BEST OF THE YEAR, 2003

Well, 2003 was certainly an odd year for this reviewer—out of commission for awhile and unable to see all of the films that would make the critic’s "Best Of" lists. And yet feeling like I chose a few of the good ones to review-some that even turned up as Golden Globe winners and Oscar Nominees.

The biggest omission I should report right up front: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the winner of 3 Golden Globes and up for no less than eleven Academy Awards. After seeing the first film in this very unusual trilogy, I was able to determine that :
a) It was a phenomenal achievement in movie-making, and;
b) I had seen enough of that particular phenomenon to suit my tastes, though it obviously appeals to many, many people.
Now about the ones I did get to see. "Something’s Gotta Give" was masterful, and especially appealing to those of us navigating the same aging process as the 50-something main characters, played by Jack Nicholson and Dianne Keaton. I praised her for showing how this woman "could revert to emotions not experienced by her in many years…sometimes all in one scene, one moment, one single amazing expression." I described her as the one who "made the film come alive," and she does have my vote for the Oscar as Best Actress, though she has stiff competition from two grieving mothers (Samantha Morton in the film "In America," and Naomi Watts in "21 Grams"), from South Africa’s Charlize Theron as a Florida serial killer in "Monster," and the youngest nominee…ever…13 year old New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes as a defiant Maori girl in "Whale Rider."

For Supporting Actress, Renee Zellweger got the Golden Globe for her "Cold Mountain" role, and she vies for an Oscar with Marcia Gay Harden, supporting actress in the film where Tim Robbins, who plays her husband, also has a shot for the award as supporting actor. As Dave Boyle, he’s a damaged man, abused as a child, a character who says little, yet communicates all he needs to by his very presence. The film is Mystic River, nominated for Best Picture, and also garnering Best Director nod for Clint Eastwood and Best Actor for Sean Penn. Penn plays a man who loses his teenage daughter, causing the rage he’s always kept just below the boiling point to finally explode. A truly outstanding performance by Penn, in a role that somehow doesn’t deserve to go up against Bill Murray’s in "Lost in Translation," but that’s how this game is played. Murray will prevail, I believe, because of all the laughs he’s given us over the last 20 years, while also allowing us to observe his potential as a serious actor growing with each succeeding role. Here, he’s a lost soul, a washed up actor in Tokyo to do a liquor commercial, falling into friendship with young Scarlett Johanssen. Another first here, incredibly, the first American woman (Sofia Coppola) ever to be nominated for Best Director. And in her debut effort. Oh, and she wrote the screenplay, too. Go Sofia!

Seems like forever since we saw Seabiscuit, but that doesn’t diminish it’s appeal as the double-underdog classic of the year, with characters based on real people…and a real horse, of course. Seven, count ‘em, seven nominations, including Best Picture, adapted screenplay, and several tech nominations. Nothing, however, for Toby Maguire or the other fine actors, of both the 2-legged and 4-legged varieties. No Best Picture nomination, as some expected, for "Cold Mountain," so it must settle for Supporting Actor & Actress (Jude Law and Renee Zellweger), cinematography, editing, score, and two nominations for Original Song.

The good thing is that many of these films are still playing on local commercial screens, with Lost in Translation returning soon to the Ryder Film Series. So we all have a chance to see more of the nominees-or see them a second time–before the Academy Awards on Feb. 29. Reviewing the movies for WFIU, I’m Joe Bourne.

Peter Noble Kuchera

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Peter moved to Bloomington in 1998. He completed four years of film study at the University of Minnesota and two years of film production in the Film Cities in St. Paul. He began reviewing movies for WFIU in 2003 and began producing on-air fundraising spots for WTIU in 2006. In 2008 he received a second place award for Best Radio Critic at the Los Angeles Press Club’s First Annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards in 2008. Peter passed away suddenly on June 8, 2009.

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