Movies for all tastes in critic's 2002 top 10

January 03, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

1. Rabbit-Proof Fence: Under Phillip Noyce's starkly poetic (and wonderfully unforced) direction, this tale of three Aboriginal girls walking across 1,200 miles of the Australian Outback simply to go home was everything a classic movie should be. Beautifully acted by a largely amateur cast, with a haunting score by Peter Gabriel, it served as a reminder that there's no substitute for a good story well told.

2. Chicago: Director Rob Marshall doesn't so much reimagine the movie musical (as Baz Luhrmann did in 2001 in Moulin Rouge) as reinvigorate it, injecting his movie with enough glitz, glamour and old-fashioned razzamatazz to get even the stodgiest toes a-tappin'. Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere and - especially - Catherine Zeta-Jones make all that jazz irresistible.

3. Kissing Jessica Stein: A screwball lesbian romantic comedy that even your mother could love, Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt's adaptation of their off-Broadway revue is a paean to looking for love in all the places, and who cares whether they're right or wrong? Witty and literate, it was the year's freshest, most appealing comedy.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Peter Jackson remains true to the noble heart of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tale, thanks to even more stellar casting (Brad Dourif as Wormtongue is inspired), special effects that serve, but never overwhelm, the story (the attack of the Ents on Saruman's lair is more thrilling than anyone had a right to expect), and a vision that never forgets there's a purpose behind all the on-screen carnage.

5. Adaptation: Charlie Kaufman pens a movie about how tough it is being Charlie Kaufman, and not once does it come across as self-indulgent. That's surprising enough; what makes his movie amazing is that he does it under the pretense of adapting Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, and somehow manages to remain true to the book. For a bonus, Nicolas Cage, as Kaufman, turns in the performance of his career.

6. Gangs of New York: A flawed masterpiece, epic in both the scope of its tableau and the breadth of its presentation, that reminds us how lucky the movies are to have Martin Scorsese. His vision of the violent, twisted visions that would one day coalesce into the vivid tapestry we know as New York City is seldom less than breathtaking.

7. Lilo & Stitch: Rarely has a Disney animated film seemed so fresh as this tale of an outer-space alien whose rage meets its match in the love of family and the tunes of Elvis. Mixing traditional 2-D animation with a story line that contains a little more bite than one might expect produces an unexpected classic.

8. Unfaithful: Adrian Lyne finally makes the film Fatal Attraction could have been had it not gone loopy in the end. The chronically underappreciated Diane Lane plays a woman who lets her fidelity lapse, and pays the price. There are no bad people in Unfaithful, just bad decisions, and terrible consequences.

9. Igby Goes Down: Burr Steers' blackly comedic look at a malcontent upper-class teen-ager scared silly that that's all he'll ever be gave yet another Culkin brother (Kieran) the chance to show off his acting chops. It also proved that Catcher in the Rye remains a sure-fire template for coming-of-age stories that don't necessarily resolve themselves to everyone's satisfaction.

10. Audition: Japanese director Takashi Miike's 1999 film, released in the United States last year, uses a mix of perverse imagery and cinematic misdirection to make what amounts to a profoundly disturbing statement about the role of women in Asian society. Not the sort of movie you're likely soon to forget.

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