The Top Ten Movies of 2003
According to Dave Flapan


10)    Winged Migration

A groundbreaking documentary that takes us with birds as they migrate around the world.  We have closeups riding next to all kinds of birds flying!  Breathtaking cinematography, beautiful natural creatures, and we even learned something!

9)    Swimming Pool

An author (Charlotte Rampling) visits France to get away from it all and work on her next book.  She stays in the summer country home of her publisher.  Soon his daughter shows up.  She wants to live the life of a young, good-looking French person, while that may clash with the intentions of the author.  Their relationship goes in unpredictable ways, but is always treated with care.  The ending is also full of unexpected surprise twists.  Ludvigne Sanvigne, the French actress who plays the daughter, is breathtaking, and one can only hope that she gets into more films, especially that can be seen stateside.

8)    21 Grams

The lives of a terminally ill professor and ex-convict intersect with a woman who lost her family in a car accident in this gripping drama.  The title is the weight of the brain outside the body.  Benicio Del Toro earned an Oscar for his powerful performance.

7)    Lost in Translation

The underrated Bill Murray plays a movie star who goes to Japan to make a commercial.  While many stars do get involved in this, the practice is usually swept under the carpet.  Of course, that is the point, stars don't want to be seen as shills (except for a few, hello Ms. Zeta-Jones).  In Japan, Murray's character meets a young woman.  While she is married, her marraige is not well.  The two enjoy an interesting relationship.  Murray is also funny as usual in scenes where he tries to perform the way the Japanese producers ask.  Looking fwd to visiting the Orient one day.  Murray came very close to winning the Oscar for his performance, and Sofia Coppola did win the Oscar for writing the screenplay.

6)     School of Rock

The great comic of the last few years, Jack Black, gets his second leading role (after Shallow Hal).  When his substitute teacher roomie gets a call for a position, Black snags it.  After just letting the kids do what they want while he wastes the days, the discussion turns to music, and he decides to educate them.  The history and lure of music soon turn to a grand plan to create a school band.  Black is again the best part of the film, as he is enthusiastic, sarcastic, and always funny.  Despite its formulaic tendencies, this picture works!

5)    Bad Santa

Billy Bob Thornton plays a department store Santa Claus.  However, this one isn't your typical cheerful, happy, kid-friendly character.  This one is grouchy, mean, sloppy, and vulgar.  While the premise sounds harsh, it is actually refreshing to see Santa Claus in this way.  Thornton provides many laughs as the Santa who was let down by society.  His comrade, the elf, played by a Mickey, is also a delight.  Together they shock parents, kids, and audiences! 

4)    City of God

This film is among the grittiest and more intense that I have seen.  Taking place in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the story focuses on a family as the kids grow up.  We watch as their childhood starts out badly, with much misbehavior, to when the grow up and they get into robbery, to later when they get into drugs and then even worse. However, one boy learns lessons, and tries to become a photographer.  Difficult to watch.  

3)    The Return of the King

The third and final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this film continues the journey of the two hobbits, ?&?, and their companion, the computer-animated Gollum.  It also documents the events at the castle, including some majestic battle scenes.  The dramatic conclusion is quite satisfying.  Despite its mammoth length, most scenes are necessary.

2)    Bend it Like Beckham

Bend it Like Beckham is a classic story of teen rebellion with many modern twists.  Parminder Nagra (now an ER regular) stars as a 17-year-old high school student in England who loves to play soccer, and joins a team.  However, she is Indian, and her parents are rather traditional, and so are against this.  Keira Knightly turns in a youthful, energetic performance as her friend.  An empowering, wholesome story, highly recommended for the whole family!

1)    Spellbound

Spellbound takes a classic school event, the spelling bee, and documents eight kids' progress through the official national version of the event.  Diverse in background, geography, personality, and more, the film takes a non-judgemental look at the students' path to local victory, then at how they fare in the national competition at Washington, D. C.  As most of us do not know the outcome, there is plenty of suspense and drama.  Inspiring and satisfying!