Apparently, some bloggers are too lazy to find this on my website, ; ) so I'm posting it here.
2002 -- The Top Ten Movies
1. Y Tu Mama Tambien
-- Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron eschewed the formal compositions and green-soaked universe of A Little Princess
and Great Expectations
to turn in a French New Wave-inspired road trip drama which was as profoundly moving as it was hilarious and sexy. A trio of adept Mexican thespians (led by rising star Gael Garcia Bernal) played loose and honest with their characters, as Cuaron told a coming of age story through a landscape of political change.
2. Femme Fatale
-- Perhaps America’s best living director, Brian DePalma delivered the purest example of his 30-year-long obsession with the manipulation of images by untrustworthy media, compounded by the voyeur’s complicity in the violence of his object. Crisper and prettier than Blow Out
, more entertaining than Body Double
, and as consistently visually rapturous as Carlito’s Way
and Mission: Impossible
, this compilation of serpentine designs, doubled reflections, overflowing water imagery, and feminine self-reliance was the most unfairly ignored masterpiece of the year.
3. 25th Hour
-- Using September 11th as a thematic backdrop to explore moral responsibility and New York social identity, Spike Lee’s gripping, visceral drama turned a last-free-day-in-the-life-of-a-drug-dealer pot-boiler into an ethical allegory about the American dream and the internal struggle to do the right thing in a world where altruism is the hardest way out. Assembling the best cast of the year, Lee coaxed brilliant performances from Barry Pepper, Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox, and a tortured cauldron of fear inside Edward Norton.
-- Producing Spike Lee’s triumph was just one of Tobey Maguire’s accomplishments this year. He also starred in the most satisfying, colorful event picture in years; a thrilling, sweet-natured, smartly written comic book dazzler directed by Sam Raimi with characteristic humor, style, and loyalty to the material. Having a good year with this and Panic Room
, writer David Koepp distilled Stan Lee’s original stories into a breathless adventure aided by a brilliant supporting performance from Willem Dafoe. Not just a superhero’s coming of age story, Raimi’s film was also a poem for unrequited love.
-- Nicolas Cage was outstanding in a dual performance for this endlessly reflexive, post-modern dissection of the writing process argued beautifully by scribe Charlie Kaufman, who while assaulting clichés and reinventing narrative structure, has also made an ode to the notion that nothing can exist in life without compromising to the enemy. Director Spike Jonze was a bit off his game, but the script was the thing wherein Jonze and Cage caught the conscience of the writer.
6. Far From Heaven
-- By placing this devastating elegy bemoaning intolerance and misogyny in the context of a 1950s Douglas Sirk melodrama, modernist director Todd Haynes was able to comment both on the prejudices of society and on the disparity between how much we think we’ve advanced (both cinematically and socially) in 50 years and how little we actually have. Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert, and Dennis Quaid gave classic performances.
7. Bowling For Columbine
-- Say what you will about Michael Moore’s self-aggrandizement, his stacking of the deck, his cocky one-sided polemics, and his obnoxious camera ambushes: with this robust, blind-siding documentary Moore has managed to make his flaws irrelevant and capture some startling admissions on film. From certifiable nutcases to Alzheimer-stricken movie stars, Moore’s subjects unwittingly help him develop a treatise on America’s culture of fear, the media’s propagation of such, and the inescapable nature of violence. Alternately funny and frightening.
8. 24 Hour Party People
-- Trafficking in mindless raves, stuttering structure, and existential wit, Michael Winterbottom’s romantic history lesson on British pop music is bolstered by a masterful star turn from comedian Steve Coogan as the clever and reluctant hero Tony Wilson. Using Brechtian devices to acknowledge the limits of the medium, Winterbottom found a way to utilize cinema to convey the ephemeral beauty of Manchester and the timeless power of its music.
9. The Believer
-- Ryan Gosling was a punishing, snorting bull as the self-hating Jew at the center of Henry Bean’s bold, aggressive tirade against narrow-minded didacticism whether in the form of fascist neo-Nazis or of Orthodox Jews. By creating a heart-breakingly sympathetic protagonist, Gosling was able to make the audience listen to the loathsome rants of a bigot and understand their roots in humanity’s monumental search for personal identity.
10. Spirited Away
-- One of the strangest and most imaginative animated features of all time, Hayao Miyazaki’s story of a young girl learning responsibility, selfless values, and the fragility of friendships as she finds her independence moving to a new city, became a giant hit in its homeland but has only made whispers over here. In a cinematic cesspool filled with ugly offenses like Shrek
, the creative, insanely loopy Spirited Away
deserved far more stateside attention.
Honorable Mentions: Minority Report, Sex & Lucia, What Time Is It There?