Who was naughty, who was nice? We usually don't like to grumble about what a bad year it was at the movies because generally, that only means you didn't look hard enough for the good stuff. But it must be said: 2003 had more than its share of duds and disappointments. Here's a list of the worst let-downs of the last twelve months.
1. Kill Bill
After years of hype, we were as thrilled as the next GenXers about Quentin Tarantino's return. Too bad he left his clever dialogue somewhere in the Nineties and served up pointless slaughter set to a groovy soundtrack and rape jokes for yuks instead. "Kill Bill Volume 1" was only half a movie, but something tells us the second part will be just more of the same self-indulgent butchery. Boo, Q!
2. The Singing Detective
We love you, Robert Downey Jr. We love you, Dennis Potter and Robin Wright Penn. We can even make do with Mel Gibson--but this depressing reworking of one of the best TV shows ever left a sour taste we couldn't shake for weeks.
3. Whale Rider
We're always in the market for a touching, revealing film about Maori culture and their legends, especially one involving graceful whales. But grace was precisely what the rote plot and ham-fisted drama in this crowd pleaser lacked. We've seen this movie twenty times already, and it's getting worse every time.
Given the Hollywood schlock Gus Van Sant has been cranking out for years, we'll admit that we didn't expect much from his Columbine movie. That he used an "experimental" facade to hide his film's sensationalism made it even more offensive than "Finding Forrester."
5. SpiderDour, dreary, and depressing. Suffering and dark psychology have their place in the movies, but almost alone among Cronenberg's films, "Spider" left us cold.
6. Matrix RegurgitatedWe'll throw in "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" together since you'd have to be a fool to see both of the effects-laden sequels to the Wachowski Brother's orginal slickster exercise in metaphyics and style. Three overlong multi-million dollar movies, and all we get is a truce? Much has been written about the staggering disappointment elsewhere, so let's just say we dearly hope the franchise won't be Resurrected.
7. In America
Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, and the Bolger sisters do their best to breathe life into this hackneyed story of an immigrant family who is getting over the loss of their boy. But the film, murkily set in a present that's a lot like 1985, fizzles after one dramatic highlight involving an E.T. doll. In the end, grief and hope are wrapped up in a tidy, unconvincing bundle while the spirit of a sacrificial black man streaks across the sky: pure hokum.
8. American Splendor
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's celebrated take on Harvey Pekar's grouchy cult persona didn't work at all. Adding more levels of meta references by sticking in a little animation here and some documentary footage there muddled the original material and its tired cynicism further. Ang Lee's "Hulk" was the best comic book adaptation this year.
9. Pieces of AprilA rebellious girl with a broken stove wants to make Thanskgiving dinner for her family. Why do we care? If there is anywhere we don't want to be, it's in a station wagon filled with a bickering family. And why were Katie Holmes' usually luminscent eyes ringed in unfortunate black eye liner?
10. Garage Days
Alex Proyas's film about a talentless band was so bad it was pulled from theaters in a week. He does, however, succeed in what seems almost impossible: to turn a story about sex, drugs, and rock'n roll into an absolute bore.