I have ranted many times about the lack of originality and vision in movies these days, so when I sat down to work out my top 5 movies of 2003 I found myself having to 'cheat' and look up the years releases as I couldn't actually think of that many that really inspired me!
Despite the shadow of some New Zealand flicks about a ring being over every release for 2 years, there has been no film this year I have looked forward to more, than little Quentins fourth (now fourth and fifth) directorial outing. With Kill Bill Volume 1 Tarantino dropped a lot of his trademark dialogue and opted for action most spectacular. He clearly had fun making this film and his geekiness holds true as he pays homage to more movies than would ever be allowed by a lesser director. With a kickass soundtrack, great performances and the best set-piece (no shitty matrix CGI here) fight scenes since Crouching Tiger, this movie had the audacity to leapfrog the shoe-in final installment of Jacksons Lord of the Rings. Here's to you Quentin... you are the King.
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
After two spectacular installments, we all knew that Peter Jackson was a safe bet. The sheer scale of Return of the King is breathtaking. After the brilliance of the Helms Deep battle we are treated to one of the finest siege battles in the history of cinema. Despite the CGI, the reality of battle is cruelly exposed as the heads of dead soldiers are catapulted into the city of Minas Tirith. The ease at which horses and men are slaughtered is chilling and for this alone Jackson deserves an Oscar. He said he wanted to add realism to this fantasy and he truly has. Away from the battles of Orcs and Men, the desperate Sam and Frodo reach the end of their quest, and it is here that Jackson again returns to his horror roots. If there was one disappointment it was with the ending. Tolkiens ending was far too long and brought a very dull and boring conclusion to the entire saga. This fact was always going to work against Jackson, and while I am pleased with the changes made in the film it still feels too long. It isn't really Jacksons fault as he had a lot of plot threads to tie up, but after 3 hours of sheer adrenaline the final 15 minutes of closure just feel a little too much.
This movie was due for release in September 2001. The over-reactions of many a studio post-9/11 led to it's release being suspended. The last thing american's wanted was a black-comedy which showed the US military in a bad light. So we waited, and in the end it's release came at an even more thought provoking time. As two madmen decided to wage war, kill thousands, destroy a nation and deceive the voters Joaquin Pheonix brought a ray of happiness to a small few as the drug dealing soldier in cold war Germany. The fact that many of the scams and mysterious deaths are based on real events just fuels the enjoyment. Sadly, on its release in the US Buffalo Soldiers made it into only 5 cinemas. The land of the free continued its disgraceful act of censorship, but at least we still have the DVDs!
City of God
The story of two boys growing up in Rio de Janeiro captured the hearts and minds of so many around the world. The raw brutality of life on the streets for people so young was harsh to the eyes and gave people like myself a new look at Rio. Fernando Meirelles deserves the international acclaim and City of God fully deserves its place in the top 5.
Catch Me If You Can
Finally, a hollywood movie. I'm not sure what it was about Catch Me If You Can, but this true story caper was just pure enjoyment. The performances were excellent, particularly from DiCaprio, who clearly had no problem playing a 16 year old!
Best of the Rest
Gangs of New York