I find that I now approach the film blog-o-sphere in much the same way that I would behave if we all gathered face-to-face for a massive cocktail party. I grab my drink and find a quiet table over in the corner where I chat with the folks I’ve known the longest and the best and whose tastes are most similar to my own.
Of the ten best new films I saw this year, eight were festival screenings, and, of those, only two have a reasonable chance of making it to a theater here in Knoxville. I mention that in passing as a reminder of how these year-end best lists are shaped by distribution and by the brand of popular American film criticism that still ghettoizes the vast majority of world cinema into a single, convenient category, “Foreign Language Film.”
I’m paralyzed by the process of ranking films, but Café Lumière was an easy choice for favorite of the year. A transcendent film about transcendence, Hou’s homage to Ozu is a beautifully human piece, full of silence and grace and, most of all, curiosity.
Living in Knoxville, Tennessee, with its two or three screens devoted to interesting fare, leaves me grossly ill-equipped to make sweeping generalizations about the year in film. The following, instead, is an odd mix of movies (or, more often, groups of movies) that I will probably forever associate with 2003.