PRINT December 2003

FILM: Best of 2003

Stephanie Zacharek


1. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) A sustained mood of rapturous melancholy infuses this exquisite jet-lag romance.

2. To Be and To Have (Nicolas Philibert) A documentary about a French country school that cuts to the heart of the anxieties and joys of childhood and the vocation of teaching, sentimentalizing neither.

3. Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz) Blitz’s wonderful documentary about the National Spelling Bee features the screen’s most suspenseful moments since Al Pacino’s restaurant scene in The Godfather.

4. A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest) Guest’s multilayered mockumentary about ’60s folk singers pokes fun at our nostalgia for a lost era, even as he makes us feel something for the people who stayed lost in it.

5. School of Rock (Richard Linklater) A good-for-nothing layabout makes a bunch of school kids hip to the transformative power of rock ’n’ roll, in the kind of smartly crafted mainstream comedy we thought no one knew how to make anymore.

6. American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini) Softhearted but not softheaded, the story of comic-book author Harvey Pekar finds affirmation in crankiness.

7. Winged Migration (Jacques Perrin) Perrin changes forever the way we look at birds.

8. Masked and Anonymous (Larry Charles) Wild and strange and obliquely hilarious: Bob Dylan gives us one giant mess of a rumination on American idealism, fame, and the commodification of music.

9. Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki) Looks like no other picture I’ve seen in years—a vivid Japanese dreamscape as it might have been reimagined by Piet Mondrian.

10. The Dancer Upstairs (John Malkovich) An elegant yet raw political thriller that’s less about rebel terrorists than about the damage we do to ourselves and others while just trying to live.