of my seat, and all for a spelling bee. The kids are quirky and the adults are even more so.

"Quiet American"

Sir Michael Caine is of course brilliant. It may make some nationalistic types squirm, but they can just go home and slip that "Top Gun" video into the VCR and remember America can still kick ASS!

"Italian for Beginners"

After the last Dogme installment "The King is Alive," it was nice to see people getting along.

"Hell House"

Are these people for real? Churches making cash by creating a hell that features "Abortion Girl" and the "Fag dying from AIDS." Good clean fun and profit to be had only in America.

Runner Ups: "The Kid Stays in the Picture," "24 Hour Party People," "Roger Dodger," "The Cockettes," and "The Crime of Father Amaro"

Missed (and probably would've liked): "Femme Fatale," "Late Marriage," "Bloody Sunday," "Adaptation," "About Schmidt," "8 Mile," "Spirited Away"

Peter Brunette, indieWIRE contributor

Not ranked; in alphabetical order

"About Schmidt"

Jack Nicholson at his peak in a Middle-Western by one of our most talented directors; it's ambiguous about its irony (or lack thereof) and is meant to be that way.

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"

An amazing tonal juggling act by neophyte director George Clooney, helped no doubt by genius screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

"Far From Heaven"

I'm not sure if this film ultimately adds up to anything or tells us anything about '50s prejudice that we didn't already know; nevertheless it's a sublime simulacrum of Sirkian melodrama that makes you see film history (and theory) in a whole new light.

"Heaven"

A brilliantly calculated tour de force by German director Tom Tykwer, whose films are far richer than they appear at first glance -- the reverse of the usual equation.

"The Hours"

A stunning, subtle, thrice-told adaptation of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" with acting to die for; probably the best film of the year, it left me breathless.

"Minority Report"

When Spielberg and Cruise give you a thriller that visually amazes and actually makes you think, it's got to be on your Top 10 list.

"The Quiet American"

Marvelously insightful about how Vietnam happened, it's told from the point of view of an innocent 1955, when Graham Greene's novel was published; for once the love story illuminates the politics and the history rather than burying them.

"Spirited Away"

Despite being a Japanese animation seen by all too few people, this film spirited me away; probably the second best film of the year.

"Talk to Her"

A brilliant exercise in self-aware melodrama, this Almodovar film now looks better to me than it did at its premiere seven months ago in Cannes.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

A profound and moving sociopolitical treatise on the "new" Mexico masquerading as raunchy road movie.

Eddie Cockrell, indieWIRE contributor

In alphabetical rather than hierarchical order, and though I did my best to keep it to 10, that didn't work so well.

"About Schmidt"

"Antwone Fisher"

"Bloody Sunday"

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"

"Far from Heaven"

"Heaven"

"Insomnia"

"Punch-Drunk Love"

"The Quiet American"

"Spider-Man"

"Time Out"

Howard Feinstein, indieWIRE contributor

Not ranked, only nine here:

"Russian Ark"

"Far From Heaven"

"Talk to Her"

"Devils on the Doorstep"

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

"Minority Report"

"Time Out"

"Warm Water Under a Red Bridge"

"What Time Is It There?"

Scott Foundas, indieWIRE contributor

"As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty"

A movie 30 years in the making, and worth every minute of the wait, as maverick "filmer" (to borrow his own word) Jonas Mekas reflects on the last three decades of his life via some of the most ecstatically beautiful "home movie" footage ever recorded. In a truly remarkable year for movies (when not just 10, but at least 20 titles deserve to be mentioned), no achievement was more remarkable than this; to sit in a movie theater for nearly five hours and be so deeply moved so consistently is no ordinary thing.

"Time Out"

So few films get at the Sisyphean rigors of a seemingly normal, everyday life; the way a man who has achieved financial success, a wife and 2.5 well-adjusted kids can feel the world closing in on him, can become paralyzed by fear. Laurent Cantet's extraordinary second feature possesses that Tolstoy-like understanding in spades, and that's only the beginning of a film that creeps so deeply into our most private crevices of self-realization as to become a glaring mirror from which we desperately seek -- but cannot -- avert our gaze.

"Bloody Sunday"

A startling anti-war relief, colored by blood and textured by flesh and bone; few films have more vividly enmeshed us in the instability of a war zone fueled by religious discrimination. It is the story of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but could just as easily tell of Israel or Afghanistan or Iraq today. Which is precisely the point.

"Bowling For Columbine"

Pornographic? Perhaps. Exploitative? At times. The most audacious, daring, unabashed, rigorously challenging, compulsively watchable American movie of the year? Absolutely.

"Femme Fatale"

The most delicious, deliriously inventive narrative spiral since Raul Ruiz got his hands on Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." A grand summation for De Palma -- so much so that he needn't ever make another film, though one hopes he will -- and one of the greatest "fuck you"s to the Hollywood studio system ever created.

"I'm Going Home"

Of the many fine movies last year concerned with taking one's own life into account following the unexpected loss of a child, this gem stands out, thanks to the great Manoel De Olivera's delicate, unsentimental touch and the very brilliant performance of Michel Piccoli.

"In Praise of Love"

The anti-"Ararat." Which is to say that in a year of two films consumed by cinema's efforts to reproduce history, it is Godard's autumnal, reflective vision -- cut through with a whimsical questioning of his own relevance as a filmmaker -- that stimulates and provokes, instead of seeming the victim of its own intellectual naivete.

"Auto Focus"

No mere biopic about Bob Crane, but rather a movie about that perilous moment when the home video camera entered our homes and the age of "reality television" was born. "Auto Focus" has had a tough time finding an audience, which is a measure of just how unrelentingly it taps into our deep-seeded narcissism.

"The Piano Teacher"

A gifted adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek's sadomasochistic romp, which finds Michael Haneke, that great and disquieting cinema poet, working in (for him) something of a sentimental mood. With Isabelle Huppert so transcending the ranks of most screen acting that it seems limiting to call her work here a "performance."

"Cremaster 3"

I know the invaluable Jim Hoberman meant to criticize Matthew Barney's experimental epic (the last and grandest in a five-film cycle) by calling it "an overwrought 57th Street yard sale." Yet, it's that yard-sale quality that's key to the thrall of Barney's fecund vision, finding strands of connectivity between Irish folklore, the dawn of gangsterism in America and the Guggenheim museum. By no small measure, it's the genuinely tragicomic valentine to the wonder and terror of New York City that "Gangs of New York" should have been.

Eugene Hernandez, indieWIRE Editor-in-Chief

Each year I single out one film as my favorite of the year, and then (in alphabetical order) I list nine other films that I consider to be the best (last year, I selected "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"). This year, my top choice is "Far From Heaven." Narrowing down the other nine films was especially tough this year, so I have again included a list of honorable mentions.

Best Film of the Year:

"Far From Heaven":

Todd Haynes has created a spectacular film that is even more compelling a second time around. Haynes' partnership with Julianne Moore yields a powerful portrait of 1950s life that is still painfully relevant today. Ed Lachman's cinematography, Sandy Powell's costumes, Elmer Bernstein's music and numerous other technical credits offer an impeccable realization of Haynes' compelling story.

The Rest of My Top 10:

"Adaptation"

Perplexing and just plain fun, Charlie Kaufman (along with brother Donald) and Spike Jonze have created another wacked-out and noteworthy feature film.

"Bowling for Columbine"

Kudos to Michael Moore and United Artists for giving Americans a wake-up call. The film should be required viewing for any liberals who didn't bother to vote this year.

"Chicago"

Rob Marshall's screen adaptation of this popular musical is a stunningly beautiful film. While there are certainly strong performances throughout, it is the musical sequences that shine. Each number is incredibly staged, shot, and edited offering a terrific viewing experience.

"Dogtown and Z-Boys"

High-energy skateboarding insights and exploits from the men and women who paved the way.

"The Kid Stays in the Picture"

My favorite film at Sundance 2002. For me, Robert Evans and his life define Hollywood at its absolute best and tragic worst. This terrific doc is laudable for its subject matter and its technique.

"Late Marriage"

An altogether more compelling look at life, love and marriage than "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." A sexy, unexpected comedy that translates well across cultures.

"Spellbound"

Jeff Blitz's fascinating exploration of a diverse group of kids each vying to win the National Spelling Bee wowed me when I saw it at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. Three days later I took my parents to see it and loved it even more. "Spellbound" is a treasure.

"Stevie"

Steve James has created an at times painful examination of Stevie's struggles to grow up in rural Illinois. James offers in-depth portraits of the complex Stevie and the multi-dimensional people in his life. James' ability to subvert our first impressions makes the film that much more powerful.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

The setting, the actors, and the music combine to offer a superb, sometimes lighthearted, and often sexy road movie. As I've told friends, there's something in it for everyone.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: "About Schmidt," " 8 Women," "The Cockettes," "Das Experiment," "The Gangs of New York," "The Good Girl," "Hell House," "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "jackass the movie," "Roger Dodger," "Talk to Her," "24 Hour Party People," "Virgil Bliss"

Brandon Judell, indieWIRE contributor

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

A charming, boisterous coming of age romp that insists boys will be boys...sometimes with older women, sometimes with other boys.

"Dahmer"

Brilliant direction, writing, acting, and editing make an ungainly tale of serial killer riveting and unforgettable. Truly one of the finest true-crime capers of the last decade.

"Igby Goes Down"

I've seen it five times already and I'm still laughing aloud. If you don't get the joke about Lorna Luft, call me. This is an acidly witty comedy/drama about the "Haves" that will even the "Have-nots sympathizing. That the director/writer is related to Gore Vidal clearly will make his sperm a bestseller on eBay.

"Chicago"

The musical has been reborn. Yes, "Chicago" is as invigorating as "West Side Story" and "Oklahoma!". It overflows with sensational dancing and singing that will singe your nerve endings. But there's more to the tale than just entertainment. This is an instant classic that builds a gallows and brutally hangs our justice system and lust for celebrity out to dry. As for Catherine Zeta-Jones, I never thought I'd say this: the girl has talent.

"Bowling for Columbine"

The most important film of the year. Curmudgeonly Michael Moore hates all the right things, and his look at gun control is often as hilarious as it is heartbreaking as it is infuriating. If God had seen this film decades ago, he would have set Charlton Heston on fire instead of the bush.

"O Fantasma"

What would man be like without an intellect? A dog? You're darn right, and that's what the hero here sort of becomes, sniffing out sex when he's not working as a garbage man. This film might seem simple to some, too sexually explicit to others, too chlorine-oriented to a few, but then I don't hang around with those folks.

"Italian for Beginners"

Dogma at its most charming. I can't remember exactly why I adored this so much, but still the thought of it warms my cockles.

"Sunshine State"

Sayles most undeservedly overlooked feature. Here's a caustic look at America from every class level, ethnicity, and dream. Edie Falco is superb in this constantly yapping, often comic Robert-Altman-like assemblage.

"Talk to Her"

John Waters started out with zany, low-brow humor and that's where he's stayed. Almodovar farmed the same ground and look what's he's reaped. Greatness. Never have two comatose women been so endearingly vital. And seldom has love of the inanimate been so heartrending and enlightening into the desires of the human spirit. There's also a gigantic orifice, and that's always pleasing.

"The Piano Teacher"

Masochism among the musical set. Here Huppert is yet again mesmerizing as a mother-hating instructoress with sordid yens who seduces a young student into becoming her master. Never out of tune, this shocker will have you reverberating for days to come.

Anthony Kaufman, indieWIRE contributor

Best film of the year:

"Time Out"

Runner-ups (in vague order of preference):

"Morvern Callar," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "Talk to Her," "Punch-Drunk Love," "Esther Kahn," "Bloody Sunday," "Far from Heaven," "Late Marriage," and "All or Nothing"

Runner-up runner-ups: ""Adaptation," "Bowling for Columbine," "The Fast Runner," "About Schmidt," "The Isle," "Daughter from Danang," "Storytelling" ("Fiction" part only), and "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing"

missed: "Gangs of New York," "The Hours" "The Quiet American," "Spirited Away," and "I'm Going Home"

Guilty Pleasures: "Minority Report," "Lord of the Rings: Two Towers"

Most Overrated: "The Piano Teacher"

Most Underrated: "Trouble Every Day"

Wendy Mitchell, indieWIRE Managing Editor

in alphabetical order:

"Adaptation"

One of the most original (and hilarious) movies of the year. And proof that Nic Cage deserves better material than "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."

"The Hours"

Phenomenal cast, phenomenal script, phenomenal music. Stephen Daldry establishes himself as a master with only his second film.

"The Kid Stays in the Picture"

The most playful, fun documentary I've ever seen. Mr. Evans, do you need a new pool girl?

"Rain"

An atmospheric and evocative portrait of adolescence from Kiwi newcomer Christine Jeffs.

