365 Days Later


Lost in Translation defined the Sudafed-and-Johnny Walker mind-set of 21st-century road warriors—jet lag as Ecstasy; regret, longing, and desire as woozy narcotics. RAY PRIDE

Just because Sofia Coppola is rich, lucky, and connected doesn’t mean she can’t do it. TERRI SUTTON

I get why straight, middle-aged male critics were flattered by Lost in Translation, but what’s everyone else’s excuse? Sofia Coppola’s inventory of cool—the most expensive Marc Jacobs campaign ever—valorizes the hipster who thinks she’s smarter and more “real” than all the other hipsters. This precious universe would collapse from its narcissism were it not for Murray, a neighing Helmut Lang clotheshorse. NATHAN LEE

Lost in Translation is practically a sister to Friday Night, but where Claire Denis describes a city she knows and loves, Coppola chooses one she doesn’t know very well and finds amusingly weird. It’s a hip version of Ugly American bluster. Please lip Coppola’s stockings. STEVE ERICKSON

As a love story, Lost in Translation seems solipsistic and insensitive; as an exploration of willful, conditioned, and even unintentional misreading (translating) by its American characters, it’s both less and more disturbing. CYNTHIA FUCHS

Sofia seems to be the Teflon Director. First nobody can ask her about her father, ever; then nobody can ask her about her husband; then there’s also the (false) consensus that the film was a gas to make and Bill Murray was the nicest guy in the world. And this in an age of tabloid journalism. MARK PERANSON

Translation‘s ugly swipes at them wacky Japanese (not to mention pea-brained American starlets) can be read as a defensive hitting-out, an extremely adolescent mode of cocooning: shut in my room ‘cos nobody speaks my language—nobody gets me—but you. The teen spirit of romanticized alienation soon grates because the film reads most convincingly as autobiographical juvenilia. And yet, even Bryan Ferry himself could not have conjured the plangent rhapsody of Mr. Murray singing karaoke “More Than This.” Delayed adolescence is largely ridiculous, as is Lost in Translation, but what about the ridiculous sublime? JESSICA WINTER

Top 40 Countdown

The dread that runs beneath Elephant is certainly inspired by the massacre to come (however much the film rewinds itself to delay its arrival), but it’s rooted also in the foreboding and fragility of adolescence. I can’t think of another film that captures this as well, feels it as intensely. In this sense, Elephant is telling us many new things, and maybe even a few about Columbine. B. KITE

Now I know why those Columbine boys shot up their school—they were being stalked by a Jaws-like bookcart-pushing girl-monster and belittled by savage, primping, puking popular Juicy Couture chicks. LAURA SINAGRA

Gus Van Sant’s ravishing companion pieces Gerry and Elephant were criticized as empty aesthetic exercises. As much as “Yeah . . . so?” would be an effective retort, Van Sant sparks just enough thought (on man’s disconnection with the natural world, on high-school life during a not-so-ordinary day) to carry the viewer through his magnificent spaces, as if he were igniting the end of a slow-burning fuse. SCOTT TOBIAS

Kicking virtual ass from Paris to Tokyo to Chihuahua, Connie Nielsen is the postmodern Linda Hamilton. As demonlover‘s frosty corporate huntress, she applies an impenetrable, mirror-world lacquer to her capitalist avatar. Nielsen speaks several languages, all in the same flat accent, and like her nationality-less character, she effortlessly spans continents (giving Famke Janssen a run for her money as Most Unplaceable Cinematic Ice Queen). Disappearing into each persona Assayas devises for her (Storm, Emma Peel), Nielsen is the on-screen equivalent of negative space, and I mean that as a compliment. DAVID NG

A valentine to shape-shifting contemporary capitalism that’s about as sweet as it ought to be, demonlover is the real continuation of Fritz Lang’s Mabuse series. Where Lang’s trilogy shifted the Mabuse principle from a body to a book to a building, Assayas follows its mutation into the New (or Zombie) Economy. Mabuse can no longer be embodied in a single individual since everyone is fighting for the role. The Blank Room at the center of so many Lang films can be re-established anywhere in the borderless business world as long as it maintains a fixed Web address. The Doctor makes his final bow as almighty consumer and the customer, of course, is always right. B. KITE

Quentin Tarantino, the most shallow pretender to Godard’s throne—when will Yvonne Rainer get her revenge?—managed to make a film with all the bounce, necro-philia, showmanship, and jangly jouissance of ’60s Jean-Luc, but still lacking any brains whatsoever. JASON MCBRIDE

