Nudity, Murder, and Euthanasia ... Welcome to 2004
The movies of 2004 are knocking on theatre doors, but the fuss over 2003 is just getting started. The Golden Globe Awards will take place January 25th, and Oscar ballots will be filled out in a matter of days. Every morning, the Internet buzzes with the latest batch of critics' awards or industry honors.
I find it difficult to say with any conviction what the "best films" of 2003 are. Very few critics can say they've seen everything that should be taken into consideration before making such a claim. But I have provided a list of the films that meant most to me in 2003. They are posted here.
If you've seen many of the films that wrapped up this year, you're probably feeling a bit shell-shocked by multiplex massacres. With cannons, longswords, rifles, crossbows, catapults, point-blank pistol shots, 2003 wrapped up with several cinematic explorations of war, its causes, its forms, its consequences. Cold Mountain. The Last Samurai. The Return of the King. (To cap it off, we now have Monster, the biography of a serial killer.)
Two major films about Alexander the Great are being made. Oliver Stone's Alexander stars Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Daredevil) as the Macedonian conqueror, supported by an all-star cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Rosario Dawson, and Val Kilmer. Baz Luhrman's version will bring Leonardo DiCaprio to the screen opposite Nicole Kidman in 2005.
In April, we'll remember The Alamo, in a film from John Lee Hancock, the director of The Rookie, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Davey Crockett.
In May, legends will walk the screen to wage war for the sake of a woman in Wolfgang Petersen's Troy. Brad Pitt stars as Achilles, and he'll be joined on the battlefield by Sean Bean and Orlando Bloom (Boromir and Legolas in The Lord of the Rings), Eric Bana (Hulk), Julie Christie, Diane Kruger, Bryan Cox, and Peter O'Toole.
King Arthur returns to the screen in a new film by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). Clive Owen (Croupier, Gosford Park) and Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean) star as Arthur and Guinevere. The knights will take the screen in July. But this version of the adventure is reportedly an attempt to tell the story in a more "realistic" and historical context without any of the hocus pocus.
On February 25, another gory feature will grab headlines. In fact, it's already made the news. Mel Gibson will finally deliver his controversial film about Jesus' last hours: The Passion of the Christ. Film Forum has been following the controversies surrounding the film for almost a year. At last, audiences will be able to judge for themselves as to whether Gibson's intentions are tainted by anti-Semitism, or if the objectors have been misinterpreting the movie. Jim Caveziel portrays Jesus through the worst of his sufferings.
But if you'd rather just watch gobs of violence without having to care, there's always director Paul W.S. Anderson's much-hyped Alien vs. Predator, in which the two famous sci-fi beasties meet in the Antarctic for a round of intergalactic smackdown. Our fascination with these bloodthirsty monsters has become so strong, apparently we don't even need the "good guys" anymore.