Saturday, October 8, 2016

2003--The Year in Review

This year, documentaries explode with excellence. There's Capturing the Friedmans, Andrew Jarecki's joltingly heartrending look at a family collectively accused of child molestation; The Fog of War, Errol Morris' ultimately Oscar-winning confessional for Kennedy-era Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara (side note: after seeing the film at the NY Film Festival that year, I told Mr. Morris that he'd win the 2003 Oscar for it; he gently but emphatically stated he didn't think the Academy would ever anoint him so); Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese contributed a lovingly exhaustive overview of '70s cinema with A Decade Under The Influence, while modern social, political and financial constructs were harshly grilled in films like The Yes Men and The Corporation. But, after much back-and-forthing, I've joyfully found in favor of Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself. It's a movie that, after hearing much acclaim, I finally discovered online in 2010. It's recently become easier to see via The Criterion Collection (who miraculously found a way to get clearance for the film's inclusion of hundreds of clips from studio works and indie obscurities). I emphatically recommend every movie lover check out this documentary--it's a mindblower. Film expert and USC professor Andersen has crafted an epic portrait of Los Angeles, framed simultaneously as his constantly-changing hometown, a setting for famous movies, an architectural marvel, and as a sullied jewel in the crown of American cities. Andersen's film gets your mind racing about scads of things at once, and though its three-hour-length might seem like a chore, it's nevertheless a constantly surprising work that appeals to your brain's better nature. It leaves me breathless. I can't even express how exciting it is, for instance, to hear low-key narrator Encke King (it's NOT Andersen, but he sounds like a perfect stand-in) as he exactingly delineates how H.B. Halicki's 1974 action film Gone in 60 Seconds highlighted a rarely-filmed side of Los Angeles (this is only one of a thousand moments like this). Los Angeles Plays Itself is an indomitable education into the city's layout and history, and the sheer diversity of clips here (everything from Laurel and Hardy's errant piano in The Music Box to the air-lifted city bus from Swordfish) keeps us absolutely captivated throughout. I like how the film's gears change at each hour mark, continually getting more detailed and personal as it goes along.

There are a lot of narrative films I loved this year--Gus Van Sant's eerie, superbly constructed Columbine recreation Elephant; Sofia Coppola's gorgeous real-love-story Lost in Translation; David Gordon Green's similarly effusive All the Real Girls (led by the astonishing Paul Schneider and Zooey Deschanel); two very different but radically memorable action pieces in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Peter Weir's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; Terry Zwigoff's immutable cult film Bad Santa (I was THIS CLOSE to voting Billy Bob Thornton as Best Actor but at the last minute, I realized Murray really deserved it); Vincent Gallo's much-maligned The Brown Bunny (which I still see as one of the year's most graceful films); Lars Von Trier's stark, shocking Dogville; Ingmar Bergman's REAL final film Saraband; Sylvain Chomet's thrilling animated film The Triplets of Belleville; the genre-bending Harvey Pekar bio-pic American Splendor (so wonderfully acted); Billy Ray's tense account of journalistic delusion Shattered Glass; Normal, Jane Alexander's eloquent tale of a radically shifting family; Mike Nichols' regal HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winning play Angels in America; and Lawrence Bridges' stunning, little-seen mini-L.A.-epic 12. Meanwhile, in 2003, the Academy over-emphatically paid tribute to Peter Jackson's brown-tinged, mega-hit Lord of the Rings series by handing 11 Oscars (even Best Song) to its final entry The Return of the King. Sorry, but I've never been a Tolkien fan, so I keep my wits about me here. Though I recognize Jackson's films ARE an achievement, I happily go another way in 2003. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.


PICTURE: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (US, Thom Andersen) (2nd: Elephant (US, Gus Van Sant), followed by: Lost in Translation (US, Sofia Coppola); All the Real Girls (US, David Gordon Green); Oldboy (South Korea, Park Chan-wook); Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (US, Peter Weir); Normal (US, Jane Anderson); Bad Santa (US, Terry Zwigoff); Capturing the Friedmans (US, Andrew Jarecki); The Brown Bunny (US, Vincent Gallo); Saraband (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman); The Triplets of Belleville (France, Sylvain Chomet); The Fog of War (US, Errol Morris); American Splendor (US, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini); Shattered Glass (US, Billy Ray); Angels in America (US, Mike Nichols); 12 (US, Lawrence Bridges); House of Sand and Fog (US, Vadim Perelman); Dogville (Denmark/UK, Lars Von Trier); The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (US/New Zealand, Peter Jackson); The Dreamers (France/US, Bernardo Bertolucci); Gerry (US, Gus Van Sant); The Inheritance (Denmark, Per Fly); The Barbarian Invasions (Canada, Denys Arcand); 21 Grams (US/Mexico, Alejandro González Iñárritu); Mystic River (US, Clint Eastwood); A Decade Under The Influence (US, Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese); Down with Love (US, Peyton Reed); School of Rock (US, Richard Linklater); Kill Bill (US, Quentin Tarantino, both parts included); Shelter Dogs (US, Cynthia Wade); Jimmy’s Story (US, Billy Yeager); The Five Obstructions (Denmark, Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth); Swimming Pool (France, François Ozon); The Corporation (US, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott); My Architect (US, Nathaniel Kahn); Girl With a Pearl Earring (UK, Peter Webber); Blind Shaft (China, Yang Li); The Cooler (US, Wayne Kramer); The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (US, Judy Irving); Open Range (US, Kevin Costner); Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (US, Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill); My Life Without Me (Spain/Canada, Isabel Coixet); The Best of Youth (Italy, Marco Tullio Giordano); Good Morning, Night (Italy, Marco Belluchio); Coffee and Cigarettes (US, Jim Jarmusch); Holes (US, Andrew Davis); Monster (US, Patty Jenkins); End of the Century (US, Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia); Finding Nemo (US, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich); Dark Blue (US, Ron Shelton); The Movie Hero (US, Brad T. Gottfred); Touching the Void (UK, Kevin MacDonald); Intolerable Cruelty (US, Joel Coen); The Station Agent (US, Tom McCarthy); A Mighty Wind (US, Christopher Guest); Big Fish (US, Tim Burton); Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (US, Jonathan Mostow); Cold Mountain (US, Anthony Minghella))