QT is turning into the DJ Shadow of the mixtape movie—everything that goes into it comes out his. JIM RIDLEY

One adapted novel. Three powerful, slightly suffocating performances. And everywhere you look, the seepage of the past into the present, abetted by liberal dousings of literal water: Mystic River is The Hours for men.ED PARK

School of Rock: What I imagine Robert Pollard’s science classes might have been like. JASON MCBRIDE

Lilya 4-Ever is the pummeling completion of a master’s teen trilogy, starting with the tender optimism of Show Me Love, maturing into resignation with Together, and now arriving at the fiercest indictment of predatory adults in modern movies. Lukas Moodysson is 33 years old. Be afraid. JOSHUA ROTHKOPF

When he can manage the effort at all, Spider‘s Ralph Fiennes puts each foot forward with infinite wariness—every inch is treacherous; even concrete is thin ice. The intense concentration behind every action and interaction creates a tortured psychology that acts directly upon the nerves and muscles and overrides even the lame Freud-story resolution. A performance of the whole body that’s the film’s single best special effect (who needs bleeding potatoes?). B. KITE

Without Guy Maddin, could Canada even be considered a filmmaking nation? I would much rather get inoperable eyestrain trying to watch, through glory-hole-sized apertures, his installation-cum-peep-show, Cowards Bend the Knee, than ever endure another Denys Arcand film. JASON MCBRIDE

It was depressing to see a critical pileup on Irreversible, a film of accomplished style and moral urgency. The notion that revenge is a dish best not served at all may be a trite “moral,” but Clint Eastwood drew some of the best reviews of his career for saying the same thing. STEVE ERICKSON

A Woman Is a Woman

Last year Nicole Kidman and Salma Hayek played women who suffered for their art and got Oscar nods. This year, women returned to cleaning up after the men who suffer for their art. Kidman does penance in The Human Stain and Scarlett Johansson tidies up after Vermeer in Girl With a Pearl Earring. Sarah Polley’s office cleaner in My Life Without Me finds it a dead-end job and acts accordingly. Similarly, Renée Zellweger takes no guff from Kidman in Cold Mountain. But the most empowered domestic is Emilie Dequenne (in Claude Berri’s Housekeeper), who takes her client to the cleaners for shameless self-advancement; Luis Buñuel would have been proud. PETER KEOUGH

28 Days Later begins as a nightmare for the ages, and ends up echoing one of those pirate romances where the scurvy crew forcibly dresses the shrieking heroine up in stolen finery—all because the filmmakers are tired of looking at her in combat boots and army fatigues. Well, fuck you, Danny Boyle. You like satin frocks so much, try directing your next film in one. JUSTINE ELIAS

I love the scene in Terminator 3 when Claire Danes first uses an automatic weapon, and it’s like Nick Stahl notices her for the first time as a sexually attractive being, and then he twists the knife completely by saying, “You remind me of my mother.” CHRIS CHANG

Two films by female directors defined safety and risk, aesthetic and otherwise. Lost in Translation limply sketches its vapid heroine through her thousand-dollar designer handbag and cool APC duds. Jane Campion’s In the Cut shapes a flesh-and-blood protagonist and uncannily captures the dangers that menace women who live without the cushions of marriage or wealth. KRISTIN M. JONES

The shudder-inducing abundance of Humbertian nymphet-mania this year signaled new heights in art-house lasciviousness. Count ’em up: Le Divorce, Lilya 4-Ever, Raja, Lost in Translation, and Girl With a Pearl Earring (the last two featuring Scarlett Johansson as the objet d’infatuation). Sank heaven, for post-adolescent girlz! DAVID NG

Talk about calendar girls—what do we make of a year that found “older women” Holly Hunter, Meg Ryan, Frances McDormand, and Diane Keaton unveiling their still-got-it yoga-tastic bods while the young women in Thirteen, Blue Car, and In My Skin joined last year’s Secretary anti-heroine in solitary self-mutilation? LAURA SINAGRA

As a feminist object, a roiling mix of catfights, brutalization, empowerment fantasy, and saucer-eyed fetishism, Kill Bill will never be mistaken for The Feminine Mystique. And yet that element is there. The DiVAS represent traditional female archetypes—housewife, mother, daughter, nurse, bride—but assume the roles reserved for men in action movies. The guys are either off-screen, handing over or sheathing their swords, or getting perforated, dented, chopped, and scattered by the women. JIM RIDLEY

