The Top 10 Films of 2002

Yikes! After not even being able to complete a top 5 list for 2001, I hit the jackpot this year. 2002 has to be the first year in recent memory that I was hard-pressed to complete a top 10 list - only because I couldn't figure out which films to include, and which to leave out!

It was also a notable year in that almost all of my favourite filmmakers released a film or two. They didn't all succeed, but it was a rich year nonetheless.

For each film, you can click the title to visit my original review.

Here goes, and I'll bet you can already guess number one....

#1

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

After disappointment and doubt with The Phantom Menace, the gauntlet has been tossed down. If you don't like Attack of the Clones, I'm sorry to say, you just ain't a Star Wars fan at all. There's nothing inherently wrong with not being a Star Wars fan - there sure are a lot of you people - but thank goodness I don't have to count myself among you. Devotees of the original series should be in hog heaven with AOTC - this souped-up roller coaster has all the trimmings that made Episodes IV, V and VI the defining cinematic experiences of my life.

#2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Philosopher's Stone was good, but Chamber is great - a slicker, darker, funnier take on Harry Potter than we ever could have expected Chris Columbus to turn out. The cast has really matured, and we can only giggle in anticipation of how much fun the next two flicks are going to be. What a wondrous film.

#3

Punch-Drunk Love

Hand it to PTA to make a romantic comedy that has old Hungarian women running out of Silver Cities in droves. This violent, kooky, and genuinely disturbing portrait of "what it would be like if Adam Sandler were a real person" is the most surprising and refreshing comedies of the year, and the most workable romance. Also my nominee for the "What Dave Tebby Could Do With a Feature Film Budget" Award.

#4

Road to Perdition

It's not as strong as American Beauty, but similar enough, and Perdition is soaked with enough pastoral dread and old-fashioned charm to make it one of the most sensual and enjoyable theatrical events I had this year. Mendes' innate cinematic ability remains unchecked... this damned theatre director really knows how to shoot a good movie.

#5

Y Tu Mama Tambien

More luridly voyeuristic sex than half the internet combined, and all in service of a complex and sophisticated treatment of age - from the riot of teenage youth to the grim realities of death. This is a sincere portrait of adolescent sexuality, a dangerous game laced with gritty darkness and ocasional moments of inescapable beauty.

#6

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Fellowship was better, but the power of the Ring remains strong. There has never been a fantasy film project quite like this before, and the sheer breadth of its domain makes it a uniquely wondrous filmgoing experience. Give it up for Gollum - the digital creatures sure seem to be ruling the roost this year. When he drags himself into the second-last shot of the film, pleading with himself to not betray his master, the chills are profound.

#7

Panic Room

Sure, there's no substance, but who cares? As thrillers go, they don't get much slicker than this. Fincher's controlled sense of craft makes this a terrific funhouse ride. A stop along the way on his march to greatness, certainly, but a great flick.

#8

Spirited Away

No film has ever treated dreamland so properly. Spirited Away expertly portrays that strange, liquid stream of unconsciousness that both does and does not make any logical sense. Throw in the spunkiest female lead of any film in the past five years and you've got the makings of a uniquely pleasurable film.

#9

Comedian

A fly-on-the-wall, balls-to-the-same-wall glimpse at the often horrifying lifestyle of standup comics, this was one of the most personally fascinating films I saw this year. Ten years later, Jerry Seinfeld is still the man. Also: my nominee for Best Trailer, Ever.

#10

Gerry

I hear Gerry is actually going to see distribution, which surprises me; this non-narrative tone poem is only going to confuse audiences more for the presence of Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. For mainstream crowds, Gerry veers far too widely on the side of "blatantly experimental," but for the film geeks both behind its creation and in its audience, it's mesmerizing cinema... like how after two minutes of watching Gerry and Gerry trudge across a salt flat, your mind opens up and you begin noticing things that never would have occured to you before.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Bend it Like Beckham is everything My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not. Genuinely funny, archly sweet, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Should hit mainstream theatres in April or so; watch and enjoy!

And Atanarjuat is one of the most impressive and important Canadian films of all time (big enough for ya?). It should probably be sitting in #10 but I tend to favour deserts over snowscapes. (Hence ROTJ over ESB, by the way.)


I WILL REITERATE THE POINT

I didn't like Spider-Man. When I saw it, I merely disliked it. Seven months, four hundred million dollars and innumerable unfavourable comparisons with Attack of the Clones later, and I just plain fucking hate this movie. I hate Sam Raimi, I hate Tobey Maguire, I hate anyone who swings around New York city on semi-solid trails of his own jizz, and I hate, I hate, I hate Spider-Man!!


WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Besides the obvious, there's that other dot-com bust, Fear Dot Com. It really is very scary... but not in any of the ways the filmmakers intended. Actually threatened last year's winner, Pearl Harbor, for the Worst Film of All Time Award, but PH scraped through in the end entirely based on the presence of Cuba Gooding Jr.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Tough call. John Williams ruled the roost this year, with no less than four very impressive scores. Howard Shore's work for The Two Towers is as ingenious as his work for Fellowship, promising that the trilogy's score will go down as one of the great pieces of film music of all time. So who wins? For CDs, I'll pick Chamber of Secrets, but the non-Williams stuff in the film itself is pure shite. For overall score, you guessed it: it's Attack of the Clones.


DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR

...goes to Alfonso Cuaron's A Little Princess, well worth a look for any fan of intelligent childrens' drama. Watch it with Agnieska Holland's take on The Secret Garden and you've got a double-bill evening of great filmmaking.


THE KYLIE MINOGUE AWARD

Last year I published a top 5 list with only 4 entries, hoping that someday, some 2001 film would fill the final slot. This year I have decided to give that fifth slot to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. That's not because it was actually the fifth-best film I saw last year, but because in the year since, it is the frustrated work of cinema that has continued to preoccupy me the most. I can't get it out of my head, which I guess means something. And the merit is not baseless - there really is something sophisticated at work here; it's just sabotaged by a lot of dismal failures.

Well. That was bloody long and complicated. Let's....

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