Films of 2003: A Year in Review

El Vaquero Staff Writer

I recently developed a fear of movie companies running out of ideas. I feared that movie companies were going to release nothing but cheap teen comedies and mindless action movies for the rest of eternity. But in the year of 2003, the audiences of America were reminded of the pure imagination filmmakers have.

Films like “Finding Nemo” reminded us of how joyous and entertaining a Disney film can be, while other films like the last two installments of “The Matrix” trilogy wowed us with the full capabilities of today’s film editing technology and visual effects.

The best films of 2003 will be remembered for what they had to offer and what made them stand out from the rest of the crowd. But of course in a year of great films, there inevitably will be a fair number of bad films as well.

The Best of 2003:

It’s hard to pick the best film of 2003 because there was such a wide variety of films to choose from (and the year is not over yet), but it is possible to pick the best from each genre.

In the suspense genre, there were many good films that fit in this category but the one that truly kept me on the edge of my seat was the Joel Schumacher film “Phone Booth” starring Colin Farrell. Sure, the film took place in only one location and it involved a man stuck in a phone booth, but the film was focused on a lunatic sniper who was threatening the whole area. It was impossible to guess what was going to happen next and when it ended, I was more than satisfied. It had a surprising ending with a mysterious twist.

In terms of comedies, there were many hits and misses this year. With all the comedies this year, there was only one that truly stood out for me. One of them was the blockbuster smash “Bringing Down the House” starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

This film was hilarious because of its cleverly written dialogue and the comic chemistry between Martin and Latifah. Sure the film had a lot of white people doing black impression jokes that have been done so many times, but they worked so well because they were pulled off by actors we are so familiar with. I mean, who doesn’t love Eugene Levy? (The dad from “American Pie”)

With the stereotypical jokes aside, “Bringing Down the House” does actually survive on its on gags, which only further qualifies it as one of the funniest films of the year.

So what’s the best picture of the year overall? Well there were many that are definitely top ten material. “The Matrix: Reloaded” is definitely one of the best sequels ever because it pushed the envelope of visual effects and science fiction plots. Quentin Tarantino also returned with one of his best films, “Kill Bill: Volume One.” This film should become an instant action classic because of its unique style and extreme level of violence. “Finding Nemo” should also be regarded as one of the best family movies ever. Not only was it the highest grossing film of the year, but it truly captivated children and parents because of its beautiful animation and wonderful and witty dialogue. Overall, there was one film that stood out. One film that truly moved me and yanked on my emotional chains.

The best film by Clint Eastwood since “Unforgiven,” “Mystic River” is by far the best picture of 2003. “Mystic River” tells a story about three adult friends and their recalling of a traumatizing incident that changed their lives forever. Now in the present, they are dealing with the memories of that incident and at the same time having to deal with a crisis in their lives.

“Mystic River” was terrifically acted by the whole cast, which includes Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney and Laurence Fishburne. The story compliments the acting because it explains why these characters are the way they are today. This one has Oscar written all over it.

The Shame of 2003

It is hard to avoid the bad movies because there are so many of them. The only thing these films have in common with the great ones is that they can be separated into different categories as well.

The horror genre for example, is getting really lame and formulaic. Teens get lost, teens split up, teens get killed, one escapes which makes an excuse for a sequel. But then there are horror films that do not make any sense at all. They are just violent and gruesome for no reason. The best example of this would be the remake of the horror classic, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Now the original “Massacre” was a true independent classic, almost revolutionary. But the remake was so forced and lifeless. The story in the film was an excuse to separate all the violent moments in the film. The story was really bad which made the violence look even worse. Some of it was so disturbing that I was tempted to leave the theater. But unfortunately there were no refunds.

Now if there’s one thing that pisses me off about movies, it is bad comedies. I am so sick of teen comedies and films where white people try to act like black stereotypes. Maybe it was chuckle-worthy once many, many years ago. But now it is just sad. It proves the creators of the film have no talent in writing comedy at all. This includes the terrible, absolutely not-funny “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” Jamie Kennedy is already annoying enough, but the last thing the world needs is for him to do Snoop Dogg impressions and recite the “shiznit” alphabet.

This film is the best example of how white people doing black imitations are lame. Why won’t comedies just leave the African-Americans alone; can’t film companies make comedies with African-Americans just being themselves? “Barbershop” was just that and it worked. Make something like that again.

Let us also not forget my pure passion for hating “Scary Movie 3.” Once again, this film truly killed the genre of film spoofs. If you’re going to make a good spoof, use elements from other films that are being made fun of, do not just make people beat each other senseless for no reason. Alas, we have reached the cream of the crap. The worst film of 2003.

Let me give you a clue. It’s called “Kangaroo Jack.” I’m afraid watching this movie may have lowered my IQ. How did this film get green-lighted? The guys at Warner Bros. Must have said this at a pre-production conference, “Okay, people. We want to appeal to all audiences, which includes the Australians, so let us make a film about a kangaroo.” And still this movie made more than $50 million? This film truly had no purpose.

First of all, out of all the places to put two guys with 50 grand, why the Australian Outback? Then the money gets stolen. Not by terrorists, which could have been exciting. Not by rival enemies which would have been tense, but by a kangaroo. Yes, a kangaroo. I am still shocked.
I will say it again, kangaroo. By the way, this kangaroo had to be one of the most annoying characters in cinema history (take that Jar-Jar Binx.) Or maybe I was just so freaking annoyed with the fact two grown men, with a car, could not catch a kangaroo. Maybe that kangaroo was a terrorist in disguise. Oh, well. This film still sucked.

Whew, what a year for films. We had good, we had bad, but 2003 will definitely be remembered for films that pushed the limits and broke many records in the gross department.

Unfortunately, some films did not deserve any of that money, let alone the chance of being released.

Hopefully 2004 will continue this trend of more risky films that go places no films have gone before. All I know is I am crossing my fingers for “The Matrix: Recycled.”

So the films of the class of 2003 can be summed up as revolutionary, daring, brilliant and just plain sucky. But at least Hollywood hasn’t run out of ideas yet.