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That Was The Year, That


Tradition is the king of mediocrity - French


Well, we've had the traditional consumerist advertising

blitzkrieg, we've had the traditional Christmas binge,

we've even had the rapidly-becoming-traditional spectacle

of the BBC buggering about with a classic Conan Doyle

novel, so it must be New Year (or thereabouts). This is of

course the time of year when third-rate columnists and

critics the world over look back on the twelve months just

gone and basically reiterate their prejudices as a lazy

seasonal filler item.

Now while obviously I don't consider this a third-rate

undertaking - perish the thought! - a boy can still dream,

so here we go with the 24LAS review of 2002, the

presentation of this year's Lassie Awards, and a quick

look ahead to the year just started.

What did you think of the year just gone? Personally I

quite enjoyed it. It seemed to me to be a case of

'business as usual' from the major studios - with the

writers' strike averted, the flirtation with imported

subtitled product that led to Crouching Tiger and

Amelie doing big business was abandoned, and on top

of this nearly all the major moneyspinners were either the

latest entries in existing franchises - Die Another

and Attack of the Clones, for instance - or

clearly intended to kick-start new ones, with

Spider-Man being the most obvious example.

Glancing at the list of the films I saw for this years'

columns, the thing that strikes me is how

compartmentalised and predictable things seem to have

become - this may have more to do with my taste in films,

of course, but still. I see low-budget horror movies a

plenty, most of them British, most of them featuring

soldiers, and most of them let down by weak, unnecessary

twist endings. Also heartwarming comedies by the bucketful

- often with some kind of uplifting culture-clash twist to


Action movies this year were particularly interesting.

September the 11th cast an obvious shadow with the result

that they were either grimly realistic to the point of

actually being historical reenactments, or else

fantastical to the point of campness. It was also

interesting that within the space of six months, Vin

Diesel, the Rock, and Matt 'n' Ben all tried to stake

their claim to the new action-hero claim, most of them in

thinly-disguised Bond pastiches. Inevitably, the best pure

action-adventure film of the year turned out to be a

genuine Bond film.

But despite the creeping compartmentalisation of cinema

a few genuinely original and idiosyncratic movies made it

onto the screen. Some of them, like 24 Hour Party

and The Mothman Prophecies, boldly came

out and admitted that yes, this was something a little

different from the norm, while others hid their true

colours - Gosford Park was a drama masquerading as

a costumed whodunnit, Vanilla Sky an SF movie

selling itself as a drama.

So, as I say, on the whole a good year - the movies

that made a lot of money were mostly ambitious and

inventive in conception, if not execution, a trend which

will hopefully continue next year. But before the

predictions for 2003, let's dish those Lassie awards


Eligibility? Well, very simply, to be eligible for an

award I had to see the film in question in a cinema on its

original UK release at some time in 2002. Quick

fingers-and-toes style totting up reveals a grand total of

40 films which made the grade. And here they are:

24 Hour Party People, 28 Days Later, About A Boy, Ali G Indahouse, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Bend It Like Beckham, Black Hawk Down, Blade 2, The

Bourne Identity
, Deathwatch, Die Another Day, Dog Soldiers, Eight Legged Freaks, Frailty, From

, Gosford Park,
Harry Potter and the Chamber of

, The Importance Of

Being Earnest
, Iris,

K-19: The Widowmaker, The Lord of the Rings: The Two

, Lost in La

, Men in Black 2,

Minority Report, The Mothman Prophecies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Ocean's Eleven, The One, Queen

of the Damned
, Red

, Reign of Fire,

Resident Evil, The Road to Perdition, The Scorpion King, Signs, Spider-Man, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones,

Sweet Home Alabama, The Time Machine, Vanilla Sky

Yes, it's not a complete list of the year's major

releases - I'm annoyed to have missed Ali,

Training Day, and Donnie Darko, amongst

others - but nobody's perfect.

Biggest Disappointment of 2002: I hate to say

it, but it was Attack of the Clones. Yes, I know

that it's not that bad a film, but my expectations were so

high for it... Ah, to paraphrase the Bard, perhaps it

could be that the fault lies not in our Star Wars,

but in ourselves.

Most Pleasant Surprise of 2002: Well, wouldn't

you know it, but none of the films this year turned out to

be spectacularly better than I expected them to be. I

can't work out if this is a good thing or not - perhaps

I've broken the bad habit of deliberately going to films

I've heard are rubbish just to have something to review.

Hmm. Let's turn this into a New Face To Watch For

award and give it to Michelle Rodriguez who effortlessly

stole Resident Evil from everyone else


Worst Accent in a Serious Film: An early

contender here was Ryan Phillipe's Scottish in Gosford

, but then it turned out to be intentionally bad

and thus not really eligible. Following last year's award,

which went to the entire cast of Enemy at the

, I considered maintaining the Slavic theme and

awarding it to the cast of K-19: The Widowmaker -

but in the end, the Cockney Russians are succeeded by an

American Cockney, in this case Johnny Depp's shocking

performance in From Hell. The spirit of Dick Van

Dyke is alive and well.

Best Bad Acting: There's always a choice here as

to whether favour manic hamming or planklike immobility,

and 2002 was well-blessed with both - Willem Defoe in

Spider-Man and Colin Firth in The Importance of

Being Earnest
on the hammery front, for example, and

Richard Gere in The Mothman Prophecies and Matt

Damon in The Bourne Identity where woodenness is

concerned. In the end this goes to someone who was in the

running last year, Sean Pertwee, for his body of work but

mainly for going so spectacularly OTT in Dog


Best Actor: A rare instance of this column

nearly agreeing with the Academy as - without any

hesitation whatsoever - this award goes to Jim Broadbent

for his fantasically moving performance in Iris.

Broadbent won the Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal

of John Bayley, slightly oddly in my opinion as he plays

arguably the biggest role in the film. Never mind...

Worst Film of 2002: Quite a bit of competition

here, with Resident Evil and Ali G Indahouse

performing strongly. But for sheer misconceived

incompetence the award goes to Queen of the Damned,

a film almost entirely lacking in any merit


Best Film of 2002 Not Featuring Hobbits: (Well,

it'd be terribly dull if Lord of the Rings won

again, wouldn't it? Yes, The Two Towers is the best

film of the year, but let's take that as read and see who

gets the silver medal.) Many films impressed me this year

- Vanilla Sky, Blade 2, Bend It Like Beckham and

Ocean's Eleven amongst them. But for sheer class,

intelligence, and wit, the award for 2002's second-best

film goes to Robert Altman's wonderful Gosford

. So there.

And so to 2003. January alone has a slew of

tasty-looking releases: Star Trek:

, The Gangs of New York, and 8

, just for starters. Later in the year we can look

forward to a job lot of superhero movies, with the

X-Men returning for a second installment and

Daredevil and the Hulk headlining their own

movies, while a more old-fashioned breed of hero features

in the steampunk adventure The League of Extraordinary

. Not to mention Arnie's latest stab at

reviving his career in Terminator 3 (although the

wisdom of a Terminator without the involvement of

Jim Cameron and Linda Hamilton is surely suspect). Lovers

of the leftfield sensibility will probably be anticipating

Adaptation and Paul T Anderson's Punch Drunk

. But the most eagerly anticipated films this year

are probably the Matrix sequels, of which we should

get at least one, and - of course - Peter Jackson's final

visit to Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings: Return of

the King
- which, if it surpasses The Two

in the same way that that film surpassed The

Fellowship of the Ring
, could prove to be the movie of

the decade. However it turns out, rest assured that - God

willing - I'll still be here writing about them whether

you like it or not.


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