The drill is the same as last year. We asked the diskant staff
and contributors to vote for the best films of 2003 and now we
present our panel of experts to tell you what they think of those
films. The panel is Dave Stockwell, Simon Minter, Chris Summerlin,
Ollie Simpson, Marceline Smith and myself. A few films didn't quite
make the grade, big ones including the Matrix sequels and Martin
Scorsese's Gangs of New York. We are merciless and impartially
partial when it comes to films.
The latest Ghibli animation to get an official UK release.
Dreamlike logic and oddly familiar grotesques, brave enough
to remember that all great children's stories have a dark heart.
DS: That it isn't My Neighbour Totoro is about the only
criticism I can level at it. Diskant Film of the Year 2003, or
I'll eat my hat.
MS: I was so excited about seeing this that I went to
the first preview showing in Glasgow. I was not disappointed. Although
initially unexciting as they set the story up it soon topples straight
into Miyazaki World, populating it with seemingly cute'n'cuddly
characters (until they show their often terrifying depths) in fantastical
and uneasy locations. The second time we took two young children
with us who were enraptured, only taking their eyes off the screen
to ask questions and being strangely quiet afterwards. And yet
Disney still patronise kids with crap like Brother Bear. When Will
City of God
Straight Outta Janeiro. The depressing true story of story
of crime in the favelas told in a breathtakingly confident,
fresh and perversely beautiful way. There's a scene in this
film where Lil Zé turns on his mentors
to strike out on his own bloody path. He is this film and Scorsese's
clumsy Gangs of New York is the one left in the dust with bullets
in the head.
DS: I was sceptical going in to see this film, but it
really blew me away. A bravura performance from the director and
the (non-professional) actors. Worth seeing, whatever your taste
OS: Not bad, apart from the fact that it was obviously
trying to be a Guy Ritchie film, but since it was shown in arts
cinemas, no one noticed.
SM: Fantastic, life-affirming (albeit in a weird, depressing
way) and surprisingly funny chunk of Brazilian gang life. You can't
fail to be emotionally affected in one way or another by this film.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Aw, you know.
MS: I could write about this for hours but I'll spare
you. Suffice to say that they left out almost all of my favourite
bits from the book and yet I still loved it. Too many good things
to mention but I particularly enjoyed Frodo's final descent into
mentalism and the immense feeling throughout the film of courage
through the despair of what seems certain defeat. I didn't cry
but it was a close call.
SM: The whole series is a true epic in its scale and vision.
Mind you watch it from a comfortable cinema seat, though. Incredible
special effects and some beautiful camerawork and direction more
than make up for a storyline which takes possibly too much concentration
to keep up with.
Kill Bill (vol.1)
Tarantino neatly escapes the wise-ass crime straitjacket
he sewed himself and makes the best gory martial arts film
since Lone Wolf's baby cart went back to Mothercare. Gleefully
inauthentic, immediately iconic and more jaw-drops per scene
than anything else released this year.
DS: Okay, so the cinematography and choreography is absolutely
amazing - Tarantino's never done better. But it seems that he spent
so much time concentrating on getting the look right that he couldn't
be bothered to write a decent script this time around. The sharp
dialogue's on a level with the last two Star Wars films... mercifully,
there isn't much of it. And it's ONLY HALF A SODDING FILM. So each
of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was over 180 minutes long and
they were virtually the biggest films of all time, but we can't
hack three hours of this? It seems that Harvey Weinstein has found
a new way for Hollywood to screw us out of even more money. Cunt.
MS: I didn't get to see this after I was stood up by
one of my supposed best friends (on a Friday night! Which was also
Halloween!!). Thanks everyone for pointing out that I missed a
great film. Bah.
SM: If you like violence, cartoons and balletic, artful
scrapping, but can't be arsed to investigate any of them funny
foreign-language movies in the video shop, here it all is, Hollywood-style,
The story of a masochistic girl (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who
can only find fulfilment in a loving relationship with her
sadistic boss (James Spader). Not the coruscating satire on
hierarchical office politics or Hollywood love it sounds like
but a surprisingly sweet reinvention of the romcom with self-mutilation
and spanking instead of tears and flowers. Better than the
Coen Brothers one and that one with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.
Bend over and take dictation!
