Remembering a Decade…2003

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

The year 2003 seems to be the first film year of the decade in which all of the writers here at RowThree are generally on the same page. Our top three films from that year were pretty much no-brainers. After that things get choppy and we discovered that there are quite a few hidden gems from 2003 that might make the list but frankly not enough of us had seen them (Code 46, Temps de Loup, My Life without Me, etc). Animation fans might fret the fact that Triplets of Bellville didn’t quite make the cut either. But them’s the breaks.

Just so it’s known how we came up with this list, it’s pretty simple. The same way in which we always do our annual top ten list, each of the admins here took our top five (plus two honorable mentions) of the assigned year and relegated a point system (with a bit of arbitrary) and came up with a consensus list of our top five favorite films for that year.

5) Elephant
– A remarkable piece by Gus Vant Sant that has got to be one of the most shockingly realistic portrayals of tragedy ever put to screen. 85% of the film is mundane nothingness as we wander from class to class or banter with friends about inconsequential nonsense. But an impending gloom hangs over the entire picture as the anticipation of what the audience surely knows will ensue in the final chapter in this masterpiece of a film builds to a terrifying crescendo. Aside from Paul Greengrass’ United 93, never I felt so in the moment, yet so helpless at the same time. Some might argue that this is Van Sant’s finest work and I might not argue back.

4) Kill Bill: Vol. 1
– “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” The old Klingon proverb serves up this bit of wisdom to open Kill Bill and Quentin Tarantino gives us exactly what they ordered as Uma Thurman (the bride with no name) roars and rampages from killer to killer to get her “bloody satisfaction.” Tarantino knows his exploitation films and is able to recreate that nostalgia with his own brand of flair with Kill Bill. It’s rare that an out and out genre picture like this hits the main stream, but when Tarantino is behind the camera, it’s a cinch that the public will flock to the theaters to see what’s in store for them this time. In this case, it’s a samurai, western, revenge picture with motorcycles, suburbia, children and Mia Wallace. Yeah.

3) All the Real Girls
– For me, All the Real Girls was the first step into the world of David Gordon Green. It was also my first real experiences with Paul Schneider, Zooey Daschenel and Danny McBride. Watching it at the right time and place just added a load of goodness to come from this stunning movie that probably most would describe as mundane and boring. But isn’t that kind of the point? It is an absolutely gorgeous look at real lives in a very real segment of America with the near pitch perfect use of decaying grandeur. But far from boring (in my opinion) is the atypical boy meets girl story with believable, yet starry eyed, performances from all of the leads within this setting. These actors have since gone on to be fairly high profile and the film may not resonate as well today as it did six years ago, but that’s by no means any fault of the film – that’s just circumstance. The film as it stands is a masterpiece.

2) Oldboy
– Oldboy was unlike anything else we’d seen in 2003… or ever for that matter. It was a film that pretty much unsuspectingly took everybody by storm; relentlessly drubbing your senses with visual flair, high octane fighting sequences, instances of unadulterated brutality, drama, plenty of “wtf!?” moments and capping it all off with an incredibly intriguing plot complete with mystery and a twist. Oh and it’s from Korea so it’s safe to say no one (mainstreamers) saw it so it is one of those movies you can pull out on the spur of the moment and awe all of your friends with at a get-together. Yes it’s safe to say this movie had it all in terms of a cinematic package. The score is a perfectly synced mix of classical and techno which jives really well with the various textures and color palettes on display. Throw in some amazingly detailed set design and leads that could carry the film on their shoulders if they had to and I’d argue that although it’s not our #1 film of 2003, it’s easily the one most talked about, referred to and highest in the cult status quo.

1) Lost in Translation
– Strangely charming, awkwardly captivating, and ironically magnetic in it’s blank qualities, Lost in Translation is a film that feels very hard to pin-point at times; it feels hollow, yet it remains likable to the end, and ultimately means nothing and everything at the same time; an almost melancholic outlook that resonates with our main characters while still managing to bring quirky humour and subtle philosophies to us. The quandaries that the film represents are something that can be experienced by each person as we are left in our own melancholic state asking questions of ourself. Coppola’s feminine touch pushes the film to absolute brilliance, crafting a finely tuned film that aims for much more than what may be initially derived on a one time viewing. Hopefully, you’ll be lost in this same confusion that the title bares; you will find something much more real, much more relevant, and much more revelatory to your own life. It’s not about the dialogue, it’s not about the story, it’s not about the setting. Intead, this is a film about emotions, characters, and accompaniment, and that is how you should be approaching this. Oh and quite the interesting soundtrack to boot.

– – a few honorable mentions: Jeux D’Enfants (aka Love Me If You Dare), The Station Agent, American Splendor, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with our picks for 2004.


Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Also games and guitar. I dig music.