The Return of the Queens

Boys in the desert, boys at sea: Who’s master and who’s commander, Gerry or Gerry? Gay panic, roughed out on the abstract battlefield, was never this compelling—or should I say embedding? Leave it to the French and Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible to tell us something we already knew (but elected to ignore): You can’t unfuck an ass. JOSHUA ROTHKOPF

Not only was X2 the year’s most bravura blockbuster, it was also the queerest. Best was the scene when Iceman came out to his family. “Have you tried not being a mutant?” asked his mother. JASON ANDERSON

Jeepers Creepers 2 turned the heterocentric teen pic on its head. Its crew of cheerleaders keep all their clothes on, while the buff, barely legal boys doff their shirts at their first opportunity and discuss gayness during public urination sessions. STEVE ERICKSON

In The Return of the King, a passionate, deeply committed, borderline-erotic male bond reaches apotheosis through the annihilation of an oppressive ring. NATHAN LEE

No man-on-man love this year could top that of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck—I mean, Greg Kinnear—in Stuck on You, but with its final installment, The Lord of the Rings proves itself the gayest film in history, capped by the Frodo-Sam (forehead) kiss and the boat ride into the sunset—wait, that’s the ending of Querelle! MARK PERANSON

The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice

Given the recent passing of Edward Said, it’s hard not to mention what a fine year it was for orientalism. Two of my favorite movies suffered it perhaps too gladly: demonlover and the one a friend calls Lost in Reification. Demonlover raised the spectacle of the Bizarre Eroticized Other as a sort of hoax—there is no Other anymore except as a convenient phantasm we can use to pretend we’re not just the same now, awhorl in the great incoherent sprawl of global capital that obliterates all our old spaces-between. Lost, on the other hand, needed the Bizarre Inexplicable Other to actually exist, so that there could be a space-between where the movie took place. Integuments of travel. Whuushhh of elevator doors. Blue light of neither-day-nor-night. A lovely study of life in the interzone—like Bowles’s Tangiers but less creepy. JOSHUA CLOVER

What with Tom Cruise slashing through the Imperial Army and Uma Thurman dicing yakuza, kendo classes will soon be hotter than Pilates. Just think how great your abs will look if you avoid getting disemboweled. JASON ANDERSON

If the year in movies had a theme song, it was Graham Parker’s “Discovering Japan” (“where lovers turn to posers/show up in film exposures”). In demonlover and Lost in Translation, Japan is a ghost world: Kubrick’s Overlook with lounge-bar karaoke. (Assayas’s film annexed the rest of the world into the complex: The lack of establishing shots—if it’s Tuesday, this must be Paris—is a sinister globalization joke that’s funnier for being left unstated.) In Kill Bill, it’s a pan-cultural playground where an American woman of Japanese descent chills out to a Japanese girl band playing American trashabilly. And then there’s The Last Samurai, where Tom Cruise goes to Japan to find out how cool wars used to be before the Gatling gun spoiled everything. Hiroshima, mon amour. JIM RIDLEY

In Kill Bill, nothing gets lost in translation thanks to Sofie Fatale, the French-Japanese lawyer-interpreter played by Julie Dreyfus. No, not Elaine from Seinfeld. Dreyfus, a French-born actress, speaks three languages fluently and is also quite a babe, even after Uma Thurman lops off her left arm. Slyly insinuating (watch the pleasure Dreyfus takes in translating fuck seven times), it’s the cattiest multilingual performance since Giorgia Moll stole Contempt. DAVID NG

The Critics Were Wrong!

Do I really need to see The Passion of the Christ, or can I review it unseen like everyone else? Jesus. JIM RIDLEY

Had no one who reviewed Masked & Anonymous ever heard a Dylan song? The movie worked in the same way: oblique, threatening, funny, pointed. What was shocking about the trashing wasn’t the implicit rejection of its politics (its vision of America as third-world dictatorship) as the critics’ lazy-ass “Well, this is weird” reaction. The reviews were the equivalent of what you might get if you sneak-previewed La Chinoise at a multiplex. CHARLES TAYLOR

The unfolding of a self-inflicted feminist nightmare in jittery post-9-11 downtown Manhattan was an unpalatable premise for reviewers and audiences. Perhaps In the Cut‘s intense psychological analysis of what some women want was simply too much for most male critics. GRAHAM FULLER

Stephen Hunter, a Pulitzer for film criticism? Very few reviewers talk about themselves more, know less about their medium, or care less about learning. Feting Hunter over several dozen other hardworking notables is like throwing an investigative-reporting award at Liz Smith. MICHAEL ATKINSON

New York gets more good movies than any other American city, yet so far it seems to have missed—or else barely noticed—some of the best (e.g., In the Mirror of Maya Deren, Joy of Madness, Los Angeles Plays Itself, Pistol Opera, The Same River Twice, The Tracker). JONATHAN ROSENBAUM

No movie exposed more sheep among the nation’s reviewers this year than Gigli. Here’s a movie that’s at worst an ambitious misfire, and yet every hack writer with a fill-in-the-blank pan dogpiled it as if it were the Second Coming of Pluto Nash. Had this been labeled a P.T. Anderson joint, would it have gotten left-field acclaim instead of the junket-whore backhand? Oh well. You live by Entertainment Tonight, you die by Entertainment Tonight. JIM RIDLEY

Citing re-releases on Top 10s is a cheat, but the case of Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar is special. The film never received a New York release, making the recent run at Film Forum of a new print (from the exemplary Rialto Pictures) a theatrical premiere. The Times did not review it as such—another indignity for poor Balthazar! JAMES QUANDT

The Immediate Experience

Overheard, repeatedly, at the packed opening-night show of The Hulk at Loews 42nd Street, from a restless crowd of young action fans who didn’t appreciate Ang Lee’s reluctant, angsty Bruce Banner: “Turn green, motherfucker, TURN GREEN!” ED HALTER

At Film Forum’s revival of Eyes Without a Face, I was startled to hear laughter during some of the most wrenching scenes. I wondered what sort of movie-damaged yahoo would consider death, mutilation, and loss sources of insensate, self-congratulatory whimsy. A couple of weeks later I saw Kill Bill and had my answer. MARK HOLCOMB

Right after the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, a group of pranksters held a onetime event at Postmasters Gallery. Called “The Pirated Movie,” it involved a video projection of a bootlegged copy of Pirates of the Caribbean played to improvised music and sound effects, including a recorded phone call to the Pittsburgh Pirates trying to get their Pirate Parrot mascot to attend the event. The drink of choice that evening? Captain Morgan, of course. ED HALTER

Overheard outside Cinema Village after a screening of Platform: “Can we see Cradle 2 the Grave now?” DAVID NG

Though repellent for its sexism, homophobia, and perplexing necrophilia, Bad Boys II is a mesmerizing orgy of carnage. Accelerated well past incoherence, Michael Bay’s action choreography seemed to stupefy the characters as much the audience. During one typical car chase, a guy behind me gasped, “This is some sick shit.” About three seconds later, Martin Lawrence said the exact same thing. JASON ANDERSON

To consider the film year the same month that Angels in America airs on television seems delusional, since everything pales in comparison. I felt fortunate to see Angels in a huge theater before it aired, but watching it again on TV, I was floored, and then alarmed, by how little of it I’d absorbed at the movie house. Which made me wonder if I simply don’t know how to go to the cinema anymore, if a quarter-century of mega-movie pounding has whittled away my ability to sit still and truly listen. CHUCK WILSON

Overheard, repeatedly, during the blackout: dudes in the streets imitating the opening scenes of 28 Days Later, in mock Brit accents. “Hallow!!!! Hallow????” ED HALTER

A Year of Viewing Dangerously

The best thing about the year in film 2003 is that it’s over. MARK PERANSON

The world grows old; we should expect nothing from it now but repetitions, spawned ever more feebly. I take comfort from this thought, knowing that it had great currency in the 17th century and might also have seemed persuasive in 2003, a cinema year that began with six months of almost nothing (except for an animation about a clown fish) and ended with the horror, appropriately titled, of Something’s Gotta Give. (There ought to be a Room 101 in every acting school, where students, hooked to electrodes, are made to twitch and shriek through this Nicholson-Keaton mug-o-rama.) Despite the doomsayers, an 18th century woke up the world; and despite the plentiful worst of 2003, signs of fresh life did eventually appear in movie houses. STUART KLAWANS

A year with almost no Owen Wilson is like almost no year at all, but at least we got to see Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her role in The Royal Tenenbaums almost exactly, except this time her comically depressed and poorly made-up writer is supposed to be taken seriously. Can someone please remind me of the last decent movie about a poet? Hint: It wasn’t Total Eclipse. Or Gothic. Or Poetic Justice. Or Slam. Oh, OK, Il Postino. Come back, Massimo Troisi, come back—we need you now. JOSHUA CLOVER