DS: Christ, this film was disappointing. For a minute
before I went in I was naive enough to kid myself that it might
not only be amusing but could also genuinely challenge the odd
taboo and whatnot. Silly old me: its just an hour and forty minutes
of occasionally mildly funny jokes about S&M and a daft little
plot that was probably meant to be endearing. Plus it's got Jeremy
Davies in it, who deserves to be SHOT.
SM: James Spader playing sleazy character? Yes, once again.
Not quite touching enough, and for me, too inclined to go for the
cheap laugh, but still a good watch and, if nothing else, the sort
of storyline you don't come across every day.
AKA Fish Story.
CS: What fun. Saw this in Australia and laughed hard while
a theatre of 3 year olds looked at me like I was mental. My 3 year
old nephew-in-law-kind-of is quiet as a mouse right now watching
it and for that I am eternally grateful to Pixar.
MS: Possibly the greatest fish-related film of all time
if only for giving dolphins a much-deserved slagging. Pixar once
again show off their staggering CGI abilities in an engagingly
cute story. The buddy-buddy stuff gets pretty annoying if you're
not twelve but there's enough new characters and situations appearing
to stop any boredom setting in. Fun, in a word.
I said it was great last year and it still is this year.
Lynne Ramsey and Samantha Morton's interpretation of Morvern
Callar conveys her internal and external journey in a beautifully
cinematic way. Apparently this still hasn't made it's money
back, so anyone with an interest in adventurous filmmaking
has a duty to see it at least once and, if you like it, as many
times as you can. Otherwise it'll disappear and the only UK
films to be made will be tales of oppressed but plucky northern
/ British Asian children overcoming adversity/ prejudice to
achieve approval from their families / liberal southerners
representing society as a whole. And Alan Parker musicals or
Ridley Scott war porn.
DS: Alan Warner's debut novel is one of my favourite
books ever, so I was always going to be disappointed by an adaptation
- but it's a pretty good attempt. In keeping with the book's eclectic
tracklistings of Morvern's tapes for her walkman, the producers
took the very wise option of getting Warp to do the soundtrack,
and thus put some music in the film that Warner would approve of
(Can, Boards of Canada, Velvet Underground, etc - nice). Oh yeah,
and it's by far the best serious film to emerge from the UK that
I can remember for a long time... not that it's saying much.
OS: Good soundtrack. Best thing about it probably.
MS: I've not made up my mind about this yet. I missed
the first five minutes and have always felt like that ruined
the whole thing. Or maybe I just didn't like it. I really liked
the book but the characters didn't seem to work the same way
on screen. Having grown up in a tiny isolated Scottish seaside
town myself, I didn't find the film as personally affecting as
the book. I guess the use of silence encouraged thought and my
thoughts were too full of the book. The soundtrack and general
use of music was fantastic though.
SM: A strange, dreamlike film in which seemingly nothing
happens - and then once it's over, you realise that a great deal
has happened. Truly individual and perhaps the most 'challenging'
film in this list.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Again, this does what it says on the ticket stub. Proves
there's more good plot ideas in theme parks than Hollywood
OS: I love how Johnny Depp apparently has to do a sketchy
cockney accent in every film he's in nowadays.
MS: Everyone goes on about Johnny Depp's hilariously
great acting in this film (and indeed it is the best thing about
it) but where's the love for Orlando Bloom's I Have No Brain
style of acting? The guy's a genius of idiotic overstatement
and has perfected the demeanour of someone who has no idea what
is going on. Which kind of works here as generally his character
does have no idea what he's doing (but see also Return of
the King: "A diversion!" etc.). Anyway, this was the
perfect summer blockbuster - pirates, cursed treasure, secret islands, "starcrossed" lovers,
skeleton ghost pirates, big ships, sword fighting and much
romping. What's not to like?
DS: If they'd cut the godawful Orlando Bloom and pouting
Keira Knightly out of the film altogether and just left in the
bits with Johnny Depp camply lurching arou
nd like a wholly convincing
drunkard, it would have been the best 45 minutes of footage to
emerge from Hollywood this year.
Freddy vs. Jason
Always feeling cheated by trailers? Then this is for you.
Nothing more or less than what it says in the title, plus it's
good for busy people because you arrive halfway through and
you've missed nothing.
SM: While I haven't seen this installment, I have over
the past year watched every installment of both series. This probably
puts me in the correct mindset to watch this one. [And overqualified
to write the thing.]
While people voted for this, none of them felt inclined
to tell us why. Hmm.
Now read about our favourite albums of
by Chris Haikney