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Shaun's Top 10 Films of 2003 (Fifteen Years Ago!)


The Guys from {FILM} is a discussion on movies and films from all eras and genres

Shaun's Top 10 Films of 2003 (Fifteen Years Ago!)

Shaun Cordingley

Well as everyone involved (you and me, I guess) seem to be enjoying these lists still, I figured that having done my Top 10 of 2013 and Top 10 of 2008, I might as well wander back to fifteen years ago in 2003. 

A year that, quite frankly, I was a little surprised by how down I am on this year as a whole...out of all of the lists so far, this one had the fewest films ranked high enough to be short-listed (though there are some real gems in the year, overall....meh). 

Anyway: let's go back to the time when George W. Bush was the worst (and not just a sweet painter who has trouble with raincoats).
Man...I miss him sometimes....

The Station AgentAn excellent character study starring a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage as a man who, when his only friend dies, moves to be a train station agent (THE TITLE! IT WORKS! AHHHH!) in rural New Jersey, with the idea that he is escaping to live a life of solitude, but ends up meeting a very chatty hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale), and an artist struggling to deal with a personal tragedy (Patricia Clarkson), and the three of them...well hang out. Mostly. I don't really want to spoil anything for you, largely because this is a beautifully simple, human story that is at it's best when you just let yourself experience it. 

ElephantOne of the best films to ever tackle the incredibly difficult subject of school shootings is Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a film that does the subject a quiet, seriousness that really makes everything feel grounded and real. Following various students throughout their (until a certain point average) day and then seeing everything unfold in a horrifying, yet realistic and beautifully shot way is one of the more deeply affecting films you will probably ever watch. I cannot say that this is a film that I would watch all the time, but I have watched it probably three times at this point, and I think that...not only does it hold up, but it handles the subject so well that I really hope more people are willing to check it out. 
Even if it is not the easiest watch. 

Kitchen Stories is a Norwegian indie comedy (comedy-drama perhaps is more apt) which is about an experiment in the 1950s that had Swedish efficiency researchers "embedded" in the homes of single Norwegian men living alone in order to help optimize the use of their kitchens. 
I know, stick with me here. 

What this ends up being is a rather sweet, film about loneliness and friendship, where a great deal of the humour comes from the ridiculous situations, and becomes something that is incredibly touching, and (like all great European indie comedies) strangely sad. I know this sounds strange (it is), and I know it's hard to find, but do try and see Kitchen Stories if you can, it's quite worth it. 

9- Finding Nemo

If you're still sad after watching Kitchen Stories, then...well be sad super early on in Finding Nemo, but then you get to settle into a wonderful ocean adventure film from PIXAR wherein a single dad fish (Albert Brooks) has to undertake a tremendous and scary (if you never leave the coral reef) journey to find his missing son, with the help of a very forgetful royal blue tang (Ellen DeGeneres) and a whole myriad of fun creatures, including a zen sea-turtle, sharks, and a pelican. 
It's sweet, it's fun, and it is, in my opinion, some of PIXAR's best storytelling, even if it is largely just centered on a simple "find the missing child" premise. 

8- Ju-On: The Grudge 2

Did you know that there are NINE Ju-On films (Twelve if you count the American trilogy)? 

It was a bit surprising to me to be honest, but for anyone who follows my horror stuff @the_darkhalf will have noticed that I have been working on seeing them all (with a definite push happening in the past month or so to finally complete them all). However, so far, I have to say that The Grudge 2 is my favourite of the Ju-On films (I've seen 5/9).

This fourth entry follows the cast and crew of a Paranormal television show going into Kayako's house (STOP GOING IN HER HOUSE), and each one of them being cursed and summarily killed in the usual creepy, Ju-On ways. There is a twist here, though, as Kayako may have found a way to live again...

If you're a fan of the series, or the premise of The Grudge at least, and you have never seen the originals, I do suggest seeing them, as they are some of my favourite Japanese horror films, and while I will always recommend seeing the first one (Ju-On: The Curse) before getting here, if you just saw the Ju-On: The Grudge films, you can easily get by. The interconnecting story-structure is used here again (as is tradition with the series), and I feel this is one of its most effective uses, and...well...meow. 

You'll get it. 

7- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Oh you remember when Pirates of the Caribbean was not an over-played franchise? When the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl was nominated for 5 Oscars because it was a very well put-together, FUN adventure film that was not only crowd-pleasing, but it featured some old-fashioned swashbuckling that we hadn't seen in movies for decades? Not to mention some excellent performances, special effects, and rousing music (that, by the way, is amazing to clean a house to--thank you old roommates) that all came together into a really fun package?



