Best and Worst of Film and TV 2002

Nikki Tranter

All the exciting movies come out at the end of the year in the U.S., which means we over here in Australia don't see them until, oh, about April the next year. If we're lucky. So, every movie I wanted to put on my "best of" list this year was actually released last year "where it counts," rendering my list rather cobwebby. TV is the same way. All the big-time shows in the States seem to be mid-season fillers over here, so while America enjoys Joe McIntyre in Boston Public, I'm still getting to know Michael Rapaport.

So, minus that, as well as Gangs of New York, Catch Me if You Can, Bowling for Columbine, Adaptation, 25th Hour, Secretary, 24 Hour Party People, Chicago, Far From Heaven, About Schmidt, Punch-Drunk Love, The Rules of Attraction, and all the other movies that'll I'll be forced to leave off my list next year, here are my faves in film and on TV for the year that is about six months behind everybody else.

Best Film: Session 9 (Brad Anderson)
Five HAZMAT workers are stationed at the abandoned Danvers Mental Hospital to remove asbestos from the dilapidated structure. From the moment they set foot in the creepy place, their minds are plagued by their own inner demons, and inabilities to control their fears or desires. Just what is causing these seemingly sane guys to suddenly fear everything around them, including each other? Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland) brings to life this haunting tale of fear and redemption with no supernatural elements coming into play, and no horror or visual trickery. The smart script develops each of the five guys --played by Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, Steve Gevedon, David Caruso and Brendan Sexton III -- and drags the viewer along on a veritable scuba dive through the deepest, darkest pits of the mind. I was unable to forget the film's images for weeks. The only thing scarier than the film is the eight minutes of deleted scenes on the DVD.

Best Actor: Robin Williams in Insomnia (Christopher Nolan)
I was impressed this year by a number of good performances, including the very un-Affleck-like Ben Affleck in Changing Lanes and the super scary Dwight Yoakam in Panic Room, but I decided on Robin Williams. While I wasn't as impressed with this film as the rest of the film-going public seemed to be, Williams definitely stood out in my mind among its already stellar cast -- including Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Paul Dooley, and the always impressive Jonathan Jackson -- with his performance as a reclusive author who ends up the number one suspect in the murder of one of his young fans.

Best Rack: Asia Argento in XXX (Rob Cohen)
Asia has enthralled me ever since I saw how eloquent she was in a documentary about her dad (Italian director Dario Argento) a few years back. She has also proven herself to be more than just a pretty face with the six offbeat-but-gripping films she has both written and directed back in her home country. She is, however, just a pretty face in this monstrous piece of junk. Everyone makes at least one bad choice, right?

AAAHHH!!!!: Jason Bateman in The Sweetest Thing (Roger Kumble)
I was in Australia when this film came out in America, and in America when it came out in Australia, so I am yet to actually see it. But just seeing Jason Bateman in the trailer was the highlight of my movie-going year. I am unashamedly addicted to '80s sitcoms, and if I'm not mistaken, he was in all of them. Even if the movie stinks (and I'm convinced it does), at least I can hope Jason (who was so good in 1991's Breaking the Rules) will get more work out of it.

I Might Like Jason Bateman, But I'm Not A Total Idiot: The Ring (Gore Verbinski)
The original Ring is one of my all-time favorite films, so I was expecting very little of the "Americanization." Even less, when I saw that it was written by Scream 3's Ehren Kruger. He stayed true to form, treating the audience like fools with constant cuts back to images already seen (yes, I remember the ladder!), repetitive dialogue (count how many times we're told Katie was Rachel's cousin), and making us believe Rachel (bland Naomi Watts) didn't crack in half when she fell down that well. Oh, and as if the aging Brian Cox could really heft an enormous TV set up a flight of stairs.

Best TV Show: Scrubs (NBC)
Scrubs began airing on Australian TV in the Christmas off-ratings period, squished in between John Ritter's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (ABC), According to Jim (ABC), and double episodes of Will & Grace (NBC), and Futurama (FOX). This irreverent melding of M*A*S*H*, Ally McBeal, and ER has managed to break away from the surrounding shows to become Aussie critics' favorite mid-season replacement. And rightly so, with its fast-paced action, strong character development, bizarre dream sequences, and perfect blend of comedy and drama. John C McGinley is a highlight as the rampaging Dr Cox.

They've Gone And Ruined The Whole Thing: Julia Roberts in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (George Clooney)
This one slipped from my list of must-see movies of the year for a few reasons, not the least of which being the inclusion of Julia "A Low Vera" Roberts. Charlie Kaufman's script for Confessions, about Gong Show host Chuck Barris's alleged other life as a CIA operative, is one of the brightest, most engaging I've come across. Yet, when I found out Clooney was in charge of the film and had seen fit to cast his cinematic frat-buddies (Roberts, Pitt, Damon) in it, I found myself depressed that, despite my excitement at its getting made, it was sure to end up one big in-joke for the so-very-cool (see also Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal). I guess all will be revealed when the film is released in Australia sometime around 2005.

Best I'm On TV Now! Star: Kiefer Sutherland, 24 (FOX)
With Kiefer on 24, Jon Bon Jovi on Ally McBeal(FOX), and Anthony Michael Hall on The Dead Zone (USA), this year, it was tough to pick a winner. But, watching Kiefer as CTU Special Agent Jack Bauer -- in the first series of the show -- exist for 24 hours with no food, water or bathroom breaks and still manage to save the day for everyone (except his wife) was a complete thrill. And, the actor -- so underrated in the '80s and '90s -- gives the impression in real life, of being just a hardworkin' guy who's enjoying his time in the spotlight. It's about time.

Biggest Disappointment (or, I Was So Excited To See It, But It Ended Up Sucking): Ghost Ship (Steve Beck)
Two of my favorite things in the world are ghosts and ships, and I was so looking forward to seeing the two together on the big screen. With such a gloriously scary trailer filled with dancing girls, broken hulls, and a wet-haired Julianna Margulies, Ghost Ship (reportedly based on Alvin Rakoff's Death Ship, though the similarities are minimal) promised much. But, after the gruesome opening scene (which, sadly, I was laughing at rather than shuddering through), the film just became another dumb Deep Blue Sea-characters-die-in-order-of-actor-popularity film.

Biggest Surprise: Big Fat Liar (Shawn Levy)
It was on a Japan Airlines flight from Melbourne to Tokyo to New York that I saw this kiddie-movie gem featuring Malcolminthemiddle and the wondrous Amanda Byrnes from The Amanda Show (Nickelodeon), about a 14-year-old kid who's short story falls into the hands of a slimy Hollywood producer (Paul Giamatti) and becomes a blockbuster. And, after 27 or so viewings, it has not lost its spark.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.