2002: The Year in Movies

Ten Thumbs Up
Critic vs. critic.
Dec. 31 2002 11:47 AM

2002: The Year in Movies

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Dear David (and Tony and Sarah),

Of course it is useless debating the titles on a Top 10 list, even more so their placement (although I do get e-mails from readers wondering why I placed one title at No. 7, another at No. 8). The purpose of such lists is to provide readers with ideas for movies they might want to see; if enough critics put Talk to Her on their lists (and I think it is on every list I have seen except my own), people will cave in and go to see it. I have nothing against the film, and I gave it four stars in the Sun-Times, but there were others I valued more, to wit:

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1. Minority Report
2. City of God
3. Adaptation
4. Far From Heaven
5. 13 Conversations About One Thing
6. Y tu Mamá También
7. Invincible
8. Spirited Away
9. All or Nothing
10. The Quiet American

On this list the title that stands out is Werner Herzog's Invincible, which was all but ignored by the public. It got some favorable reviews ("fresh" in the Tomatometer "Cream of the Crop" tabulation, "rotten" in what I guess is the Not-Cream category), but in general what David calls Movieville ignored it. Amazing and sad that the visionary genius of the German New Wave could return with a film so pure, original, and powerful and hardly make a ripple.

I may have jumped the gun on City of God, which officially opens later in January, but since it played at every festival on earth in 2002 and qualified as a 2002 film for the Oscar foreign language category, I think it's better placed on this list than in hindsight a year from now. What a remarkable film —for theme, for story, and for their marriage to a visual style of astonishing complexity and loveliness.

Regarding your remarks about Adaptation, I will simply say that the closing scene, the melodrama in the swamps, is the only ending the film could logically have: It must sell out in total cynicism to McKee in order to be true to itself. Any other ending would be wrong. Kaufman is thumbing his nose at Hollywood, at McKee, and at those audience members not willing to see what he is so clearly and bravely doing.

I went to see Minority Report again in December at a theater in Times Square, just to be sure it was as brilliant as I remembered. It is. I read somewhere recently (maybe in an article by one of you) that just because Howard Hawks is so entertaining, we should not lose sight of how good he is. Same goes for Spielberg.

Mike Leigh's All or Nothing is illuminating in the way it learns to care for the kinds of characters Leigh has sometimes patronized in the past. The uncouth and hostile couch potato son is closer to modern youth than the vast majority of recent movie teenagers.

Best performances of the year? I agree about Diane Lane and would add Nicolas Cage for Adaptation. Should the academy just cave in and name Viola Davis and Brian Cox the two supporting winners, for their bodies of work this year?

Best,
Roger

Roger Ebert is the Chicago Sun-Times' film critic. David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can e-mail him at movies@slate.com. Sarah Kerr is Vogue's film critic. A.O. Scott is a film critic at the New York Times.

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