The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, December 21, 2012
A LONG-EXPECTED PARTY: Ten years ago, when this blog was young, I sat down to write a roundup of 2002's best films and ended up doing something else. "I wish I could add to the flurry of December top-ten movie lists," I
wrote, "but I haven't seen enough of the year's films to do a credible job. Many of the pictures on other critics' lists haven't even made it to Baltimore yet. I'm as fond of this game as the next fellow, but I won't play until I have a reasonably complete deck." And so instead of listing the best pictures of 2002, I posted my picks for the best pictures of 1992. Then I did 1982, then 1972, then 1962.

We'll revisit and revise those lists in the next week or two, and then we'll go on to the pre-'60s decades that I skipped the first time around. But before we get to that, we have some long-delayed business to attend to.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 2002, it chose Chicago as the year's best film. I like that one, but there are at least 15 motion pictures released in those 12 months that I like more:

1. The Wire
Written by David Simon, Ed Burns, Rafael Alvarez, David H. Melnick, Shamit Choksey, Joy Lusco, and George Pelecanos, from a story by Simon and Burns
Directed by Clark Johnson, Peter Medak, Clement Virgo, Ed Bianchi, Joe Chapelle, Gloria Muzio, Milcho Manchevski, Brad Anderson, Steve Shill, and Tim Van Patten

I've been inconsistent in how I treat TV shows in these lists. But this, more than any program that isn't officially labeled a "miniseries," is a single narrative divided into hour-long installments. Put it together with the other four seasons of The Wire, and you've got the best motion picture of the decade; look at this season in isolation, and you've got the best motion picture of the year.

2. Talk to Her
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Almodóvar explores the intersection between fetishism, projection, and unrequited love.

3. Mai's America
Directed by Marlo Poras

The best documentary I've ever seen about immigration.

4. The Office 2
Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

The bleak second season of the original British Office. You know those Peanuts comics where the punch line is more depressing than funny? The final scene of this one is like that.

5. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Directed by George Clooney
Written by Charlie Kaufman, from a "memoir" by Chuck Barris

In which a CIA assassin imagines he's pursuing a more socially beneficial life as the creator of The Gong Show.

6. Decasia
Directed by Bill Morrison

A beautiful abstract film built from the shards of earlier, decaying films. Someday it too will decay.

7. The Quiet American
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Written by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan, from a novel by Graham Greene

Proof (a) that Brendan Fraser can act and (b) that a remake can be much, much better than its predecessor.

8. Dirty Pretty Things
Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Steven Knight

"We are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your cocks."

9. About Schmidt
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Payne and Jim Taylor, from a novel by Louis Begley

If you thought The Office was awfully bleak for a comedy...

10. City of God
Directed by Fernando Meirelles with Kátia Lund
Written by Bráulio Mantovani, from a novel by Paulo Lins

"A kid? I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man."

Honorable mentions:

11. Man on the Train (Patrice Leconte)
12. 25th Hour (Spike Lee)
13. The Girl on the Train in the Moon (Bill Daniel)
14. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma)
15. Hero (Zhang Yimou)
16. Chicago (Rob Marshall)
17. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson)
18. In Smog and Thunder (Sean Meredith)
19. 28 days later… (Danny Boyle)
20. Biggie & Tupac (Nick Broomfield)

Of the films of 2002 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Finally, I'd like to tip my hat to the third and best season of The Sopranos, which I should have included in my list last year but didn't because I was under the mistaken impression that it was transmitted in 2002. We'll straighten that out in another decade.

posted by Jesse 2:20 PM
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