Critical consensus seems to be that 2003 was an off year, but how is such a thing quantified? >10 great films = a passable year, Most of the year’s significant films were personal exercises, bordering on fetishism. See Tarantino’s drooling for Uma/Sonny Chiba/Shaw Bros./Chiyaki/his own adolescence, the Farrellys for the handicapped, Linklater for rocking out, Van Sant for high school boys, and Assayas for fetishism itself. MARK PERANSON

The dichotomy between X2 and The Barbarian Invasions sums up 2003: Filmmakers with money to spend suddenly had something to say and the means to say it, while the underdogs could barely raise a purposeful yap. NOEL MURRAY

The Art of the Remix

Character transpositions would’ve helped several movies. Master and Commander wouldn’t have been so dull, decent, and manly with Johnny Depp’s swashbuckler from Pirates of the Caribbean. Will Ferrell would’ve helped relieve the elvish tedium in LOTR III. From Lost in Translation, Anna Faris’s ditzy starlet would brighten the stultifying Last Samurai—enough with the sword stuff, let’s go out for sake and karaoke! BRIAN MILLER

Someone needs to turn the School of Rock guys on to Sleater-Kinney. TERRI SUTTON

School of Rock

photo: Andrew Schwartz

I admired the headlong committment with which In the Cut created a heightened erotic fantasia of Manhattan, one that may not have existed before cable television, before Cinemax, before, specifically, the direct-to-video oeuvre of Shannon Tweed, Shannon Whirry, and Andrew Stevens. They get no credit for their exploration of the man/woman/ cop/stalker issue. They laid the groundwork and sometimes each other. They are the pioneers. JUSTINE ELIAS

The Good Thief wins this year’s jubilant overdetermined-ethnic-scene-of-the-year award: An Irish director, shooting a remake of a French noir (deeply influenced by American noir), creates a scene in which Bosnian director Emir Kusturica plays the American national anthem on a Stratocaster. Alert Slavoj Zizek. CHRIS CHANG

I loved Friday Night for its moment-to-moment flood of sensation, its tactile immediacy, its evocation of Paris under the influence of romantic intoxication. But I still think it was a mistake to get rid of Ice Cube. JIM RIDLEY

Taking Care of Business

For one weird weekend in October, the three highest-grossing films in America were made by Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, and the Coen brothers. Did this count as a triumph for the generation of American filmmakers who made their names in the ’90s by matching indie sensibilities with mainstream aspirations? It might have if the Coens hadn’t phoned in their laziest movie to date and School of Rock were more than a raunch-free riff on Tenacious D. Tarantino, however, created a Hollywood movie that not only acknowledged how badly American genre and action cinema has faltered compared to its Asian and European counterparts but actually tried to outdo them. JASON ANDERSON

“What would happen if you gave an independent film the kind of marketing power that only a mini-major could supply?” a Sundance Channel VP asked in the Voice four months ago. If the opening-night attendance for In This World was any indication, the answer is, nothing. The Sundance Film Series turned out to be a pale shadow of Shooting Gallery’s programming. Choosing four “quality” Sundance films, dumping them in the immaculate but creepy Loews 34th Street theater, and bombarding audiences with onanistic pre-show slides (Q: “Which of these four directors got his start at Sundance?” A: “All of these directors got their starts at Sundance!”) did not add up to the gift to movie lovers that Robert Redford intended. BEN KENIGSBERG

Poor Adrien Brody. I could swear I saw a tear welling up in his six-story Times Square ad as studios dusted off and released all shelved detritus featuring the dreamy Oscar winner. LAURA SINAGRA

You’ve gotta love Mel Gibson blowing off the Vatican to show The Passion at the Harry Knowles Butt-Numb-a-thon.Talk about answering to a higher power. JIM RIDLEY

OK, the screener ban’s been forcibly lifted and I don’t see it coming back next year, but here’s my anecdotal evidence as to why it was a mistake. I consider Errol Morris to be one of the most important directors around. So why isn’t The Fog of War on my list? I don’t get to make the festival rounds and I couldn’t make the one screening held here in Chicago. No screeners? That’s strike three. Sorry, Mr. Morris. Maybe next year. KEITH PHIPPS

