best film: It took me 15 years for full clarity here, but I’m now fully convinced that Punch -Drunk Love is is the best film of 2002. As much as I love some of the other films from the year it is head and shoulders above the rest both formally and visually.
most underrated: I remember seeing a few mentions for Spike Lee’s 25th Hour on the critics lists when metacritic compiled the decade end list for best films of the decade (00-09). So I was surprised to see that it still can’t find its way onto TSPDT’s top 1000. It should not only be on the top 1000 but it should be around number 300—and since it isn’t- it’s roughly at least 700 slots underrated. The performances from Norton, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox and PSH are spot on but it’s Lee who impresses here and gives us easily his best work of the 21st century and best film since 1991’s Malcolm X. It has his trademarks—the reverse POV-reaction shot (think Mean Streets Keitel ricochet biscuit song) on a dolly and the racism 4th wall-breaking montage.
most overrated: I need to see Russian Ark again and I don’t think as highly as everyone about City of God as (TSPDT #1 of the year) but I think the answer is blissfully yours. I owe the entire filmography Apichatpong Weerasethaku a study. I’ve seen about 4 of his films, isolated, and only one time a piece. They are opaque and very different from pretty much everything else out there so it’s not surprising I’m nowhere near the consensus’ lofty ranking of 2002’s blissfully yours (#598 on the TSPDT which makes it 5th of the year).
gem I want to spotlight: Cronenberg’s spider would be on most year’s top 10 and may very well be the next time I update this after a revisit. The film is not an easy film but it’s intricately built, rigid in the formal structure that the nuances of Cronenberg’s vision gets enhanced with each viewing. Fiennes’ performance is very subtle and studied as well. It doesn’t have the sheer filmmaking bravado of crash or dead ringers and isn’t as entertaining as the fly but it’s very solid, second tier, Cronenberg.
trends and notables: My recent viewing of Punch-Drunk Love changes how I view 2002 slightly. I thought it was a deep year (53 archiveable films—the most of all-time) with about 16 films that belong on the top 10 (Russian ark, the man without a past, about Schmidt, far from heaven, spider, minority report) but lacking a big masterpiece. Punch-Drunk Love is that big masterpiece. If PT is the new Kubrick both in quality of his films and long gaps between (though he’s picked up the pace a little) it’s also worth just noting that it’s one of the two released for the entire decade for the master auteur. I think another major development in 2002 is the first pairing of Scorsese/DiCaprio. This would go on to be such a fruitful artistic partnership for both sides (to date 5 total collaborations with, I believe, all of them ending up in their respective years’ top 10’s). In 2002 here, I think we have peak Almodovar and peak Dardenne brothers. Talk to Her and The Son are superb works but these auteurs are really about their total body of work and not their single greatest entry (like say Carol Reed or Ridley Scott largely are). We have the first archiveable film for Paul Greengrass with Bloody Sunday. Amy Adams makes quite an impression in Spielberg’s catch me if you can. It’s her first archiveable film performance. We have a young Kristin Stewart in panic room, ditto with Jesse Eisenberg in roger dodger and if you blink you’ll miss Bradley Cooper in changing lanes. I think Steve Coogan is a talent but not sure he’s ever had a vehicle/film/performance as strong as his debut here- 24 Hour Party People. I know I mentioned him about with the Scorsese collaboration but it’s worth further noting that after becoming an international sensation and star with Titanic in 1997—DiCaprio would somehow come out with dueling Christmas prestige releases from both Scorsese and Spielberg. Amazing. Lastly, it stuck in my memory here but long-time character actor and PT Anderson ensemble-member John C. Reilly would be great in three archiveable films (all oddly enough up for best picture): The Hours, Chicago and Gangs of New York. Quite a year.
best performance male: I have five overall mentions here but three that could vie for the top slot. The top three are Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, Norton in The 25th Hour and Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. Even though it’s the least of the three films I think, if forced, I’d go with DDL as the singular best. His pairing of Gangs and There Will Be Blood is his version of Brando’s Streetcar and On the Waterfront. Sandler’s in the better film and he’s pitch perfect as the complex Barry Egan. Norton rounds out the trio at the top with his work in The 25th Hour. Close behind the lead three are Olivier Gourmet in the son and the aforementioned (in trends and notables) Steve Coogan.
best performance female: Julianne Moore wins 2002 for this category with two of the best 5 performances (far from heaven and the hours). I think her work in Far From Heaven is the single best anyways so it makes it easy. Meryl Streep is damn good in the hours (the 3 women there are all mentioned) but it’s her work in Spike Jonze’s adaptation that gets my mentioned. She’s made so many films over the years that focused on her talent, instead of her talent being used for the greater good of an excellent movie, that it’s great to see her doing impressive work in a top 10 of-the-year quality film. Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf is mesmerizing and my last spot here goes to Emily Watson for her work in Punch-Drunk Love. She’s perfect in her few key scenes.
- Punch-Drunk Love
- Talk To Her
- 25th Hour
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- The Son
- Road to Perdition
- 24 Hour Party People
- City of God
- Gangs of New York
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|24 Hour Party People-Winterbottom||HR/MS|
|25th Hour- S. Lee||MP|
|28 Days Later- D. Boyle||R|
|About Schmidt- Payne||HR|
|All or Nothing- M. Leigh||R|
|Auto Focus- Schrader||R|
|Bloody Sunday- Greengrass||R|
|Catch Me If You Can- Spielberg||R|
|City of God- Meirelles||HR/MS|
|Dirty Pretty Things- Frears||R|
|Far From Heaven- Haynes||HR|
|Femme Fatale- De Palma||R|
|Hero- Yimou Zhang||R|
|Igby Goes Down||R|
|Man on the Train||R|
|Minority Report- Spielberg||HR|
|Panic Room- Fincher||R|
|Punch-Drunk Love- P.T. Anderson||MP|
|Rabbit-Proof Fence- Noyce, Branagh||R|
|Road To Perdition- Mendes||MS|
|Springtime in a Small Town- Zhuangzhuang||R|
|Sunshine State- Sayles||R|
|Sweet Sixteen- Loach||R|
|Talk To Her- Almodovar||MP|
|The Gangs of New York- Scorsese||HR|
|The Good Girl- Arteta||R|
|The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers- P. Jackson||MP|
|The Man Without a Past- Kaursmaki||HR|
|The Pianist- Polanski||R|
|The Quiet American- Noyce||R|
|The Son- Dardenne||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives