'Tis the season for yuletide carols, nativity scenes, Christmas shopping, and movie critics' Top Ten lists.

One by one, the various associations of film critics are heralding the Best of 2003, and their choices could not be more different. Some applaud Peter Jackson's third Middle-Earth adventure, while others celebrate more obscure, artful titles like Lost in Translation, American Splendor, Cold Mountain, and Mystic River.

What films in 2003 meant the most to you? Which do you feel were overlooked and underrated? Let us know what we missed. Next week I'll wrap up the year with a scan through the favorites of Christian press film critics and Film Forum readers. And I'll tell you about my favorite film of the year, one that played in very few theatres but is now available on DVD for rental.

Return of the Kingcontinues to conquer a critical consensus

Christian press film critics continue to rate The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as one of the crowning cinematic achievements of the year, and even of the decade.

"C.S. Lewis once remarked that after someone has read The Lord of the Rings, they are 'never quite the same,'" writes David DiCerto (Catholic News Service). "The same can be said of anyone viewing [Jackson's films.] Return … not only eclipses its predecessors in scope but weaves their disparate narrative threads into a cohesive and emotionally satisfying conclusion, resulting in a work both grander in scale and deeper in human drama than the two previous films."

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) raves, "Tolkien's tale is a parable perfect for all generations and times. This final epic and body of work is Oscar-worthy in every way."

Dick Staub (CultureWatch) calls it "a most satisfying cinematic experience combining Tolkien's ...

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