Sunday, December 29, 2002

Look Back at 2002 in Film

A sequel and a superhero fly high

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As usual, they saved the best for last.

With a few exceptions, the year's most vivid, challenging, entertaining and artful movies opened in the final months of 2002. Some have not even made it to Cincinnati theaters yet; watch for them in January and February - when the movie industry turns its attention to Oscar nominations.

Meanwhile, here are my favorite films from 2002:

1. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Peter Jackson's second installment in the Ring trilogy is as good as a sequel can get, with everything that makes movies magic - heroism, love, loyalty, terror, romance, pathos and thrills.

2. Gangs of New York - Martin Scorsese returns to the screen with an overpowering slice of hair-raising American history, driven by a roaring great performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.

3. Spider-Man - Director Sam Raimi and company deliver a textbook example of how to translate a complicated comic-book hero (and doesn't that sound like an oxymoron) into a character whose superpowers never erase the timid high-schooler inside.

4. Adaptation - Writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze (last teamed on Being John Malkovich) apparently mean to redefine almost everything that movie- and media-saturated audiences take for granted - and make us laugh all the way.

5. Road to Perdition - A work of stern, heartbreaking beauty is the last thing anybody expected to see in the middle of the summer, but that is exactly what director Sam Mendes and star Tom Hanks delivered.

6. Standing in the Shadows of Motown - Far from flawless as a cinematic artifact, this richly emotional musical documentary wins its spot on this list with sheer, enveloping joy.

7. About Schmidt - Jack Nicholson has coasted through his share of movies playing "Jack Nicholson," so it is a bracing change of pace - and a reminder of his profound talent - to see him commit himself entirely to a subtle, refined and non-Jack-like performance in the hands of scary-smart writer-director Alexander Payne.

8. Chicago - Though not quite the explosive sensory experience of last year's Moulin Rouge, director Rob Marshall punches all the right buttons in turning this brassy Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse stage creation into a knock-out movie.

9. Punch Drunk Love - Adam Sandler's audience didn't much care for him in this unconventional, candy-colored romantic comedy from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. In fact, relatively few movie fans have fallen under the sway of the man friends call "PT" and critics call "genius." Love him or hate him, he is the most original craftsman of his generation.

10. Solaris - This year's Mulholland Drive, Steven Soderbergh's melancholy, minimalist sci-fi tale won raves from critics and razzes from movie-goers. For me, it was a complete success, not despite but because of its disregard for so much of what is expected in ordinary, day-to-day film fare.

Audiences have their own way of picking favorites - by buying tickets. For the movies that won fans' hearts, see Page E9.


Television: Cable steals the networks' show
Film: A sequel and a superhero fly high
Theater: A tough, eventful act to follow on stages
Popular Music: Rock rules, teen pop cools, King Records reigns
Classical Music: Great performances thrilled large and small crowds
Visual Art: Creative works, well-curated
DEMALINE: Arts resolutions must be followed with hard work
Three win arts slogan contest
People pick their own film favorites
'Everyman' actor tries on 3 new roles
Sundance calls Ohio filmmakers
Agency helps folks get off welfare, and stay off
Young candy man won't dispense with his PEZ containers
KENDRICK: Be nice to others; it's to your benefit
MARTIN: Best ingredients are good people
Holidays harken high season for punch
Serve It This Week: Grapefruit
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