 Regardless of what has happened since, and the over-bloating (read: milking) of the franchise for more than it was worth, The Curse of the Black Pearl is still a damn fine film which is legitimately fun to watch, as everything was fresh and exciting, Captain Jack Sparrow was an incredible character (that hadn't lapsed into an impression of itself), and everyone was a pirate for Halloween that year because rum. 
Now I know a lot has happened since, but if you are able so shake that off and just watch The Curse of the Black Pearl, it's still a pretty damn good time...and if you are not able? I get it, that's OK, we can move on:

6- The Triplets of Belleville

A strange, wonderful, compelling, and stunningly animated French film, The Triplets of Belleville is such a unique film that I have to admit, I needed to see a couple of times before I truly appreciated it for what it is. The film follows Madame Souza as she attempts to find out what happened to her grandson who was kidnapped during the Tour de France, with the help of her dog Bruno, and an aging song-and-dance trio (the Triplets of Belleville). It's a bit strange, and it feels like a film that could not have been made in either the US or Japan (the two, for me at least, most dominant animation-producing countries)...and there's just something so lovingly....French about it.

J'aime ca. 

I think this is still my favourite Sofia Coppola film, thanks in large part to the absolutely excellent performances from its' two leads, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Murray plays a fading movie star who has gone to Tokyo for a lucrative payday on a whiskey commercial (and to escape his over-bearing home) , while Johansson is neglected by her new husband when she has accompanied him (a photographer) on his business trip to Japan. Staying in the same hotel. their paths cross and a bond is formed between these two lost souls in a land that neither of them understand. 

Excellent character work, a brilliant location (I love Japan, and I cannot wait to go there someday, even if it's just for a little while to eat soup), and a gorgeously shot film, Lost in Translation is still an excellent watch these 15 years later. 

4- Kill Bill Vol. 1

The Kill Bill films were my favourite Tarantino movies for quite some time (frankly, until Inglorious Basterds) however, in light of recent stories we are getting from the filming side (for the star, Uma Thurman particularly), it has taken the shine off of the film a bit for me. That said, I cannot deny the fact that this is a hyper-cool, stylized action film with a kickass female star/character, and a superb soundtrack. The fight scene with the Crazy 88's is still one of my favourite sequences in, well any action film honestly, and for me to have it drop any farther than this (with everything considered) would be too far....

Do I wish things had been different.
Would this movie have been higher HAD these stories not come out?
Do I wish that people would, if they feel they can, still watch Kill Bill?

3- Adaptation

Adaptation is a strange and wonderful film about a lovelorn screenwriter and his struggles to adapt Susan Orlean's novel The Orchid Thief into a screenplay....but it is somehow, so much more than that, as it explores a real/fictional story of screenwriting (I'm not even going to try to explain), and shows you pieces of the adaptation as well (which features Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper).

I just...I don't know how to explain how this movie about making a movie becomes a movie in itself about making the movie...


You get it. 

Oh, and Nic Cage is amazing in this. 

2- Oldboy

I think that we can trace my love of Korean cinema back to I feel like this was really the first Korean film that I saw (or at least, I remember seeing) that truly blew me away. The middle part of the "Vengeance Trilogy" by Park Chan-wook, Oldboy (based on a Japanese manga of the same name) is a neo-noir thriller wherein a man named Oh Dae-su is suddenly imprisoned in what appears to be a hotel room for fifteen years, with no idea who his captors are, or why they've done this to him. Suddenly, without warning, he is released and sets off on a quest for vengeance, all while falling in love with a young sushi chef...

This movie is insane--not only is it brilliantly acted, shot, paced etc., but it will take some twists and turns that I cannot imagine you will see coming, and...there is something about the "Vengeance Trilogy" that you need to know, and that is that you are always going to get a sense of how being driven by revenge never really works out the way one hopes...

I won't say anything else, because you should never have this spoiled for you, it's too good. 
Oh, and don't watch the American remake. It was completely pointless (if featuring a good Josh Brolin performance)
...and one more thing, I keep saying "Vengeance Trilogy" but don't worry, you can watch them in any order, they're more connected by theme than anything else.

1- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King  

I mean, come on....what else was this going to be. 

Peter Jackson's spell-binding adaptation of The Lord of the Rings wrapped up in 2003 with the stunning (4+ hour epic) The Return of the King that did a wonderful job of wrapping up one of the best trilogies in film history, and perhaps the greatest hiking film ever made. 
I kid because I love. 

I have always been a fan of Tolkien, and read all of the books (or at least almost all of them, I feel I may have missed a later one or two) when I was growing up, and seeing all of that fantastic fantasy fiction come to life was a real treat, and I feel helped begin to issue in the genre film renaissance that we are in today. These films are amazing, and hold up better than I ever would have imagined they would have for fifteen years...and I know it has been a long time since I swung that 12 hour experience of watching all the extended editions, but I feel I may just be about due. 

A really great film, and one that I feel will forever be the top of this year for me. 

There we have it! Another Top 10 Year completed. 

I don't rightly know how many of these I am going to do, but as I keep saying, if y'all keep reading them, I will see how much farther I can go (to be able to deliver solid lists for the year). There's also a part of me that would like to cap this at a pattern of years before it gets too silly and I'm writing these into the 1930s....

ANYWAY. I will movie talk with you soon, 

-S (@Shauncord
IG: @the_darkhalf