Let’s crunch: The Cat in the Hat, despite a virtually unprecedented wail of critical loathing (a phenomenon that somehow failed to produce “turkey” discussions on NPR, Fox, et al. as Gigli had), made $40 mil in its first weekend, and will easily pass into the black, despite no one on earth having thought it any better than a poke in the eye. What’s to dissuade Brian Grazer and his lowly breed from doing it again, and again? With guaranteed returns like this, why shouldn’t every movie be a rank insult? MICHAEL ATKINSON

True Lies

It was a bad year to be a parent in a documentary. From Stevie’s abandoning, abusive mother to the well-meaning but clueless Diane in Love & Diane to Louis Kahn’s familial triplication in My Architect—to say nothing of Capturing the Friedmans—there was no shortage of filmmakers exploiting troubled childhoods for personal gain. The mildest fatherly incarnation by far was in Stone Reader, and even there you’ve got Mark Moskowitz bugging his kid, trying to film him reading a book. BEN KENIGSBERG

Capturing the Friedmans is the year’s most disturbing mirror, an American tragedy not simply about a family’s unraveling, but the vain community that needed to see them ruined in order to function. JOSHUA ROTHKOPF

The late John Frankenheimer’s made-for-HBO Path to War showcased excellent performances by Michael Gambon (as LBJ) and Alec Baldwin (as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara), serving as a fictional counterpoint to Errol Morris’s The Fog of War. You can decide for yourself whether Baldwin or the real McNamara gives a better performance. STEVE ERICKSON

Travis Wilkerson’s An Injury to One reconciled MTV aesthetics with Third Cinema agitprop, creating a new documentary form that seems capable of effecting actual change. Wilkerson’s wholly committed to this cinematic revolution; through his Extreme Low Frequency micro-distribution company he gives new life to such neglected classics as John Gianvito’s The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein, Thom Andersen’s Red Hollywood, and Billy Woodberry’s Bless Their Little Hearts—films that, in Wilkerson’s words, seek to discover what should be changed, and how. Bless his big heart. JASON MCBRIDE

The Same River Twice: This is just the kind of solipsism and self-pity that proves we can’t let boomers run Medicare. LAURA SINAGRA

If Rivers and Tides and Winged Migration are the type of films that benefited from the new interest in docs, it’s a Pyrrhic victory. They offered a deluxe version of the middlebrow nature-porn and art appreciation you can get for free on PBS. STEVE ERICKSON

Stone Reader = NPR + pictures. B. KITE

The best bits of many fiction films were those that subscribed to a certain reality principle: Pekar peeking out from behind Giamatti in American Splendor, Elephant‘s real-life student bodies, The Brown Bunny‘s haunting suckjob. JASON MCBRIDE

Old Europe got props from the marvelous X2, in the form of Alan Cumming as a kindly, heroic, teleporting acrobat (with hooves) from non-coalition-member Germany. When this deeply religious person of color who launches a spectacular attack on the Oval Office is revealed as the brainwashed victim of an evil American military scientist seeking a scapegoat for a war on, um, mutants, one wonders if Gore Vidal had a hand in the screenplay. JESSICA WINTER

Best Unsupported Ass: In T3, Arnold Schwarzenegger gives California voters an idea of what they can expect from his administration. PETER KEOUGH

With fact and fiction blurred as never before, is it any surprise the U.S. military had a combat camera unit equipped with DV cameras waiting to be dispatched whenever Saddam was ready for his close-up, thus capturing the historic moment when his mouth was searched for weapons of mass destruction? It seems like everyone wants to have their uranium yellow cake and eat it too. MIKE RUBIN

“Bring ’em on,” the vigilante president’s challenge to insurgents in Iraq, is a cartoon-cowboy provocation possibly derived from the films of former Carmel mayor Clint Eastwood—whose Mystic River, however flawed, represents an extraordinary reckoning with his troubling career. The final star-spangled parade is a bleak, bitter parody of “Mission Accomplished” triumphalism, marching blindly by while a bewildered war widow stumbles alongside, like Ophelia lost in America. JESSICA WINTER

The amount of ink spilled over Kill Bill‘s cartoony bloodfest proves even more bitterly ironic when one considers that we’ve been conducting our own real-life revenge narrative on the other side of the globe for a couple of years now, and the images from those horror shows—were we to ever actually see them—might actually merit some discussion. Kill Bill‘s simplistic moral tidiness—an unambiguous feeling hard to muster for the current war’s complexities—is what makes the rape-revenge story so comfortingly pleasurable. It’s not so easy to say whether or not we should have gone after Saddam, but we can all feel good about killing Bill. ED HALTER

Most Popular