Printer Friendly

Films: BEWITCHED BY THE BIG SCREEN BLOCKBUSTERS; What were best movies of 2002? RICHARD WILLIAMSON takes a look back over the box office blockbusters, the shoestring successes and the cinematic stinkers.

Byline: RICHARD WILLIAMSON

BRITISH movie-making may be battered and tattered but at least we still have the mighty Michael Caine.

Sir Michael did us proud by launching the year with Last Orders and ending it with an Oscar-potential performance in The Quiet American.

He demonstrated exactly what actors are supposed to do but rarely manage - illuminate rather than simply impersonate a character, especially in an atmospheric, thoughtful adaptation of Graham Greene's unsettling Vietnam novel.

Elsewhere, battalions of actors found themselves conscripted into the army but they mostly fired blanks as war films attempted a comeback.

We all ducked for cover when the shooting started in Windtalkers, then came the limp and disappointing Charlotte Grey, The War Bride, Hart's War and Two Men Went To War.

Ridley Scott tried hard to make a triumph out of gloomy defeat in Black Hawk Down but a bleakly violent film was no more successful than the Somali disaster it portrayed.

Hollywood also discovered a rich vein of inspiration in mental illness. Russell Crowe initially dazzled in A Beautiful Mind but, on sober reflection, it was too over-wrought to be a great movie.

Nor could the excellent Kevin Spacey pull K-Pax up into the first rank.

We had an eccentric comic turn from Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums and a reasonable old-fashioned thriller in The Bourne Identity.

Jodie Foster made a competent job of The Panic Room and there was a clutch of terrific performances from the famous British rep company of actors in Iris.

But some illustrious reputations seemed to be under threat, with Arnie Schwarzenegger failing to muscle his way through Collateral Damage, Harrison Ford stiffening his upper lip as he sank faster than the holed submarine in K19 - the Widowmaker and Clint Eastwood wrestling with the years in Blood Work.

Biggest disappointment of 2002 was Mel Gibson in the over-hyped and faintly ludicrous crop-circle drama Signs.

Comedy, as usual, wasn't cinema's strongest suit. But both Bend It Like Beckham and About A Boy were likeable if a little short on stamina.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the surprise hit of the year and succeeded by keeping everything simple and not overplaying the gags. Reese Witherspoon ran away with the cute prize for Sweet Home Alabama.

Horror fans had some decent fare in Roadkill, 28 Days Later and particularly the low-budget Dog Soldiers, a British movie that punched well above its weight.

The kids did okay with two outstanding animations - Monsters Inc and Ice Age - showing the best of the new computer technology.

I admired John Malkovich's directorial debut with the political thriller The Dancer Upstairs, Mike Leigh's unusual love story All Or Nothing and Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her.

Outright winner in the costume drama department was Robert Altman's classy, star-studded Gosford Park. The two movies that gave me the most trouble in drawing up a top 10 were The Road to Perdition and Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. Perdition was coldly stylish with a downbeat Tom Hanks playing a hitman but in the end it lacked emotional involvement.

The Two Towers is a fine technical piece of movie-making for those enthralled by the world of elves and dwarves but it suffers from being the middle episode of a trilogy. In any case, we'd seen all the tricks in the first helping of fantasy from Peter Jackson.

Of course, there can be no definitive top 10.

It all depends on your taste and mine tends towards films that depend on actors, well-written scripts that have something to say for themselves and properly developed characters, rather than flashy but superficial special effects and stunts.

So, no place for James Bond, XXX, Spiderman, Star Wars or any of that stuff.

A sleepless Al Pacino underlined why he's the best screen actor of his generation in the tense, atmospheric thriller Insomnia.

There were no arguments from me when Denzel Washington picked up a best actor Oscar, though Training Day is the one film on which I changed my original opinion. Washington's towering performance as a cop gone bad saved it from being just another police drama.

I was pleased to see Halle Berry prove she can be much more than a bikini-clad Bond girl in the harrowing death-row drama Monster's Ball.

The wildly eccentric Donnie Darko was a reminder that audiences sometimes like to be challenged rather than spoon-fed with pre-digested pap.

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter bewitched me with the sheer invention of Hogwarts and all its magical inhabitants - but some of the very best films were to be found at the small end of the business rather than among the blockbusters.

Dinner Rush was an object lesson in how to cook up a feast by taking modest ingredients and blending them together with pace, intrigue, suspense, imagination and flair.

Australia came up with a pair of real beauts in the haunting minor masterpiece Rabbit-Proof Fence and Lantana, a psychological thriller with Anthony LaPaglia superb as a stressed detective on the brink of meltdown.

And Stephen Frears restored a little faith in the British film industry with Dirty Pretty Things, a humane thriller set among asylum-seekers.

The shortlist for worst film includes Black Knight, Van Wilder and Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights.

But the verdict goes to Ali G In Da House as a classic example of how something that works well enough for 10 minutes on television invariably falls apart under the merciless scrutiny of the big screen.

MY TOP 10 FILMS

1. Insomnia 2. Training Day 3. Dinner Rush 4. Rabbit-Proof Fence 5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 6. Dirty Pretty Things 7. Monster's Ball 8. The Quiet American 9. Lantana 10. Donnie Darko

CAPTION(S):

MOVIE MAGIC... (clockwise) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Quiet American, Halle Berry collects her Oscar for Monster's Ball, Training Day, AIi G in Da House, A Beautiful Mind
COPYRIGHT 2002 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 29, 2002
Words:982
Previous Article:Letter: Driven mad.
Next Article:Play: PICK OF THE YEAR; Forget the pop pap that topped the Christmas charts - here are our best albums of 2002.


Related Articles
'GREEK WEDDING' SHOWS IT HAS LEGS ETHNIC SUMMER COMEDY WEARS WELL.
Battle to be new Bond.
'GREEK WEDDING' SCORING BIG FAT SUCCESS SANS NO. 1.
Movies: YOUR TOP FIVE... BEST FILMS OF 2004.
SEEKING SUMMER SIZZLE HOLLYWOOD LOOKS FOR ITS BIGGEST YEAR EVER.
Richie's Revolver 'a turkey'.
Film: Monster movies: DAVID EDWARDS ON THE BEST AND WORST MOVIES OF 2005; FILM FANS WERE SPOILED FOR CHOICE THIS YEAR WITH A WHOLE HOST OF GREAT...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters