Four of the top ten films I saw this year don't actually open in the U.S. until 2003, but they played at various film festivals during the year. By listing them here I not only alert readers to films they should watch out for in '03, but I also make a pointed statement about the poor quality of outstanding films in 2002. Good ones, yes. Outstanding ones, no.
1. City of God. This brilliant, brutal film -- the Brazilian entry for the best foreign-language-film Oscar -- charts how the drug trade came to the slums of Rio de Janeiro in the period from the 1960s to the 1990s. Directed by Fernando Mereilles, with a predominantly nonprofessional cast. Cinematography by César Charlone. Extremely violent, so be prepared.
2. Russian Ark. A dreamlike journey through three centuries of Russian history, seen in a single, unbroken 96-minute Steadicam shot that covers more than a mile inside St. Petersburg's magnificent Hermitage Museum, the former Winter Palace of the Tsars. Directed by Alexander Sokurov. Groundbreaking cinematography by German cameraman Tilman Büttner.
Year-End Roundup 2
3. Sweet Sixteen. British filmmaker Ken Loach's best film ever, about a boy who dreams of the family life he never had -- and the hard life lessons he learns trying to create it.
4. Divine Intervention. A potent black comedy from Palestinian writer-director-actor Elia Suleiman.
5. Road to Perdition. A riveting mix of pulp and myth. The only film actually released in 2002 about which I am passionate.
6. Bowling for Columbine. Yes, it's one-sided, but director Michael Moore doesn't put words in anybody's mouth; he lets people hang themselves. Should be mandatory viewing for every person in the United States over the age of fourteen.
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7. Talk to Her. The latest from Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodóvar. As good as his early work is, his films keep getting richer. A wizard as a writer-director, Almodóvar comes up with the most outlandish plots and makes our hearts overflow with both joy and sorrow.
8. Gangs of New York. Flawed but still noteworthy. Daniel Day-Lewis is his usual mesmerizing self.
9. Italian for Beginners. From Denmark -- an accessible Dogme film!
10. Lilo & Stitch<. what the hell it made me laugh.>