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The Best Films of 2003

10. Owning Mahowny: Anchored by a phenomenal performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this true story of gambling addiction is an engrossing account of one man's downward spiral (and features a memorable supporting performance from John Hurt).

9. Big Fish: Big Fish marks Tim Burton's most adult movie to date, with this touching story of a young man trying to connect with his ill father. Visually arresting, but also filled to the brim with superb acting.

8. The Barbarian Invasions: Denis Arcand's follow-up to The Decline of the American Empire contains the requisite philosophical discussions, but also packs an unexpected emotional wallop.

7. Open Range: Kevin Costner proves that Dances with Wolves was no fluke (and that The Postman had to have been an accident) with this tremendously entertaining Western.

6. The House of Sand and Fog: Despite a few third act problems, Vadim Perelman's adaptation of Andre Dubus III's novel is enormously entertaining - and contains Oscar-caliber performances from Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley.

5. Kill Bill: Volume One: Despite the fact that it's been split into two parts, Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume One is one of the most visually audacious films to come along in a long while.

4. Blue Car: Karen Moncrieff's directorial debut is a coming-of-age flick that feels authentic and brutally honest. With a star-making performance from Agnes Bruckner, Blue Car may not be as uplifting as some viewers may like - but there's no denying its power.

3. The Station Agent: Speaking of star-making performances, Peter Dinklage does a fantastic job of creating a fully-formed character that's not limited by his height. The film also includes supporting turns from Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale, along with a touching script from newcomer Tom McCarthy.

2. Irreversible: Though it's clearly not for everybody, Gaspar Noe's Irreversible is a stunning work that's probably ahead of its time (think A Clockwork Orange).

1. 21 Grams: Grim and unflinching, 21 Grams definitively announces Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as a major talent. With three astounding performances (by Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio Del Toro) and a refreshingly complicated screenplay, the film is challenging but ultimately highly rewarding. A true masterpiece.

The Worst Films of 2003

10. Tears of the Sun: Noted action veterans Bruce Willis and Antoine Fuqua team up to make a ridiculously heavy-handed and pandering piece of infotainment, designed to educate us dumb Westerners of Africa's plight.

9. The Human Stain: The Human Stain is almost a parody of a Miramax Oscar flick, complete with a lead performance from Nicole Kidman, but nothing works in this bloated mess.

8. The Singing Detective: The Singing Detective may have been ok'd by Dennis Potter, the writer on whose work this is based, but the film is completely incoherent for those who have not read his book.

7. Peter Pan: Though it's supposedly more faithful to J.M. Barrie's book than the classic Disney cartoon, P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan is an unpleasant bore with Peter transformed into a leering pervert.

6. Russian Ark: Aleksander Sokurov's one-shot tour of the Hermitage Museum is undeniably an amazing feat, but it's also about as interesting as a 90-minute lecture on Russian history.

5. House of Fools: Another pretentious Russian import, House of Fools was the only film this year to feature Bryan Adams in a pivotal role. And that's not a good thing.

4. Dumb and Dumberer: This prequel to the Jim Carrey classic proves that acting dumb isn't as easy as it looks.

3. Boat Trip: A hilarious premise - two straight men accidentally board a gay cruise - is completely squandered in this inept comedy that continues Cuba Gooding Jr's decent into oblivion.

2. Bruce Almighty: The polar opposite of Kevin Smith's Dogma, Bruce Almighty talks down to the audience and rewards them with mind-numbingly dull speeches about God's greatness.

1. Spy Kids 3-D: Though James Cameron's already proved that 3-D can work (with Ghosts of the Abyss), Spy Kids 3-D utilizes that headache inducing red-and-blue technique that's been around since the '50s. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.


© David Nusair