New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: 20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The best of the rest of 2002

In an annual series, Every Movie Has a Lesson is going to look back twenty years to revisit, relearn, and reexamine a year of cinema history to share favorites, lists, and experiences from the films of that year.


THE BEST OF THE REST OF 2002

Like I was saying in the first 20-year retrospective post of my “10 Best” of 2022, I’m going to be complete honest in acknowledging the holes in my lists. 2002 was during my first year on the job as an elementary school teacher after college. I was a mess with time, finances, and the freedom to see as many movies as I would like. Even though it’s been 20 years, I haven’t done much to fill in the gabs. In all honesty, I don’t think this was a great year to begin with, but it’s almost as if I’ve blocked 2002 out of my memories. Ha!


PERSONAL FAVORITES

Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones, The Bourne Identity, Sweet Home Alabama, Reign of Fire, Blue Crush, Star Trek: Nemesis, Lilo and Stitch, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, A Walk to Remember

You can yell at my easy-going fandom, but I don’t mind Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Yes, it’s the worse of the three trilogies, but I was happy to be in that world, complete with a massive Jedi lightsaber battle and a beautiful love-centered score from John Williams. Much of the same can be said for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret. It’s likely the least and weakest of its series, but never a bad place to visit. That “just happy to be there” feeling carries over into Star Trek: Nemesis as well. Screenwriter John Logan punched that Next Generation cast finale up a bit, but it’s still a weak movie.

Lilo and Stitch is a Disney movie that keeps climbing and improving the more I watch it, especially now as a father with kids. It probably should have cracked my Top 20. The same goes with The Bourne Identity. I think Paul Greengrass made the series better with his two sequels, but Doug Liman’s start is no slouch.

Turning back the clock, I realize that Sweet Home Alabama was one of the last great rom-coms of that 1990s-2000s prime. My wife has made me a fan of A Walk to Remember and I’ve always been a sucker for Nicholas Sparks adaptations. Between the romantic comedies and the matching dramas, I miss movies like those nowadays.


GUILTY PLEASURES

The Time Machine, Killing Me Softly, Austin Powers: Goldmember, Femme Fatale

I know it’s not a great adaptation (especially since reading the book in recent years), but I like the slick throwback spectacle that is The Time Machine starring Guy Pearce. That movie deserved better, but it isn’t a complete dumpster fire. I’ve always loved the Austin Powers character, but even I can see it was running out of gags by the time Austin Powers: Goldmember arrived. I’ll still laugh though. Killing Me Softly, is an awful movie, but, hot damn, if Heather Graham isn’t a dish to look it in the lost art of erotic thrillers.


REWATCH NEEDS

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Solaris, Treasure Planet, Adaptation, Igby Goes Down, About a Boy, About Schmidt

For those aforementioned reasons, my head wasn’t into enough of 2002 best movies. I saw the intent of each of these movies at the time, but they all lost me. I bet they wouldn’t now in my 40s instead of my past 20s. Probably the one I want to see again the most is About Schmidt. As they say, “Absence away makes the heart grow fonder,” and I miss talent and screen presence like Jack Nicholson.


BLINDSPOTS

Spirited Away, Welcome to Collinwood, Loving and Amazing, The Grey Zone, The Quiet American, All or Nothing, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Far From Heaven, City of God, 8 Mile, Frida, Monsoon Wedding, 24 Hour Party People, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Bloody Sunday, Talk to Her

Here’s the killer list that I’m ashamed of. There’s a lot of pedigree on this list of unseen movies for me from 2002. After twenty years, I’m running out of excuses other than the usual juggling of time and work-life balance as teacher and active frontline film critic.

If I had to rank where to go, I’d have to start with Spirited Away. Its greatness speaks to me the loudest and I know it will lead to a rabbit hole deep dive of Japanese animation classics. After that, especially on the art film scene, City of God is on too many top lists to continue to miss. Likewise for fellow awards darlings like Far From Heaven and Talk to Her. I’ll do better, folks. Forgive me!


OVERRATED

Red Dragon, Signs, Mr. Deeds, Chicago, Punch Drunk Love

This closing section used to be the “Still Bad” section, but I’ll soften it to “Overrated,” which I’ll admit is still a loose and overused label. The one I know I’m going to grief for from my cultured peers is Punch Drunk Love, but Adam Sandler has become poison to me. I can’t take him, which is why Mr. Deeds is here too. He does nothing for me, even when he is supposedly trying and “good.”

I mentioned this last article in the Top 20, but I think Signs has aged terribly. The shocks and thrills have gone soft for me. Red Dragon felt completely unnecessary then, and still does now when Manhunter exists just fine and with no loss of style and impact.

Put me down as one of those people that would have given all the Oscars to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers instead of Chicago. I wouldn’t have waited until the trilogy finale. I would have showered Peter Jackson three years in a row.

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