"Read My Lips"

A thinking man's thriller from France.

"Roger Dodger"

A standout performance from the underrated Campbell Scott, and the year's sharpest dialogue from writer/director Dylan Kidd.

"Stevie"

Steve James' mesmerizing doc about a very damaged family.

"Talk to Her"

Almodovar's compelling portrait of two unexpected friends and the women they love, for better or worse.

"24 Hour Party People"

A film as innovative and surprising as the music it covers. Also startlingly hilarious at points.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

Not only for the hot sex, but also for the interesting glimpses at modern Mexico.

Honorable mention: "Gangs of New York" (ONLY for the magnificent Daniel Day-Lewis), "Alias Betty," "8 Mile," "Frida," "The Good Girl," "Mai's America," "Morvern Callar," and "Personal Velocity"

Still dying to see: "Time Out," "The Piano Teacher," "Chicago," "Bloody Sunday," "Punch-Drunk Love," "Hell House"

Matthew Ross, indieWIRE Senior Editor

I've agonized over this list longer than I'd like to admit. I'm still revising it in my head. Maybe it's because this year had a number of very good films but only one or two great ones, or maybe I'm just indecisive.

In alphabetical order:

"Adaptation"

"Adaptation" may indeed be overrated and critic-proof, yet it nonetheless succeeds as a clever riff on self-loathing in Hollywood. Jonze and Kaufman compliment each other's respective talents seamlessly.

"Bloody Sunday"

Gripping direction by Paul Greengrass is this taut retelling of a real-life tragedy. James Nesbitt gives one of the best performances of the year as anguished Irish activist Ivan Cooper.

"Far From Heaven"

Todd Haynes makes a triumphant comeback after the energetic but pretentious "Velvet Goldmine." A postmodern exercise that nonetheless works beautifully as a straightforward narrative.

"Gangs of New York"

Despite falling far short of my expectations, "Gangs" remains an accomplished, wildly ambitious work from one of America's few living masters. Daniel Day-Lewis turns in the performance of a lifetime.

"The Hours"

It may have MIRAMAX AWARDS SEASON MELODRAMA written all over it, but don't hold that against this note-perfect adaptation of Michael Cunningham's emotionally rich triptych novel. And, yes, Nicole Kidman is indeed a revelation.

"Lord of the Rings -- The Two Towers"

Peter Jackson has all of George Lucas' cinematic imagination but none of his cynical audience-pandering. Maybe the best fantasy film ever made (at least until the next one comes out).

"The Piano Teacher"

A brutal, intense examination of sexual repression and perversity. Haneke and Huppert were made for each other.

"Russian Ark"

Alexander Sokurov's dreamlike opus on 300 years of Russian history in one continuous 90-minute take. A highly accomplished, at times stunning, blend of technical and intellectual achievement.

"Stevie"

"Hoop Dreams" director Steve James returns to the forefront of the documentary filmmaking with this tragic portrait of his extremely troubled "little brother." James' personal involvement with his subject adds an extra intellectual and emotional layer to this already fascinating story. An Oscar qualifier, "Stevie" will get a wider release in 2003.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

Somehow, Alfonso Cuaron managed to successfully cross early Godard with "American Pie" in this sexy, socially conscious, and very entertaining nostalgia piece. A crowd-pleaser in the best sense.

Almost In: "Lan Yu," "Late Marriage," "Punch-Drunk Love," "Read My Lips," "Storytelling," "Talk to Her"

Honorable mentions: "24 Hour Party People," "8 Women," "The Son's Room," "Spellbound," "Time Out," "Trouble Every Day"

Never Saw: "Chicago" and "The Way Home"

David Sterritt and Mikita Brottman, indieWIRE contributors

In alphabetical order:

"The Believer"

"Dahmer"

"Far From Heaven"

"Frailty"

"The Good Girl"

"Hell House"

"The Hours"

"Late Marriage"

"Love Liza"

"24 Hour Party People"

Erin Torneo, indieWIRE Associate Editor

"Talk to Her"

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"

"Bloody Sunday"

"Adaptation"

"The Hours"

"The Cockettes"

"Spellbound"

"The Piano Teacher"

"Lord of the Rings -- The Two Towers"

"Stevie"

Runners-up: "Far From Heaven," "Life and Debt," "Lan Yu," "Morvern Callar"