ACTOR: Bill Murray, LOST IN TRANSLATION (2nd: Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa, followed by: Paul Giamatti, American Splendor; Tom Wilkinson, Normal; Choi Min-sik, Oldboy; Al Pacino, Angels in America; Paul Schneider, All The Real Girls)

ACTRESS: Zooey Deschanel, ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2nd: Nicole Kidman, Dogville, followed by: Liv Ullmann, Saraband; Charlize Theron, Monster; Jessica Lange, Normal; Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation; Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tim Robbins, MYSTIC RIVER (2nd: Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass, followed by: Tony Cox, Bad Santa; Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams; Judah Friedlander, American Splendor; Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America; Alec Baldwin, The Cooler)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hope Davis, AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2nd: Lauren Graham, Bad Santa, followed by: Meryl Streep, Angels in America; Shohreh Ashdashloo, House of Sand and Fog; Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River; Christina Ricci, Monster; Hayden Pantierre, Normal)

DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant, ELEPHANT (2nd: Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself, followed by: Park Chan-wook, Oldboy; Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation; David Gordon Green, All The Real Girls; Jane Anderson, Normal; Vincent Gallo, The Brown Bunny)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: OLDBOY (South Korea, Park Chan-wook) (2nd: The Triplets of Belleville (France, Sylvain Chomet), followed by: Saraband (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman); The Inheritance (Denmark, Per Fly); The Barbarian Invasions (Canada, Denys Arcand); Blind Shaft (China, Yang Li); The Best of Youth (Italy, Marco Tullio Giordano); Good Morning, Night (Italy, Marco Belluchio))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (US, Thom Andersen) (2nd: Capturing the Friedmans (US, Andrew Jarecki), followed by: The Fog of War (US, Errol Morris); The Yes Men (US, Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith); A Decade Under The Influence (US, Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese); The Corporation (US, Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar); My Architect (US, Nathanial Kahn); Shelter Dogs (US, Cynthia Wade); Jimmy’s Story (US, Billy Yeager))

ANIMATED FEATURE: THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (France, Sylvain Chomet) (2nd: Finding Nemo (US, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich))



LIVE ACTION SHORT: CHERNOBYL HEART (Russia/US, Maryann DeLeo, won as Documentary Short) (2nd: Competition (Poland, Maciaj Ademek), followed by: Aspara (UK/India, Colin McGreal); In/Out (US, Daryll Woon)



ANIMATED SHORT: DESTINO (France/US, Dominique Monfrey) (2nd: Ward 13 (Australia, Peter Cornwell, followed by: Harvie Krumpet (US, Adam Elliot))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Sofia Coppola, LOST IN TRANSLATION (2nd: Glenn Ficara and John Requa, Bad Santa, followed by: David Gordon Green, All The Real Girls; Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself; Denys Arcand, The Barbarian Invasions)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Billy Ray, SHATTERED GLASS (2nd: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor, followed by: Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Chun-hywong, Lim Joon-hyung, and Park Chan-wook, Oldboy; Jane Anderson, Normal; Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)



CINEMATOGRAPHY: Harris Savides, ELEPHANT (2nd: Russell Boyd, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, followed by: Vincent Gallo, The Brown Bunny; Chung Chung-hoon, Oldboy; Harris Savides, Gerry)

ART DIRECTION: GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, Down With Love, Dogville, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 

COSTUME DESIGN: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Down With Love, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Last Samurai

FILM EDITING: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF, Elephant, Kill Bill, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Oldboy

SOUND: ELEPHANT, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Oldboy, Gerry



SOUND EFFECTS: MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo



ORIGINAL SCORE: Howard Shore, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, followed by: Alexander Desplat, Girl with the Pearl Earring; Thomas Newman, Finding Nemo; Gabriel Yared, Cold Mountain; Danny Elfman, Big Fish)



ORIGINAL SONG: “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from A MIGHTY WIND (Music and lyrics by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole) (2nd: “Belleville Rendezvous” from The Triplets of Belleville (Music by Benoit Charest, lyrics by Sylvain Chomet), followed by: “You Will Be My Ain True Love” from Cold Mountain (Music and lyrics by Sting); “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Music and lyrics by Fran Walsh, Annie Lennox and Howard Shore))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

MAKEUP: MONSTER, Angels in America, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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